Like father, like son

Barry Sanders's keeping his options open, including dad's alma mater, Oklahoma St.

Originally Published: March 10, 2011
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

The name is the first thing you notice. But make no mistake about it: Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall RB Barry Sanders's game stands on its own.

His dad is NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who rushed for 15,269 yards in 10 seasons and ranks third in rushing yards in NFL history, trailing only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. The younger Sanders, though, is living up to the high standards of his dad.

[+] EnlargeBarry Sanders
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireThere is a possibility that Barry Sanders Jr. follows his father's footsteps and plays at Oklahoma State.

"He's a special player and he's not even close to reaching his full potential," Heritage Hall coach Andy Bogart said. "Barry's quite an athlete. He has this burst, a second gear that's just amazing. He cuts like his dad, but he's faster than Dad. When he gets the ball, he hits that hole and explodes. Barry can run by people. He can also weave through traffic. Every time he gets the ball we expect him to take it to the house. Barry is so exciting to watch, just like his father."

While father and son may share similarities as running backs, they are a little different off the field.

"He's outgoing and can talk with anyone," Bogart said. "He's the polar opposite of his dad. He doesn't run from attention and is so personable."

Sanders, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is already taller than his father, who played at 5-8 and 203 pounds. In basically half a season, Sanders rushed for 1,136 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He missed five games with a foot injury, had surgery in December and is raring to go this fall.

"I am feeling good," Sanders said. "Rehab is going really good. I will take it easy through spring ball and probably try and get back into things in early May. I just have to play it by ear. Right now I am just trying to get as healthy as possible. But I am so excited for this season. I keep imagining that feeling of the first game this fall. And I will be 100 percent healthy."

It's not slowing the recruiting process at all. He has 18 offers, including Oklahoma State, Florida State, Alabama, Stanford, Arkansas and Auburn.

Many feel that Sanders will follow in his father's footsteps to Stillwater and play for the Cowboys. Then there are others who feel he could end up at Florida State or perhaps Alabama. Sanders says his decision will be based on where he feels most at home.

"I want to pick a school where I feel comfortable both on and off the field and a place where I really feel comfortable with the coaching staff," Sanders said. "The scheme will be important, too, because I want to play in a pro-style.

"I am most familiar and comfortable with Oklahoma State right now. I have been around that program so long. But I will say that it is a growing program and they are so close to getting to that next level. Coach [Mike] Gundy has done a great job. They improve each year, and I am keeping a close eye on them.

"I had a fun trip to Tallahassee. It was the first trip my dad went on. Coach [Jimbo] Fisher is a great coach who learned from some of the best coaches around. Now it's his program and he can put his touch on it. Florida State is bringing in great players, and I might be a part of that.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
John David Mercer/US PresswireBarry Sanders Jr. is considering all his options, including Nick Saban and Alabama.

"Alabama is a proven school with a great coach like Nick Saban. He knows what he's doing. I also know that that is a place that will get you ready for the next level."

D.J. Elliot is recruiting Sanders for Florida State. Elliot is from Edmond, Okla., and played his high school ball at Edmond Memorial. So he has lots of connections in the state.

"I think they have developed a real relationship there," Bogart said. "I think he's also very intrigued by Alabama. They both play a lot of pro-style offense and I think that will be big with Barry. I really think that's what he's interested in. They both have a good shot. Of course, so does Oklahoma State."

In addition to unofficially visiting that trio of schools, Sanders has been to Stanford and Arkansas.

"I went to the Alabama-Arkansas game last season and had a blast. I also went to Stanford and really enjoyed that trip a few weeks ago. I am very excited for coach [David] Shaw. I had a chance to speak with him and I would definitely like to get back there again.

"Right now I am open to everyone. I want to get out there and see more schools but I am just not sure who and when yet."

It's a little different than when his father came out of Wichita (Kan.) North High School back in 1986.

"My dad is an inspiring guy," Sanders said. "Many people don't realize that he was only recruited by three schools; Oklahoma State, Iowa State and some small school in Kansas. That's it. To see what he did and what he made of himself is amazing. He just keeps telling me to work hard and all my dreams will come true."

In the mid-80s, Sanders was a good running back recruited by only a few schools. Now, 25 years later, his son is one of the most celebrated recruits among his peers.

"He told me that he doesn't envy my situation," Sanders said. "He sees people coming from all directions. Dad doesn't want me to have a biased opinion. He wants me to listen to what they all have to say."

Rising junior QB to watch
Jonathan McCrary (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) could be one of best QBs in the Peach State, and he's only a junior. As a sophomore last season, the 6-4, 195-pounder threw for 3,347 yards and rushed for over 700 yards.

"Jonathan is the school's best athlete. Period. He's also a great point guard," Cedar Grove coach Ray Bonner said. "As a football player, Jonathan is a dual-threat guy with great size. But the thing is he's a pocket passer looking to throw all the time. His eyes are always down field. Now he can beat you running, but that is more of extending a play."

According to Bonner, Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Notre Dame are all showing serious interest in McCrary.

"The kid is amazing," Bonner said. "I mean, he's the real deal."

His father, Greg McCrary, played tight end in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.

Don't sleep on this LB
Watch List DT Quay Evans (Morton, Miss./Morton) is one of the nation's most sought-after players. But when recruiters come to see the Under Armour All-American, they will also see a hidden gem in his teammate DeMarcus Jones.

"This kid is an animal," Morton coach Miles Porter said. "He's a wild man on defense. Last season he played at 6 feet and 210 pounds. I bet right now he's 225 or 230. He starting to really blossom and fill out."

As a junior, Jones was leading the team in tackles by quite a large margin before he injured his ankle, causing him to miss about a quarter of the season.

"DeMarcus missed three games and was still our leading tackler at the time by 15 or 20 tackles," Porter said. "He averaged about 15 a game. He's a middle linebacker that has a real nose for the football and can run. The issue with him is his academics. We put a plan together, and if he sticks with it he will be fine. It's up to him. If he does what he's supposed to do in the classroom I would guess that there will be a lot of teams after him."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.