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.