In response to a reader’s question about where Chase Garnham is playing and why he’s been under the radar:
Garnham is a natural weakside linebacker. He’s by far the fastest linebacker on the team, having been clocked at a sub-4.4 40. While reporters and sports information staffers don’t talk about the specific linebacker positions (and maybe don’t even know what they are), their reports that Garnham looks good in pursuit and chasing plays from the backside would indicate that he’s playing will backer.
Despite his speed, Garnham was not exactly a blue-chip prospect. He had no other offers from conferences with automatic BCS bowl bids, and his other major offers were from Southern Miss and UAB. Clearly, he was prepared to go to a smaller division, having garnered offers from Eastern Kentucky, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Samford and the Citadel.
That said, he’s a terrific prospect for Vanderbilt, which specializes in grabbing underappreciated kids and turning them into SEC all-stars.
By contrast, redshirt sophomores Tristan Strong (6-1, 230) and DeAndre Jones (6-1, 235) were much more highly rated recruits and three-star guys. Strong turned down an offer from Auburn, and Jones chose the Commodores over Kentucky, Michigan State and Stanford.
Strong and Jones are competing for the vacant weakside backer position and could also back up Marve in the middle. Neither of them are true weakside backers. They both have short-area quickness but aren’t sideline-to-sideline guys like Garnham.
Three other redshirt sophomores in the mix are Dexter Daniels (6-1, 230), Archibald Barnes (6-4, 220) and Micah Powell (6-0, 215). Daniels and Barnes also have a shot at starting at weakside backer. Barnes is a rangy all-purpose athlete who could easily man up on tight ends and could even challenge senior John Stokes (6-5, 235) for his strongside job. Powell, long listed as a safety, lacks the natural safety skills of the incoming freshmen and is being moved over to the strong side where he has the least chance of becoming a starter but perhaps a better chance of contributing.
Redshirt freshman Blake Southerland is perhaps being groomed to succeed middle linebacker Chris Marve (6-0, 230), an All-American candidate as a junior. Senior Nate Campbell (6-2, 220) provides depth and versatility.
Anyway, back to Garnham, who by the way is 6-2, 215. Of all the Vandy backers, he’s got the most potential at the Will position. But he’s got to learn it first. Sure, guys like Barnes, Powell and Campbell aren’t any bigger, but they do have more experience and know the system. And another 10-15 pounds sure wouldn’t hurt Garnham. That’s why it’s a tossup whether he redshirts or not. If he plays right away, it’ll be mostly on special teams where he’ll be one of the fastest guys on the field.