Monday, August 31, 2009

Vanderbilt releases opening day depth chart, and here's who's moved up and who's dropped down

OK, we all know by now that Larry Smith has won the starting quarterback battle against Mackenzi Adams. Here are the other winners and losers in the depth chart battles:

MAKING THEIR DEBUT: These players weren't on the preseason depth chart:
• Justin Green, R-JR, second-team wide receiver
• Zac Stacy, FR, co-second-team running back
• Warren Norman, FR, co-second-team tailback
• Caleb Welchans, R-FR, second-team right tackle
• Tristan Strong, R-FR, second-team weakside linebacker
• Eddie Foster, FR, second-team cornerback
• Trey Wilson, FR, second-team cornerback
• Eric Samuels, FR, second-team nickelback
• Ryan van Rensburg, R-SO, kick returner

ON THE MOVE: These players beat out players ahead of them or even with them on the depth chart:
• Akeem Dunham, R-FR, beating out R-JR Turner Wimberly at second-team receiver
• Justin Green, R-JR, beating out R-SR Chris Reinert at second-team receiver
• Larry Smith, R-SO, beating out R-SR Mackenzi Adams at starting quarterback
• Zac Stacy and Warren Norman, freshmen, beating out Kennard Reeves and Gaston Miller, both redshirt juniors, at second-team tailback
• Kyle Fischer, R-SO, beating out Ryan Custer, R-SR, at starting left guard
• James Williams, R-SO, beating out Reilly Lauer, R-JR, at starting right tackle
• Rob Lohr, R-FR, beating out Colt Nichter, R-FR, at second-team defensive tackle
• Brent Trice, R-SR, beating out John Stokes, R-JR, at strongside linebacker
• Eddie Foster and Trey Wilson, both true freshmen, supplanting Rich Tompkins, R-SO, at second-team cornerback
• Micah Powell, R-FR, beating out Al Owens, R-FR, for second-team strong safety
• Ryan Fowler, R-FR, beating out Brett Upson, SR, for starting placekicker
• Chris Reinert, R-SR, beating out Mackenzi Adams, R-SR, for holding duties
• David Giller, JR, beating out John Stokes, JR, at long-snapper
• Ryan van Rensburg, R-SO, beating out Jamie Graham, R-SO, and Alex Washington, R-SR, at kick returner

STILL BATTLING: These players are still locked in a battle for key positions:
• Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan, both redshirt sophomores, for starting tight end
• Zac Stacy and Warren Norman, both freshmen, for second-team tailback
• Joey Bailey and Chris Norman, both redshirt juniors, for second-team center
• Ryan Fowler, R-FR, and Brett Upson, SR, for kick-off duties

FIRST-TIMERS: These players on the depth chart have never played in a college football game:
• Akeem Dunham, R-FR, receiver
• Zac Stacy, FR, tailback
• Warren Norman, FR, tailback
• Ryan Seymour, R-FR, left tackle
• Caleb Welchans, R-FR, right tackle
• Rob Lohr, R-FR, defensive tackle
• Tristan Strong, R-FR, weakside linebacker
• Eddie Foster, FR, cornerback
• Trey Wilson, FR, cornerback
• Eric Samuels, FR, nickelback
• Micah Powell R-FR, strong safety

AS EXPECTED: These players kept their positions after being named preseason starters:
• Alex Washington, R-SR, receiver
• Udom Umoh, R-SO, receiver
• John Cole, R-FR, receiver
• Jared Hawkins, R-SR, tailback
• Thomas Welch, R-SR, left tackle
• Bradley Vierling, R-SR, center
• Eric Hensley, R-SR, right guard
• Greg Billinger, SR, defensive tackle
• Adam Smotherman, R-JR, defensive tackle
• Broderick Stewart, R-SR, defensive end
• Chris Marve, R-SO, middle linebacker
• Patrick Benoist, SR, weakside linebacker
• Myron Lewis, SR, cornerback
• Casey Hayward, SO, cornerback
• Jamie Graham, R-SO, nickelback
• Sean Richardson, SO, strong safety
• Brett Upson, SR, punter
• Alex Washington, R-SR, punt returner

Larry Smith named Vanderbilt's starting quarterback, and that's the way it should be

At last, Bobby Johnson has named Larry Smith the starting quarterback. It's a big move for Larry, of course, but it's also a big move for Bobby Johnson, and it alleviates these fears that some Vandy fans have harbored about their head coach:

• He's too loyal to upperclassmen: Nope. If Johnson was ever going to be loyal to a fifth-year senior, it would have been Mackenzi Adams, who's played in every game since his redshirt freshman year, starting nine games, and starring in rousing victories over South Carolina in 2007 and Auburn in 2008.

• He's too comfortable playing multiple quarterbacks: Not true. His first season, Johnson named Jay Cutler the starter and stuck with him for four seasons. (OK, he was Jay Cutler.) Then Johnson named redshirt sophomore Chris Nickson the starter and tried his best to stick with him for three years. Of Adams, Johnson said, "We feel equally confident that he could go in the game if needed and execute our offense." If needed. He's going with Smith.

• He wrongly believes that Vanderbilt can win with defense and special teams alone: Nope. Johnson knows he's got to do something about his offense, and he proved this by installing a spread offense in the spring — a spread offense tailor-made for Larry Smith.

• He's accomplished his goal of a bowl victory and just wants to maintain the status quo: No, no, no. Johnson realizes that with an offense marginally better than the one he had, the Commodores could have won 10 games last season, far beyond the wildest dreams of the team's fans. And this season, even with the departure of D.J. Moore and the injury of Steven Stone, he could have a defense that's something special. Starting Larry Smith isn't about maintaining the status quo — it's about improving not just this season, but the next season and the one after that. "He gave us a look at his potential (last season)," Johnson said, "and we want to develop that potential. The best way to develop it is to get him in the game." Amen, brother.

• He's content to stand to the side and let Ted Cain run the offense into the ground: Nope again. Johnson knows that last season's run-first offense didn't work because it didn't have the passing game to set up the run. "Larry's got a very strong arm," Johnson said today of Smith, "and also has the presence in the pocket. He sees the field very well and knows what we're trying to do with the offense." That's the thing that sticks with Vandy fans: Larry could throw the ball downfield. He did it against Wake Forest and he did it again in the Music City Bowl.

Check out our picks and perspective on a Gator site

The guys over at Gators First — yes, that's a Florida Gators fan site — asked me to make some predictions and whatnot and got my perspective on being a Commodore.

