Saturday, January 23, 2010

Losing Reilly Lauer and Collin Ashley isn't the end of the world for Vanderbilt football

Five days after we told you that Reilly Lauer and Collin Ashley are no longer on the Vandy roster, the Tennessean "breaks" the story and gives us some more details and an interesting quote from Bobby Johnson.

"I don't know if he will follow through with it, but Reilly's got some certain detailed plans with what he wants to go do with his life," Johnson told the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge. "One more year of football wasn't a part of it."

Maybe Lockridge left out the we-thank-him-and-wish-him-all-the-best portion of Johnson's statement, but Johnson doesn't exactly sound pleased. He wasn't so curt when announcing that Gaston Miller and Justin Green were leaving as redshirt juniors, and those guys are still listed on the roster. Also, he probably wouldn't have had the same reaction if, say, Jared Funk, Turner Wimberly or even Kennard Reeves were leaving. Those guys all play skill positions, and if they haven't made significant contributions by the end of their fourth season, well, younger guys are already playing by then.

But it's a different situation with linemen. The Vandy staff — and Lauer himself — have invested quite a bit of time and work converting the gangly defensive end into an offensive tackle, and he hadn't yet reached the level the coaches had envisioned him reaching. Every opening day starter on the offensive line last season with the exception of James Williams was a redshirt senior. With 20 starts under his belt, a transcendent 2010 season could have catapulted Lauer into conversations about Vandy's most decorated linemen in recent history, at least in terms of starts and victories. But he just as easily could have lost his starting position, which has always been tenuous, to a redshirt freshman or sophomore.

In other words, the jury was still out on Reilly Lauer, and now he's gone. What hurts is that he was by far our most experienced lineman, he was a starter on 2008's bowl championship team, and he could have at least held down the fort until the young guys were ready.

So who's got the best shot to start next season on the offensive line? Here are the current results of our poll:

1. James Williams, R-JR (100% of the vote)
2. Ryan Seymour, R-SO (88%)
3. Kyle Fischer, R-JR (76%)
4. Joey Bailey, R-SR (70%)
5. Caleb Welchans, R-SO (52%)
6. Wes Johnson, R-FR (41%)
7. Mylon Brown, R-FR (29%)
8. Chris Aaron, R-SR (17%)
9. Justin Cabbagestalk, R-FR (11%)
10. John Burrow, R-SO (11%)
11. Richard Cagle, R-SO (5%)
11. Grant Ramsay, FR (5%)

We've told you for weeks that Ashley was probably a goner, and was rumored to be going to Arkansas. Looks like it's true. Ashley was a tough little kid, but we'll be surprised — and the team will be in big trouble — if at least a couple of the kids in our new freshman class aren't a significant upgrade. It will also be interesting to see if Ashley, who's walking on in Fayetteville, will ever see the field there. If we'd had the Razorbacks receivers last season, Ashley wouldn't have played for us as a true freshman.

That said, Ashley would have been competing for a starting position for Vandy this season. So who's got the best shot now to start at wide receiver? Here's how our poll's shaking out:

1. Udom Umoh, R-JR (85%)
2. John Cole, R-SO (78%)
3. Brady Brown, SO (53%)
4. Chris Boyd, FR (50%)
5. Jamie Graham, R-JR (42%)
6. Jonathan Krause, FR (32%)
7. Jordan Matthews, FR (28%)
8. Akeem Dunham, R-SO (17%)
9. Turner Wimberly, R-SR (14%)
9. Tray Herndon, R-JR (14%)
10. Trent Pruitt, FR (10%)
11. Jerrell Priester, FR (7%)

No comments: