BRADENTON, Fla. — Before spring practices began around the college football world, Miami seemed an unlikely favorite to land Trey Sanders. The 5-star running back, ranked No. 1 in the 247Sports composite rankings, visited Coral Gables, Fla., on Feb. 17, then again March 9. Suddenly, the in-state school was the program he was most familiar with.
Since those two visits, the senior hasn’t returned to South Florida. The Hurricanes sent coaches to IMG Academy in Bradenton on Monday, though, and are still in the mix to land the elite halfback. A visit sometime in the summer, potentially for Paradise Camp, seems inevitable.
“I’m just talking to [running backs coach Thomas] Brown here and there. They’re good people,” Sanders told DieHards after IMG’s Friday practice in Bradenton. “He wants me to come in and compete for a spot because they just got two backs, and he wants a back in the 2019 class. And of course he wants me, so we’re just talking. He just wants me to come compete and I just love to compete. That’s why I came to IMG.”
Miami has been strongly linked to Sanders since the moment he de-committed from Alabama on Jan. 1. Brown was the first coach to reach out to the newly on-the-market 6-foot-1, 220-pound tailback. The Hurricanes were one of the first schools he visited after he backed away from his longstanding pledge to the Crimson Tide.
The trip to the Miami metropolitan area, however, wasn’t his first. Sanders attended the Hurricanes’ junior day in February of 2017, when he picked up his offer from Miami. Quickly approaching half a dozen visits with the Hurricanes, Sanders feels comfortable with both the coaching staff and the campus. Miami’s urban campus is wildly different than those of the other schools he’s considering, such as Florida State, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
“Coral Gables, it’s different because I’m from Florida, so I love Florida,” Sanders said. “Just being in that environment, just down south, Coral Gables is just like a different place than everybody else I’ve been to.”
If visits tell the story, Sanders seems to be potentially favoring the three Sunshine State schools early on. The athlete visited the Seminoles — the hometown team for the native of Port St. Joe, Fla. — on March 22 and then headed to Gainesville, Fla., on both April 14 and 21.
The Gators are the team trending in the 247Sports Crystal Ball and for good reason. Umstead Sanders, the back’s older brother, is set to join Florida’s Class of 2018 as an unranked outside linebacker from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss. He will be a preferred walk-on. The younger Sanders admits the prospect of playing with his brother, if only for one season, is a big deal.
“We grew up talking about that all the time, since we were little kids we talked about going to the NFL, playing with each other on the same team,” Sanders said. “Being able to have the opportunity to play with him in college, that’s a great thing to do.”
It would be particularly meaningful for Sanders’ mother. She’s something of a die-hard Gators fan and would love to see her two sons suit up for Florida. It would be convenient, too. The family could see both brothers play simultaneously rather than choosing whose game to watch any given weekend.
“That’s a blessing to her because she grew up a Florida fan and for just me and my brother to be at the same school, “Sanders said. “Just so she don’t have to travel that much and she can wear her favorite team, it’s just like a dream for her.”
I wanna to wish my amazing mother a happy birthday! I wish I could be there to celebrate it with you but I love you mother. everybody go say happy birthday to my mama duke!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/XlwTelM2n9
— 💰UMSTEAD SANDERS💰 (@10GoLive_) March 27, 2018
Still, a decision probably will not come until close to the early signing period in December. While Sanders plans to early enroll, the running back expects to take official visits throughout the fall and take his time with his decision.
The summer will give him a better sense of who is worth considering, though. Sanders expects to take a number of visits once school finishes, he’s just not sure where to yet. For now, he will not rule anyone out.
Said Sanders: “Ain’t no telling what other schools got in store for me.”