WHAT TO LIKESaunders has all the athletic skills necessary to justify his early offer and ability to run a Division I offense. He posts 40-yard dash times in the 4.7 range, and has shuttle times in the low 4.2s. On video, he shows elusiveness in the run game and solid decision-making skills when on the perimeter with the ball. In general, he typically makes the right choice between the run and the pass, and doesn't force throws.
Saunders' Arnold High School runs a full-on implementation of the West Coast offense, and while that's not an exact copy of the morphing version of the Air Raid used by West Virginia, there are many similarities. Saunders has a full package of rollout and dropback passes as well as read and option runs to choose from, and he has enough command of the offense to go to the line with the ability to call either a run or a pass depending on the defensive alignment. That ability is key in attacking shifting defenses, and he should have a nice head start in learning how to do it on the collegiate level.
Often, "dual threat" is a code for "can't pass very well" on the high school level, but that's not the case here. Saunders completed 113-207 passes for 1,745 yards and 15 scores as a junior, and has two-year totals of 2,748 yards and 25 TDs. Add in 1,227 rushing yards and 11 additional scores on the ground, and there shouldn't be any question about his ability to perform in both offensive phases.
Saunders didn't have a ton of high-level offers when he committed to West Virginia, but that might just be an indicator of the fact that the Mountaineers identified him as a top-tier target before other schools. Southern Mississippi and USF were also on board with offers, and if he continues to put up numbers similar to those of his past two seasons, he'll figure to get more offers over the coming months.
Saunders' completion percentage is something to watch, as he was at 54.5% as a junior. He knows that he will need to improve that to keep a rhythm passing attack going, and has improving his accuracy and timing as top goals for the coming year. Hitting receivers in stride, especially on short routes, is a key in West Virginia's offense, and Saunders will be working on delivering the ball to the proper locations to help boost the beginning of his college career.
Saunders didn't take long to make a decision once he got West Virginia's offer and made a trip to campus, and that quick ability to read the situation and make a call is manifest in his play. Watching his tape, you can see him check keys and change up his first option, and it's that sort of ability that can really help in the communication and operation of Dana Holgorsen's offense. It takes a while to develop, as as been seen with WVU QBs over the past few years, but Saunders at least has an idea of what he'll be facing when he gets to campus.
That arrival could come early, as Saunders, who has a qualifying GPA and test score as well as honors courses, could graduate from Arnold in December and enroll in January, 2016. While that's no guarantee of a move up the depth chart, it definitely could accelerate his development process. And did we mention toughness? While Saunders isn't a hulking physical specimen, he doesn't shy away from contact, and features a couple of very strong finishes to run on his highlight videos. While he won't be expected to bowl over linebackers in college, that mindset could stand him well from both a competitive standpoint and in the battle to earn leadership points and his teammates' respect.