I'm going to make some more, probably different, SEC picks later in the week. I didn't have much time to turn the stuff around for Gators First, so my 11-year-old son and I went through the schedule. Arkansas came out at 1-7 in the conference, and the night I sent the picks to the Florida guys, I woke up thinking about what a terrible pick that was. I mean, Ryan Mallet was my breakout player of the year, and if he's the breakout player of the year then the Hogs aren't going 1-7.

But going game-by-game through the schedule makes you realize how tough this conference is, and how any team — but especially Vanderbilt — has to be on their game every single Saturday if they want to have a prayer.

Have a good Monday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Patrick Benoist tops our list of the Top 75 Vandy players; expect several players to make a move soon

For kicks, we've ranked the Top 75 Commodores based on career games, starts, stats and their position on the preseason (and pre-preseason practice) depth chart. We'll update this list after the opening day lineup is released, and regularly throughout the season. In the future, expect James Williams and Tim Fugger to make big moves on the list, and expect Zac Stacy to make his debut. Here we go:

TOP 10

1. LB Patrick Benoist, SR: 29 career games, 17 starts; All-SEC last year; preseason All-SEC; preseason starter at weakside backer; sure-fire starter

2. CB Myron Lewis, SR: 35 games, 25 consecutive starts; preseason All-SEC; preseason starter at cornerback; sure-fire starter

3. FS Ryan Hamilton, R-SR: 37 games, 34 starts; preseason starter at free safety; sure-fire starter

4. LB Chris Marve, R-SO: 13 games, 13 starts; All-SEC freshman; preseason All-SEC; preseason starter at middle backer; sure-fire starter

5. P Brett Upson, SR: 37 games, 37 starts; preseason All-SEC; preseason starter at punter and co-starter with Ryan Fowler at kicker; sure-fire starter at punter, still battling with Fowler for kicking duties

6. C Bradley Vierling, R-SR: 34 games, 13 starts; preseason starter at center; sure-fire starter

7. DE Steven Stone, R-SR: 37 games, 25 starts; preseason starter at end; sure-fire starter until sidelined with injury for six weeks

8. DT Greg Billinger, SR: 35 games, 13 starts; preseason starter at tackle; sure-fire starter

9. OT Thomas Welch, R-SR: 33 games, 13 starts; preseason starter at left tackle; sure-fire starter

10. DE Broderick Stewart, R-SR: 35 games, 11 starts; preseason starter at end; sure-fire starter


11. RB Jared Hawkins, R-SR: 34 games, 10 starts: preseason starter at tailback; still battling injury and true freshmen to keep starting position

12. TE Brandon Barden, R-SO: 13 games, 10 starts; All-SEC freshman; preseason co-starter with Austin Monahan at tight end; likely starter who could be in same lineup with Monahan

13. QB Mackenzi Adams, R-SR: 37 games, 9 starts; preseason co-starter with Larry Smith at quarterback; still battling Smith for the starting position though most experts think Smith's the man

14. DT Adam Smotherman, R-JR: 18 games, 11 starts; preseason starter at tackle; likely starter who'll share time with T.J. Greenstone

15. LB John Stokes, JR: 15 games, 10 starts; preseason co-starter with Brent Trice at strongside backer; appears to be losing battle with Trice to start

16. OL Reilly Lauer, R-JR: 13 games, 10 starts; preseason co-starter with James Williams at right tackle; now competing with Eric Hensley for starting right guard position

17. OG Eric Hensley, R-SR: 24 games, 7 starts; preseason starter at right guard; now battling Lauer to keep his starting role

18. OL Kyle Fischer, R-SO: 13 games, 7 starts; All-SEC freshman; preseason co-starter wtih Ryan Custer at left guard and co-second-team left tackle with Ryan Seymour; still battling Custer for starting role

19. DT T.J. Greenstone, R-SO: 13 games, 2 starts; All-SEC freshman; preseason second-teamer at tackle; will once again get plenty of snaps in the three-man rotation at tackle

20. LB Brent Trice, SR: 36 games; preseason co-starter with John Stokes at strongside backer; appears to be winning battle to start ahead of Stokes

21. CB Jamie Graham, R-SO: 12 games, 9 starts at receiver and running back; preseason co-starter with Casey Hayward at corner; top candidate to play nickel and moonlight on offense

22. QB Larry Smith, R-SO: 2 games, 1 start; preseason co-starter with Mackenzi Adams at quarterback; still battling Adams, though many believe he'll start

23. OG Ryan Custer, R-SR: 30 games, 12 starts; preseason co-starter with Kyle Fischer at left guard; still battling Fischer for the position

24. SS Sean Richardson, SO: 13 games; preseason starter at strong safety; sure-fire starter

25. CB Casey Hayward, SO: 13 games; preseason co-starter with Jamie Graham at corner; appears to be D.J. Moore's replacement at corner


26. WR Alex Washington, R-SR: 31 games; preseason starter at wide receiver; likely starter

27. TE Austin Monahan, R-SO: 13 games, 4 starts; preseason co-starter with Brandon Barden at tight end; likely backup who'll get plenty of snaps and may line up in same formation with Barden

28. S Joel Caldwell, R-SR: 37 games, 11 starts; preseason second team at free safety; will see action as senior backup in secondary

29. OT James Williams, R-SO: 3 games; preseason co-starter with Reilly Lauer at right tackle; appears to have sewn up the starting role at right tackle

30. WR Udom Umoh, R-SO: 13 games; preseason starter at wide receiver; likely starter

31. WR John Cole, R-FR: 1 game before injury; preseason starter at wide receiver; still battling injuries but appears to be on track to start on opening day

32. PK Ryan Fowler, R-FR: Preseason co-starter with Brett Upson at kicker; still battling Upson for placekicker role though coaching staff wants him to win the position

33. WR Tray Herndon, R-SO: 12 games, 7 starts at Minnesota; preseason second team at receiver; still competing for major playing time

34. OL Joey Bailey, R-JR: 13 games, 5 starts; preseason second team at center; not competing for a starting position

35. DE Theron Kadri, JR: 22 games; preseason co-backup with Teriall Brannon at end; left team last week but has returned and will provide depth

36. LB Nate Campbell, R-JR: 24 games; preseason second team at weakside and middle backer; will play key backup role

37. DE Terrial Brannon, R-JR: 13 games, 1 start; preseason co-backup with Theron Kadri at end; will play key backup role

38. DE Tim Fugger, R-SO: 9 games; preseason second team at end; likely starter to replace injured Stone

39. LB Chris Johnson, R-SR: 36 games; not on preseason depth chart; graduate who returned for fifth season as special teams hit man

