Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wednesday's signing class will be Vandy's best yet

OK, you've been hearing that this is by far Bobby Johnson's best recruiting class ever, or at least since recruiting became an official sport. Here's how this year's recruiting class, if everybody signs on Wednesday, compares to classes over the past five years. And if you're wondering, Rajaan Bennett will be the most decorated recruit — John Stokes received four stars from Rivals in 2007, but got two stars from ESPN.

MOST CONSENSUS THREE-STAR RECRUITS (received at least three stars from Rivals, Scout, ESPN)

1. Class of 2010 (11): RB Rajaan Bennett, DT Jared Morse, DT Vince Taylor, OL Grant Ramsay, ATH Jerrell Priester, DT Kyle Woestmann, DL James Kittredge, WR Jonathan Krause, ATH Blake Gowder, DB Andre Hal, DB Karl Butler

2. Class of 2009 (3): OL Wesley Johnson, TE Mason Johnston, WR Brady Brown

2. Class of 2007 (3): QB Larry Smith, FB Ryan van Rensburg, OL Kyle Fischer

4. Class of 2008 (1): LB DeAndre Jones

5. Class of 2006 (1): QB Jared Funk


1. Class of 2010 (21): Bennett, Morse, Taylor, Ramsay, Priester, Woestmann, Kittredge, Krause, Gowder, Hal, Butler, DB Kenneth Ladler, DB Andre Simmons, OL/DL Andrew Bridges, OL Logan Stewart, DL Thomas Ryan, DB Sharrod Golightly, WR Chris Boyd, WR Jordan Matthews, QB Jordan Rodgers, K Carey Spear

2. Class of 2009 (16): Johnson, Johnston, Brown, DB Eric Samuels, OL Mylon Brown, DB Jay Fullam, RB Zac Stacy, LB Blake Southerland, DE Walker May, DB Trey Wilson, RB Warren Norman, DE Thad McHaney, DB Eddie Foster, WR Collin Ashley, RB Wesley Tate, QB Charlie Goro

3. Class of 2008 (10): Jones, DB Micah Powell, OL Ryan Seymour, DB Al Owens, DT Colt Nichter, DT Taylor Loftley, LB Tristan Strong, WR John Cole, OL Richard Cagle, DB Casey Hayward

4. Class of 2007 (8): Smith, van Rensburg, Fischer, LB Chris Marve, ATH Jamie Graham, LB John Stokes, TE Brandon Barden, WR Udom Umoh

5. Class of 2006 (5): Funk, DT Greg Billinger, DT Adam Smotherman, DB D.J. Moore, ATH Turner Wimberly

We'll wait until the kids sign Wednesday to analyze Vandy's recruiting class

You we're going to break down Vandy's recruiting class and tell you who's got the best chance to play when and where. And we're dying to do it.

But first, we're gonna wait until signing day and these kids have put pen to paper. Plus, we may get a late commitment or two. And maybe a late decommitment, which is the price you pay for recruiting kids that other schools actually covet.

And which is why Bobby Johnson was driving through snow storms on Friday before the dark period began.

Here are a few things yet to watch:

• Did Sharrod Golightly have a good visit to South Carolina and does he want to jump ship?

• Is Jerrell Priester still a lock for Vandy? Kentucky would love to have him, and Wildcat fans are comparing him to Randall Cobb and saying they still have a great shot to get him.

• Is James Pott, the fine Florida runner committed to Buffalo, still considering switching to Vandy if he even still has an offer after Rajaan Bennett's verbal commitment this weekend?

• Are we making a late run at a quarterback — such as Tyler Arndt of Texas — to fill the vacancy of Nash "I'm so relieved and blessed" Nance?

• Are we going to try to pick somebody up at another position, such as offensive line or a true punter?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rajaan Bennett has committed to Vanderbilt... and here's a real link just added Rajaan Bennett to its list of Vanderbilt commitments. Here's the link.

Rajaan's the first 4-star prospect to commit to the Commodores since John Stokes, who actually got two stars from other evaluators.

Bennett gets four stars from and three apiece from Scout and ESPN. The Rivals' evaluation of Bennett actually compares him to Knowshon Moreno and Ricky Williams.

Rivals says he's got blue-chip size, strength and agility, and describes him as "a smart, high-character kid."

"He will play as a freshman," the report continues. "He understands the importance of pass protection, and he is just too big and strong to be left redshirting. What will separate him from the rest of the players on his team are his incredible hands and body control as a receiver, especially for a big back."

So when is Bobby Johnson installing the wishbone?

Rajaan Bennett would rank on paper as best of Vanderbilt running back recruits from 2009-2010

Kentucky fans are throwing up their hands and UT fans are sending their congratulations, and still there's no solid source out there saying that Rajaan Bennett has committed to Vandy.

One Vols fan posted a link, but it was a link to another one of his posts congratulating us for landing Rajaan.

Meanwhile, James Potts, a Buffalo commitment, is also considering a Vanderbilt offer... if he still has an offer after Bennett committed... if Bennett did commit... and even if Bennett did commit and there was one scholarship then maybe Potts is still coming to Vandy... and taking Jerrell Priester's scholarship offer... if it's true that Priester could be jumping ship to Kentucky.

In the meantime, here's how some high school running backs from the past two years look on paper, starting with the most highly ranked:


1. RAJAAN BENNETT, 2010 (Offers from VU, UT, UK)
5-10, 202; Georgia
Scout: 3 stars, No. 65 RB
Rivals: 4 stars, No. 19 RB
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 111 RB (75 rating)

2. JAMES POTTS, 2010 (Buffalo commit, considering VU offer)
5-11, 175; Florida
Scout: 3 stars, No. 85 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 24 RB
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 54 RB (77 rating)

3. MYRON ROSS, 2010 (Former Vandy commit, switched to Temple)
6-1, 205; Pennsylvania
Scout: 3 stars, No. 64 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 59 RB
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 73 RB (77 rating)

4. JERRELL PRIESTER, 2010 (Vandy commit, offer from UK)
5-9, 170; South Carolina
Scout: 3 stars, No. 100 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 59 Athlete
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 89 Athlete (77 rating)

5. ERIC SAMUELS, 2009 (Switched to cornerback, played in six games as VU frosh)
6-0, 184; Florida
Scout: 2 stars, No. 114 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 83 Athlete
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 42 RB (78 rating)

6. ZAC STACY, 2009 (Started four games for VU as true freshman)
5-10, 194; Alabama
Scout: 2 stars, No. 209 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 48 RB
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 98 RB (76 rating)

7. WARREN NORMAN, 2009 (Started seven games for VU, SEC freshman of year)
5-10, 188; Georgia
Scout: 2 stars, No. 122 RB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 36 All-Purpose RB
ESPN: 2 stars, No. 119 RB (74 rating)

8. WESLEY TATE, 2009 (Redshirt freshman at VU)
6-1, 215; Tennessee
Scout: 2 stars, not ranked
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 70 RB
ESPN: 2 stars, No. 165 RB (72 rating)

Of course, would we trade Warren, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate right now for Rajaan Bennett, James Potts and Myron Ross?

No way.

And if you're wondering, Bennett could wind up playing linebacker, while Priester and Potts could be outstanding cornerbacks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rumors are flying but no official word on Rajaan Bennett

We're about to enter the dark period during which coaches can't talk to recruits until signing day. Message boards are abuzz with rumors, especially that Rajaan Bennett has committed to Vandy, but it's being perpetuated by Vols fans so it could just be a cruel joke. Nothing official on the site, which has been doing a good job of breaking news of commitments over the past week or so.

Sounds like Bobby Johnson's on the road trying to lock up his biggest class ever. Some UK fans say he was in South Carolina today visiting Jerrell Priester, the athlete who's drawn comparisons to D.J. Moore and who's been rumored to be leaning toward Kentucky, after possibly stopping by Atlanta to see Bennett.

Who knows? Looking forward to Wednesday.

Chris Boyd keeps his word, cancels Georgia Tech visit

After yesterday's self-important, overblown statement from Nash Nance accepting his scholarship to Tennessee ("They like me! The Vols really like me!"), it's refreshing to read what Chris Boyd announced today.

Boyd, you may recall, is the 6-foot-6 wide receiver from Roswell, Ga., whom Moral Victory! users have pegged to start this season over sophomore Brady Brown. But Boyd received a scholarship offer from Paul Johnson of Georgia Tech on Sunday night and had scheduled an official visit for this weekend.

