- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 2 Kendall Sanders
Junior wide receiver
Recruitment rewind: After being committed to Oklahoma State for nine months, the four-star from Athens, Texas, reopened his recruitment and chose the Longhorns over a long, impressive list of offers. An athlete in the truest sense of the term, Sanders was at one point ranked No. 10 in the nation among receiver prospects and finished as the 13th-ranked cornerback. ESPN scouts saw an impressive corner with big potential, but Sanders has been a wideout from Day 1 at UT.
Career so far: Sanders was credited with appearing in 11 games as a true freshman in 2012, but his playing time was minimal and he recorded two receptions on four targets. After impressing last summer and in fall camp, he was in line for an expanded role and ended up starting seven games. Sanders finished with 361 receiving yards and one score on 37 receptions, his best game coming against Kansas State: Three catches, 80 yards and his first career TD. He also had a career-high seven catches against Ole Miss and at Iowa State.
Best-case scenario for 2014: On his best days, Sanders looks like the full package you'd want in a wide receiver. He's got speed to stretch the field and has shown he can be a sharp route-runner. Why can't he be a more reliable version of Mike Davis? If he's the go-to guy for Texas' quarterback (whomever it is) it's not unreasonable to see an 800-900 yard season coming with several long TD catches. He's talented enough put up those kinds of numbers if given the opportunity and a lot of targets.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Bad quarterback play in 2014. That'd be the biggest roadblock for Sanders developing into all he can be for Texas. (You're going to see that worst-case scenario a lot in this series.) It's worth noting that Sanders' 37 catches came on a whopping 74 targets last year, including 6-for-15 on attempts from David Ash. Not great. And Texas is set to have literally a dozen other scholarship receivers on the roster this year. If this once again turns into a run-heavy attack, there's a chance Sanders puts up similar numbers to 2013.
Future expectations: Sanders has two seasons of eligibility left and, with Jaxon Shipley on his way out after this season, seems likely to be a starter for the rest of his career. But all those aforementioned receivers -- including five in the 2014 recruiting class -- will provide legit competition and will be more game-ready a year from now. They need Sanders and Marcus Johnson to be a leader of their group when Shipley's career in burnt orange is over.
6mMax Olson and Matt Fortuna