40. RB Kennard Reeves, R-JR: 21 games; preseason second team tailback; battling true freshman Zac Stacy for backup role

41. RB Gaston Miller, R-JR: 18 games; preseason third team tailback; likely to focus on kick returns

42. LB Austin Newton, R-JR: 19 games; not on preseason depth chart

43. FB Ryan van Rensburg, R-SO: 8 games on special teams; not on preseason depth chart

44. WR Justin Green, R-JR: 18 games; not on preseason depth chart; moved from tight end in preseason camp

45. DT Rob Lohr, R-FR: Second-team as freshman, did not play; preseason co-backup with Colt Nichter at tackle; still battling Nichter and Taylor Loftley

46. QB Jared Funk, R-JR: Has not played; not on preseason depth chart; likely third-team quarterback

47. DT Colt Nichter, R-FR: Travel team as freshman, did not play; preseason co-backup with Rob Lohr at tackle; still battling Lohr and Taylor Loftley

48. DB Micah Powell, R-FR: Preseason co-backup with Al Owens at safety; playing time depends on emergence of true freshmen

49. OT Ryan Seymour, R-FR: Preseason co-backup with Kyle Fischer at left tackle; being groomed for a possible starting role next season

50. DE Johnell Thomas, R-FR: Preseason third team at end; battling Kadri and Brannon for backup minutes


51. LB DeAndre Jones, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; competing for backup role, should contribute on special teams

52. LB Tristan Strong, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; competing for backup role, should contribute on special teams

53. WR Chris Reinert, R-SR: 13 games; preseason second team receiver; returned from injury and could see playing time

54. WR Turner Wimberly, R-JR: 10 games on special teams; preseason second team receiver; still battling for key minutes

55. WR Akeem Dunham, R-FR: Preseason third team receiver; competing in a wide-open field of receivers

56. LB Dexter Daniels, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; competing for backup role, should contribute on special teams

57. DT Taylor Loftley, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; battling Lohr and Nichter to back up rotation at tackle

58. DB Al Owens, R-FR: Preseason co-backup with Micah Powell at safety; playing time depends on emergence of true freshmen

59. SN David Giller, R-SO: 9 games as snapper; preseason backup to John Stokes at snapper

60. WR Rich Tompkins, R-SO: 4 games on special teams; preseason second team corner, moved to wide receiver; not likely to play much

61. OL Chris Aaron, R-JR: 1 game; preseason second team at right guard; not competing for a key role on the offensive line

62. LB Michael Garcia, R-JR: 17 games on special teams; not on preseason depth chart; currently injured and hopes to return to special teams role

63. RB Jermaine Doster, R-SO: Redshirted, then suspended; not on preseason depth chart; impressed as inside runner in preseason camp and may have precipitated redshirt of Wesley Tate

64. DL John Burrow, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; good preseason, battling for backup role at tackle

65. LB Archibald Barnes, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; has delivered big hits in preseason

66. DE Josh Jelesky, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; battling for reserve role at end

67. OG Rob Ashabranner, R-SO: 1 game; not on preseason depth chart; not competing for key role

68. P Richard Kent, R-FR: preseason second team punter; playing time not likely behind Upson

69. OL Caleb Welchans, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; likely not in early playing rotation

70. OL Richard Cagle, R-FR: Not on preseason depth chart; likely not in early playing rotation

71. LB Davis Flowers, R-SO: 1 game on special teams; not on preseason depth chart; competing for special teams time

72. PK John Laughry, R-SR: 3 games; not on preseason depth chart; playing time unlikely

73. CB Eric Samuels, FR: Three-star prospect; likely the first true freshman to play on defense this season

74. CB Trey Wilson, FR: Three-star prospect; missed most of preseason practice after dropping bed on toe but could work way into rotation in secondary

75. WR Brady Brown, FR: Three-star prospect; possibility in wide-open race to crack receiving rotation

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Vandy frosh running back will probably redshirt; expect Wesley Tate to join the Lohr/Nichter project

Sounds like Bobby Johnson is going to try to redshirt one of his three freshman tailbacks. And the most likely candidate is Wesley Tate. Right now, Zac Stacy and Warren Norman are rotating with the game-day offense, and Tate is working mostly with the scout team. Stacy and Norman both bring something the offense lacks: shifty, versatile runners who can take it to the house. And while Tate is fast, he's a bigger, taller power back who's made his mark so far this preseason running between the tackles, which Kennard Reeves and Jermaine Doster have also done.

Look for Tate to be put on the Rob Lohr/Colt Nichter program. Those guys practiced some last season with the game-day offense and traveled with the team and were even on the depth chart and ready to play as soon as Greg Billinger, Adam Smotherman or T.J. Greenstone got injured or ran out of gas. Remarkably, none of those three defensive tackles ever got injured or ran out of gas and between them they covered every defensive snap of every one of Vanderbilt's 13 games. So Lohr and Nichter redshirted.

"Sometimes we redshirt a guy, but we take them on trips in case we need them," Johnson told the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge. "If we don't need them, it's good to be able to redshirt them. If somebody gets hurt or two people get hurt, we could put them in the game. But if they don't play, they still get some kind of experience going to the other stadiums, seeing the crowds, being on the plane … it's good experience. I would think we'd be carrying all three of them."

I'd say Tate's chances of redshirting will probably be better than the odds, going into last season, that Lohr and Nichter would both maintain their redshirt status throughout the season. Last season, Vanderbilt had three defensive tackles covering two starting positions. This season, if Stacy and Norman play in the opener as expected, Vanderbilt will have six tailbacks covering one starting position (starter Jared Hawkins, freshmen Stacy and Norman, juniors Reeves and Miller and sophomore Doster.)

KICKING BATTLE CONTINUES: The coaching staff has said all along they want redshirt freshman Ryan Fowler to win the starting placekicker job so that senior Brett Upson can concentrate on punting. So has that happened yet? In a post-practice video interview on the athletic department site, Johnson said no. "We got tons of practice left to do," he said.

FREE AGENT DORE UPDATE: Speaking of Vandy wide receivers, Sean Walker hauled in a 24-yard pass Thursday night for the Rams in an exhibition game against the Bengals. Oh, and Reshard Langford had three tackles for the Eagles against the Jaguars, though he may have been overshadowed by some guy who recently got out of prison.