Today, Boyd told the this:

“I gave Vanderbilt my word. I had fun on my official visit there, and I really liked the players and coaches. I knew if I went [Tech] this weekend, it would only confuse me. I’m happy with Vanderbilt, and that’s where I want my home to be.”

We could have ill afforded to lose Boyd, whose chances for early playing time at Vandy have skyrocketed since Collin Ashley left school and Bradley Roby jumped ship to Ohio State. He and fellow true freshman Jonathan Krause had better be ready to catch some passes when they get to campus, because they're going to get every opportunity to play.

Is Vanderbilt trying to replace Nash Nance in this year's recruiting class?

Have we mentioned that Nash Nance screwed Vandy when in June he accepted our one scholarship reserved for a quarterback and then almost eight months later he changed his mind? And he first blamed Bobby Johnson for taking a JUCO quarterback and then he blamed God for leading him to Knoxville?

So is Vandy gonna try to snag a quarterback? There's one left who had an offer in June when Nash made his verbal commitment: Tyler Arndt, a 6-4, 200-pound gunslinger with offers from Missouri, TCU, Houston and Rice.

Here's how Arndt and Knox Nance stack up:

1. TYLER ARNDT (High school senior, has VU offer):
Scout: 2 stars, No. 102 QB
Rivals: 3 stars, No. 25 QB
ESPN: 3 stars, No. 32 QB (78 rating)

2. NASH NANCE (High school senior, former verbal commitment):
Scout: 2 stars, No. 78 QB
Rivals: 3 stars, not ranked
ESPN: 2 stars, No. 107 QB (73 rating)

Not sure if we're going after Arndt or how serious he was about playing in Nashville to begin with. Maybe he could verbally commit to Vandy and then UT could decide they want him and take a fourth quarterback this year. Though I don't think any of his teammates are five-star wide receivers.

But as you can see, Arndt was rated slightly lower than Nance by Scout, but significantly higher by Rivals and ESPN. In fact, his 78 ESPN rating ties that of safety Kenneth Ladler and kicker Carey Spear, our highest-rated recruits according to ESPN scouts.

As far as other recruits go, we're still in the running for Rajaan Bennett, a running back with offers from UK and, of course, UT.

We're also making a play for running back James Potts, who verbally committed to Buffalo, which currently has a recruiting class of only seven people. Potts visited us last weekend.

We'll break that down later. Both Bennett and Potts are ranked higher than Warren Norman and Zac Stacy were last year, which means absolutely nothing except that we stole those two guys from the rest of the country and sometimes stars mean absolutely nothing.

Derrick Dooley actually respects Vanderbilt

Notice that Tennessee's making a late push either for players we've already signed or have a decent chance of signing?

What's up with that?

Two things:

(1) Lane Kiffin's gone, and guys like James Stone find the Vols much more attractive without him. So take Kiffin away, and the type of kids attracted to Vandy become at least a bit more interested in UT.

(2) The Commodores always gave Derrick Dooley's daddy fits. Buy the CD of Munson's greatest calls and it's amazing how many Vandy-Georgia games, usually in Nashville, reached Biblical proportions. Example: "Terry Hoage! Terry Hoage! Terry Hoage!" The last thing Daddy Dooley wanted was to lose to Vandy. Kiffin wasn't from around here and considered Vandy not worth worrying about. But Little Dooley thinks differently. Sure, he wants to beat Florida but he's got some time to work up to that. What could kill his SEC coaching career faster than anything? Losing to Vandy. Just ask Ray Goff.

Rajaan Bennett may want to avoid a Vol package deal

So you probably know that Vandy's in the running for Georgia running back Rajaan Bennett, a big, bullish lad whom Rivals gives four stars and compares to the former Georgia Bulldog/current Denver Bronco Knowshon Moreno.

Like a lot of kids, Rajaan's been interested in the Commodores since the summer but is suddenly getting calls and visits and a scholarship offer from a certain school — I mean collegiate sports franchise — in Knoxville.

He's visiting UT this weekend, along with another Georgia running back, Rajion Neal. Two kids named Rajaan (just with different spellings). Kinda like two kids from Calhoun high school.

But Rajion, who Rivals pegs as America's No. 9 prep running back, just committed to the Vols. Rajaan, who's the No. 19 back on but rated much lower by, now has some time to think about all those prep superstar runners who'll be wearing orange this season.

Of course, Vandy's got Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate. So maybe Rajaan just goes to Kentucky.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vandy tried to keep Nash Nance on board, but God told him to go to Knoxville

OK, I know we've spent an awful lot of words on Nash — I mean Knox — Nance, but it's been interesting and kind of funny, hasn't it?

Anyway, Nance committed today to Tennessee. And as much as the Vandy faithful would like to think that Bobby Johnson just got fed up and yanked his scholarship, the AJC reports that Johnson, Ted Cain and Jimmy Kiser visited Nance at his home last night, and Nash told them that he'd prayed about it a lot and that God was leading him to Tennessee.

Click here to read Nash's entire statement. It's a long, gracious missive praising Bobby Johnson and everybody at Vanderbilt but then talking about how Derrick Dooley's a real man of integrity and Tennessee's business school is really pretty darn good and he's really "relieved" and "blessed" to be going to a real football school.

Here's just a taste: "In my opinion the Vol nation has a new head coach with integrity, extreme drive to be successful, and a common man that all young athletes will relate to and will love going to battle with every Saturday."

Oh, the solemnity! The camaraderie! The joie de vivre! After he finished writing this, young Nance sat down and ghost-wrote Kurt Warner's retirement speech.

Anyway, the best part are the comments attached to the AJC story. If you're feeling bitter about this and want a pick-me-up, check them out. Here's just a few:

GADAWG: Bad decision on Nance’s part. TN already has two QB’s (one four star & one three star) from this class already enrolled that are better than him. He will never see the field except maybe for the scout team... I wish him the best but if it were me I would have gone to Nashville and actually got on the field and I also would have received a better education from a more respected educational institution... A degree from Vanderbilt carries more weight than a degree from TN (and yes even GA). I have a feeling this was all for daddy and his daddy just screwed him.

YOUBETCHA!: Well Da’Rick's job is done. He was just helping his buddy get an offer from UT. I look forward to Da’Rick signing with UGA next Wed. Go Dawgs!

DEAN: Yeah, I got to say a degree from Vandy is quite an accomplishment that in and of itself would carry you a long way. The other SEC schools are football factories. Unless he has real NFL talent he may have just made a huge mistake.

GADAWGS: Nance’s father is a millionaire, he made it on carpet; and to be in the know at UT probably means more to his future than an excellent education at Vandy. And remember the old saying: it's not what you know but who you know.

WHERE'S MY CRACK PIPE?: No way Dooley broke down his junior year film. Unless they wanted to see how not to play QB. If Dooley wanted to see a highlight film of INT’s, fumbles, and just pure dumbass plays then he saw that on his junior year film!

CALHOUN BOY: I think the decision is easy for DaRick. Follow Nash to college and be financially secure or go on his own a be broke just like any other college student.

JASON: Probably a good choice by Nance. If he went to Vandy, he’d be holding the clipboard for 2 years before transferring to Furman.

Vanderbilt battles Tennessee and South Carolina for recruits

Can you ever remember Vandy battling Tennessee and even Steve Spurrier for so many recruits this late in the game?

Of course, James Stone is interested in the Vols and we've all but mailed Nash Nance's admissions application to Knoxville. And now Rajaan Bennett, a four-star running back according to Rivals, has added UT to a list of schools that has long included VU and UK. He visits Knoxville this weekend and is supposedly a lock.

Not sure why Bennett wants to back up Bryce Brown and David Oku, but he probably didn't want to back up Warren Norman and Zac Stacy either.

And safety Sharrod Golightly, a Vandy commitment since the summer, is still scheduled to visit South Carolina this weekend. Guard Logan Stewart visited his home-state Gamecocks last weekend, but apparently is holding firm with the Commodores. (If a school's gonna bring you in and feed you steaks and let you talk to the prettiest girls on campus — or more than that if you're visiting Mississippi State — then why the heck wouldn't you take all your official visits?)

Meanwhile, receiver Chris Boyd is weighing his Georgia Tech offer and will drive down the street to visit the Yellow Jackets this weekend. Hey Chris, if you're any good you can start for Vanderbilt as a true freshman instead of waiting three years for a triple-option quarterback to throw you one pass every other game.

