Friday, August 13, 2010
So who else can play running back for Vanderbilt?
You've probably heard by now that Zac Stacy hurt his knee in practice yesterday — and exactly one play after tight end Austin Monahan went down screaming with a knee injury of his own.
Monahan is out for the season and Stacy is questionable for the season opener vs. Northwestern.
It's the third straight season that Monahan, a redshirt junior, has been felled early by injury. We know Brandon Barden, also a redshirt junior, is a good tight end and that Ryan van Rensburg, also a redshirt junior, can block and even catch a TD pass in a pinch and that redshirt frosh Mason Johnston is a decent prospect and that true freshmen Fitz Lassing and Blake Gowder have been getting reps at tight end and/or H-back.
While Monahan is certainly a painful loss, Barden would have likely started anyway and there's some decent depth there.
Except that van Rensburg may be needed at tailback if sophomore Stacy can't return and if redshirt frosh Wesley Tate (foot) and redshirt senior Kennard Reeves (hamstring) continue to be halted by their injuries.
If all that happens, then Warren Norman would be Vanderbilt's only scholarship running back, right as the Commodores are unveiling a two-running back depth chart and two-running back offensive sets. (Reese Lovell is a walk-on who played fullback in high school.)
So who would be our best bets besides van Rensburg to fill in at running back? When asked this question last night, Caldwell replied, “We might have a freshman out here somewhere who can do it and has done it.”
Looking at the entire roster, here's a quick top 10:
1. Eric Samuels, SO (6-0, 190) (pictured above): Showed flashes of brilliance as a fluid true freshmen who chalked up a fumble recovery and an interception return in his first game as a Commodore. More highly rated as a prep running back than both Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. In two seasons, gained 1,600 yards and scored 21 touchdowns for his Florida high school. Coaches might be more likely to leave Graham, who’s earned a starting job at cornerback, on defense, and take a flyer on Samuels at running back.
2. Charlie Goro, R-FR (6-2, 205): One of four quarterbacks competing for the starting job, Goro has bulked up and earned the reputation as a bruising runner. As a high school senior quarterback, rushed for a record 164 yards in the state championship game. Seems to have the weakest arm of the quarterbacks. With rumors that he’ll leave if he doesn’t play early in his career, coaches may give him a shot to play as a running back.
3. Jamie Graham, R-JR (6-0, 195): An impressive prospect at cornerback who's spent much of his Vandy career trying to bail out the offense as a receiver and sometimes even tailback. Has rushed for about 130 yards and a touchdown as a Commodore, plus 640 yards and 12 touchdowns as a high school senior. More likely to play in the secondary, where he has NFL potential, and occasionally move over to offense to add some firepower.
4. Casey Hayward, JR (6-0, 185): The latest lock-down cornerback for the Commodores and an All-SEC candidate. As a three-year starter at quarterback in high school, he rushed for 1,284 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year. With the caliber of receivers in the SEC, Hayward is too valuable as a defender to use regularly on offense.
5. Blake Gowder, FR (6-2, 215): An offensive machine who’s being projected as a tight end or H-back. Rushed for 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns and had 1,237 yards catching and 14 touchdowns as a high school senior in Georgia. A tough guy with nifty moves who could take the pounding, but lacks the burst and athleticism of an SEC tailback.
6. Trent Pruitt, FR (5-10,175): A quick scat-back who’s being projected as a slot receiver. Had 922 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing and 835 yards and eight touchdowns receiving as a senior for his Georgia high school. Awfully slight to play running back in the SEC, Pruitt could still add a burst of excitement every now and then.
7. Archibald Barnes, R-SO (6-4, 228): Rangy athlete played in every game as a redshirt freshmen last season on special teams and at outside linebacker and safety. Rushed for more than 1,000 yards for his Florida high school as a senior quarterback.
8. Larry Smith, R-JR (6-2, 220): Rushed for 670 yards as a quarterback on the Alabama 6A state championship team. Gained 213 yards rushing last season as Vanderbilt's starting quarterback. As the most experienced quarterback, Smith will likely stay at quarterback as either the starter or the top backup.
9. Micah Powell, R-SO (6-0, 215): A safety being converted to outside linebacker who played every game last season, mostly on special teams. Rushed for about 1,500 yards in two high school seasons.
10. Fitz Lassing, FR (6-3, 220): Listed initially as a linebacker, but getting preseason reps at tight end. Rushed for 1,417 yards, had more than 200 yards' worth of receptions and 21 total touchdowns as a grind-it-out fullback in his senior year of high school. He could take the beating but would lack the speed and burst.
Just to add salt in the wound, Rajaan Bennett rushed for 1,857 yards and 28 touchdowns as a high school senior. If he was still alive, we wouldn't be having this discussion.