Theron Kadri back, says he almost made "a big mistake"; meanwhile, Vandy receivers are (mostly) still short

The Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge reports that Theron Kadri has returned to the team. That's good news. With Steven Stone out for at least a month, that means Kadri and Teriall Brannon will back starters Broderick Stewart and Tim Fugger, and they'll get help from redshirt freshmen Johnell Thomas and Josh Jelesky. It also means Walker May can get back to the chow hall and put on some more weight. We'll need you next season, buddy.

“I wasn’t sure if this was the place I needed to stay," Kadri told the Tennessean. "From talking to my teammates who have graduated from here and who are still here now and family members, they all just advised me and helped me through it. And (they) helped me make the right decision and stopped me from making a big mistake.”

The smart thing Kadri did was stay on campus and attend class during the three days he was away from the team. Johnson said Kadri was welcomed back with "open arms," adding: "I think Theron knows for him the best place is Vanderbilt. And we’re glad to have him back.”

After it was announced earlier this week that Kadri was leaving, some Vandy fans said good riddance and called Kadri's career a bust. Not so fast. The guy's only played two seasons, and it's really quite an achievement to avoid a redshirt in a Bobby Johnson program. It means you've got — or will soon get — game.

WIDE RECEIVER UPDATE: John Cole's running well and appears to be recovered from his baffling array of injuries. We really, really need him healthy. Speaking of receivers, much has been made lately of the vertical challenges our receivers face. The likely starters are the 5-11 Cole, plus 5-10 Alex Washington, and 6-0 Udom Umoh. Second teamers, at least on the preseason depth chart, are 5-9 Chris Reinert, 6-0 Tray Herndon and 6-1 Turner Wimberly.

"They’re not basketball players, no," Coach Bobby Johnson said in a video interview on Thursday night.

Actually, redshirt freshman Akeem Dunham was a high school basketball star. He's positively towering at 6-3. Of course, true freshman Brady Brown is 6-4. The other true freshman, Collin Ashley, fits the Vandy mold a little better — he's 5-11.

REINERT NOT YOUR TYPICAL WALK-ON: Nice article in the The Hustler about Chris Reinert, the walk-on receiver from California who's best known for pumping up the crowd in last year's South Carolina game as he was being carried off the field with a broken leg. (The Hustler, by the way, is the name of the Vanderbilt student paper. I must say I enjoyed coming home for Thanksgiving my freshman year and telling my relatives I was writing articles for the The Hustler.) Did you know Reinert actually had a scholarship offer from Stanford? I didn't. He now has a scholarship to play for the Commodores.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yes, we think Larry Smith will be Vanderbilt's starting quarterback; and other depth chart prognostications

Here's our best guess as to what the opening day depth chart will look like when it's released, which should be anytime now:

1-Larry Smith, R-SO
2-Mackenzi Adams, R-SR

1-Jared Hawkins, R-SR
2-Zac Stacy, FR
*-Kennard Reeves, R-JR

1-Alex Washington, R-SR
1-Udom Umoh, R-SO
1-John Cole, R-FR
2-Tray Herndon, R-SO
2-Turner Wimberly, R-JR
2-Justin Green, R-JR
*-Chris Reinert, R-SR
*-Akeem Dunham, R-FR
*-Brady Brown, FR

1-Bradley Vierling, R-SR (center)
1-Thomas Welch, R-SR (left tackle)
1-James Williams, R-SO (right tackle)
1-Eric Hensley, R-SR (right guard)
1-Kyle Fischer, R-SO (left guard)
2-Reilly Lauer, R-JR
2-Ryan Custer, R-SR
2-Joey Bailey, R-JR
2-Ryan Seymour, R-FR
2-Caleb Welchans, R-FR
*-Chris Aaron, R-JR
*-Richard Cagle, R-FR

1-Greg Billinger, R-SR
1-Adam Smotherman, R-JR
2-T.J. Greenstone, R-SO
2-Taylor Loftley, R-FR
*-Rob Lohr, R-FR
*-Colt Nichter, R-FR
*-John Burrow, R-FR

1-Broderick Stewart, R-SR
1-Tim Fugger, R-SO
2-Teriall Brannon, R-JR
2-Johnell Thomas, R-FR
*-Josh Jelesky, R-FR

1-Patrick Benoist, SR (weakside)
1-Chris Marve, R-SO (middle)
1-Brent Trice, SR (strongside)
2-John Stokes, JR
2-Nate Campbell, R-JR
2-Tristan Strong, R-FR
*-DeAndre Jones, R-FR
*-Dexter Daniels, R-FR
*-Archibald Barnes, R-FR

1-Myron Lewis, SR (cornerback)
1-Patrick Hamilton, R-SR (free safety)
1-Casey Hayward, SO (cornerback)
1-Sean Richardson, SO (strong safety)
2-Jamie Graham, R-SO (nickel back)
2-Eric Samuels, FR
2-Joel Caldwell, R-SR
2-Micah Powell, R-FR
*-Eddie Jones, FR
*-Al Owens, R-FR
*-Trey Wilson, FR
*-Javon Marshall, FR

1-Ryan Fowler, R-FR
2-Brett Upson, SR

1-Brett Upson, SR
2-Richard Kent, R-FR

If you're wondering, the stars indicate other guys who could be close to cracking the depth chart or who may be listed as an "or" with another player.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

True freshman Walker May just may play this season for Vanderbilt

From the out-of-nowhere department, look who's being mentioned as a true freshman who may play right away.

And look in the right-hand column of this page at the which-freshmen-will-play poll and find the only guy who hasn't received a single vote.

Same guy. Walker May, a 6-5, 210-pound freshman from Birmingham, is getting his name in the paper now that Steven Stone's gone down with injury and Theron Kadri has left the team. The Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge and the City Paper's David Boclair are both mentioning May today, and they're getting their information from the same press conferences and practice sessions.

Seems May is the fastest defensive end on the team — he runs a 4.5 40 — and has apparently been having a good preseason and just may get on the field this season after all, even before the more highly touted Thad McHaney.

Of course, the Commodores still have starter Broderick Stewart, heir apparent Tim Fugger, part-time starter Teriall Brannon and talented redshirt freshmen Johnell Thomas and Josh Jelesky, so I'm not terribly worried. Also, they've got a boatload of linebackers — guys like John Stokes and Archibald Barnes — whose names come up from time to time as possibilities to move up and play some end.

So maybe Walker won't play this season. But he didn't come to Vanderbilt to sit on the bench for four years, and he's trying to get on the field sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vanderbilt defensive line still looking good despite losing Kadri for good and Stone for the time being

So Chris Low is bemoaning our situation at defensive line, and that was even before he heard Theron Kadri had quit the team.

