Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Robbie Caldwell might change Bobby Johnson's redshirting trends at Vanderbilt

So interim head coach Robbie Caldwell says he's philosophically similar to Bobby Johnson except that he'll be more apt to play newcomers instead of redshirting them.

Here's a look at redshirting trends in the last six freshmen classes under Bobby Johnson, in order of positions most likely to play right away:

1. Kickers and punters (2-3) 67%
• Played as true freshmen: Bryant Hahnfeldt (2005) and Brett Upson (2006)
• Redshirted: Ryan Fowler (2008)
• 2010 freshman: Carey Spear
• Trend under Johnson: Johnson liked to offer a scholarship to a kicker and punter and then play them for four years, and then get a new duo. If there was an overlap, as there was with true freshman Fowler and senior Hahnfeldt in 2008, he'd use a redshirt. Spear was brought in to compete against walk-on punter Kent, who's never played, and against Fowler for kick-off and long field goal duties.
• Under Caldwell: Expect Spear to play, starting as the kick-off man and eventually winning the punting job.

2. Cornerbacks (6-13) 46%
• Played as true freshmen: Myron Lewis (2006), D.J. Moore (2006), Casey Hayward (2008), Eddie Foster (2009), Eric Samuels (2009), Trey Wilson (2009)
• Redshirted: Josh Allen (2004), Jared Fagan (2004), Joel Caldwell (2005), Darlron Spead (2005), Alan Strong (2006), Jamie Graham (2007), Javon Marshall (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: Karl Butler, Steven Clarke, Andre Hal
• Trend under Johnson: Regardless of who was on the roster, Johnson never hesitated to play athletic cornerbacks right away in reserve roles and on special teams. Playing three in 2009 was unusual but necessary with Moore's defection to the NFL, Strong's transfer, Spead leaving with a year of eligibility remaining, and Caldwell needed at safety. With the cupboard full at corner this year, Johnson likely would have played at least one of the true freshmen. Butler's big and most versatile, Clarke's the fastest, and Hal's a top-notch cover man and punt returner.
• Under Caldwell: With one year to shine and all three candidates having unique skills, Caldwell may throw them all out there and see who rises to the top.

3. (tie) Running backs (3-9) 33%
• Played as true freshmen: Cassen Jackson-Garrison (2004), Warren Norman (2009), Zac Stacy (2009)
• Redshirted: Jeff Jennings (2004), Jared Hawkins (2005), Gaston Miller (2005), Kennard Reeves (2006), Jermaine Doster (2007), Wesley Tate (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: None
• Trend under Johnson: With the mid-level talent he got at running back, Johnson would only play true freshmen out of necessity. Rajaan Bennett might have broken that trend.
• Under Caldwell: With Bennett's death, Tate's redshirt last year will boost the Commodore ground game for the next four years.

3. (tie) Wide receivers (4-12) 33%
• Played as true freshmen: Earl Bennett (2005), John Cole (2008) (played in season opener but injured and got medical redshirt), Collin Ashley (2009), Brady Brown (2009)
• Redshirted: Bryant Anderson (2004), Sean Walker (2004), Larry Simmons (2005), Alex Washington (2005), Justin Wheeler (2005), Turner Wimberly (2006), Udom Umoh (2007), Akeem Dunham (2008)
• 2010 freshmen: Chris Boyd, Jonathan Krause, Jordan Matthews, Trent Pruitt
• Trend under Johnson: Frequently forced to recruit raw talent at receiver, Johnson tended to play only the rare recruiting steal (Bennett) or polished route-runners (Cole). Last season's losses of Justin Wheeler and Terance Jeffers-Harris forced him to burn the redshirts off Ashley and Brown. This season, he likely would have played at least two. Boyd's the most physical, Krause the fastest and best at separation, Matthews the best downfield target and Pruitt the most polished route-runner and slot guy.
• Under Caldwell: The interim coach doesn't have the luxury of slowly developing his receivers, and this is as game-ready a group of frosh wideouts as the Dores have ever head. Again, expect Caldwell to throw them all out on the field and see what happens.

