August 12, 2014 9:05:01 PM
OXFORD -- Vincent Sanders has had plenty of experience dealing with highs and lows.
Sanders suffered a fractured jaw that forced him to miss four games in his senior year at Noxubee County High School. He still scored 13 touchdowns and earned second-team All-State honors that helped pave the way for him to move on to Ole Miss.
Unfortunately, Sanders hasn't been able to shake the injury bug. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder from Macon has played in all of Ole Miss' games in only one of his first three seasons in Oxford.
Last season was especially frustrating for Sanders because he broke his collarbone in the preseason and missed the first three games of the season. An ankle injury then kept him out of Ole Miss' victory against Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.
This season, though, Sanders wants to script a storybook ending to his college career. By all indications, he is healthy, in great shape, and primed to catch a lot of balls from quarterback Bo Wallace.
"He's going to be our guy, as long as he stays healthy" Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said at the team's annual media day earlier this month. "He has had problems with the injuries, but our strength coaches do all of the testing (in the summer) and he tested out of the roof. He is tall, he is fast, he is explosive, he has great vertical jump, and he has done it -- he has caught a bunch of balls for us in the past. It is exciting to see he is healthy. Hopefully, he can stay there and be a centerpiece for our offense."
Sanders figures to see a lot of time with deep threat Laquon Treadwell, a sophomore, lined up on the outside on one side of the field. Sanders showed in 2012 he is capable of producing by making 39 catches for 5-4 yards and four touchdowns. He redshirted in 2010 and had 10 catches as a freshman. Last season, he started two games and made 21 catches for 325 yards.
Sanders said all of the adversity he has faced at Ole Miss has prepared him for his senior season.
"It has been a struggle, but I am happy I went through everything I have went through so I can understand and learn more about different situations," Sanders said. "I am still standing. God has still blessed me to play one more season at Ole Miss, so I have to make the best out of it."
Sanders said the injuries he suffered last season were only a temporary setback. He didn't let the injuries affect his schoolwork because he graduated in May.
Still, he admits he was angry, especially because the injury in the preseason prevented him from having a possible breakout season. He said he watched a video about former Ole Miss great Chucky Mullins, who shattered four vertebrae tackling Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines in a game against Vanderbilt on Oct. 28, 1989, helped put things in perspective and helped him stay positive. The hit left Mullins paralyzed. He died in 1991.
Sanders said he isn't going to let the past affect his present. He said he feels great and is motivated in practice every day so he can make an impression on the coaches and solidify his presence in the offense.
Werner said Treadwell went through the spring at one position (on the outside), which means the other guys will battle for the other positions. He said the Rebels will get players on the field in two-, three-, four- and five-wide receiver sets. That means Sanders, Treadwell, and everybody else will have plenty of balls from Wallace to catch.
"We know deep down he is going to be a player," Werner said. "Like I said, he is big, tall, and he can run, and he has done it before. The good thing is we have a bunch of guys at that position, so there is going to be some competition."
Sanders is willing to block or to run any routes if it helped the Rebels win. He admitted, though, he would like to be a prime-time target on the outside who is giving defenses fits. Like Werner, he sees a lot of talent at the wide receiver position, even if some of the players are inexperienced. Sanders has that experience, but he, too, is eager to make his mark.
"My name may not be out there -- and I hope it isn't out there when it comes season time, so the defenses won't have a game plan against me," Sanders said. "I am just trying to stay positive. I am just ready to get everything going.
"(If defenses start to notice him) it is going go to make me bring my game to another level. If they put their No. 1 defensive back, I am going to raise my game because I feel like I am going to come out on top every play."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.