I'm not worried.

Sure, Steven Stone is out for six weeks or so, and that hurts. And Kadri is gone, and maybe that smarts a little too. But consider the timing: Stone breaks his foot, the coaches start giving all the reps to the guys who'll be in the rotation, and Kadri, who perhaps considered himself to be in line to replace Stone, quits the team.

We don't know why Kadri quit, except for personal reasons, though Johnson said he gave him some information he asked for and then Kadri made the decision to leave.

I think all along Tim Fugger was going to spell Stone and start opposite Broderick Stewart. And we've got redshirt junior Teriall Brannon, who outplayed Kadri last season, and Johnell Thomas, a redshirt freshman who was an absolute beast in the spring. Oh, and Johnson mentioned last night that redshirt freshman Josh Jelesky is looking good too.

And let's not forget that a defensive line also consists of tackles, of which we return the three-man rotation — senior Greg Billinger, redshirt junior Adam Smotherman and redshirt sophomore T.J. Greenstone — that played the entire season, as well as four talented redshirt freshmen — Rob Lohr, Taylor Loftley, Colt Nichter and John Burrow.

So I'm not worried, and Chris Low shouldn't be either.

Theron Kadri one of nine VU players, all defensive, to avoid a redshirt; Zac Stacy to break drought this season

With Bobby Johnson announcing that junior Theron Kadri has left the team for personal reasons, Vandy loses one of only nine players on the roster to avoid a redshirt season and play every season he's been on campus. The others are:

• Senior cornerback Myron Lewis
• Senior linebacker Patrick Benoist
• Senior defensive tackle Greg Billinger
• Senior linebacker Brent Trice
• Senior punter Brett Upson
• Junior linebacker John Stokes
• Sophomore safety Sean Richardson
• Sophomore cornerback Casey Hayward

Not a single offensive player in the bunch, though last season receiver John Cole played as a true freshman and tight end Austin Monahan played as a true sophomore before each suffered year-ending injuries and took redshirts.

This season, Vandy fans could actually see more offensive than defensive players take the field as true freshmen. Probably every true freshman to play on defense will be a defensive back — definitely Eric Samuels, probably Trey Wilson and maybe Eddie Foster and/or Javon Marshall. (Jay Fullam had a good shot too before injurying his hand and requiring surgery.)

On offense, running back Zac Stacy will almost certainly break the drought in the season opener, and fellow tailback Warren Norman could do it too. And who knows? If the injury bug bites, Wesley Tate may get a shot carrying the ball as well. Look for Brady Brown and maybe fellow Texan Collin Ashley to get a nod at receiver, especially if the other wideouts struggle to recover from injuries or, well, to catch passes. And if one of the tight ends goes down, Mason Johnston could get called into duty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Samuels and Stacy are Vanderbilt freshmen with best chance to crack the opening day depth chart

So Bobby Johnson has to draw up a depth chart here pretty soon. I expect it'll contain the word "or" a lot. As in, "Larry Smith OR Mackenzi Adams" at starting quarterback. And "Eric Hensley OR Reilly Lauer" at right guard. And "Kyle Fischer OR Ryan Custer" at left guard. And "Kennard Reeves OR Zac Stacy" at backup tailback.

Of course, you don't have to be on the depth chart to be a major part of a team's plans. Just look at what happened to Herschel Walker, who was nowhere to be seen on the opening day depth chart as a Georgia Bulldog freshman, and three hours later he was a Heisman trophy candidate.

Anyway, here's what we're hearing about each of the true freshmen, which probably isn't much different from what you're hearing, but let us know if it is:


• Eric Samuels, CB: Has had a solid preseason and has a good shot of starting the season second-team at cornerback. Will play right away.

• Zac Stacy, RB: Brings a quickness and change of direction that the other backs lack and can score from anywhere. Can also block and pick up the blitz, which is a huge plus. May or may not be on the preseason depth chart but will play right away.


• Eddie Foster, CB: He's made some big plays, including a pick or two, in the secondary and is considered to be the fastest man on the team. He's still a little light, but with Vandy's lack of secondary depth, he may start the season on the depth chart, especially if Jamie Graham is listed as a starter at nickel back instead of a backup corner, or at least find himself there soon.

• Trey Wilson, CB: Dropped a bed on his toe moving into his dorm and only started practicing yesterday. Still, he wowed coaches with his athleticism and could play early this season. But he's off to an awfully slow start and he won't begin on the depth chart.

• Warren Norman, RB: Figured to be the only frosh RB to redshirt, but has torn it up in the preseason. Won't be on the preseason depth chart but could see the field in the opener.

• Brady Brown, WR: Nobody's talking about Brown, who was considered to be the most likely of the true frosh to play right away. With Turner Wimberly stepping up in the preseason, don't expect to see Brown on the depth chart. But with Vandy's problems at receiver, Brown's got to be getting a good look, and he could be a major contributor by season's end.


• Wesley Tate, RB: Has shown the ability to be a durable, every-down back, but hasn't turned heads like Stacy and Norman have. With Kennard Reeves and Jermaine Doster playing well, Tate won't be on the depth chart and may redshirt unless the backfield gets hit by injuries.

• Collin Ashley, WR: A quiet preseason, though he's looked solid as a punt returner. Won't be on the depth chart early, but everybody who can catch a pass may get a look before the season's over.

• Mason Johnston, TE: Has had a quiet preseason so far and won't be on the depth chart. But with Justin Green moving to receiver, he could get a look this season at tight end, especially if Barden or Monahan become injured.

• Javon Marshall, DB: Another guy who's had a quiet preseason. With Vandy's lack of depth in the secondary, I wouldn't dismiss the possibility he'll play this season, but he won't start the season on the depth chart.

• Jay Fullam, S: After he hurt his hand and will miss at least a month getting hand surgery, Bobby Johnson said he would have played this year. Could still see time later this season but will likely redshirt.


• Mylon Brown, OL: Has had a quiet preseason — but who on the offensive line doesn't? Our guess here is that Brown will redshirt, especially with a bunch of veterans and three redshirt freshmen.

• Justin Cabbagestalk, OL: He's suspended from playing this season, which doesn't matter much, at least on paper, because he was going to redshirt anyway.

• Charlie Goro, QB: Has made some nice throws in practice, but will almost certainly redshirt.

• Wesley Johnson, OL: Hasn't left the training table yet. Johnson should figure as a possible O-line starter next season... when he's 40 pounds heavier.

