Just as quickly as Ace Sanders can change directions on the field, he did the same thing off the field on Tuesday.
Sanders has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility at South Carolina and will enter the 2013 NFL draft. This comes barely a week after Sanders decided to return to the Gamecocks and finish up his career in the Garnet and Black.
Tuesday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft and Sanders apparently did just that right before the deadline.
It's not known whether Sanders has signed with an agent yet, but if he hasn't, then he'll have the ability to withdraw by January 18th and return to South Carolina.
More than likely though, Sanders will stick with this decision and we'll see what the small, quick receiver/punt returner can do at the next level.
Sanders likely received a draft grade in the 3rd to 4th round range when he sent in his initial paperwork to be evaluated for the upcoming draft. He likely has the ability to improve that stock if he works out well at the NFL Combine, however, it's going to be tough for Sanders to improve based on size alone. Small receivers in the NFL are a dime a dozen. Sanders finally became a viable receiving threat this year for South Carolina but his numbers will not shock anyone in the NFL. Sanders finished the year with 531 yards receiving on 45 receptions with nine touchdowns. Not bad numbers at all, but certainly not something the NFL will be drooling over.
The saving grace for Sanders is his return ability. We saw glimpses of that during the 2011 season but Sanders really stepped up that aspect of his game in 2012. He set a school record for punt return yards in a season with 429 and averaged 15.3 yards per return, with two punt return touchdowns. His ability to find the hole, reverse the field, make cuts and use his quickness was nearly unmatched this season in college football. He's a special talent in the return game and it would have been even better if he had worked as a kick returner for the Gamecocks. Still, he could make that transition in the NFL because you know the ability is there.
Some may think it's a bad idea for Ace. It's tough to say right now because you just don't know where he'll end up landing in the draft. Hopefully, he'll have a great combine and showcase his talents to improve his stock and go in the higher rounds. If not, someone will likely land a steal in the middle rounds with Sanders.
South Carolina will certainly miss his talents next year. He's been a great representative of the university and his highlight-reel returns will be remembered for a long time.