You do the math: We've got 69 players with eligibility remaining who weren't recognized on senior day. (That's assuming that walk-on punter Richard Kent doesn't have a scholarship.) And we just signed 21 players to letters of intent.
Hmmm. 69 + 21 = 90
And as you probably know, the limit is 85. So which five players aren't returning to the team?
You have to look first at redshirt seniors. The list was culled down on senior day, with Tray Herndon and Ryan van Rensburg, neither of whom would be competing to start in 2011, both being honored and therefore announcing the end of their careers as Commodores.
Of the 11 left, every one has starting experience. But I keep hearing that Jamie Graham won't be returning for a fifth year. Also, you have to wonder if Austin Monahan is really going to return from a third season-ending injury.
Next, you have to look at who hasn't been getting playing time. Of the juniors, safety Al Owens played the least last season and has virtually no hope of cracking the depth chart with all our young talent at safety. Micah Powell's experiment at linebacker wasn't a rousing success and for now he's a stand-in running back. Akeem Dunham, Taylor Loftley and Josh Jelesky probably haven't improved their chances at playing time either.
But unless they decide to transfer to an FCS school like Alan Strong did three years ago, they'll probably want to stick around and pick up their free Vanderbilt diploma.
That leaves us with underclassmen who haven't cracked the depth chart and feel like they could transfer to an FCS school or even a mid-major and get some playing time. That list has got to include Charlie Goro, who hasn't played a snap in two years and now is facing additional competition from three of Franklin's hand-picked freshmen quarterbacks. I'll be shocked if Goro ever plays for Vandy.
Then there's Brady Brown, a big possession receiver who didn't play at all last season and now faces competition from redshirts Chris Boyd and Trent Pruitt, three true freshmen tight ends who can double as possession receivers (van der Wal, Scheu and Bryant), and a bunch of athletes (Thorougood, King, McIntosh, Kirk, Hester, Grady, etc.) who could also lineup at receiver.
And Thad McHaney, who had offers from places like Auburn and Oklahoma, played in less than half our games. But it takes a while for defensive ends to develop, and true freshmen like Hart and Stewart are probably going to need a redshirt before they're ready to go.
Sure, Franklin says he doesn't believe in redshirts; what's he going to say on signing day, we signed these guys to sit? But a 200-pound defensive end won't cut it in SEC play, and I'm sure he knows that.
Also, Justin Cabbagestalk missed last season with a knee injury and now finds himself behind about a dozen young linemen. And Javon Marshall is at the bottom of a depth chart loaded with slick young athletes at corner and safety. Maybe those guys take their games elsewhere.
The other factor, of course, is academics. I don't have everybody's transcript so I'm not going to try to predict that.
But I will make a prediction as to which five players won't return. I think all those redshirt juniors who don't play much will return, provided they qualify academically. They just won't be playing at Vandy as redshirt seniors. I think Graham and Monahan will go ahead and start the next chapter of their lives. I also think that Goro and Brady Brown, both of whom have been rumored to leave for more than a year, may bolt. That leaves us with one. Let's say Cabbagestalk.
I'm not saying these kids aren't talented and shouldn't be playing for Vanderbilt. In the case of Graham and Monahan, they could have made All-SEC if they'd been healthy. I seriously doubt I'll be right on all five. But these are all candidates.