• Thad McHaney, DE: Has had some big hits in the preseason and looks like a player. But with so much depth at end, he's a lock to redshirt, even with Steven Stone's injury.

• Walker May, DE: A quiet preseason. He's another guy who'll be taking a redshirt and packing on the pounds.

• Blake Southerland, LB: A quiet preseason, which doesn't matter because there's plenty of depth at linebacker. If DeAndre Jones and Tristan Strong redshirted last year, then Southerland will certainly redshirt this year.

Nation's top high school running back considering Vanderbilt

OK, so Vandy's in his Top 10 — or maybe it's his Top 20. But Michael Dyer of Little Rock, Ark., considered by ESPN to be the top high school prospect at running back, has Vanderbilt on his list of schools. Rivals says he's leaning toward Ole Miss or Auburn, but Dyer's clearly one of those kids who can wait around until signing day to choose a school without fear of losing his scholarship offers. He's a big-time workhorse, every-down SEC back, and he's the kind of player who's never signed with Vanderbilt. (Not to jinx things.)

Another player who's popped up on the recruiting radar is Ego (at least he has self-confidence) Ferguson, another 5-star guy and Rivals No. 3 rated DE. He puts Vandy in his Top 21. He's being recruited by Ron Powlus at Notre Dame, who'll perhaps promise Ego he can win four Heismans if he makes his home in South Bend.

Other top recruits still considering the Dores, at least officially, are James Stones, the hulking offensive tackle from Nashville, and Carlos Thompson, the 6-6 defensive end from Mississippi who runs a 4.6 and sounds like a nice replacement for Broderick Stewart.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Which Commodores have swag? Jamie Graham knows

You’ve probably been wondering which Commodore player has the most swag. I know I sure have.

If you’ve never heard of swag, here’s how Urban Dictionary defines it: Apperance (sic), style, or the way he or she presents them selves (sic again). As in, “He got killa swag.”

So which Commodore looks the sharpest when he’s off the field? Based on his appearance at SEC Media Days, my vote would be cornerback Myron Lewis, who possessed considerably more swag than center Bradley Vierling, who nevertheless possessed a decent amount of swag for an offensive lineman.

Swag has been a topic of the excellent and often hilarious Ask-A-Dore interviews that the athletic department’s Brandon Barca has been conducting this preseason with Vandy football players. So far he’s interviewed Alex Washington and Jamie Graham and right now is taking fan questions for Larry Smith.

One fan submitted this question for Washington: “How does it feel to have the most swag on the team, but to still only have the second best dreadlocks in the SEC?”

"I think I may know who wrote this, actually," Washington replied. "Yeah, I mean, it feels good to have a lot of swag, I guess. I just do what I do — do me. If that's what swag is, then I guess I'm the definition of it. And I absolutely disagree on the dreadlocks part. I'm frying Dexter McCluster."

McCluster is the wide receiver and Rebel Back and just about everything else for the Ole Miss offense, but I prefer to remember him as the guy Chris Marve stripped the ball from last season in Oxford on the goal line in the fourth quarter.

Barca’s latest interview is with Jamie Graham, who’s an interesting, funny guy. Jamie says Washington is NOT frying McCluster. Because, Jamie reveals, Washington has extensions in his dreads. “If you have extensions it doesn’t count,” Graham said.

Jamie did say Alex Washington ranked first for swag, but he's tied with Mackenzi Adams. He recounted the care Mac takes pulling up his socks in the locker room.

He also ripped his defensive coordinator, Bruce Fowler, for having “no swag.”

Some other jabs, tips and thoughts from Graham:

• He said he was in the Top 10 of the fastest players on the team, but “probably not Top 5.” The fastest? “From what I hear it’s the freshman Eddie Foster.” He said Foster said he’d been clocked at 4.261, so every time Foster says something his teammates yell “4261.”

• He said he’s reached a personal high of 204 pounds and is at the top of his game. “I’m stronger, my speed’s better, my legs are stronger, my agility’s better than it’s ever been. I hate to say it but I remind myself of D.J. Moore, actually.”

• He hopes to go to the NFL and “make some money” but also plans to be a special education teacher and coach in metro Nashville.

• His favorite Vanderbilt class so far: Gender, Sexuality and Social References of Music.

• The best place to eat in Nashville: Precious Chicken. “It’s a great chicken place if you like hot food, but it’s very, very greasy.”

• His favorite nickname: The X-Factor, which he got from the student section. “If I see ’em (on campus) they give me the X and I give it to ’em right back. We know we connected just then.”

Maybe Vanderbilt’s got some players who aren’t smart, funny, great kids, but I haven’t found any yet. Well, maybe Mackenzi’s not a comedian. But he’s smart and by all accounts a great kid. And don’t forget he’s got swag.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Commodores practice art of getting some but not too much love in the preseason polling wars

Sure, what matters most is having a highly ranked academic institution. But it's awfully nice to also have a football team capable of beating not-so-highly-ranked academic institutions.

Vandy fans know that the Commodores are getting bigger, faster, stronger, deeper and just plain more talented under Coach Bobby Johnson. While the Dores aren't going to be a national title contender any time soon, and winning in the SEC is always an uphill climb, fans feel like something special is happening in Nashville.

A couple of weeks ago, the USA Today poll was released and the selected coaches voting gave no love to Vanderbilt. We're used to that. We've been reading previews all summer that predict a cellar or near-cellar finish and a losing season for Vandy. That's fine. Even Sun Tzu in "The Art of War" stressed the importance of allowing your opponents to underestimate you. Let's face it, every team in the SEC who plays the Dores has that game penciled in as a win. (Miss State? Beat us last year. Kentucky? They just need to stop trying to block our punts.)

Anyway, a Vandy fan should never mind being underestimated. Of course, it also never hurts to get a small shout-out, which is what Vandy got in the newly released preseason AP poll, voted on by the media.

Here's how VU ranks in the SEC:

1. Florida (No. 1 in nation)
2. Alabama (No. 5)
3. Ole Miss (No. 8)
4. LSU (No. 11)
5. Georgia (No. 13)
6. Tennessee (No. 37)
7. Auburn (No. 41)
8. Vanderbilt (No. 45)
9. South Carolina (No. 49)
10. Arkansas (No. 50)
12. Kentucky (NR)
12. Miss State (NR)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Vanderbilt recruiting update: 18 of Vanderbilt's 20 recruits have three (or more) stars

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about recruiting, and I just noticed that some more Vandy recruits have been awarded three stars, most notably running back Myron Ross, who’s gotten three apiece from Rivals and Scouts and is awaiting evaluation from ESPN.

