Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 16 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 17 yards in the opener at Texas, includ- ing a 25-yard score on a tunnel screen in the first overtime in which he navi- gated through the middle of the field while making about a half dozen de- fenders miss en route to the end zone. He did the same in the fourth quarter on a 40-yard punt return that set up a temporary go-ahead touchdown for the Irish. Against Nevada the next week, Sanders set up one touchdown with a 37-yard kick return and another with a 24-yard punt return, and scored once himself on a diving catch in the end zone. Stage fright is a non-issue for the former child actor whose many roles included playing a boyhood Ray Charles in the 2004 film "Ray" that won Jamie Foxx an Oscar. His father, Chris Sanders, an NFL r e c e i v e r f r o m 1995-2001, and his stepdad Corey Harris, an NFL defensive back from 1992-2003, honed his football acumen. "Being able to get that kind of coaching from both sides of the ball, I know what the defense is going to do before they do it," Sanders said. "My dad taught me from a receivers standpoint how to dissect coverage and how to make plays in space. "Then on the flip side, my stepdad has that DB mindset. When I'm run- ning the ball, I know what the DB is doing or what he has in his mind. Reading coverages and being shifty are really important. "I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but with [receivers] Coach [Mike] Denbrock I've been able to read coverages and break away from defenders." Sanders can be viewed as a minia- ture version of another C.J. — as in Prosise, who rushed for 1,032 yards last year at Notre Dame and is now a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks. The 220-pound Prosise apprenticed at slot receiver in 2014, where his explo- siveness prompted the staff to get the ball to him about six to 10 times per game in space either on returns, short passes or jet sweeps while in motion. Denbrock has joked that Sanders makes every catch or touch into a punt return, but the sophomore used 2015 as a training ground to become a more polished route runner and pass catcher while apprenticing behind the graduated Amir Carlisle at slot receiver. Now the top slot man, Sanders said he feels like an overall better player, which has enhanced his return skills as well. "I'm not a thinker," Sanders ex- plained. "The game is moving so fast, I'm not able to think; I'm just able to react. I just love having the ball in my hands. It's like the game slows down." He's not sure if he's the fastest player on the current team — he's been timed anywhere from 4.32 to 4.42 in the 40 and won the Tennessee Division II state title in the 100 meters (10.76, although he also has run a 10.64) and 200 meters (21.88) as a junior be- fore moving to California — but his speed is enhanced by "economy of m o v e m e n t " o r football instincts. "I don't know about the fastest, but I might con- sider myself the quickest," Sanders said. "There are different types of speed. There are guys who get to full speed fast, and there are guys who can maintain it after 30 yards. "Shaun [Crawford] is faster than me in the 100; I'm faster in the 40 to 60 range. EQ [Equanimeous St. Brown] and Miles [Boykin], they're faster after 30 yards. I hit my top speed at 10, and I just maintain it." It's safe to say he is on a fast track toward continued prosperity. ✦ "THE GAME IS MOVING SO FAST, I'M NOT ABLE TO THINK; I'M JUST ABLE TO REACT. I JUST LOVE HAV- ING THE BALL IN MY HANDS. IT'S LIKE THE GAME SLOWS DOWN." SANDERS Little Giants At 5-8, sophomore slot receiver C.J. Sand- ers is the shortest player on the 2016 Notre Dame roster. "Nothing has been handed to me from my size alone, so I've always had to go the extra yard," Sanders said. In fact, seldom since the start of the Ara Parseghian era in 1964 few Notre Dame play- ers have been officially listed at 5-8 or shorter. Here were the best over the past 50 years: 1. Reggie Brooks (1989-92) — The 5-8, 200-pound tailback finished fifth in the Heis- man Trophy balloting as a senior, became a second-round pick and rushed for more than 1,000 yards as an NFL rookie. 2. Allen Rossum (1994-97) — Listed 5-8, 180, the speedster started three years at cor- ner and set an NCAA record for most touch- down returns via kickoffs, punts and intercep- tions (nine total) before becoming one of the best ever NFL return men. 3. Joey Getherall (1997-2000) — At 5-7, 175, he was a third-team All-American punt return man as a senior with a 16.3 yards-per-runback average and two scores, but he also caught 74 passes for eight touchdowns during his career and scored three more times on running plays. Note: Gerry Faust signed two 5-9 dynamos in 1981 (wideout Joe "Small Wonder" How- ard) and 1982 (tailback Allen Pinkett). — Lou Somogyi Sanders uses his small frame and football instincts to make would-be defenders often miss tackles in tight quarters. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 26, 2016