Drew Sanders leads his Arkansas Razorbacks against his former school this Saturday, as Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville for an SEC showdown.
Coming out of high school, Drew Sanders was among the elite of the elite in his recruiting class. He earned a sparkling five-star rating from 247Sports and helped headline the No. 2 class in the country for the University of Alabama.
Sanders grew up in Texas where football is close to a religion for many. He was a standout in middle school, as he began gaining interest at an early age from prestigious programs around the country.
Sanders originally committed to the Oklahoma Sooners, opting to stay closer to home and become the villain to many of his family members that happen to root for the Texas Longhorns. Ultimately, Sanders would recant his prior commitment and instead join Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The uber-talented athlete failed to see much time on the defensive side of the ball as a freshman. He starred on the special teams unit in year one, but thanks to injuries to those ahead of him on the depth chart, Sanders was able to crack the starting lineup at linebacker a few times in 2021.
An injury of his own cut his momentum short. Although Sanders still appeared in 12 games, his playing time took a major hit as the season drew on. He ended up with only 33 total tackles and a single sack during his time with the Crimson Tide.
Following the team’s loss to Georgia in the National Championship game, Drew Sanders entered his name into the transfer portal and eventually chose to stay in the SEC West by joining the Arkansas Razorbacks. With the Hogs, he’s blossomed into the player that everyone expected him to be.
As a key member of the Razorback’s defense, Sanders posted an astonishing 5.5 sacks in his first four games at Arkansas. He’s much more than just a pass-rushing specialist, though.
Sanders is second on the team with 31 total tackles, a team-leading 6.5 of which came behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. He’s also forced two fumbles, more than anyone else on the roster.
The fact that Sanders has been able to showcase his talent all over the gridiron resulted in his name flying up draft boards everywhere. ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Sanders ranked at No. 14 overall on his latest big board and Matt Miller has been vocal about his praise for the multi-faceted linebacker.
Sanders possesses an idyllic frame for a linebacker in the NFL. He is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, and a freaky athlete. His bend around the edge is impeccable and due to his superb athleticism, Sanders can stick with his assignments like glue in pass coverage.
It’s hard to blame Alabama too much for not getting Sanders in the lineup more often. Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner are two of the best edge rushers in the country and linebacker Henry To’oto’o put up 112 tackles to lead the Tide in 2021. Still, imagining Drew Sanders on the Alabama defense is mesmerizing.
Although he only has great things to say about his time in Tuscaloosa, Sanders arrived to Arkansas with a chip on his shoulder. He was determined to prove that Nick Saban made a mistake not coveting him more as a centerpiece for his defense.
The play that Sanders has put on tape so far in 2022 is as good as any in the country. There’s still a long way to go before the 2023 NFL Draft gets here, but the showdown Saturday afternoon between Drew Sanders and Alabama could be the final hurdle for Sanders to prove he’s a day-one prospect.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have not beaten Alabama during Nick Saban era. They almost pulled the upset off last year, but Bryce Young led a late charge to secure a 42-35 victory, using this as one of his defining moments during his Heisman Trophy run.
Drew Sanders will show Alabama and Nick Saban what they are missing out on this weekend. He figures to harass Bryce Young and the Tide backfield all afternoon. Regardless of whether they pull off an upset that is 16 years in the making or not, Sanders has the opportunity to go from “NFL scout darling” to a household name.
Tune in to CBS at 3:30 ET for this battle between SEC heavyweights. Keep an eye on #42 for the Razorbacks. It shouldn’t be difficult to do because Drew Sanders regularly sticks his nose in plays all game long. Saturday marks the next (and perhaps most important) chapter of his NFL Draft journey.