5. Safeties (2-7) 29%
• Played as true freshmen: Brent Trice (2006) (later moved to linebacker), Sean Richardson (2008)
• Redshirted: Reshard Langford (2004), Ryan Hamilton (2005), Al Owens (2008), Micah Powell (2008) (moving to linebacker), Jay Fullam (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: Kenny Ladler and Andre Simmons
• Trend under Johnson: Johnson liked to redshirt safeties — even ones as good as Langford and Hamilton — but didn't mind occasionally playing a true freshman as in the case of Richardson. Fullam would have played last season because of injury but he got injured himself. Johnson was preparing Ladler, who enrolled early and looked good in the spring, to play right away.
• Under Caldwell: Ladler will play, and Simmons could too if he looks like an improvement over sophomore Al Owens, especially if any cornerbacks get injured and corners like Samuels, Graham and Wilson who could double as safeties must stay put.

6. Defensive tackles (3-11) 27%
• Played as true freshmen: Gabe Hall (2004), Theo Horrocks (2004), Greg Billinger (2005)
• Redshirted: Brandon Holmes (2004), David Whittington (2004), Derrius Dowell (2005), Adam Smotherman (2006), T.J. Greenstone (2007), Taylor Loftley (2008), Rob Lohr (2008), Colt Nichter (2008)
• 2010 freshmen: James Kittredge, Jared Morse, Vince Taylor
• Trend under Johnson: Johnson rarely recruited big, SEC-caliber tackles. Billinger was an exception. Also, in 2004, Johnson was forced to play two of his four true freshmen at that position. He called this year's recruits the most game-ready group of D-linemen he's ever assembled, and would likely have played one of them, especially after Smotherman blew out his knee in the spring.
• Under Caldwell: All three of these guys had offers from other SEC schools and came to Vandy to play right away. Anybody who can out-perform Lohr, Nichter and Loftley in pre-season camp will likely play as a true freshman. Expect Morse and Taylor, both natural down linemen, to do just that, and for Kittredge, who can also play end, to post a strong challenge as well.

7. Linebackers (2-12) 17%
• Played as true freshmen: Patrick Benoist (2006) and John Stokes (2007)
• Redshirted: Brandon Bryant (2005), Chris Johnson (2005), Nate Campbell (2006), Austin Newton (2006), Chris Marve (2007), Archie Barnes (2008), Dexter Daniels (2008), DeAndre Jones (2008), Tristan Strong (2008), Blake Southerland (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: Andrew East (also a longsnapper), Chase Garnham and Fitz Lassing
• Trend under Johnson: Rarely did Johnson ever play true freshmen linebackers. Stokes, his highest rated defensive recruit, wants to get to medical school as soon as possible, and Benoist was a game-ready Texas recruit who couldn't be kept off the field. But Johnson was happy to take his time developing talents like Chris Marve and Tristan Strong.
• Under Caldwell: The speedy Garnham and the scholarly Lassing are projects who'll redshirt regardless of their head coach. East could play right away if he's a vast improvement over Stokes and walk-on David Giller at longsnapper.

8. Tight ends (1-7) 14%
• Played as freshman: Austin Monahan (2007) (injured and redshirted sophomore season)
• Redshirted: Brad Allen (2004), Jake Bradford (2005), Justin Green (2006), Brandon Barden (2007), Ryan van Rensburg (2007) Mason Johnston (2009)
• 2010 freshman: Blake Gowder
• Trend under Johnson: Johnson didn't recruit SEC-caliber tight ends until late in his tenure. Then he got two in 2007 and decided to play Monahan over Barden. Even after Monahan was injured last season, Johnson kept the redshirt on the highly regarded Johnston and used fullback Ryan van Rensburg as an emergency fill-in.
• Under Caldwell: With Barden the team's best target last season, Caldwell would have likely played Johnston after Monahan's injury instead of redshirting him. But now Caldwell's got Barden, Monahan and Johnston, which means he'll almost surely redshirt Gowder, an undersized utility guy.