Thanks for the memories, Nash Nance

OK Nash, you can take off the Vandy cap now.

Rivals has removed Nash Nance from its list of Vanderbilt commitments and reports that he no longer has a scholarship offer from the Commodores. But he does appear to have an offer from the Vols.

I've got two theories on this:

(1) Nance has told us he's decided to attend Tennessee and so we've pulled our offer as a way to say, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out," and "Don't think about changing your mind and coming back."

(2) Because young Master Nash and old man Nash have thoroughly screwed around with us — since we told a good half-dozen quarterbacks in June that Nash had committed to us and so we were committed to him even if most of the other quarterbacks appeared to be better candidates — we have decided to stop waiting around and make a play for the best available quarterback, which appears to be Tyler Arndt of Texas. Or we'll just start making a play for one or even two blue-chip quarterbacks (and hopefully three or four blue-chip receivers) who'll be members of the 2011 class.

Meanwhile, the AJC is acknowledging the rumors that Vandy has rescinded its offer to Nance, while Old Man Nance says that's a lie.

I suspect it's No. 1, because I doubt Bobby Johnson is going to break his word to a kid (regardless of whether the kid was going to keep his word). Yes, it'd be gratifying to think we told Nash to stick it, but it doesn't much matter. I think it's good riddance that Nash is gone. We don't need him next season, and there was no way he was going to walk on campus and start in his first or even his second season.

We've got:
• Larry Smith, a still young quarterback with raw talent in whom we've invested a lot of time and energy, who was improving when he got hurt, and who'll hopefully have the support of an improved offensive line and receiving corps.
• Jordan "My Name's Not Aaron" Rodgers, quarterback of a national championship junior college team who can step right in and either push Larry to be a better starter or be a better starter himself.
• Charlie Goro, our first Parade All-American who spent last season learning the system and even getting practice reps with the second team and by all accounts is a good leader and a kid who'll be competing for playing time sooner than we might think.
• Jared Funk, a former three-star recruit who's never thrown a pass and is an insurance policy if all the other guys get hurt and if he decides to return for another season of covering punts.

So we don't need Nash. Sure, it would be nice in 2011 to replace Funk on the roster with a redshirt freshman, and maybe Tyler Arndt could fit the bill. He's rated roughly the same as Nance, though he's got a stronger arm and has a reputation as a gunslinger. But we don't need to throw a desperation scholarship to a kid who never has a shot to start — unless he has an adopted brother who's a five-star wide receiver. Ha, ha, ha.

We've got ourselves a basketball team

Sure, this blog is devoted to the uphill battle that is Vanderbilt football. And though we've been comforting ourselves lately by tracking our fairly impressive collection of three-star recruits, we haven't overlooked the fact that the basketball team is kicking butt.

What an impressive victory last night in Knoxville. Last year's team would have lost by double digits but this one kept grinding it out. Dolla Beal took over the game. We played suffocating defense like we did late against Bama and in the second half against Auburn.

Stallings is right to note that Kentucky will be angry. I'm not making any predictions there. It's just nice the day after a game to hear UT whining about a five-star athlete (John Jenkins) from the Volunteer State who was wearing black and gold and taking them to school.

Nash who?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tennessee may be getting James Stone, Da'Rick Rogers and Nash go ahead and psychologically prepare yourself

Rumors are brewing out of Knoxville that James Stone, Da'Rick Rogers and Nash Nance are about to commit to the Vols.

Tennessee has always gotten recruits with more stars than Vandy, and it always will. When Vandy topples big programs like UT on the gridiron, it's because we identified, developed and coached up raw talent.

What bothers Vandy fans is that the Dores could have realistically signed two of those three guys:

• James Stone, a four-star offensive tackle out of Maplewood, Tenn.: Narrowed his choices to Alabama, Auburn and Vandy, and didn't consider Tennessee because he apparently didn't like Lane Kiffin. (Stone must be a smart fellow.) But he likes Derrick Dooley and he likes the idea of playing in his home state.

• Nash Nance, a three/two-star quarterback from Calhoun, Ga.: Committed to Vandy in the summer over Miss State, Harvard and, ahem, Chattanooga. But padded his stats throwing to his buddy Da'Rick, and now he's trying to ride Da'Rick's coattails to a bigger SEC school. Heck, in exchange for the big-time Da'Rick, the Vols will be happy to let Nance play the clipboard-holding role formerly occupied by Jim Bob Cooter. To feel better about breaking his word, Nash is telling the Atlanta paper that Bobby Johnson broke his word by signing JUCO Jordan Rodgers, who will have graduated before Nash would have even smelled playing time at Vandy.

• Da'Rick Rogers, a five-star wide receiver from Calhoun, Ga.: Committed to Georgia in the summer, but was courted by Kiffin, who was willing to give Nance a scholarship to get Da'Rick. Rogers apparently doesn't have the classroom skillz to hang at Vandy.

Before you start whining, consider that we've never signed gigantic, four-star ready-to-play offensive tackles. Stone was our best chance, but nobody's surprised he wanted to play in a stadium that seats more than 40,000 people.

Nance wanted to play in the SEC but didn't want to live in Starkville. He lacks arm strength and has received no interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech or any of the fans of those schools. Guys like Jeff Lockridge of the Tennessean are acting like the fate of the Commodores hangs in Nash's hands. Don't believe it for a second. Lockridge says if Nance reneges we've got one quarterback, Charlie Goro, in three classes (freshman, redshirt freshman and sophomore). That's two classes. A freshman gets to stay in the freshman class for two years if he redshirts. We're not crying about losing a year from Warren Norman and Zac Stacy because they played as true freshmen and skipped their redshirt freshman class.

(Lockridge also says we can't afford to lose Sharrod Golightly to South Carolina. Yes, we can use all the safeties we can get, but with Kenneth Ladler already enrolled, Andre Simmons on the way and Jay Fullam and Javon Marshall coming off redshirt seasons, a Golightly defection wouldn't be the end of the world. But for the record, I think Lockridge does a pretty good job on the Vandy beat.)

Sure, we've had more available quarterbacks over the past few years because we've had Jared Funk, but how exactly has that helped us? We could find somebody else to cover punts. And Funk was a higher rated quarterback out of high school than Nash Nance. I'd rather wait and find somebody who can contribute AND who wants to be here. We've got time. Consider our situation for the next two seasons:

2010: Larry Smith, Aaron I MEAN JORDAN Rodgers, Jared Funk, Charlie Goro
2011: Larry Smith, Aaron I MEAN JORDAN Rodgers, Charlie Goro, good recruit who wants to be here
2012: Charlie Goro, good redshirt freshman who wants to be here, good recruit who wants to be here

We don't need five quarterbacks next season. We've got 2010 covered, which gives us time to get a special quarterback for the 2011 class, and I guarantee you the coaching staff has already started working on that.

Vandy lands big-time kicker

The Vandy coaching staff has put the finishing touches on a phenomenal recruiting class by landing Carey Spear of Ohio, the No. 6 kicker in the nation. (Thanks for the tip, Clark.)

Spear actually booted a 61-yard field goal in a game, and won a game with a 51-yarder as time expired. At a camp in Las Vegas attended by the nation's top prep kickers, he was the kickoff champion, meaning that he puts his kickoffs consistently through the end zone. And to read the scouting reports, this kid eats pressure, which is kind of important for a field goal kicker.

Throw his measurables out the window. With kickers, who cares about their height or bench press or 40 times? Spear happens to be an athlete with a 32-inch vertical leap, but what matters to me is that he's got a powerful leg.

Throw his other offers out the window, too. He had offers from Harvard, Ball State and Miami (Ohio). While teams like Ohio State and USC and Alabama can scarf up all the good defensive linemen and running backs in America, they generally don't take more than one or two kickers. So if the big boys don't need a big-legged kicker at the moment, then underdogs like us are in luck.

He's got three stars from ESPN. You know how many prep kickers get three stars or even
any stars at all? Not many. And Spear is ranked sixth in the nation, which includes punters. When has Vandy gotten the sixth best anything in the nation?

Spear told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The plan for me is to compete for kickoffs and field goals, then later further develop my punting skills." He didn't start punting until his senior season. Oh, and let's hope he's still developing his kicking too. According to the Plain Dealer story, he missed seven PATs and eight field goals last season, but about 70 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Which leaves us with two questions:
• What does this mean for Ryan Fowler, the Freshman All-SEC kicker?
• Who's gonna punt?

