True freshmen continue to shine. On Saturday, Jordan Matthews stepped out of the starting lineup at wide receiver because of tendonitis and was replaced by Johnathan Krause. Chris Boyd is also a player. Tight end Fitz Lassing and linebacker Chase Garnham are both making late bids for playing time. In the secondary, Andre Hal and Steven Clarke are duking it out for playing time at corner, and Kenny Ladler is fending off Karl Butler and Andre Simmons at safety.
Looking over reports from preseason camp, here are some key developments at each position:
Coach Caldwell says Larry Smith has just about wrapped up the starting job. Jared Funk, who’s making a strong bid to be his backup, fired a 70-yard touchdown to John Cole in Saturday’s scrimmage. Jordan Rodgers has returned to practice, and he and Charlie Goro are still splitting reps with Smith and Funk.
Jordan Matthews, the freshman who has been practicing with the first team for more than a week, sat out Saturday’s practice with tendonitis and was replaced by another true freshman, Jonathan Krause, who made some acrobatic catches. Chris Boyd also made some tough catches in heavy traffic. John Cole and Udom Umoh continue to look like starters.
Warren Norman has a swollen knee and is getting an MRI on Wednesday, and Zac Stacy, while wearing full pads today, is still taking it easy and may or may not be ready for the season opener. Wesley Tate is running sprints but still has not practiced with the offense since reinjuring his foot. That leaves senior Kennard Reeves, who got plenty of work on Saturday, especially in the passing game. He struggled early, but showed some nice hands and open-field moves later.
Brandon Barden got some light work on Saturday and then was replaced on the first team by true freshman Fitz Lassing, who seemed like a lock to redshirt but may be working his way onto the depth chart. His main competition, redshirt frosh Mason Johnston, had numerous catches in heavy traffic during the scrimmage.
With Joey Bailey sitting out with injury, true freshmen James Kittredge and Logan Stewart got plenty of work at center. Caldwell said Kittredge, who converted from defensive tackle last month, has cracked Vandy’s seven-man rotation on the offensive line and may even take Bailey’s center job.
Not much word out of camp on these guys. I’m very interested to hear how one of my favorite Commodores, Vince Taylor, is doing. He and another true frosh, Jared Morse, are battling a bunch of redshirt sophomores — Lohr, Nichter, Loftley and Jelesky — for the opportunity to play alongside or spell junior T.J. Greenstone. Vandy doesn’t traditionally play more than four DTs. At end, three upperclassmen — junior Tim Fugger and seniors Theron Kadri and Teriall Brannon — appear the most game-ready, but there’s a bunch of talent fighting for the second backup slot.
The battle among all those redshirt sophomores continues. DeAndre Jones, whose stock seems to have slipped the last year or so, looked strong on Saturday with several key stops in short-yardage situations. Redshirt freshman Blake Southerland made a diving interception, and true frosh Chase Garnham continues to show excellent speed in pursuit and a nose for the football. He hasn’t gotten much ink this preseason but by all accounts is having a strong camp. While he may play this season, he’s still a bit light and could follow Walker May, who turned heads in camp last season as a true frosh but still redshirted to put on some weight.
With starting cornerbacks Jamie Graham and Casey Hayward sitting out Saturday’s practice, true freshmen Steven Clarke and Andre Hal continued to wage their battle for playing time. Clarke had three pass deflections on Saturday, including a dramatic leaping end zone break-up on the day’s last play. Hal displayed solid cover skills, strong run support and returned a kick 89 yards for a touchdown.
All-star candidate Sean Richardson and projected starter Jay Fullam got light work on Saturday, giving three true freshmen time to shine. The front runner for playing time, Kenny Ladler, returned a pick 60 yards for a touchdown. Karl Butler continued to make a name for himself as the hardest hitter on the team, and Andre Simmons looked solid too.
While everybody’s been talking about freshman kicker Carey Spear’s strong leg, sophomore Ryan Fowler continues to nail all his field goals, including a 47-yarder on Saturday.