9. Defensive ends (1-10) 10%
• Played as freshman: Theron Kadri (2007)
• Redshirted: Broderick Stewart (2005), Steven Stone (2005), Teriall Brannon (2005), Kikko Logan (2006), Tim Fugger (2007), Josh Jelesky (2008), Johnell Thomas (2008), Walker May (2009), Thad McHaney (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: Thomas Ryan and Kyle Woestmann
• Trend under Johnson: Johnson recruited lanky, speedy ends who needed a redshirt, with the exception being the stocky Kadri, who was needed right away in 2007. Last season, he didn't hesitate to redshirt lanky, speedy May and the highly regarded McHaney, who had an offer to Oklahoma. When Kadri flirted with leaving school in the preseason, coaches lobbied to give May a shot, but he was clearly too light.
• Under Caldwell: Woestmann and maybe even Ryan will get a shot to crack a deep roster at end. Woestmann committed before last season's debacle and considered jumping to Georgia or South Carolina; he'll get the longest look and will likely be on the field somewhere.

10. Offensive linemen (1-20) 5%
• Played as freshman: Hamilton Holliday (2004)
• Redshirted: Ryan Custer (2005), Drew Gardner (2005), Eric Hensley (2005), Ryan Vance (2005), Brad Vierling (2005), Thomas Welch (2005), Joey Bailey (2006), Reilly Lauer (2006), Rob Ashabranner (2007), Kyle Fischer (2007), James Williams (2007), Michael Bryant (2007), John Burrow (2007), Richard Cagle (2007), Ryan Seymour (2008), Caleb Welchans (2008), Mylon Brown (2009), Justin Cabbagestalk (2009), Wesley Johnson (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: Andrew Bridges, Grant Ramsay, Logan Stewart, Chase White
• Trend under Johnson: Very few Vandy O-line recruits have been big or skilled enough for SEC play. The one exception, Holliday, was big enough and got a chance because of injury and because he could play either guard or center.
• Under Caldwell: Remember that Caldwell is the long-time offensive line coach and had a hand in past decisions to redshirt linemen. Ramsay and maybe Stewart are big enough and skilled enough to at least get a look at guard. But Caldwell needs at least a year to develop his tackles, and projects Bridges and White will get at least that.

11. Quarterbacks (0-5) 0%
• Played as true freshmen: None
• Redshirted: Chris Nickson (2004), Mackenzi Adams (2005), Jared Funk (2006), Larry Smith (2007), Charlie Goro (2009)
• 2010 freshmen: None, but JUCO transfer Jordan Rodgers is eligible to redshirt
• Trend under Johnson: No quarterbacks played right away, ever, and Johnson reminded people repeatedly that Rodgers had three years to play two.
• Under Caldwell: While Johnson appeared ready to redshirt Rodgers, remain loyal to Smith, and give Funk yet another shot at contributing, expect Caldwell to pull the trigger on a quarterback change if anybody struggles, and to have no qualms about burning the redshirt off Rodgers early.

2 comments:

Thomas said...

It may also be worth noting that Caldwell is the interim head coach and, according to some pundits, needs to win 4 games to keep his job. As such, depending on how they start, will have little to no incentive to redshirt for the future. If he had a contract, he may be more likely to redshirt.

DIMON KENDRICK-HOLMES said...

Yes, with his job in limbo Caldwell will be more likely to burn the redshirts off skill athletes. While Johnson was talking about redshirting Jordan Rodgers, expect Caldwell to play Rodgers if it will give him a chance to win. Also expect him to play a bunch of freshman wide receivers, defensive backs and defensive linemen, and to give a rare look at an offensive lineman or two.