The 6’5, 270 pound Saunders, who had narrowed his choices down to North Carolina and South Carolina, chose the Gamecocks because of the opportunity to play in Steve Spurrier’s offense, according to his high school coach Tommy Blalock
“Weslye kind of kept to himself during this whole process, but I think Coach Spurrier’s visit went a long way. His eyes kind of lit up, and I think that went a long way towards him making his decision with that,” said Blalock. “Coach Spurrier drew up some plays for him and showed him how they can get him the ball and some things like that. I think Weslye was just really taken with that. He liked UNC a lot, but I think there was just something about that meeting that really got him going.”
Blalock, who coached Riverside to the 4-AA State Championship Game this past season, shared what all Saunders meant to the Pirates’ football program during his time there.
“He’s meant a lot to our program, and we used him in a lot of different ways here. We used him offensively as what we called a Flex tight end. We called him a tight end, but he hardly ever lined up as a true tight end in our spread offense. In short yardage, he actually was our quarterback in what we called our jumbo package. Basically he was just a running back that caught a direct snap, and he had some tremendous runs. The Person game, he went like 50 yards on a 4th and short. Against Leesville Road, which was the third round of the playoffs, he had a 70 yard run. That’s the kind of ability that he has… He played a big role in our playoff run. He just had some huge plays, and he had a touchdown in every game during that stretch, including the state championship game. Weslye just made some tremendous plays during that stretch of games for us.”
The versatile Saunders could play multiple positions on the college level, but USC likes his athleticism at tight end. Blalock believes that his former playmaker, who is rated as the #18 tight end prospect in America by Scout.com, has what it takes to be a big time performer on the next level.
“His combination of speed and skill level for his size is just really incredible. He’s never had to really block a whole lot for us as a tight end, but I’ve got a feeling he could be a really good blocking tight end. He runs good routes, and he has great hands. He has excellent, soft hands for a guy his size, and being a basketball player, he’s got great feet. There’s a lot of things that he can do to get open as a tight end.”
While Blalock knows that Saunders has all of the physical tools to succeed on the field, he cautions him to continue to work hard off the field as well.
“It’s going to depend on Weslye continuing to work hard and realizing that he’s got to continue to develop his body and get stronger with a really good work ethic. If he does that, then South Carolina can take him and plug him in where they need him.”
Blalock closed by sharing what a quality individual Saunders is both on and off the football field.
“Wesley’s a character. He’s a likeable young man. On Friday nights, he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached. Once you kick the ball off, he just plays hard and is driven to try to win. That was Weslye.”
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