Excuse me for just a moment before we get started -- I need to facilitate a quick introduction.
FlaTerp: Good news, E.J., you finally -- finally! -- have a classmate.
E.J. Donahue: Sweet! Who is it?
FlaTerp: It's none other than Florida running back Deltron Sands!
Deltron Sands: What's up!
Donahue: A running back, nice! I like running backs. In fact, I love to blow up defenders and open big gaps specifically so running backs can do their thing and look good.
Sands: Well that's good to know, because I love to burst through those gaps, make a cut or two through the second level, then take off into the open field.
Donahue: Man, it's been lonely around here. I've been waiting for months for someone else to come along. Welcome aboard. By the way, cool name.
Donahue: So where do you go to high school, Deltron Sands? You aren't the biggest cat I've ever seen, so what kind of rusher are you?
FlaTerp: OK guys, I'll take it from here. E.J., why don't you hit up Isaiah Prince and Quarvez Boulware and tell them about the electric rusher you just found out you'll be blocking for? And Deltron, start showing off some new UA/Maryland Pride gear and selling the Terps to your high school teammates down there in Fort Lauderdale so we can get the pipeline going.
Donahue and Sands: On it!
Alright, now that the formalities are out of the way, let's get to work learning about the long-awaited second member of Maryland's football class of 2015, Deltron Sands -- a personal favorite of mine, and not just because of his badass name.
Click here to see Sands' film reel from his junior year.
The Recruit: Deltron Sands
High School: St. Thomas Aquinas, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Position: Running back
247sports composite: Three stars, 101st-best running back in the nation, 160th-best player in Florida
Measurables: Depending on where you look, he's listed 5-8 or 5-9 and in the 170-175 pound weight range. He has a 40 time of 4.45 and runs the 100 in track at an 11.1 clip, indicating nice breakaway speed. He benches 245, squats 415 and his vertical is 31.9. My take: he's not big, but the size is just fine for his age and position considering the level of football he plays. Same goes with his strength -- it's not bad but there's room for improvement, and also, he's a small and elusive guy whose meal ticket has been quickness and vision, not power.
Junior season: St. Thomas Aquinas finished 10-3 and lost to eventual state champion Dwyer (West Palm Beach) in the Class 7A regional finals (3rd round). Dwyer -- another national-class program -- beat Aquinas by a touchdown, then won the state championship game by 16 points. As for Sands, he was a change-of-pace back in a tandem with Madre London, a big powerful senior rusher who will play at Michigan State this fall. Statistics I could find reflect only 11 of the Raiders' 13 games but in that span, Sands had 58 carries compared to London's 108. He gained 336 yards, 5.8 per carry, and scored 4 TDs, while catching 13 passes for 202 yards and two other TDs.
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Those numbers are fine, not dazzling, but here is where it's important to stress something. Aquinas is, hands down, one of the finest high school football programs in the United States.The Raiders have won seven state championships including four in the past seven years. They were national champs in both 2008 and 2010. This is high school football at it's absolute best.
Don't believe me? Read this story that talks about how the Aquinas football facilities are practically a second home for coaches like Urban Meyer, Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp, Al Golden and so many others.
Still don't believe me? Take a gander at the team's website or scroll through this list of the scores of major D1 commits Aquinas has churned out in recent years. Michael Irvin, Geno Atkins, Giovani Bernard, Lamarcus Joyner, Leonard Hankerson. The list goes on and on. Sands is the sixth Aquinas D1 commit in just the Class of 2015, and there's six others including big-time receiver prospect Devante Peete who look like they'll be D1s too.
The reason why I'm spending so much time on the quality of Sands' high school program during this film review is simple: when you see him gaining tough yards against someone like Miami Northwestern, you're watching an opponent that is widely considered to be one of the top-10 historical football programs in the USA. Sands may not have been the workhorse back or even a starter last year, but he's playing in a best-of-the-best program and playing with and against elite athletes. If he has low mileage on him when he gets to College Park, all the better.
Offers: Sands had listed offers from Cincinnati, Syracuse, Wake Forest, USF, FIU, and Western Michigan. As with all Florida prospects, Sands could become a decommit-risk if UF, FSU, Miami or any of the big players in the SEC come calling for him.
On film: Where do I start? There's just so much to like about this film, even before you take into consideration the level of football and quality of defensive athletes Sands is competing against. I guess the first thing to like about Sands is his vision and instincts. He's got that Emmitt Smith-esque quality where he's sliding and weaving away from defenders so that even when they do make contact and bring him down, it's never really good contact. Because of the way he reads the field and the defense, he manages to never really take big hits even on inside-type rushes.
