The NFL could wait, and there was still unfinished business at SMU. It was the approach that Emmanuel Sanders took this offseason, entering his senior year of his college career. Already the all-time leader in touchdown receptions for the SMU Mustangs, Sanders could have probably found his way on to a NFL roster this season, but elected to stay to help himself and his school. Now ranked as Scout.com's No. 8 projected receiver in the 2010 NFL draft, Sanders is ready to accomplish two things that have eluded him during his college career.
“I want to go to a bowl game. I think we are ready to make the jump,” stated Sanders to PonyStampede.com. “Also, a receiver's goal is to get to 1,000 yards in a season. I haven't gotten there yet. I have put in the time and work this offseason and hopefully it all pays off.”
After putting up 18 touchdowns and almost 1,500 yards in his first two seasons, the Bellville product thrived in June Jones' system last year, catching 67 balls for 958 yards and nine scores in 10 games. The efforts earned him second team All-Conference USA accolades. He is the only receiver to ever record three straight 600-yard seasons in a SMU uniform.
With the honors, Sanders is starting to get extra attention. The wide receiver has already had three NFL teams scout him early into his senior season, with two more expected next week. While Jones has said Sanders goes hard and lays it all out each and every practice, the face of the program admits he works a little harder when NFL teams come through.
“Coach Reinebold tells me when they come out, so I know they are there. I talk to them prior and after each practice,” said Sanders. “I try to come out here and get better every day, but when they are out here I try to go a little bit harder. What usually happens is I end up getting tired. I just need to be myself. Last time a team was out here, I tried to go harder and I cramped up. I didn't even get to finish practice.”
While Sanders is projected by many as a top-10 receiver next April, the wide receiver position isn't expected to be as deep as last year. A total of six wideouts were taken in the first round in 2009. While Sanders is projected by Scout.com to be the No. 8 receiver taken, his name is not expected to be called until the fourth round.
“I don't really notice a difference in the way he practices, but I know that he wants to know when they are here,” replied Reinebold. “I usually tell him, because I want him to know, (that) there are people who are sincerely interested in him at the next level. It's not just us thinking that anymore, but people in the National Football League.
“It's an opportunity for him to make a little money while he is practicing. What I mean by that is the better he practices while those people are here, the better writeup he is going to get, which means more looks during the season, a bigger opportunity to go to the combine, and a higher draft position. The higher you are drafted, the bigger the paycheck.”
With a full season of experience working with sophomore quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, better offensive line play, and other receivers coming into their own, Sanders' statistical potential is endless – something that could potentially propel him into an even higher draft position next spring.
“Every team that I have talked to has given me a good grade, so it's looking really good,” said Sanders. “I just need to play and not worry about it and things will come together.”