Sunday, November 15, 2009
Forget Saturday's game in Knoxville...we're looking to the future (and the future may or may not mean Brady Brown)
Sure, I'll watch Vandy give it the old college try on Saturday night in Knoxville. But I'm not going to spend much time worrying about the game (6 p.m. on ESPNU).
Not much to analyze: The Volunteers don't have much finesse on offense, but they're big and strong athletic and they're going to try to wear us down just like they did last year and just like Kentucky and everybody else in the SEC did to us this year. And if they give us the ball, well, they can just wait three downs until we punt it back to them.
Team Moral Victory is not quitting on the Dores, but we do plan to spend this week looking at our prospects for next season and then give it a rest for a while until something happens with recruiting or coaching changes or something like that. You'll forgive us if we don't recap the Top 10 plays of the season or name a team MVP or any of that crap that's fun to do if, say, your team goes to a bowl for the first time in 53 years.
Anyway, today we're going to look at our true freshmen in the order of votes received in our "Who'll play as a true freshman?" fan poll:
• Brady Brown (56%): LIMITED ACTION. Everybody, including us, was sure that the 6-foot-5 Texan would make an immediate impact as a possession receiver and be starting by the end of the season. He did play as a true freshman, but he turned out to be only 6-3, and he's only seen time in four games and hasn't caught a pass. Still, he's a raw prospect who should improve and compete for playing time next season — but his biggest competitors, huge targets Chris Boyd and David Dudchock, graduate from high school next spring.
• Zac Stacy (44%): PART-TIME STARTER. Had the best chance of the freshmen tailbacks to play right away, and thanks to Jared Hawkins' injury, he started the season opener and broke 100 yards, then looked impressive against LSU in Baton Rouge. Hampered by ankle injuries most of the season, but has shown flashes of brilliance and his future is bright, especially with plans to repair that ankle in the offseason.
• Eric Samuels (44%): LIMITED ACTION. The prep running back/defensive back was moved immediately into the secondary, where he had a sensational opening game, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble. But he was injured on the interception return and was never the same, seeing spot duty in the middle of the season and then vanishing altogether with the emergence of fellow freshman Eddie Foster. Will get a close look in the spring at corner, safety or nickel, where he should get a jump on all those true freshmen DBs who'll show up for preseason camp.
• Wesley Tate (39%): REDSHIRT. Despite a solid preseason camp, he was overshadowed by Warren Norman and has been a sure redshirt. But he has all the tools to be a big-time SEC tailback — even more so than Stacy and Norman, who are change-of-pace guys — and will get every opportunity in the spring to be a powerful go-to back who'll wear down opposing defenses. He'll certainly benefit from an extra year of weight lifting and drills.
• Trey Wilson (36%): SECOND-TEAM CORNERBACK. Missed all of preseason camp after dropping a bed on his toe while moving into his dorm, but was too good to keep off the field. He's played in every game, is a fixture on the depth chart as a backup corner and special teams contributor, and could grab a starting job next year as a true sophomore like Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson did this year.
• Javon Marshall (27%): REDSHIRT. Even with the team desperate for secondary help, Marshall didn't make waves in the preseason and has been headed for a redshirt since the opener. And with a bunch of corners and safeties committed to join the team next year, he may be in an uphill climb for playing time during his Commodore career.
• Warren Norman (21%): STARTER. Expected to redshirt and put on weight, Norman instead burst on the scene in the preseason, rushed for more than 100 yards in the opener, and has been a revelation as a kick returner, taking three to the house and closing in on Herschel Walker's record for most all-purpose yards by a freshman. Though nobody's excited about the Commodore offense, everybody's excited about this kid's future.
• Eddie Foster (10%): PART-TIME STARTER. Considered too light to play as a true frosh, Foster wowed coaches in the preseason with his speed, savvy and toughness. By the end of the season, he was starting at nickelback. The fastest player on the field, Foster's future is bright. Hey, can he line up at wide receiver?
• Mason Johnston (7%): REDSHIRT. With Barden and Monahan anchoring the tight end position, Johnston was a lock to redshirt, and after Monahan was lost for the year the coaches kept him on the bench and turned instead to fullback Ryan van Rensburg and wide receiver Justin Green. He'll compete next season with Barden, Monahan and four-star commitment Davis Dudchock.
• Justin Cabbagestalk (5%): REDSHIRT. Offensive linemen always redshirt at Vandy, but Cabbagestalk had the added burden of facing a criminal trial. (Nothing as serious as holding up somebody at a Knoxville service station and making a getaway in a Prius.) He's suspended this season and has been on campus practicing with the team. We'll see if he's here next year.
• Jay Fullam (4%): INJURED/REDSHIRT. Overshadowed by the other freshmen DBs on signing day, Fullam impressed coaches in the preseason and was a lock to play right away until he broke his hand and needed surgery. Expect the Chattanooga native to challenge for Ryan Hamilton's old starting position in the spring.
• Charlie Goro (4%): REDSHIRT. A redshirt from Day One, Goro's been traveling to all the games and calling in signals while junior Jared Funk's been playing special teams. He'll get his shot in the spring. By all accounts, he's a winner and a leader who's got good wheels and a quick but not particularly strong arm. Expect him to see some spot action and assume the backup quarterback role next season, and to be ready to go if Larry Smith is injured or falters.
• Thad McHaney (4%): REDSHIRT. A big, fast kid who was lost in the mix at defensive end but will get a shot in the spring. He's been on the get-bigger-get-stronger plan.
• Blake Southerland (4%): REDSHIRT. With Brent Trice and Patrick Benoist graduating, we're looking for some new blood at linebacker, and Southerland will challenge the four-headed Strong-Jones-Barnes-Daniels monster of current redshirt freshmen.
• Wesley Johnson (2%): REDSHIRT. A terrific offensive line prospect who right now is packing on the pounds and hoisting the weights, the Nashville native will get every chance to crack the lineup at guard or even possibly center in the spring.
• Mylon Brown (1%): REDSHIRT. The rare true freshman lineman at Vandy who tips the scales past 300, Brown is a raw, powerful guy who'll get a chance to play at tackle or guard. Jamie Bryant would love for a couple of redshirt freshmen to nail down starting jobs for the next four years.
• Walker May (1%): REDSHIRT. A bit light in the pants, May nevertheless wowed coaches in the preseason and dang near got a shot to play defensive end after Steven Stone broke his foot. Now he's packing on the pounds. He's a long, fast, disruptive player who'll make a splash in the spring.
• Collin Ashley (N/A): SECOND-TEAM RECEIVER. How bad was the Commodores' receiving corps? Well, after signing day, Justin Wheeler blew out his knee ending his career and Terrance Jeffers wasn't wowing anybody in the classroom, and so Bobby Johnson saw the writing on the wall and went out and got Ashley, an undersized but game-ready receiver from a big Texas high school who was planning to walk on at Arkansas. Ashley's played in every game and is fearless over the middle. Ideally, he's a role player who lacks the strength and ability to separate from SEC corners that we're hoping verbal commitments Bradley Roby and Jonathan Krause will bring next year. But he's stepped up when nobody else has, and our hat's off to him.