In fact, 18 of Vanderbilt’s 20 recruits have received at least three stars from one of the above scouting entities.

Here’s a breakdown:

• TE Davis Dudchock (4 stars from ESPN, 3 stars from Rivals and Scout)

• DT Vince Taylor
• OL Grant Ramsay
• ATH Jerrell Priester
• DT Kyle Woestmann
• DT James Kittredge
• WR Jonathan Krause
• DB Andre Hal
• ATH Bradley Roby

• DT Jared Morse (unrated by Rivals)
• OL Logan Stewart (2 stars from Scout)
• DE Thomas Ryan (2 stars from ESPN)
• DB Sharrod Golightly (2 stars from ESPN)
• WR Chris Boyd (2 stars from ESPN)
• QB Nash Nance (2 stars from ESPN)
• RB Myron Ross (unrated by ESPN)

• DB Kenneth Ladler (3 stars from ESPN, 2 stars from Rivals and Scout)
• DB Karl Butler (3 stars from Scout, unrated by ESPN and Rivals)

• Chase White (2 stars from ESPN and Scout, unrated by Rivals)
• Trent Pruitt

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vanderbilt No. 1 in the SEC and No. 6 in the nation... in the U.S. News and World Report poll, that is

Ah, it's my favorite time of the year, when U.S. News & World Report ranks the top universities in America. And we tell you where all the SEC schools wound up.

Oh look, Vanderbilt's No. 1. Here's the rest of the rankings:

1. Vanderbilt (No. 19)
2. Florida (No. 49)
3. Georgia (No. 58)
4. Alabama (No. 83)
5. Auburn (No. 96)
6. South Carolina (T-No. 108)
6. Tennessee (T-No. 108)
8. Kentucky (No. 116)
9. Arkansas (No. 125)
10. LSU (No. 130)
12. Miss State (T-Tier 3)
12. Ole Miss (T-Tier 3)

Among universities with BCS football programs, Vanderbilt finishes No. 6:

1. Stanford (No. 4)
2. Duke (No. 8)
3. Northwestern (No. 12)
4. Rice (No. 17)
5. Notre Dame (No. 18)
6. Vanderbilt (No. 19)
7. Cal (No. 21)
8. Virginia (No. 23)
9. UCLA (No. 25)
10. Michigan (No. 26)

Rounding out the Top 25 would be: USC, Wake Forest, UNC, BC, Ga Tech, Wisconsin, Illinois, Washington, Penn State, Texas, Florida, Tulane, Miami, Syracuse and Maryland.

Notice all the ACC and Big 10 and Pac 10 schools. And the lack of SEC schools. Is it a coincidence that the SEC has weak academic rankings and is the best football conference? And is it a coincidence that more and more talented recruits who want a good education and want to play in the SEC are choosing Vanderbilt? Maybe these rankings will help send a few more top recruits our way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sorry, Chancellor Zeppos, but the football team is not the reason more students are applying to Vanderbilt

Wanted to come back and comment on something that happened on Friday. Maybe you heard that Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos visited practice and was crediting Coach Johnson for Vanderbilt's record number of student applications this year.

Seems that Vanderbilt has seen a 16 percent spike in students — all students, not just student athletes — applying for admission to Vandy.

"We had a record year in applications," Zeppos said. "I think it's a combination of things: the success of the athletic program, the visibility of the program, the national media coverage, the local media coverage. And I think more kids are saying, 'Where can I get the best academics in the world and then go to SEC sports on the weekend?'

He attributed at least half of the increased applications to Johnson and his team's bowl season.

Not so sure about that. Kids come to Vanderbilt from all over the country. And one reason may be that the football team is NOT overpowering. I'm not kidding about that. The other day, I was talking with a Vanderbilt alumni in my home town and of course encouraging her to check out this here blog and she told me the football team was the reason she came to Vanderbilt.

Because when she came to Vandy, the football team was bad, and her family was die-hard Georgia Bulldog fans or whatever, and she wanted to get a Vanderbilt-caliber education but still maintain her allegiance to the Dawgs. And it's not a big conflict when your school's team doesn't have a chance in hell of beating the team you grew up rooting for.

I went to Vandy, and I can think of hundreds of examples of fellow students who'd root for Vanderbilt unless they were playing their home state team. Heck, the University of Alabama president's daughter went to Vandy when I was there, and she wanted Daddy's team to win, which wasn't exactly a problem. A guy from Pittsburgh was crying in the dorm hallway when Barry Goheen hit his miracle shot to beat the Panthers and put the Dores in the Sweet 16.

Sure, students want a good football team but they come to Vanderbilt to get an education. Let's not kid ourselves. If your main goal was to watch a good SEC football team, you'd go to Florida, right?

So why are more students applying to Vanderbilt? Because in a weak economy and an unbelievably competitive job market, a diploma to a prestigious university is more important than ever. And if things aren't turning around right away, what's the hurry to get out and make money, especially when your opportunities are limited? Might as well spend the next four years getting a top-notch education, right?

And here's the real reason: This is the first academic year that Vanderbilt has eliminated need-based loans. In other words, Vandy is not admitting a limited number of students whose families can't afford to send them to Vanderbilt. Instead, Vanderbilt is admitting students based on their own merits — not Daddy's income — and then figuring out how to pay for it. And instead of strapping them with need-based loans, Vanderbilt is raising the money to give these students scholarships and grants, meaning they don't have loans and they have nothing to pay back when they graduate.

Here's something off the university Web site:

Vanderbilt is commited to fostering an unparalleled educational experience that includes a community of talented and academically qualified individuals from all backgrounds. As a result, we do three very important things to make it possible for students from many different economic circumstances to enroll at Vanderbilt:

  1. We are need-blind in the admissions process. This means that a family's ability to pay for a Vanderbilt education is not a factor in our admissions process. Our goal is to admit students who will be academically successful and contribute to our community.
  2. We meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all undergraduate students. With the additional investment that we make, many students often pay no more to attend Vanderbilt than they would pay to attend a college with a lower total cost.
  3. As stated above, financial aid packages for undergraduate students in the fall of 2009 will include no need-based loans.
But does having a competitive football team improve the overall college experience? You bet it does. At least I think it would. I went to Vanderbilt during the Watson Brown years, and believe me it doesn't get any worse than that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vanderbilt offensive line sees lots of healthy competition in the trenches

Jeff Lockridge has a nice blog entry about Robbie Caldwell and the progress of his offensive line, which is timely considering the holes those guys opened up for the all those young tailbacks during Saturday's scrimmage.

