Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vanderbilt football finally gets a three-star defensive lineman

Thursday was a big night for the Commodores. Bobby Johnson hosted a barbecue for recruits and the food must have been good, because three of them made verbal commitments.

The most notable commitment of Thursday night, and probably the entire spring, was Kyle Woestmann of Marietta. A 6-4, 265-pound defensive tackle, Woestmann put a temporary halt to the recent trend of all those smart, athletic Atlanta kids with Vandy offers jumping to Georgia Tech. Woestmann had offers from Tech and UGA, not to mention South Carolina and Clemson, and Oklahoma was mighty interested in him too.

We do this all time, naming big schools that a Vandy commitment turned down so you'll be impressed. But Woestmann's commitment is a huge step for Bobby Johnson. As we've said before, defensive tackles are like gold, and there just aren't as many of them around as there are, say, defensive backs and wide receivers.

In fact, if Woestmann puts pen to paper as expected in February, this will be the first three-star DT that Johnson has ever signed. In his past eight classes, he's signed just seven prospects listed as true defensive tackles, all of whom were two-star guys. Florida and Alabama get that many DTs in a year or two, and they aren't two-stars.

Since 2002, we've signed the following guys listed as defensive tackles:
• Ray Brown, 2002: A redshirt who got solid playing time for three years.
• Lamar Divens, 2004: A two-year letterman who left the team after his sophomore year.
• Theo Horrocks, 2004: Played as a true freshman and is now in the NFL.
• Derrius Dowell, 2005: Never played a snap for the Commodores; injured last season as a redshirt junior.
• Rob Ashabranner, 2007: Redshirted and moved to the offensive line.
• T.J. Greenstone, 2007: Redshirted but was a revelation last season and named Freshman All-SEC
• Colt Nichter, 2008: Redshirted and will compete for playing time this season.

We did have a verbal commitment last year from three-star DT Darrius McMullin, but he lacked the academic skills to be a Commodore. His high school teammate, Jermaine Jackson, also a three-star DT, had a Vanderbilt offer but chose Arkansas last week.

Adam Smotherman (listed as a guard coming out of high school) and Greg Billinger (listed at offensive tackle by espn and defensive end by rivals) have since been moved to defensive tackle, are both starters and are playing great.

But for some reason it's always nice to get a guy who's listed as a DT. Ashabranner's the rare case of somebody listed as a DT who gets moved to the O-line. (Though it's been a trend of ours to move DEs to OT; see Reilly Lauer and Richard Seymour.)

Woestmann is extremely strong and extremely athletic. He's got a good motor, which means he keeps moving when he should be tired, but he's also fast for his size and has the frame to put on more weight. He needs to improve his pass rushing skills, but he's tough against the run and that's exactly what you need in the SEC.

The other two verbal commitments were CB Andre Hal (5-11, 170, Port Allen, La.) and WR Trent Pruitt (5-10, 175, Fitzgerald, Ga.).

Hal is a wiry, athletic corner who had an offer to Nebraska and every directional school in his home state of Louisiana. He lacks the blazing speed that LSU can now demand in all its DBs, so he didn't get a bite from the Bayou Bengals. The astute poster below says Hal's faster than Chevis Jackson of LSU, so that point's up for debate. Anyway, Hal got a decent 75 rating from ESPN.

Pruitt was as far under the radar as a player can be. He's unrated by seemingly every scouting service. He had offers from Georgia Southern and Troy and was expecting one from Middle. No, I'm not trying to impress you. He's pretty fast, and he'd better be to compete with the other little route-running receivers that Vanderbilt seems to be collecting (John Cole, Collin Ashley).

Study hard, Terance Jeffers. We're gonna need you.

NOTE: I've updated this since "anonymous" below made several good points, including that Smotherman and Billinger sure look like real defensive tackles.


Anonymous said...

Guy, a couple of things about this story that need to be corrected.

1. Greg Billinger was always a DLine recruit for Vandy and he played defensive line at Parkview. He was NEVER a offensive lineman that they moved to the defensive line.

2. You call Woestmann a "natural defensive downlineman", yet you fail to realize that Woestmann himself was considered more of a offensive guard until Vanderbilt offered him as a defensive tackle and then he impressed people on the spring camp and combine circuit this year. So if he's a natural, so too is Billinger and Smotherman, cause Kyle is in the same situation as Smo was.

3. Hal has better speed than former LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson. And LSU was sniffing around him, but they already have 5-stars at their door this year.

4. Pruitt got his offer prior to Vandy even having their first camp and no man, he hasn't camped there. He's got the speed, he is faster than his former teammate, Jemea Thomas who's going to Georgia Tech.


Thanks. This is a blog, so I throw out stuff I get off other sites and people like you correct me as needed. (Though I certainly try to be accurate.) Especially with recruiting, there's so much conflicting information out there so it's nice to get posts like yours. You're right, Billinger and Smotherman look like natural DTs, they certainly played like it last year. Now that I've checked, Billinger was listed as a DE candidate by rivals when he signed with Vandy. There's a fine line between DE and DT for some guys, but Vanderbilt always seems to sign way more DEs than DTs. It's funny that Billinger and Broderick Stewart (who was something like 190 coming out of high school) were both listed as DEs. Anyway, I appreciate the post. Keep coming back and keeping me honest.


Just checked and Billinger was listed as an OT by ESPN coming out of high school. You sound like you know the Atlanta high school scene pretty well and had him pegged as a DT all along. But the so-called experts didn't.