After seeing some time at tailback alongside Noel Devine as a freshman, Sanders made the move to slot receiver and didn't look back. That is, until he was called upon to take over the Mountaineers' running duties following Devine's injury against Louisville last Saturday. While Devine is expected to be available for duty against the Bearcats, it won't be a surprise to see Sanders get a few carries from the running back slot as well.
Early in the game against the Cardinals, Devine took a hit that caused the talented tailback to roll his ankle. That, combined with a hip bruise from the USF contest, kept Devine out for the remainder of the game. Instead of going to one of the listed backups, the coaching staff opted to go a different route and put Sanders in as Devine's replacement at tailback for the rest of the game.
Sanders took the opportunity to prove himself as a versatile player as he embraced his new role at tailback and performed rather successfully. He had 66 yards in his twelve carries of the game. Sanders was also responsible for the Mountaineers' first touchdown of the day against the Cards with a nine yard reception from quarterback Jarrett Brown.
After his impressive performance , Sanders would certainly be comfortable filling in again if need be. Devine, who is one of the toughest players on the team, is expected to play, but Sanders knows that he is just one snap away from getting the backfield call again.
"Noel is making great progress," said Sanders earlier this week. "He has taken some reps. I hope he is ready to go. I have been praising him and praying for him."
Sanders is hopeful that Devine will be back on the field Friday and assures that there is no competition between the two for the starting tailback position.
"I just want to be on the field," said Sanders. "It doesn't really matter. I get a good feeling at running back and I get a good feeling at slot [receiver]. I just want to make plays. That's all that I want to do." That's something West Virginia will presumably need a lot of, as the Mountaineers will have to hang with UC's high-scoring offense. Sanders is electric in the open field, and he will need to be sprung a few times to help the Mountaineer offense regain its momentum.
Sanders is prepared to perform at either position in that effort. As the slot receivers and tailbacks work so closely together, Sanders can stay prepared to play whether his number is called at either of the two spots.
"I'm just trying to help the team any way that I can," said Sanders. "If a man goes down and they need me, I will be there. I know the offense. When Coach Beatty is telling Noel [Devine] stops and reads and all that I am right there listening."
Sanders and the rest of the Mountaineer offense have been focusing on what Cincinnati has to offer on defense, where the Bearcats replaced ten starters and hit the ground running.
"[Cincinnati] has a great defense," said Sanders. "They're pretty sound. They really don't make many mistakes. They're at the right place at the right time."
Although the Mountaineers' defense has been gathering some displeasure from fans and critics of late, Sanders says that he believes that they have what it takes to stop a very talented Cincinnati offense.
"I have great confidence in our defense," said Sanders. "Our defense is going to step up to the task at hand. I'm not really worried about us trying to outscore them because if we play our game we will win point blank."
A win is crucial for the Mountaineers as their season winds down to its final three games, and the Mountaineers need that complete game, where both the offense and defense play well, in order to keep their Big East title hopes alive. Sanders admits that there would be no time better than the present for the team's game to come together as a whole.
"This is the time," said Sanders. "If we want to win this game this is the time that we need to be clicking on all cylinders."