Monday, August 3, 2009

Vanderbilt freshmen DBs will get thrown into fire early

Nobody seems terribly worried about the Vandy secondary this season, probably because of the presence of a legitimate All-American candidate at cornerback (Myron Lewis) and a legitimate All-SEC candidate at safety (Ryan Hamilton). Oh yeah, and the fact that the league's quarterbacks, with the exception of Tebow and Snead, are young and inexperienced.

But Alan Strong's apparent transferral to Tennessee State spotlights the weakness of the Vandy defense: experienced depth in the secondary. Let's compare last season's preseason secondary depth with this season's.

• Starting cornerbacks/nickel back: Myron Lewis, D.J. Moore, Darlron Spead
• Backup cornerbacks/nickel: Alan Strong, Josh Allen, Jared Fagan
• Starting safeties: Reshard Langford, Ryan Hamilton
• Backup safeties: Brent Trice, Joel Caldwell
• Returning starters: 5
• Total players with starting experience: 8
• Total players with playing experience: 10

• Starting cornerbacks/nickel back: Myron Lewis, Casey Hayward, Jamie Graham
• Backup cornerbacks/nickel: Freshmen Trey Wilson, Eric Samuels, Javon Marshall and Eddie Foster, walk-on Rich Tompkins
• Starting safeties: Ryan Hamilton, Sean Richardson
• Backup safeties: Joel Caldwell or redshirt frosh Al Owens and Micah Powell or true frosh Jay Fullam
• Returning starters: 2
• Total players with starting experience on defense: 3
• Total players with playing experience on defense: 5

So, last season we returned all five starters, counting the nickel, and all five reserves, all of whom were battle-tested in big SEC games and 80 percent of whom had starting experience. Wow.

This season, we return two starters and only three key reserves, one of whom has starting experience. In fact, only half of our top 10 DBs have ever played at the college level.

Remember how last season Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson were hand-picked from four freshman DBs to play special teams all season, and they learned the system and then starred in the bowl game?

That won't happen this season. A true freshman or two — or maybe three — will be thrown into the fire early. The best bets are Wilson and Samuels and maybe Javon Marshall and even Eddie Foster.

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