He's also an obviously polished and disciplined rusher who almost always is following a designed play you can clearly see being executed. I'm a broken record here, but again let's credit the caliber of football. At a school like Aquinas (or Gilman, Dematha, FCA, etc.), you better run the play that was drawn up or the coaches will replace you with someone who will. Sands does that and he has great vision. As a result, he's a joy to watch navigating his way around blocks and through seams.
Another thing to like about him is his toughness, which you may not expect when you consider his size. Sands doesn't go down easy, he squirms, hops, rotates, lunges and fights for yardage. Because he's a small back you're expecting speed, but the speed, while it's there, isn't really the take-away you get from watching him. His low center of gravity, balance, footwork, cuts, movement and motor make him go. When he gets the edge or beats a second-level defender, then you can see his speed, but it's not the primary gift he's putting to work. Maybe that's why his offers aren't better than they are right now, because he's neither big nor blazing fast? (Seriously, I'm flummoxed. After watching film, what am I missing? Where are the big offers?)
Yet another thing to really appreciate here is Sands' receiving skills. We're seeing him catch screen passes, dump passes, quick outs, squares and hitches. He shows it all and he's deadly after the catch. On screens, he engages the pass-rusher just enough and then is always in the right place for the outlet. He's an excellent receiver.
I try with all these film reviews to balance the gushing positives with some realism. There's usually some rawness, flaws, or undeveloped skills with high school prospects, even the elite ones like Damian Prince (Psst ...Testudbro ... you are good at finding technical flaws that I miss, so let's hear your take on Sands in the comments, OK?). With Sands, I was all ready to list blocking as the one thing there was no film evidence he could do, but then you get to the 5-minute mark of his junior-year reel and he's laying into dudes twice his size. He's small, so he's not likely to be used that heavily as a blocker, but you have to appreciate that he's done it and he attacks it with the same high motor and effort that he attacks his runs and catches.
So that leaves me with my only real question mark about Sands, his size. Size is often exaggerated with high school prospects and if the low range of his listed H/W of 5-8/170 is an exaggeration then, sure, it's a bit of a concern. But once again I'll take solace in the fact that he's already playing at a level of football where size could be a problem if you aren't good enough to overcome it. I'm not worried about Sands' size at all, to be honest. Maybe Maryland will bulk him up to 180-190 in a redshirt year to eliminate those concerns, or maybe it just won't matter and he's good enough to play right away at 170 and then grow as he ages and conditions
2015 outlook: This is an interesting case for me. Maryland is pretty solid at RB with a proven guy in Brandon Ross and some others with experience but varying degrees of question marks. Can Albert Reid make the leap? Is slimmed-down Wes Brown the same guy he was before his year off? How about Jacquille Veii, who is such a nice athlete but we just haven't seen that much of him? And then there's Joe Riddle who has two years in the program but hasn't been a factor at all. Even with all those guys, Sands could fill a potential hole as a third-down back that Maryland hasn't had in a few years. We'll discuss whether or not he has a future as an every-down back below, but it sure seems like his receiving ability makes him a candidate to play right away in passing sets, at the very least.
Could he stand a redshirt year? Absolutely. He's small and could use work on size, strength & conditioning, plus he's a South Florida kid who could maybe stand a year just to get acclimated to life away from home. Still, I'll go out on a limb here and say that Sands will not redshirt. The parallel for me is Will Likely, who was also from an elite program in Florida (Glades Central) and was also on the small side, which (wrongly!) scared away UF, FSU and Miami. Size didn't matter with Likely. He was a high-pedigree, high-talent football player, and those guys find their way to the field fast. Sands is the exact same thing, so I'll just say it -- Deltron Sands is going to play right away.
Longterm outlook: Based on film and background, Sands could have a very bright future at Maryland. Sure, I painted myself as an unequivocal Sands fanboy about 700 words ago, so maybe my rosy opinion doesn't mean much anymore at this point, but the kid looks like an absolute steal to me. Because he's a small back, you have to wonder what kind of workload he's capable of down the road. Is he destined to be a third-down back forever? Or can he transcend his size in the way backs like LaMichael James and Darren Sproles were able to do at Oregon and Kansas State, respectively, where they each neared or surpassed 300 carries per season at one time or another and held up just fine?
When running backs of any size are smart, tough and elusive, they are able to limit the punishment they take. Sands shows signs of having that slithery ability to do his thing without taking a beating from the big boys. So maybe he can be an every-down back down the road? Maybe he can be a Terrapin star? We'll learn those things in the years to come, but we already know what is plain to see on this film: this is one heck of a running back who will be taking his talents to College Park next year. Welcome aboard, Deltron Sands!
How do you feel about Deltron Sands' prospects for early playing time?