Maybe we could answer both of these questions by saying that perhaps Fowler, who punted in high school, could be our punter and Spear could be the kicker.

I guarantee you Spear will be competing with Fowler for the starting job in pre-season camp. With a struggling offense and an opportunistic defense, we need the best field goal kicker we can possibly get. May the best man win.

We also need a great punter. Has any punter ever meant more to his team than Upson meant to us in the glorious Music City Bowl championship season of 2008? I don't see us having two all-conference caliber field goal kickers and a walk-on punter. But I don't see us offering a punter in the next week either. One of these two guys has got to punt, especially if Richard Kent or Walt Wepfer aren't the very rare walk-on who becomes an SEC regular.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I don't care about Nash Nance

In the summer, Vanderbilt offered scholarships to a bunch of quarterbacks. As fate would have it, the lowest rated of the bunch, Nash Nance, jumped at the chance and announced he would be a Commodore. So Bobby Johnson told Nash that he was Vandy's man, and the head coach called all those higher rated prospects and told them that he had one scholarship to give to a quarterback and Nash Nance had taken it.

That was the summer. Larry Smith was anointed the quarterback of the future, Mackenzi Adams was the most experienced backup in the SEC, Jared Funk was still being touted by some fans as the best passer of the bunch and Charlie Goro was getting fitted for his red shirt.

Fast forward to the end of the year. Smith had a miserable season, starting with butter-fingered receivers and devolving into a broken-down offensive line, a bunch of bad decisions, interceptions and general bewilderment, and finally a torn hamstring.

So with Larry on shaky ground, Adams gone, Funk entering his fifth season without throwing a single pass, Goro with his entire career ahead of him and Nash still playing high school football, Johnson did a smart thing: He grabbed Jordan Rodgers, a junior college quarterback headed to Kansas but suddenly available when Mark Mangino got fired.

Rodgers won't necessarily beat out Larry, but the way we sacrifice our quarterbacks to opposing defenses, we're dang sure going to need more than one quarterback with game experience going into next season. (And for all you Funk fans, playing on the punt coverage team does not qualify as game experience when you're on the roster as a quarterback.) Rodgers just won a junior college national championship.

Now Nance is on a road show with Da'Rick Rogers, the five-star receiver and family friend who helped him rack up such huge numbers this season. Rogers has committed to Georgia, which, tellingly, has still not offered a scholarship to Nance. So now Rogers is visiting schools that are also willing to take a look at Nance. Schools like Tennessee. And still, schools in Nance's backyard, including UGA and Georgia Tech, aren't biting. And to read the comments on stories, fans of those schools who've seen Nance play don't want him either.

Meanwhile, Nance says he's committed to Vanderbilt... kinda sorta maybe. “I just want to take my visits and make sure I’m making the right decision,” he told the AJC, adding that he feels blessed to suddenly have so many opportunities.

But he's also telling people that Bobby Johnson went back on his word. The AJC writes: "Nance was assured by coach Bobby Johnson and staff that he was going to be the only quarterback taken. But the Commodores have since signed junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers."

Give me a break. Johnson undoubtedly meant that Nance would be the only high school quarterback taken, which means Nash would get the chance, as a redshirt sophomore, to replace Larry Smith as the starting quarterback. And Johnson kept his word by calling quarterbacks like Sean Robinson, Robert Bolden and Devin Burns — all rated higher than Nance — and telling them Nance would be his quarterback for this class. Rodgers is just insurance, and if he is an effective quarterback then he'll play next season and he'll graduate when Larry graduates. And then Nash can get his shot, if Charlie Goro hasn't already stolen the job from everybody by then.

So I don't care about Nance. He's not going to be Vandy's starting quarterback within the next two years anyway. If UT wants to take him in a package deal with Da'Rick Rogers, they should go right ahead and do it. And if you're wondering why Nance's five-star buddy can't play for Vanderbilt, well, it's because he couldn't go to school at Vanderbilt. But that won't be a problem at UT.

We can get a quarterback at least as good or better than Nance in next year's class. And I wouldn't be surprised if we've got a backup plan like Tyler Arndt, one of the kids who had a Vandy offer until Nance "committed" to Vanderbilt; Arndt still hasn't made a commitment, but has offers from TCU, Missouri, Houston and Rice.

Maybe Nance will choose Vandy after all, and maybe he'll be a superstar for us. Of course, I'll care about him then.

But right now, I just don't care.

Vanderbilt battles Gamecocks for recruits

This weekend, one of Vandy's verbal commitments, safety Sharrod Golightly, will be spending the final weekend before signing day visiting South Carolina. Last weekend, another Vandy verbal, defensive tackle Kyle Woestmann, had also been scheduled to take a journey to GamecockLand.

So how many of our recruits has Steve Spurrier extended offers to? At least five: Golightly, Woestmann, DE James Kittredge, OL Logan Stewart and S Kenneth Ladler. Ladler's safe in VandyLand, having enrolled in classes earlier this month.

South Carolina has offered scholarships to more Vandy verbals than any other school. In second place, with four each, are Kentucky, East Carolina and Central Florida. In third place, with three apiece, are Tennessee, Ole Miss, West Virginia, Duke, UAB, Western Kentucky and Tulane.

Here's a closer look, school by school, at some other offers our verbal commitments hold:


Ole Miss: Golightly, WR Jonathan Krause, Woestmann
Georgia: Woestmann
Tennessee: DT Vince Taylor, QB Nash Nance, DE Thomas Ryan
Arkansas: DT Jared Morse
Kentucky: ATH Jerrell Priester, Morse, Ladler, Ryan
South Carolina: Kittredge, Golightly, Stewart, Ladler, Woestmann
Miss State: Taylor, Nance

TOP 25

Georgia Tech: Woestmann, WR Chris Boyd
Nebraska: CB Andre Hal
Pittsburgh: Kittredge
Clemson: Woestmann
West Virginia: S Andre Simmons, Kittredge, Nance
Stanford: Woestmann

Boston College: Simmons, Woestmann
Miami: CB Steven Clarke
Northwestern: Simmons
Rutgers: Simmons, Kittredge
Florida State: Morse
Michigan State: Kittredge
Arizona: CB Karl Butler
Minnesota: OL Grant Ramsay
UConn: Clarke

Southern Miss: LB Chase Garnham, Taylor
Air Force: ATH Blake Gowder, Stewart
East Carolina: Priester, Stewart, Ladler, Ramsay
UCF: Kittredge, Nance, Ramsay, Ryan
MTSU: Boyd
SMU: Butler
Troy: WR Trent Pruitt
Houston: OL Chase White
Marsh: Ramsay

Notre Dame: Priester
North Carolina State: OL/DL Andrew Bridges, Golightly
Kansas: QB Jordan Rodgers
Illinois: Simmons, Boyd
Maryland: Simmons, Kittredge
Duke: Taylor, Priester, Woestmann
Colorado: Kittredge, Butler
Louisville: Kittredge
Virginia: Kittredge
Indiana: Boyd
Purdue: Woestmann

UAB: Garnham, Morse, Golightly
Arkansas State: WR Jordan Matthews
Western Kentucky: Rodgers, Boyd, Ladler
Tulsa: Taylor, Butler
Tulane: Morse, Butler, Hal
Akron: Kittredge
New Mexico: Golightly
Toledo: Krause, Ladler
Miami (Ohio): Hal
Florida International: Ramsay
Colorado State: Ryan
Rice: Bridges
Western Michigan: Clarke

Furman: Gowder
Georgia Southern: Gowder, Pruitt
Murray State: Gowder
Samford: Gowder
South Alabama: Taylor
Elon: Boyd
Hampton: Boyd
Appalachian State: Stewart
Alcorn: Ladler
Harvard: Nance, Bridges
Chattanooga: Nance

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vanderbilt gets its 24th verbal commitment

According to, cornerback Steven Clarke of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., has committed to the Commodores. He's 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and runs a 4.45 40. He's flying under the radar, just like the other recruits who've committed since the season went south. He's got two stars from Rivals and apparently hasn't yet been rated by ESPN or, but he does have an offer from Miami.

