Trey Sanders, ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 running back in the 2019 class, is no stranger to Gainesville at this point.
But Saturday’s spring game afforded him the first opportunity as a prospect to see the game atmosphere UF has to offer. And Sanders’ impression of coach Dan Mullen and the coaching staff only continued to grow following the Orange team’s 35-30 victory.
“It’s been a lot different since coach Mullen has gotten here. I can see a whole difference in the staff,” Sanders said. “I just like the vibe up here, and of course my brother (Umstead Sanders) committed so I came up here to support him and my family.”
The visit also, if he decides to commit, gave Sanders a chance to see his potential competition in the backfield.
“Dameon Pierce, that’s my boy. I’ve known him since high school and we were pretty close,” Sanders said. “Seeing him get a lot of playing time is really cool.”
The UF coaching staff has seemingly ramped up its pursuit of Sanders since getting his older brother Umstead to commit to join the team as a walk-on for the 2018 season.
“I mean, they’ve got my brother, so of course they’re going to be extra hard on me,” Sanders said. “He followed me everyday trying to get him to commit. I’ve tried to tell him I’m going to take my time. He understands, but ever since he committed he’s like another coach. Calling my phone every day.”
Sanders doesn’t mince words, instead acknowledging Umstead’s commit does have an effect on his recruitment.
“That’s a big thing for me, because I’ve always wanted to play with my brother in college. We’ve always talked about that since we were little,” Sanders revealed. “So I feel like when he committed to Florida, it was a big thing for me.”
For those under the impression Florida took Umstead as a walk-on as an attempt to lure Trey, he says that’s simply not the case.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to commit. I was at school, I checked Twitter and it said he committed,” Sanders said. “Then he FaceTimed me right after and I was like ‘Man, it’s like that? Got too big-time for me, man’.
Never breaking🤞🏾 https://t.co/ip3W3IJj4b
— Trey sanders (@6sixGod_) April 7, 2018
“He said he liked Gainesville. It’s close to home, and my mom is a big Gator fan, so he felt like he was doing her justice, too. He didn’t tell nobody, he just posted it. My dad went crazy, he didn’t tell nobody.”
UF running backs coach Greg Knox has served as Sanders’ primary recruiter, and his message has been loud and clear since arriving in Gainesville in January.
“He thinks I’m an all-around player. He said I can do anything – run the ball, catch the ball, run routes, all that. I talk to him every day, too. So we have a pretty good relationship,” Sanders said of Knox. “When he was at Mississippi State, I really wasn’t at Mississippi State like that, but ever since he got here, I’ve talked to (UF’s) running backs and they say great guy, probably the best coach they’ve ever had. He’s very energetic, that’s what I like about him.”
UF’s loaded backfield wouldn’t be a factor for Sanders, he says, seeing as his transfer to IMG Academy in Bradenton – where he’s teammates with Nathan Cain, ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 2-ranked running back – was influenced by his competitive nature.
“I went to IMG because I like competition. So, I mean, going to a school with a bunch of running backs is not really a big thing for me,” Sanders said, “because I like competing. I feel it makes me better and everybody around me better.”
And Florida has used that message in Sanders’ recruitment, telling him he wouldn’t be handed the starting job simply by signing a letter of intent.
“They said I got to come in and compete. They were straight up with me,” Sanders said. “Just nothing is going to be given to you. Which I feel like that’s all of college football: you’ve got to compete wherever you go. I mean, for me, being the No. 1 running back in the country, that wouldn’t mean anything to me. It’s just like I’m going to go to college because I want to prove myself why coaches want me.”