On Tuesday, only hours after the Alabama Crimson Tide lost in the national championship game to the Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama rising junior edge Drew Sanders entered the NCAA transfer portal, sparking immediate speculation that the Texas Longhorns would have interest in the Denton Ryan product.
With a massive need for an impact player at the edge position, Texas is indeed in pursuit of Sanders — Inside Texas reported on Wednesday that the Longhorns will host Sanders for a visit. Also on Wednesday, Texas received a 247Sports Crystal Ball transfer prediction to land the talented 6’5, 244-pounder.
Not only can the Horns offer the potential for early playing time, but there is a level of familiarity for Sanders with some members of the Texas staff, including head coach Steve Sarkisian, quarterbacks coach AJ Milwee, tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Banks, and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Kyle Flood.
Banks likely has the best relationship with Sanders — although Banks did not serve as the primary or secondary recruiter for Sanders, he did spend significant time with Sanders coaching him on special teams in 2020, when Sanders earned Special Teams Player of the Week honors against Tennessee and Arkansas.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski was also involved in the recruitment of Sanders when he held the same role at Washington.
Another emerging contender for Sanders is Arkansas after receiving a Wednesday visit from the former Alabama defender.
Oklahoma is a potential landing spot for Sanders, too. Wide receivers coach Cale Gundy was retained by new head coach Brent Venables and served as the primary recruiter for Sanders, who was committed to Oklahoma from November 2017 to April 2019, when he flipped to Alabama.
A consensus five-star prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, Sanders was ranked as the No. 22 player nationally and the No. 1 athlete, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. At Denton Ryan, Sanders played a number of different positions, including quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and several roles on defense.
After arriving at Alabama, Sanders mostly contributed on special teams as a freshman before earning a larger role on defense in 2021. Against Miami, Sanders totaled six tackles, then earned his first career start against Mercer with two tackles and two broken up passes. However, an injury suffered against Ole Miss early in SEC play limited his playing time for the rest of the season. Sanders finished the year with 24 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four quarterback hurries, and two pass breakups.
Most importantly for Texas, Sanders has enough athleticism and experience to make an immediate impact as a pass rusher, an area where the Longhorns struggled mightily in 2021.
Drew Sanders is definitely a talented pass-rusher with some untapped upside. He's an explosive athlete in general. pic.twitter.com/HUOUielbL1— Special asst to the special asst to the HC (@Ian_A_Boyd) January 12, 2022
His overall physicality could represent an upgrade over Ovie Oghoufo, who struggled at times when he wasn’t used as a pure pass rusher.
So after some recent misses in the transfer portal, the recruitment of Sanders is a high-profile pursuit that could address one of the program’s most glaring holes.