Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sign of the apocalypse: Turner Wimberly starting at wide receiver?

Jeff Lockridge of the Tennessean writes today that Turner Wimberly may get the start at wide receiver.


Wimberly hasn't been listed on the two-deep this season, and the fact that we're even talking about him starting shows how shaky the Commodores are at receiver. Wimberly was recruited as a quarterback in the same class as Jared Funk — Funk & Wimberly sounds like a great law firm or maybe a comic strip but will go down in history as a prime example why Vandy should never recruit two quarterbacks in the same year, especially quarterbacks who can't really play another position. Right now, Funk is playing on punt coverage or some such special team and Wimberly moved to receiver (where else was he going to play?) and has been an afterthought there until, well, today.

While my choice to replace Cole would be his twin brother Collin Ashley, I certainly wish Master Wimberly all the best if and when he faces the Rebels. But if things should go awry with our passing game Saturday, I suggest you chant these names to yourself: Chris Boyd, Jonathan Krause, Jerrell Priester, Bradley Roby and Trent Pruitt — the dynamic collection of high school receivers (or guys capable of playing receiver) who've committed to play for the Commodores — and play they will.

In the meantime, let's review how the Dores arrived at their current predicament:

At the start of spring practice, the starting lineup looked like this:

• Terence Jeffers: A big, physical, big-time talent who could play for anybody in the SEC. And could probably have become eligible at any SEC school but Vanderbilt.

• Justin Wheeler: Senior receiver whose clutch catches helped pull monumental upsets of South Carolina in Columbia and Auburn in Nashville. Blew out his knee in spring, which ended his career.

• John Cole: Talented little receiver who as a true freshman played in the opener but injured his knee and was redshirted. Has gotten stronger and battled back from the knee injury and a series of other injuries in the preseason. Broke his hand in the first quarter at Rice but kept playing and recorded a career-high seven receptions.

Now here's Vandy's receiving corps, in order of receptions:

1. Cole (12-119 yards): The redshirt freshman plans to play with a cast on his broken hand. Probably won't start on Saturday.

2. Udom Umoh (9-139): The fastest and most physically talented receiver remaining on the roster. As a redshirt frosh last season, had a case of the dropsies in practice and recorded his first catches in the Music City Bowl. Has started all four games this season.

3. Alex Washington (6-72): Fifth-year senior who's been crippled by injuries most of his career. Finally starting at receiver, he's suffered some high-profile drops, especially his bobble in the Baton Rouge resulting in an interception that effectively put that game on ice. Still listed as a starter.

4. Collin Ashley (6-42): True freshman who had to wait until Wheeler was injured in spring practice — several months after national signing day — to even get a scholarship offer. But he's wowed coaches with his route-running, sure-handedness and toughness. Could start on Saturday in place of Cole. Listed on second team.

5. Wimberly (4-47): The redshirt junior jump-started the listing Vandy offense with a nice 21-yard catch late in the Miss State game, then had three catches against Rice. Not listed on depth chart.

6. Justin Green (1-46): At 6-6, 235, this redshirt junior and converted tight end has one of those all-airport team bodies. But only one reception. OK, it was Vandy's only receiving touchdown of the year (!) but still only one reception. Listed on second team.

7. Tray Herndon (1-17): Sophomore transfer was impressive as a true freshman for Minnesota, but only has one reception so far this season. Listed on second team.

8. Brady Brown (0-0): Highly touted true freshman was supposed to waltz into the starting lineup as a possession receiver, but has taken a backseat to fellow Texan Ashley. Has played in the WC and Rice games, with no receptions.

9. Chris Reinert (0-0): Fifth-year walk-on landed a scholarship for his hard-nosed play and is a fixture on special teams.

Players at other positions who have caught passes:

1. Austin Monahan (8-76): Redshirt sophomore claimed in the preseason that he and Brandon Barden compose the nation's finest tight end combination.

2. Brandon Barden (7-67): Redshirt sophomore made the SEC's all-freshman team but has a ways to go before making the big-boy team.

3. Zac Stacy (2-14): True freshman has been busy carrying the ball, and is now struggling with an ankle injury.

4. Warren Norman (1-11): True freshman has been busy toting the rock too, but is also known as a talented receiver out of the backfield, and could be used more in that capacity.

4. Kennard Reeves (1-11): Redshirt junior has been running hard and could get more passes thrown his way.

6. Jermaine Doster (1-6): Redshirt sophomore got his catch against Western Carolina and will likely ride the pine for the rest of the season.

7. Jared Hawkins (0-0): Senior looked good in his return to action against Rice and is a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.

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