Here's the breakdown by position so far for our verbal commitments:

• Cornerbacks (3): Clarke, Karl Butler, Andre Hal
• Safeties (3): Sharrod Golightly, Kenneth Ladler, Andre Simmons
• Defensive tackles (3): Jared Morse, Vince Taylor, Kyle Woestmann
• Defensive ends (2): James Kittredge, Thomas Ryan
• Linebackers (2): Chase Garnham, Blake Gowder

• Offensive line (4): Chase White, Logan Stewart, Grant Ramsay, Andrew Bridges
• Receivers (4): Chris Boyd, Trent Pruitt, Jonathan Krause, Jordan Matthews
• Quarterbacks (2): Jordan Rodgers (JUCO), Nash Nance
• Running back (1): Jerrell Priester

These positions are just projections, of course. Bridges could go straight to defensive end. Kittredge could bulk up and play defensive tackle. Gowder could be a killer fullback and receiving threat out of the backfield. Priester could play cornerback or even learn to play receiver. Garnham can fly and could play right away at safety. And some fans have fantasized about the 270-pound Taylor playing linebacker.

Chris Boyd becomes a starter in Vandy fan poll, but does he really want to be a Yellow Jacket?

Look at our poll to the right and see who the Moral Victory! audience thinks will start at wide receiver in 2010 for the Commodores.

John Cole and Udom Umoh, of course. But who's the third starter?

Why, it's Chris Boyd, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound high school senior from Roswell, Ga. He gets 50 percent of the vote, followed by junior corner Jamie Graham (44%), sophomore Brady Brown (41), and two more true freshmen, Jonathan Krause (25) and Jordan Matthews (22).

But don't pencil him into the starting lineup just yet. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boyd got a phone call last night from Paul Johnson, along with a scholarship offer to Georgia Tech. Now he's taking an official visit this weekend, and he says, "Right now, I’m still committed to Vanderbilt. I’ll have to wait until I visit Georgia Tech.”

Ouch. Bradley Roby had a great chance to start for Vandy as a true frosh, and he jumps ship to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago. Now Boyd is flirting with his hometown team.

He's not the only recruit taking visits since he committed to the Commodores. Here are the other road warriors:

• Jerrell Priester, athlete: Kentucky on Dec. 5; still committed.
• Sharrod Golightly, safety: Georgia Tech on Jan. 22 and South Carolina this weekend.
• Andre Hal, cornerback: Nebraska on Oct. 16 and Louisiana Tech on Dec. 12 (and now Louisiana Tech's coach is at Tennessee); still committed.
• Kyle Woestmann, defensive tackle: South Carolina on Jan. 22.
• Nash Nance, quarterback: Tennessee on Jan. 22.

Hey, our signing class can't shrink below two. Jordan Rodgers and Kenneth Ladler have already enrolled in school.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Losing Reilly Lauer and Collin Ashley isn't the end of the world for Vanderbilt football

Five days after we told you that Reilly Lauer and Collin Ashley are no longer on the Vandy roster, the Tennessean "breaks" the story and gives us some more details and an interesting quote from Bobby Johnson.

"I don't know if he will follow through with it, but Reilly's got some certain detailed plans with what he wants to go do with his life," Johnson told the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge. "One more year of football wasn't a part of it."

Maybe Lockridge left out the we-thank-him-and-wish-him-all-the-best portion of Johnson's statement, but Johnson doesn't exactly sound pleased. He wasn't so curt when announcing that Gaston Miller and Justin Green were leaving as redshirt juniors, and those guys are still listed on the roster. Also, he probably wouldn't have had the same reaction if, say, Jared Funk, Turner Wimberly or even Kennard Reeves were leaving. Those guys all play skill positions, and if they haven't made significant contributions by the end of their fourth season, well, younger guys are already playing by then.

But it's a different situation with linemen. The Vandy staff — and Lauer himself — have invested quite a bit of time and work converting the gangly defensive end into an offensive tackle, and he hadn't yet reached the level the coaches had envisioned him reaching. Every opening day starter on the offensive line last season with the exception of James Williams was a redshirt senior. With 20 starts under his belt, a transcendent 2010 season could have catapulted Lauer into conversations about Vandy's most decorated linemen in recent history, at least in terms of starts and victories. But he just as easily could have lost his starting position, which has always been tenuous, to a redshirt freshman or sophomore.

In other words, the jury was still out on Reilly Lauer, and now he's gone. What hurts is that he was by far our most experienced lineman, he was a starter on 2008's bowl championship team, and he could have at least held down the fort until the young guys were ready.

So who's got the best shot to start next season on the offensive line? Here are the current results of our poll:

1. James Williams, R-JR (100% of the vote)
2. Ryan Seymour, R-SO (88%)
3. Kyle Fischer, R-JR (76%)
4. Joey Bailey, R-SR (70%)
5. Caleb Welchans, R-SO (52%)
6. Wes Johnson, R-FR (41%)
7. Mylon Brown, R-FR (29%)
8. Chris Aaron, R-SR (17%)
9. Justin Cabbagestalk, R-FR (11%)
10. John Burrow, R-SO (11%)
11. Richard Cagle, R-SO (5%)
11. Grant Ramsay, FR (5%)

We've told you for weeks that Ashley was probably a goner, and was rumored to be going to Arkansas. Looks like it's true. Ashley was a tough little kid, but we'll be surprised — and the team will be in big trouble — if at least a couple of the kids in our new freshman class aren't a significant upgrade. It will also be interesting to see if Ashley, who's walking on in Fayetteville, will ever see the field there. If we'd had the Razorbacks receivers last season, Ashley wouldn't have played for us as a true freshman.

That said, Ashley would have been competing for a starting position for Vandy this season. So who's got the best shot now to start at wide receiver? Here's how our poll's shaking out:

1. Udom Umoh, R-JR (85%)
2. John Cole, R-SO (78%)
3. Brady Brown, SO (53%)
4. Chris Boyd, FR (50%)
5. Jamie Graham, R-JR (42%)
6. Jonathan Krause, FR (32%)
7. Jordan Matthews, FR (28%)
8. Akeem Dunham, R-SO (17%)
9. Turner Wimberly, R-SR (14%)
9. Tray Herndon, R-JR (14%)
10. Trent Pruitt, FR (10%)
11. Jerrell Priester, FR (7%)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don't forget that Vandy needs a punter

With less than two weeks till signing day, everybody's talking about Vandy getting another big offensive lineman or a wide receiver or even another running back like Rajaan Bennett.

But what do we really need that nobody's talking about?

A punter.

Brett Upson, who became Vandy's starting punter the minute he walked on campus as a true freshman, has used up his eligibility and we've got two walk-ons left on the roster.

Quick, what are their names?

Richard Kent and Walt Wepner.

Maybe one of them is great and maybe Bobby Johnson's not worried about it. But I do know Vandy had offered a scholarship to William Russ of Shreveport, and Russ committed to Arkansas last week.

Don't be surprised if a punter pops up on the radar here in the next week or so. And he becomes Vandy's starting punter the minute he walks on campus as a true freshman, and we don't have to talk about this for another four years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Test your knowlege of Vanderbilt offensive linemen in our exciting new poll!

OK, OK, so you probably can't name Vandy's 15 offensive linemen right off the top of your head. (You're not cursed like we are.) But our thoughts have turned to the O-Line after the realization that Reilly Lauer, by far our most experienced lineman, has vanished from the roster.

Remember how many hundreds of games last year's offensive line had collectively played and even started? Well, that's a thing of the past — along with Lauer, we've lost Thomas Welch, Bradley Vierling, Ryan Custer and Eric Hensley. Which, by the way, was our starting lineup for most of last season.

Anyway, the results of our wide receiver poll are so interesting that we thought we'd try the same thing with the offensive line. But in the spirit of humility that befits the men in the trenches, we've placed the new O-Line poll under the wide receiver poll.

Here's a quick look at the candidates:

Guys with starting experience:
• Joey Bailey, a redshirt senior, started a few games as a sophomore but played a bunch last season and is our most experienced center.
• Kyle Fischer, a redshirt junior, made freshman All-SEC in 2008 and has started off and on at guard and tackle.
• James Williams, a redshirt junior, burst on the scene in 2009, starting at right tackle and holding his own against the LSU front until breaking his ankle.
• Ryan Seymour, a redshirt sophomore, started for the injured Thomas Welch against Florida and capably protected the Vandy quarterback against the Gators vaunted front seven. Made freshman All-SEC and is being groomed to take over at left tackle.

Guys with playing experience:
• Chris Aaron, a redshirt senior and former walk-on, played some at guard last year and has also been practicing at center.
• Caleb Welchans, a redshirt sophomore, saw substantial action at right tackle and was pushing Reilly Lauer by the end of the season.

