How Arkansas commit Alex Sanford showed why he was future SEC player as a freshman

·3 min read

Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe remembers seeing Alex Sanford as a standout player during his freshman year. The linebacker was wreaking havoc on the freshman team early in the season and earned a call-up to varsity.

That’s when Cutcliffe got an up close view of Sanford’s hunger to improve.

“Obviously part of playing at that level is God-given ability,” Cutcliffe said. “A lot of times you can see that. Alex was a dominant player in our middle school program but you have to see the work ethic and the drive to go with it. That’s the biggest thing.

“We saw his production on the field in freshman football. Watching him when he came up and joined the varsity team the second half of the season as a freshman, he immediately fit right into that level of play and work.”

Sanford is No. 12 on the Clarion Ledger's 2022 Dandy Dozen, a collection of the top college football prospects in Mississippi for the Class of 2023 as picked by the news paper.

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Sanford’s work ethic — which led to him leading the Chargers in tackles over the past two seasons — started well before becoming the No. 15 recruit in the state and No. 63 linebacker nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Sanford finished with 120 tackles, 17 for loss, five quarterback pressures, three sacks and a fumble recovery in 11 games.

The Arkansas commitment credits his uncles Donell, C.J. and T-Bone Chapman for helping build his competitive drive, practice habits and willingness to watch film.

Oxford High linebacker Alex Sanford, left, and quarterback Mack Howard, right, photographed in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, are members of the Clarion Ledger 2022 Dandy Dozen.
Oxford High linebacker Alex Sanford, left, and quarterback Mack Howard, right, photographed in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, are members of the Clarion Ledger 2022 Dandy Dozen.

“They wanted me to be the best version of me that I could ever be,” Sanford said. “These guys want to see me succeed so badly, more than they want to succeed for themselves.

"So when I got into football it was like ‘Hey man, if you want to do this, let’s do this for real.' I cannot explain how important they were to me in this game and in general.”

Sanford’s uncles led the groundwork, but former Oxford linebacker Kiyon Williams along with four-star recruit and Ole Miss tight end J.J. Pegues helped him progress with the Chargers. It’s a part of the culture that Cutcliffe has cultivated at Oxford.

One that helped Sanford receive offers from Ole Miss, Jackson State and Tennessee among others. Sanford is eager to do that for the next generation this season.

“Alex was lucky to see Kiyon’s example and he took it and ran with it,” Cutcliffe said. “We had guys before Kiyon that came and laid that foundation. That’s a great thing when you can pass that down from one generation of your football program to the next.”

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Sanford’s physicality, effort and versatility had SEC schools recruiting him heavily, according to Cutcliffe. His ability to be a mike linebacker and to stop the run and provide a pass rush off the edge will translate to the next level.

The three-star recruit has two goals for his senior season: Break Quentin Wilfawn single-season tackles record (171) and lead the Chargers to their first state championship since 2019.

“The Oxford Chargers as a team are going to be getting all of me,” Sanford said. “All of me to win this state championship.”

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Arkansas football commit Alex Sanford showed early he was SEC player