I refuse to accept people saying "Same old Vanderbilt" about this team. The only time I felt like saying it on Saturday was when I saw John Cole, Udom Umoh and Turner Wimberly — who all started games for us last season — play the entire first quarter with little success.
But then Jonathan Krause entered the game. This kid can play. And so can Jordan Matthews.
In all, 50 players saw action for Vanderbilt on Saturday, and 19 of them had never played in a college game before. That means that nearly 40 percent of the guys on the field for Vandy were playing in their very first NCAA game.
And nearly 70 percent of the guys on the field for Vandy will have two or more years of eligibility remaining after this season.
Caldwell and his staff seem to have decided which freshmen will play and which won't. The plan appears to be to work these guys onto the field at special teams and then get them on the field later at their regular positions. This is the approach the team took two years ago with Hayward and Richardson. On Saturday, a whopping eight true freshmen played on special teams (Spear, Clarke, Lassing, Garnham, Hal, Ladler, Butler and Simmons).
This is a very, very young team. Here are the guys who played for the first time:
• Jonathan Krause, WR: Clearly Vandy's best receiver already. He'll be in the starting lineup any day now.
• Jordan Matthews, WR: He started on special teams and got some snaps at receiver in the second half. Expect him to crack the starting lineup by mid-season.
• Carey Spear, PK: Handled kickoff duties for most of the night, though he didn't come close to kicking it into the end zone. If Fowler continues to struggle, he may become the full-time kicker.
• Steven Clarke, RB: Played on special teams. Will provide depth at running back but may return to the secondary.
• Fitz Lassing, TE: Played on special teams. Will provide depth at tight end.
• Chase Garnham, LB: Played on special teams. Listed as the backup to John Stokes.
• Andre Hal, CB: Played on special teams. Will be playing corner as a backup very soon.
• Kenny Ladler, S: Played on special teams and had a big hit. Second team free safety. A big strong guy who could end up splitting time with starter Jay Fullam.
• Karl Butler, S: Played on special teams. Another strong guy who'll provide solid depth.
• Andre Simmons, S: Played on special teams. Second team strong safety. Won't challenge Sean Richardson's job, of course, but could see some action soon.
• Wesley Johnson, OL: Started at left tackle and looked pretty good. Will be a fixture on the line for years to come.
• Jay Fullam, FS: Tallied 12 tackles on Saturday. A ferocious hitter though he's not very big.
• Wesley Tate, RB: Had a big first-down run on Saturday. Expect him to get more carries and be used in different situations as the season progresses.
• Mason Johnston, TE: Played special teams and also saw some time at tight end and H-back.
• Mylon Brown, OL: Played special teams. A raw talent who, like James Williams last season, could blossom in his second or third year with the team.
• Mark Panu, DE: The walk-on played on special teams.
• Jabo Burrow, OL: Spent last season as a backup defensive lineman and did not play. Started at left guard on Saturday and appears to be a solid starter.
• Richard Kent, P: Started at punter; not an impressive average because three of his punts were aimed inside the 20 yard line.
• Reece Lovell, RB: The walk-on running back played up-back on kick returns.
...AND THOSE WHO STILL HAVEN'T PLAYED IN A GAME
Here's an update on the freshmen who did not play on Saturday:
• Logan Stewart, OL: Listed as a second-team guard. Will see action this season. Only five linemen played on offense on Saturday.
• James Kittredge, OL: Listed as second-team center. Will see action this season.
• Chris Boyd, WR: Not on depth chart, but will likely see action soon. Only five receivers played on Saturday.
• Chase White, OL: Listed as a second-team tackle. Will dress and likely travel with the team and be ready to play.
• Jared Morse, DT: Not on depth chart, but dressed out and could see action.
• Kyle Woestmann, DE: Dressed out on Saturday but appears to be a candidate to redshirt.
• Grant Ramsay, OL: Considered the team's top OL recruit, but did not make depth chart or dress out on Saturday.
• Vince Taylor, DT: An exciting prospect who didn't dress out on Saturday. Not sure what's up.
• Andrew East, SN: Dressed on Saturday and was one of only two snappers to warm up during the pregame. A good possibility to redshirt though.
• Thomas Ryan, DT: Recruited as a defensive end but now listed as a tackle. Likely a project who'll redshirt. Didn't dress out.
• Andrew Bridges, OL: A project at tackle. He dressed Saturday but will likely redshirt.
• Blake Gowder, HB: Recovering from a shoulder injury and did not dress out. Will likely redshirt.
• Trent Pruitt, WR: Did not dress out on Saturday and will likely redshirt.
• Walker May, DE: Had a good spring but is not listed on the depth chart.
• Thad McHaney, DE: A highly regarded prospect who like May appears to be lost in the log jam at end.
• Blake Southerland, LB: A middle linebacker prospect who's not on the depth chart.
• Charlie Goro, QB: Considered to be the fourth quarterback, or the third if Rodgers redshirts.
• Javon Marshall, DB: Injured and did not dress on Saturday.
• Justin Cabbagestalk, OL: Blew out knee and will sit out season.