Guys with pine time:
• Rob Ashabranner, a redshirt junior, played some quarterback in high school but the comparisons to Thomas Welch end right there.
• Richard Cagle, a redshirt sophomore, was pushed to the bench by classmates Welchans and Seymour.

The redshirt freshmen:
• Wesley Johnson was a coveted prep prospect from Nashville who arrived on campus standing 6-foot-5 but weighing 250. If he's been putting on the pounds, he'll probably crack the starting lineup this season.
• Mylon Brown is the nephew of the late All-Pro Jerome Brown and a beast at 6-foot-6 and well over 300 pounds. The Commodores stole him last year after he seriously injured his leg in high school. He appears to have recovered.
• Justin Cabbagestalk is still in school and appears ready for spring practice.

The true freshman:
• Grant Ramsay is probably the most game-ready, whatever that means, probably at guard. But Bobby Johnson hasn't played an offensive lineman as a true freshman since Hamilton Holliday in 2004. (Corrected 1/21.)
• Logan Stewart is another likely guard, but he's got some pounds to add before he plays.
• Chase White may have the best chance of the true freshman to eventually play tackle, but he's a project who'll need some time. (Chris Williams was a project who needed time.)

Andrew Bridges commits to Vanderbilt

The Commodores just landed their 23rd verbal commitment of the current recruiting class. Well, actually the 26th if you want to count the "commitments" from Davis Dudchock, Myron Ross and Bradley Roby.

But we're looking to the future. Andrew Bridges — a 6-foot-6, 245-pound lineman from Atlanta — got an offer from Vandy and jumped on it. He's listed on as an offensive tackle, which means he'd need to spend a year eating and lifting before he hits the field. But he's listed on rivals and espn as a defensive end, which means with the glut of veterans, redshirts and blue chippers we've got at end he'd be redshirting there too.

Sounds like a nice prospect. Three stars from ESPN and Rivals. Two stars from Scout, the same brain trust that gave Warren Norman and Zac Stacy two stars last year. Bridges runs a 4.8 40, which is movin' for a big man. Maybe he'll follow the Reilly Lauer/Ryan Seymour/Jabo Burrow plan of starting his career as a defensive end and then switching over to tackle.

I'm hoping he's replacing the scholarship reserved for offensive tackle James Stone and not the one we might be saving for defensive end Tim Jackson, a three-star Floridian who's supposed to be visiting campus this weekend.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nevermind, Stone won't be visiting, or playing for, Vanderbilt just reported that James Stone has dropped Vandy from his list and will be deciding between Alabama and Auburn.

He visited Auburn last weekend and was scheduled to visit Bama this weekend and Vandy next weekend, but will now visit Bama next weekend instead. He's been very methodical about his decision-making. You certainly can't blame him for going to Tuscaloosa or Auburn. You'd think he'd have a better chance playing for us right away, but Saban hardly ever redshirts his freshmen and isn't afraid to throw them into a big-game situation. I guess you can do that when they're big-game players to begin with.

Oh well. To quote Stephen Stills, we'll just love the ones we're with. I'm looking forward to seeing Kyle Woestmann, Jared Morse and Vince Taylor take it to Stone in Tuscaloosa in 2011 if he's playing for Bama.

James Stone saves his Vanderbilt visit for last

You probably know that James Stone, the coveted offensive tackle from Maplewood, Tenn., has narrowed his schools to Auburn, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

The cynic in me says that Stone has already chosen to play for the defending national champs and just to buy himself some time — or to create some drama — is feigning indecision between the Crimson Tide, another football school in Alabama, and an academic school near home. But what do I know?

According to, Stone visited Auburn last weekend, is visiting Bama this weekend, and is saving the best for last with an official trip to Vanderbilt, where he's no doubt visited before, next weekend.

There's another theory that perhaps Stone is reconsidering UT because he didn't like Kiffin and now Kiffin is gone. It's not my theory and I don't like it.

Anyway, hope Stone's Vandy visit is a good one, and that he doesn't cancel it and announce in Tuscaloosa this weekend. But we're awfully close to signing day, so he'll probably take all his visits and then on signing day do the thing with the hats.

Defensive end Tim Jackson from Florida is also scheduled to visit soon.

Oh, while Stone's on campus, I hope somebody mentions that our left tackle just graduated and the rising senior with the most experience at tackle is no longer on the roster. Another way to say this would be, "Hey young man, how'd you like to play in an SEC game in less than eight months? As opposed to redshirting at Alabama?"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Offensive lineman Reilly Lauer no longer listed on Vanderbilt roster

The football roster has been updated on the official Vanderbilt athletics Web site, and offensive lineman Reilly Lauer, who started off and on for the past two seasons after switching from defensive end, is no longer on it.

Not sure exactly why, but I do know that Lauer, at 6-foot-7 and 272 pounds, was awfully lanky and light for an SEC offensive lineman. Technically he was a skilled pass blocker but lacked the power and drive to be an effective run blocker. After starting 10 games at left tackle as a sophomore, he surrendered his position in 2009 to Thomas Welch, who'd started the entire 2008 season at right tackle and was the line's MVP. That left Lauer to duke it out with little-used freshman redshirt James Williams for the right tackle position. Lauer was soundly beaten out by Williams, who had a terrific spring and pre-season camp and looked like the real deal until he broke his ankle in the LSU game.

Lauer filled in for Williams, starting the rest of the season at right tackle, but Vanderbilt clearly struggled running the ball off the right side, which it had done so effectively behind Williams against LSU. A redshirt freshman, Caleb Welchans, also played right tackle and pushed Lauer throughout the season.

Again, not sure why Lauer's gone. Even though he's started most of his career, he wasn't guaranteed a starting job in 2010, even with starters Welch, Bradley Vierling (center), Eric Hensley and Ryan Custer (guards) graduating. Redshirt freshman Ryan Seymour made freshman All-SEC and is being groomed to replace Welch, Williams should return from injury, and Welchans continues to improve and has three more years of eligibility. Seniors Joey Bailey and Chris Aaron have experience playing center, and redshirt junior Kyle Fischer has 12 career starts, mostly at guard.

Coach Bobby Johnson has been mentioning redshirt freshman Wes Johnson a lot since the end of the season, and he could start immediately at either tackle or guard. Another redshirt freshman, Mylon Brown (Jerome's nephew), is a massive guy with quick feet who could also make a splash this year. If any of the verbal commitments have a chance to play as true freshman, it's Grant Ramsay, a likely guard. Of course, if Maplewood (Tenn.) senior James Stone commits then he'll compete right away at tackle — otherwise, we'll probably see him on the field in Tuscaloosa in 2011, wearing Crimson.

A few other things we learned from the updated roster:

• Lineman Justin Cabbagestalk, who was arrested in Tampa before his freshman year, appears to be doing fine on and off the field and is still listed.

• John Burrow, who didn't play last season as a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, is now listed as an offensive lineman and is officially going by the name "Jabo."

• As expected, Collin Ashley is no longer on the roster and has apparently left school.

• His fellow freshman, fellow Texan, fellow receiver Brady Brown had been rumored to be leaving too but is still listed on the team. Good news.

• Running back Jermaine Doster is not listed on the roster, which means he's probably off the team for good after getting into trouble at mid-season.

• Walk-ons Reece Lovell, Dan Sutton, Chavez Scott and Will Parker Roe are no longer on the roster.

You'll notice that graduating seniors such as Mackenzi Adams and Patrick Benoist are still listed on the roster, along with players like Brandon Bryant and Justin Wheeler, whose careers ended with injury but are apparently still in school.

Which receivers do you think will start for Vandy in 2010? Vote in our new poll!

Today we took down our poll asking which freshman receiver has the best chance to start for the Commodores in 2010. Bradley Roby was the runaway winner with 70 percent of the vote, followed by Chris Boyd and Jonathan Krause in a very distant second and third.

Of course, Roby recently switched his verbal commitment from Vandy to Ohio State, which makes the poll obsolete.

So we've got a new poll: By the end of the 2010 season, which wide receivers will have started for Vanderbilt? Obviously, you can vote for multiple players.

