Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vandy's two more commitments, including a safety and a four-star TE, allow some guys to change positions

Vanderbilt has picked up two more verbal commitments, from four-star tight end Dillon van der Wal of California and from two-star safety Andrew Williamson from Texas. Van der Wal backed off an earlier commitment to Arizona State and turned down an offer from Arkansas, while Williamson was something of a late bloomer who had offers from Northwestern and Wake Forest.

Van der Wal and Williamson free up Vandy to at least consider moving some guys to other positions.

At 6-foot-7 with soft hands, Van der Wal is a big-time weapon. Suddenly, Vandy has a glut of talent at tight end:

• Brandon Barden (6-5, 250) R-SR: He’ll be a four-year starter, and is an NFL prospect who’s been forced to carry too much of the receiving burden over the past two years.
• Austin Monahan (6-6, 255) R-SR: If he can rebound from yet another devastating injury and return for his fourth season, then the younger guys will have time to develop.
• Mason Johnston (6-4, 245) R-SO: A solid prospect known more for his blocking, he struggled catching the ball as a redshirt freshman before a season-ending injury. He’ll play, but primarily as a blocker.
• Fitz Lassing (6-3, 220) SO: Lassing burned his redshirt last season to mainly play special teams. Don’t be surprised if he switches to fullback or linebacker.
• Blake Gowder (6-2, 215) R-FR: An all-purpose athlete with good receiving skills, Gowder lacks the size of an SEC tight end. He could also move to fullback or linebacker.
• Dillon van der Wal (6-7, 230) FR: If Monahan doesn’t return, van der Wal could get a major role in the offense. He’s a definite upgrade over Johnston, Gowder and Lassing.
• Steve Scheu (6-5, 240) FR: The talented freshman just saw his chances to play as a true frosh drop with van der Wal’s commitment. He’ll probably redshirt, which makes sense because Barden and Monahan will be gone next year.

As for Williamson, remember that Sean Richardson wasn’t a highly regarded prospect. With excellent closing speed, he’ll be one of our fastest safeties. With Richardson and Kenny Ladler returning as starting safeties – and with three solid backups in sophomores Andre Simmons, Karl Butler and Jay Fullam – Williamson and fellow commitment Jahmel McIntosh allow the Commodores to make some moves.

For example, Butler, who’s 210 pounds and growing, could be moved to linebacker, where the Commodores need to find some answers. McIntosh could wind up at receiver.

It’ll be interesting to see if we get any other recruits and how they might affect our roster.

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