Friday, August 21, 2009

John Cole was the trendy go-to guy at wide receiver... who'll step up now that he's injured again?

Like everybody, I'm bummed that Steven Stone broke his foot and will be out at least until the Ole Miss game. It's a shame to lose an established starter like Stone, especially somebody so good at rushing the passer and stopping the run.

But I'm not despondent. Sophomore Tim Fugger's hungry and ready to go. And juniors Teriall Brannon and Theron Kadri have starting experience. And redshirt freshman Johnell Thomas appears to be too talented to keep off the field.

No, what really worries me are the seemingly continuous string of injuries to redshirt freshman receiver John Cole. You may remember him as one of three true freshman to play in last season's opener, when he injured his knee on special teams. But he spent the rest of the fall and all winter and spring bulking up and getting ready to crack the starting lineup. Bobby Johnson was calling him one of the team's "most explosive" receivers and saying he had a "new body" this season. And his name really started popping up after Terance Jeffers-Harris was declared ineligible.

But around the same time, as Vandy was starting preseason practices, the injury bug was biting Cole again. First it was a hamstring and now he's wearing a boot and hobbling around with a sprained. And so Jamie Graham, who'll be counted on at corner and nickel on defense, is now spending some practice time back on the offensive side of the ball.

With Cole hobbled and TJ-H gone, who'll be the go-to guy at wide receiver?
• Senior Alex Washington, who looked all-world in the spring game?
• Sophomore Udom Umoh, who got on track in the Music City Bowl and caught the first three passes of his career?
• Sophomore Tray Herndon, who was impressive as a freshman at Minnesota?
• Redshirt frosh Akeem Dunham, who's tall and who's got soft hands and good hops?
• Junior Justin Green, a huge target who just moved from tight end?
• True freshman Brady Brown, a possession receiver whom every Vandy fan has figured all along would play right away?
• Or true freshman Collin Ashley, who was offered a late scholarship and who looks like a clone of Cole?
• Or walk-on Chris Reinert, a tough little guy coming off a broken leg?
• Or walk-on Rich Tompkins, the Vanderbilt legacy who just moved from DB?

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, guys are knocking each other out in the spring. Broderick Stewart's been woozy for a couple of days after bonking helmets with T.J. Greenstone. And offensive lineman Reilly Lauer, who started 10 games last year, missed practice Wednesday after suffering a mild concussion.

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