Here are the possibilities:

• Returning starters John Cole, a redshirt sophomore, and Udom Umoh, a redshirt junior.
• Redshirt junior utility man Jamie Graham, who's a natural at defensive back, but who can forget those end zone jump-ball grabs in 2008?
• Redshirt junior Tray Herndon and redshirt senior Turner Wimberly, who saw quite a bit of playing time in 2009 but didn't make much of a splash.
• Sophomore Brady Brown, a blue-chipper who played last season but didn't catch a pass, and redshirt sophomore Akeem Dunham, a gifted athlete who's still learning to play football. If you're wondering, Collin Ashley is no longer listed on the roster and has reportedly left school.
• Walk-ons Charlie Byrge and Jameson Sackey, who are both redshirt sophomores.
• True freshmen Chris Boyd, Trent Pruitt, Jonathan Krause and Jordan Matthews. A fifth, athlete Jerrell Priester, sometimes enters conversations about receivers but is listed as a running back and could end up as a corner.

Let me know if I'm leaving anybody out or if you think somebody else should be lining up at receiver — like Golden Tate's little brother Wesley or another of the running backs or maybe a defensive back such as Eric Samuels or Eddie Foster.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stone's still in the running... maybe

The thing about even trying to comment on recruiting is that we're always gonna be a couple of steps behind what's actually happening. So I hope James Stone hasn't already committed to Alabama, which is where lots of folks, including some Auburn fans, think he's headed.

One of our anonymous buddies pointed out that Parker Mack is headed to Princeton. It's always cool when a kid who could play in the SEC chooses the Ivy leagues. That makes Vandy fans feel better than if he'd chosen, say, Stanford, which is where athlete Darren Daniel committed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking ahead to signing day

OK, so it hurts to lose Bradley Roby, who chose being a cornerback at Ohio State over being a wide receiver at Vanderbilt.

Last year we were in the Top Five for players like Roby; this year we've actually gotten verbal commitments from them. Maybe next season we'll get the players to keep those commitments.

I'm not going to attempt to belittle Roby or suggest that he's a liar. Heck, when I was a high school senior I committed to study literature at Auburn and then I got accepted by Vanderbilt and changed my mind. Nobody called me a liar or questioned my character because nobody gives a crap about English majors.

By all accounts, Roby was impressed with Vanderbilt and actually waited as long as he did to publicly commit to Ohio State because he didn't want other Vandy commitments to follow him and jump ship.

So let's look ahead to signing day:

• We need a punter to replace Brett Upson: We've got one walk-on, Richard Kent, on our roster. We'd extended an offer to William Russ, a punter/kicker from Louisiana who this week committed to Arkansas.

• We still need to upgrade our receivers: I imagine we offered Jordan Matthews after Roby told our coaches he wasn't playing for Vandy. That seems to be the strategy: When a top kid like Roby or Davis Dudchock steps out, we immediately offer a scholarship to a kid who'll accept right away, a kid like Matthews or Blake Gowder, who accepted an offer immediately after Dudchock jumped ship to Stanford. Oh, Collin Ashley's no longer listed on our football roster, confirming rumors that he's left school, but Brady Brown is still on the roster and has apparently returned for spring semester. That's great news. Though Ashley had a better freshman season and actually caught a pass, Brown still has the biggest upside.

• We need an offensive lineman who can play right away: No offense to Reilly Lauer, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound lineman who's played wherever he's been asked to play during his career and will again compete to start his third straight year. But we need an upgrade. James Stone would likely play for us as a true freshman, something no offensive lineman has done in Bobby Johnson's tenure. Stone, as you know, lives near Nashville and has narrowed his list down to Auburn, Alabama and Vanderbilt. If Stone heads to the Yellowhammer state, then other possibilities include Zak Tait of Knoxville and Parker Mack from Little Rock.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Horrible news for Commodores: Bradley Roby commits to Ohio State

While we were laughing at Tennessee, the news was trickling down that Bradley Roby won't be coming to Vanderbilt after all.

Roby, who was expected to step into the Vandy starting lineup at wide receiver, had visited Ohio State in the summer but committed to the Commodores after the Buckeyes failed to offer him a scholarship. He'd flirted with Auburn some in the fall, but now Ohio State has extended an offer to Roby and he's jumped at it.

I can't tell you what a huge blow this is for Vandy. Wide receiver is clearly the weakest position on the team. Sure, we've got four other guys committed to sign in February (Jonathan Krauss, Chris Boyd, Trent Pruitt, Jordan Matthews) but Roby was undoubtedly the cream of the crop.

This is the latest in a string of recent bad wide-receiver-related news for Vandy:

• Justin Wheeler's career-ending injury in the spring
• Terance Jeffries-Harris being declared ineligible in the summer
• John Cole's injury in the summer
• Everybody's miserable performance in the fall
• News that rising sophomores Collin Ashley and Brady Brown are leaving school

Maybe the Commodores can pick up another receiver prospect such as Julian Horton.

It'll be interesting to see what we do with our offense in the spring. We've got some talented run blockers on the offensive line and five good to potentially great running backs in Warren Norman, Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate, Kennard Reeves and Jerrell Priester, if he doesn't jump ship too.

Lane Kiffin bolts to USC and Tennessee fans react with their usual insight and intelligence

Hey Vandy fans, are you happy right now?

I sure am. And I wasn't sure why. Until "1050 LBS," a fellow Vandy graduate, e-mailed me to say this:

"Oh, the UT-related schadenfreude."

Schadenfreude. Taking pleasure in someone else's misery. Kind of like what happens when UT fans pack Dudley Field every other year and laugh at our players on OUR senior day.

So forgive us if, yes, we're taking pleasure in the fact that Lane Kiffin is headed to USC — and while he's breaking the news to his former players, his recruiting coordinator's in the other room frantically calling recruits on his UT-issued cell phone telling them NOT to early-enroll in class the next day or they won't be able to follow Team Kiffin to California without sitting out a year.

Right now I'm reading a Tennessean story about it and especially enjoying the comments.

Know why Tennessee fans started setting fire to mattresses when they heard the news? Know why the Tennessee legislature is right now screaming NO! and rejecting the annual proposal to honor the UT football coach?

Well, because one year didn't give them enough time to spell their head coach's name. They've had time to get the first "i" down pat, and they were working on the second one, so about half of all UT fans still spell his name "Kiffen."

(On the bright side of things, earthquake survivors in Haiti will be receiving Kiffin UT T-shirts to wear.)

Here are some of my favorite UT reactions:

• "You reap what you sew."
• It's the governor's fault. (Kiffen saw the righting on the wall and skeedaddled.)
• We finished second (albeit a distant second) with a coach who didn't want to be here so wait till we get somebody who does.
• The NCAA should keep coaches from switching jobs. (Unless Saban wants to coach in Knoxville.)
• Kiffin couldn't handle the pressure in the SEC. (So he went to L.A., where I hear they have a few journalists who like to sensationalize things.)
• We knew he was a loser all along — just not this much of a loser.
• But he named his son Knox.
• He's a bum. Maybe we can get Jon Gruden.
• He left because the referees are corrupt and didn't penalize Mount Cody for throwing his helmet.
• Judas Iscariot...Lane Kiffin. (So UT is Jesus?)

And my favorite...

"Hire Fulmer! Hire Fulmer! Hire Fulmer!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Myron Lewis and Thomas Welch invited to NFL combine

ESPN's Chris Low reports on his SEC blog that Myron Lewis and Thomas Welch have been invited to the NFL combine Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis.

It was no secret that cornerback Myron Lewis has big-time NFL potential, and Thomas Welch, the kid who came to Nashville as a 220-pound tight end and promptly strapped on the feed bag and became an offensive tackle, is the other logical invitee from among the Commodore seniors.

LSU had a whopping 11 seniors invited, while Georgia and Miss State had only one each.

Other Vandy kids whose names may pop up in draft conversations, in this order:

1. Defensive end Steven Stone: We really missed Stone this season. He was back in time for the Florida game, where he gave Tebow fits. Always solid against the run and the pass, he could get a shot.

2. Defensive end Broderick Stewart: Carlos Dunlap speed and height, but 60 pounds lighter; could get a shot.

3. Linebacker Patrick Benoist: A great, gutsy college linebacker who lacks the size and gifts but could bounce around some in the bigs.

4. Defensive tackle Greg Billinger: A solid player for us, but wouldn't have started for any other SEC team.

5. Punter Brett Upson: Boy, it was fun to watch him punt. But he simply lacks the big leg to play with the big boys.

6. Safety Ryan Hamilton: A great, gutsy college safety whose failed attempt for a sixth year of eligibility was probably his last gridiron hurrah.

7. Center Bradley Vierling: OK, I'll buy Welch getting drafted, but how in the world could we have two NFL draft picks from the miserable line we fielded most of the season?

Thank you, Ryan Hamilton — oh, and can anybody take your place?