"I’m just excited about the group," Caldwell told Lockridge. "I’ve got some guys we can develop into depth. I’ve got quite a few that have had a start here and a start there. Last year some of it was out of necessity, injuries ... whatever. But now they’re beginning to gel.

"My biggest task now is to get the best five. Our motto in the offensive line room is ‘the best five start.’ If that means a position change, we’ll shuffle people around."

All five starters return, but that doesn't mean they'll all start this season. For one thing, it looks like redshirt sophomore James Williams, who played in only three games last season with no starts, has nailed down right tackle. After a solid spring, Williams entered the preseason listed as a starter and has done nothing to change that. Here's what defensive end Tim Fugger told the official Vanderbilt site about facing Williams in practice these days:

"I go against James Williams all the time and his progress from last camp, to this spring, to this camp has been tremendous and that just makes me better, makes (defensive end Steven) Stone better, and makes everyone he faces better. You can tell everyone on the O-line has progressed and that just benefits us all."

At the start of the preseason, Williams was battling last season's starting left tackle, Reilly Lauer, for the right tackle slot, but now Lauer is battling last year's right guard, Eric Hensley, for Hensley's starting position.

Here's how the starting battles seem to be shaping up:

• Bradley Vierling (6-3, 290; R-SR): Started all 13 games at center; as sophomore played in every game at either center or guard; 34 career games

• Thomas Welch (6-7, 310; R-SR): Started all 13 games at right tackle; as sophomore played in every game as the team's top backup tackle; moved from tight end to tackle during his redshirt freshman season; 33 career games

• Kyle Fischer (6-6, 308; R-SO): Started final seven games, three at left tackle and four at left guard; played in every game and named All-Freshman SEC
• Ryan Custer (6-3, 292; R-SR): Nine starts at left guard last season, played in all 13 games; has played in 34 career games

• James Williams (6-6, 315; R-SO): Played in three games last season as a reserve tackle; impressed coaches in the spring with his agility, technique and improved strength

• Eric Hensley (6-6, 322; R-SR): Started the last seven games at right guard, and played in every game; as a sophomore backed up Chris Williams at left tackle; 24 career games
• Reilly Lauer (6-7, 272; R-JR): Started 10 games at left tackle, playing in 12 games; as a sophomore played one game at defensive end; listed as backup left tackle on preseason depth chart, but now also practicing at right guard

• Ryan Seymour (6-5, 294; R-FR): Moved to offensive tackle from the defensive line in the spring; getting work backing up Thomas Welch at left tackle
• Joey Bailey (6-4, 289; R-JR): Five starts at right guard before injury, played nine games in all; has practiced at tackle; played four games at center as a redshirt freshman.
• Chris Aaron (6-4, 285; R-JR): One game at backup center last season before injury.
• Rob Ashabranner (6-2, 280; R-SO): One game played at guard, spent some time practicing at center.
• Richard Cagle (6-4, 275; R-FR): Played on scout team last year; practicing at guard
• Caleb Welchans (6-5, 290; R-FR): On scout team last year; practicing at tackle and guard

Between them, that's 64 starts and 169 games played.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday's numbers for Vanderbilt's backfield

Jeff Lockridge was kind enough to include some tailback stats from Saturday's scrimmage in his story today, so we've extracted them here, and listed them from most carries to least:

• Kennard Reeves (6-0, 204; R-JR): 13 carries, 58 yards, one touchdown

• Wesley Tate (6-1, 218; FR): 11 carries, 36 yards

• Warren Norman (5-10, 188; FR): six carries, 34 yards, two touchdowns

• Zac Stacy (5-10, 194; FR): five carries, 78 yards, one touchdown

If you had to categorize these guys based on Saturday's performances, you could say Reeves and Tate are the workhorse backs and Stacy and Norman are the home run guys. David Boclair of the City Paper points out that senior safety and captain Ryan Hamilton had a clean shot at Norman on his first TD run and got faked off his feet. But on the eight carries when they didn't score touchdowns, Stacy and Norman averaged less than two yards a carrry.

Here are the passing numbers for the quarterbacks, all of whom operated out of the no-huddle:

• Larry Smith (6-2, 220; R-SO): 6-9 for 65 yards, 1 TD, INT, 1 lost fumble

• Mackenzie Adams (6-3, 220; R-SR): 3-5 for 42 yards, 1 TD

• Jared Funk (6-2, 202; R-JR): 3-8 for 29 yards, 1 INT, 1 lost fumble

• Charlie Goro (6-2, 192; FR): 0-3

Jared Funk did scoop up a blocked kick and return it for a touchdown, prompting Bobby Johnson after the scrimmage to praise Funk for his athletic ability and say he thought Funk would see time on special teams.

Freshman tailbacks run wild in scrimmage

Here's further evidence that the true freshmen tailbacks will play right away: The stars of yesterday's first refereed scrimmage were... drumroll please...

• Zac Stacy, who had the play of the game when he went off left tackle, broke two tackles and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. Sounds like that pulled groin isn't too serious and the staff was just taking precautions. After the practice, Johnson talked about Stacy's strength and power.

• Warren Norman, who had touchdowns of 18 and 8 yards, and who's becoming impossible to describe without using the word shifty.

After the practice, center Bradley Vierling was raving about the freshmen tailbacks. He also said recently that Stacy does a good job of picking up blitzes and blocking, a further sign that he'll play right away.

We must also mention that junior Kennard Reeves continues to be resolved not to go quietly into that good night, ripping off a 14-yard touchdown run and drawing Bobby Johnson's praise for breaking a bunch of tackles.

In all, the offense scored five touchdowns. If that alarms you, consider that Steven Stone and Greg Billinger missed the practice.

The other touchdown: Mackenzi Adams 26 yards to Turner Wimberly. Turner Wimberly? Yes, Turner Wimberly. Talk about a guy flying under the radar. He keeps scoring touchdowns in practice, he's second on the depth chart and still nobody thinks he'll catch a pass when the real playing starts. We'll see.

Lots of young guys got work on the defense:
• Sophomore Sean Richardson took a 48-yard pick to the house.
• True frosh corner Eric Samuels had a nice deflection.
• True frosh corner Eddie Foster had a pick in the end zone.
• Redshirt frosh Tristan Strong was cracking heads at linebacker.
• Redshirt frosh John Burrow had a quarterback sack from the DT position.