South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior prospect at the position, is being investigated for potential inappropriate contact with sports agents , according to Joseph Person of TheState.com.
Saunders, who grew up in Durham, North Carolina, is said to be friends with several of the UNC players reportedly being investigated last week by NCAA officials. According to Person's report, the NCAA's concern may be that an agent paid for airfare and lodging for Saunders and/or UNC players, which, of course, would be a violation of the amatuer eligibility rules.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier acknowledged that his talented tight end is in potential trouble with the NCAA in Person's article, but was careful not to paint Saunders in a bad light.
“I’m not accusing Weslye of anything. He may be innocent. He may just know those (North Carolina) guys,” Spurrier said. “But we’ll just have to wait and see how it all comes out.”
The 6-5, 272 pound Saunders offers a rare combination of size and athleticism for the position. A featured component of the team's offense to start last season, Saunders caught 12 passes over his first two games, but finished with only 32 (for 352 yards and 3 scores) on the year.
Saunders heavily considered leaving early for the NFL after last season and did request a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee. Saunders' grade was reported to be in the mid-rounds, which led to his return to South Carolina for his senior season.
Saunders certainly has the physical potential to warrant NFLDraftScout.com's lofty preseason ranking. With previous concerns about his work ethic and consistency, however, if he is to take full advantage of his impressive natural skill set, he'll need to get through the NCAA investigation unscathed and put forth an inspired 2010 season.