Dang it. I just read in the Tennessean that safety Ryan Hamilton has been denied a sixth year of eligibility by those bureaucratic killjoys in the NCAA.

If you're allowing yourself to remember anything from last season, you may remember that Ryan Hamilton tore his pectoral muscle midway through the LSU game in Baton Rouge and PLAYED THE REST OF THE GAME WITH HIS PECTORAL TORN OFF THE BONE.

I still can't believe it. Just like I still can't believe the game Hamilton had against Ole Miss in 2008 when he intercepted four passes, had a length-of-the-field pick six, recovered two fumbles and capped a Commodore goal line stand when he blitzed, dove and tripped the Rebel ball carrier.

Of course, Ole Miss upset No. 1 Florida in Gainesville the next week and went on to a 10-win season and a Cotton Bowl victory.

And Ryan was one of the unsung heroes as Vanderbilt won its first bowl game since the Eisenhower administration.

Thanks, Ryan. You gave us everything you had, and we'll miss you.

So who'll take his place at safety alongside Sean Richardson? The serviceable Joel Caldwell is graduating, and a whole bunch of people will be battling for the job.

Jay Fullam, the redshirt freshman who would have surely played last season if he hadn't injured his hand as the season was starting, may be the favorite. Remember, Ryan Hamilton was a fixture at safety from the beginning of his second freshman year. Javon Marshall is another redshirt freshman who was recruited as a safety.

Redshirt sophomores Al Owens and Micah Powell were special teams/utility guys who provide depth but may not be the permanent answer.

The emergence last season of true freshmen Eddie Foster and Trey Wilson as solid cornerbacks could allow big athletic corners Jamie Graham (R-JR) and Eric Samuels (SO) to drop back to safety. At one time or another, both those guys were listed as backup safeties on last season's depth charts.

And then there are the verbal commitments who will be true freshmen: Kenneth Ladler, Sherrod Golightly and Andre Simmons. Another recruit, Chase Garnham, is listed as an outside linebacker but played safety as a junior in high school and certainly has the wheels to be in the secondary.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why back-to-back winning seasons would be huge for Vanderbilt football

You know what Vandy needs to do to turn the corner in football?

Produce back-to-back winning seasons.

And not just because the Commodores haven't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1975. It would mean a recruiting class with a strong start and a strong finish.

Before the 2007 season, Vandy was coming off a 4-8 season and had 10 verbal commitments from mostly two-star players. After finishing 5-6, the Commodores added 11 more mostly two-star players.

Before the 2008 season, Vandy had 10 verbal commitments, again from mostly two-star players or three-star players like Zac Stacy and Eric Samuels who didn't have offers from major programs. But after finishing with a winning record and a bowl victory, the Commodores finished strong by stealing Thad McHaney from Ole Miss, landing Wesley Tate whom they'd pursued for more than a year, and four more three-star players.

When Johnson signed those players, he said his next class would be even better. He was right. Before the 2009 season was in the toilet, he'd already received verbal commitments from a staggering 19 players, 17 of them with three stars. After Vandy's two wins were in the books, tight end prospect Davis Dudchock jumped ship to Stanford, and lots of our commitments started visiting places like Auburn, Florida State, South Carolina and Kentucky.

So far, the remaining 18 — guys like Kyle Woestmann, Jerrell Priester and Bradley Roby — appear to be honoring their verbal commitments. But adding the three-star players that came so easily after last year's Music City Bowl victory has proven tough, and upgrading to four-star players has proven impossible.

Since the season ended, Vandy has received four more commitments:
• Blake Gowder, a low three-star player who caught a ton of passes in high school but who's too slow to be a receiver and too small to be a tight end; he'll probably be a linebacker.
• Jordan Rodgers, a JUCO quarterback who appeared to be going to Kansas before Mangino got fired; best known as Aaron Rodgers' little brother.
• Jordan Matthews, a wide receiver from Alabama who's supposedly Jerry Rice's nephew. He's unrated by ESPN but got three stars from Rivals.
• Chase Garnham, an unrated linebacker from Alabama who's been clocked in the 40 at sub-4.4 but isn't kin to any former NFL players as far as we know.

It should be noted that all these guys are projects who committed as soon as they were offered; in other words, Vanderbilt was their best option. That doesn't mean they won't be great players — Vandy was the best option for an unrated player named Sean Richardson, now one of the most underrated players in the SEC.

There's more hope. James Stone, a hulking offensive tackle from Maplewood, Tenn., has narrowed his schools to Alabama, Auburn and Vandy. He would be the rare Vandy lineman — a game-ready specimen who could skip the year-long training table meal and start competing for a starting assignment right away.

Even without Stone and even if another commitment or two jumps ship, in February Johnson will still have his best signing class by far — and probably Vandy's best ever.

But the Commodores will likely struggle to lure top commitments before the 2010 season starts. It could spell doom for the 2011 recruiting class if next season resembles the last one.

If the Commodores have a successful 2010 season, however, they'll be back in the running for some high-quality players and could finish strong.

And if they could follow a winning season in 2010 with another one in 2011, then look out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

No, Mack Brown doesn't feel sorry for his little brother

My buddy Chuck Williams sent me this quote from Pasadena, where he's covering Alabama for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. A reporter from Birmingham, where Watson used to coach UAB, asked Mack if he felt sorry for his brother — you know, because he's had crap jobs like Vandy.

"Watson is my brother for you that don't know, and he's a year and a half older. He coached at Vanderbilt, he coached at Rice, he coached at Cincinnati, he coached at Austin Peay, and he coached at University of Alabama Birmingham, really took the leap from I- AA to Division I.

"I am not. The reason I've had a different career than Watson is because I've had better jobs. I've always thought he's a better football coach than I am and he does a tremendous job with very little, and he's done it throughout his career. And if you ask whether I've had a better career or Watson, I would really think Watson has had a wonderful career. How many people can be a head football coach in college for 20-something years and touch that many lives?

"I haven't felt sorry for him because very few people get to be a head coach. Those that become head coaches usually don't get to stay after three years. So he's had wonderful moments, and he had a winning season at Tennessee Tech this year, the first one that they've had in a long time. Watson was as proud of winning the state championship in Tennessee and winning their sixth game and having a winning season at Tennessee Tech as we would be if we won this ballgame."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Vandy faces 10 bowl teams in 2010

Not to be negative or anything, but I've been watching a lot of bowl games and noticing teams that the Commodores are slated to play this year. In all, Vandy will play a whopping 10 bowl teams, and another team, Wake Forest, barely missed a bowl and has owned the Dores since Jay Cutler graduated. Can we hire the guy who makes Kentucky's schedule (no non-conference opponents who'd been to a bowl)?

And if you're wondering, eight of our opponents in 2009 were coming off bowls.

We'll be favored to win one (1) game next season, and that's against winless Eastern Michigan. We were supposed to travel up to Ypsilanti, but recently moved the game to Nashville. Hey, we'll take anything we can get. Hey, we've also got a bye week after playing Northwestern, LSU and Ole Miss and before traveling to Connecticut. Not bad. On the other hand, we can't use the 12-straight-games excuse in the upcoming season.

Anyway, here's a look at the schedule, and how each future opponent fared this season:

SEP 04: Northwestern (8-5): Outback Bowl, lost 38-35 to Auburn in overtime.

SEP 11: LSU (9-4, 5-3 SEC): Capital One Bowl, lost 19-17 to Penn State.

SEP 18: At Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4): Cotton Bowl, beat Oklahoma State 21-7.

SEP 25: A bye week! A bye week! Holy crap a bye week!

OCT 02: At Connecticut (8-5): Bowl, beat South Carolina 20-7.

OCT 09: Eastern Michigan (0-12): No Bowl.

OCT 16: At Georgia (8-5, 4-4): Independence Bowl, beat Texas A&M 44-20.

OCT 23: South Carolina (7-6, 3-5): Bowl, lost to UConn 20-7.

OCT 30: At Arkansas (8-5, 3-5): Liberty Bowl, beat East Carolina 20-17 in overtime.

NOV 06: Florida (13-1, 8-1): Sugar Bowl, beat Cincinnati 51-24.

NOV 13: At Kentucky (7-6, 3-5): Music City Bowl, lost to Clemson 21-13.

NOV 20: Tennessee (7-6, 4-4): Chick-Fil-A Bowl, lost to Virginia Tech 37-14.

NOV 27: Wake Forest (5-7): No Bowl.