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Mitchell lineman Quintin Sanders gears up for big season

Junior could be strong prospect for Class of 2016

Mitchell County offensive/defensive lineman Quintin Sanders could be one of the next big prospects to come out of Southwest Georgia. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

Mitchell County offensive/defensive lineman Quintin Sanders could be one of the next big prospects to come out of Southwest Georgia. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

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Mitchell County offensive/defensive lineman Quintin Sanders goes through drills during a recent practice. He could be one of the area’s top players for the Class of 2016. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

CAMILLA — It’s a hot summer afternoon at Mitchell County High School and Quintin Sanders arrives early to work on his latest project.

In the football coaches office inside the field house, Sanders sits in coach Larry Cornelius’ chair, goes to the Hudl website and begins uploading highlight videos. After editing the clips into one highlight video, it gets sent to college coaches and recruiters.

The soft-spoken lineman uploads a recent clip from when he was in College Station, Texas participating in the USA Football National Development Game. Sanders briefly shows a reporter where he got double-teamed on the defensive line, broke free and sacked the quarterback.

If you haven’t heard of Sanders by now, a 6-foot-1, 280-pound lineman from Mitchell County, chances are you will soon. While the Albany area boats the nation’s top high school prospect for the Class of 2015 in Westover’s Trenton Thompson, there won’t be much of a drop next year. Sanders is expected to be a strong prospect as well as Lee County offensive lineman Chris Barnes, who was recently named to ESPN’s Top 300 for the Class of 2016.

But for now, Sanders is trying to get more college looks, a big reason he is on Cornelius’ laptop this afternoon.

“I’m just trying to get out there,” he said.

But getting noticed has its share of drawbacks. High school athletes such as Sanders, who have the size, speed and academics to succeed at the next level, face the harshness of recruiting. The fame can be fun at first but can wear down an athlete by the time he signs with a college on national signing day or chooses to enroll early.

It’s quiet as college coaches can only call rising junior players once and can’t happen until Sept. 1. By the time the season concludes, college coaches can begin home visits in November.

That doesn’t include the countless letters colleges will send.

In fact, there has been a big push in recent years for promising high school underclassmen to commit to colleges before they become seniors.

“I’m sure there is a lot of pressure when you’re getting calls every day,” Sanders said. “When you’ve got a young mind and you don’t know what to think, I could see where there could be a lot of pressure.”

Cornelius believes Sanders could be one of the next big names to come from South Georgia. He showed a video of a game last season when Mitchell played Brooks County. The Trojans were led by Georgia signee Malcolm Parrish at quarterback, but Sanders tore through the line on one play and sacked Parrish with just one arm.

The junior was timed recently at 5.05 in the 40-yard dash.

“It’s hard to find linemen, offensively or defensively, who have the kind of characteristics that Quintin does,” Cornelius said. “If they are very big linemen, they are usually slow. If they’re fast, they don’t have as much size. It’s hard to find that kind of combination, but Quintin has the things that coaches are searching for.”

Cornelius likes Sanders’ leadership. While the junior may joke and pull pranks off the field, he’s all business when practice and the games begin. Teammate Jar’Corius Murray plays quarterback and defensive back for the Eagles.

He said he got challenged one day in practice from Sanders, whom coaches often call “Big Nasty.”

“He turns into a whole different person on the field,” Murray said. “He will knock your head off, then reach down and help you up. He told me he caught me slipping after he tackled me.”

The Eagles ended the season strong last year, finishing with a Region 1-A runner-up trophy and a trip to the state playoffs where Hawkinsville needed a late rally to end Mitchell’s season at 6-5.

But as the Eagles improve and Sanders’ stock increases, he’s heard the recruiting stories. And he said he’s ready.

“I believe I’m mentally ready,” Sanders said. “I’m just waiting to experience it. Hopefully, it will be fun.”