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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Colleges

Outback Bowl notebook: Sanders' versatility on full display

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 07:41 PM
TAMPA -

South Carolina WR Ace Sanders has the unusual distinction of being named to the first and second team on the same team.

The Bradenton Manatee High product, who was named the SEC co-special team player of the year, was voted by the conference coaches to All-SEC first team as return specialist and the second team as an all-purpose player.

How does that happen?

"That is a good question," Sanders said. "I do not know. One of my coaches texted me and told me I made first team and second team. It was kind of a shock."

Sanders led the SEC and was third in the nation with an average of 14.25 yards per punt return. Seven of his 25 returns were for 27 or more yards, including a 70-yarder that went for a touchdown against Georgia and a 50-yard return against LSU.

His 363 yards were a school record for punt return yards in a season, breaking the record of 362 set in 1971 by Dick Harris.

"We're not very excited about punting the ball to Mr. Sanders," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Sanders also was second on the team with 36 receptions for 439 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. He's coming off a six-catch, 119-yard day against Clemson in the regular-season finale.

What's more, Sanders completed a 16-yard touchdown pass against East Carolina, his second touchdown pass of his three-year career.

When asked if he considers himself a punt returner or a receiver, Sanders said, "It's a mix of both. Most people don't get to see most of the things I can do at wide receiver, but we're patient. We're real patient. Our time will come and I can separate the punt returner and receiver and people can see what I do at both."

Defense, defense

The Gamecocks were fourth in the SEC and 12th in the nation in total defense, something not many expect from a Steve Spurrier-coached team.

South Carolina allowed an average of 312 yards (119 rushing, 193 passing) per game.

Michigan was ranked 11th in total defense, allowing an average of 311.17 yards per game. The Wolverines have held opposing offenses to less than 200 yards passing in all 12 games. Their 155.2 passing yards allowed per game is second in the nation.

South Carolina led the SEC and is tied for fifth in the nation with 40 sacks, one shy of the school record set in 2010.

Noteworthy

Spurrier, already South Carolina's all-time leader in victories, can become the program's all-time leader in bowl victories with a win Tuesday. He's tied with Lou Holtz at two each. … This will be Michigan's 42nd appearance in a bowl game, the 11th-most in the history. The Wolverines are tied with Ohio State for the 14th-most bowl victories at 20. By contrast, South Carolina has appeared in 17 bowls and has won five.

Roger Mooney

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