Saturday, March 19, 2011

How recent Vanderbilt roster changes could affect the playing time of the true freshmen

Now that we know who's not returning next season and where certain versatile players will practice in the spring, we have a better idea where and how often the true freshmen may play when they finally arrive on campus. Let's take a look, position by position:

QUARTERBACK
Developments: SR Larry Smith gets crash course on real quarterbacking from coaches while JR Jordan Rodgers heals and SO Charlie Goro gets some reps.
Likely scenario: Smith starts season at QB with Rodgers nipping at his heals.
What it means for freshmen: Lafonte Thourogood named third string QB, gets on field as short-yardage QB and receiver. Josh Grady also auditions for offensive role but headed for redshirt. Kris Kentera’s a project and likely redshirt.

RUNNING BACK
Developments: JR Warren Norman’s still healing, JR Zac Stacy’s resting up and JR Eric Samuels has moved back to defense. That leaves SO Wesley Tate and JR Micah Powell all the carries in the spring.
Likely scenario: Norman and Stacy top the depth chart but can’t handle the SEC pounding by themselves. Tate better than Powell but still not the answer as an every-down back and is considered at receiver and linebacker.
What it means for freshmen: Coach Franklin swears Jerod Seymour’s an every-down back, something Vandy sorely needs. He’ll play early and often. Speedy Mitchell Hester redshirts if Norman and Stacy stay healthy and he’s not pressed into emergency duty at receiver.

WIDE RECEIVER
Developments: Franklin sees this as the team’s most glaring weakness. SOs Jonathan Krause and Jordan Matthews look like SEC wideouts and R-FR Chris Boyd also looks promising. But two returning starters, JR John Cole and SR Udom Umoh, still can’t separate from SEC defenders and the other guys – JR Akeem Dunham, SO Brady Brown and R-FR Trent Pruitt – are question marks.
Likely scenarios: Krause, Matthews and Boyd will continue to improve and Cole will likely still see time in the slot. But expect the coaching staff to look everywhere – including at running back, tight end and backup quarterback – for receiving help.
What it means for freshmen: Jacquese Kirk listed as WR/DB, but with a weak receiving corps and a strong secondary, he’ll get a long hard look at receiver the minute he steps on campus. And DB Jahmel McIntosh, a strong, athletic kid, could also get a look here, as could RB Mitchell Hester. If Thourogood wasn't promised a shot at quarterback, he could easily crack the starting lineup at receiver, and don't be surprised to see him take a break from his signal-calling tutorials to line up at receiver. Grady would also be a nice option here.

TIGHT END
Developments: SR Brandon Barden’s poised for big season, JR Austin Monahan’s granted another year of eligibility and SO Mason Johnston returns from injury, sending SO Fitz Lassing to fullback and R-FR Blake Gowder to linebacker.
Likely scenario: Monahan joins Barden as a major target and Johnston concentrates on blocking.
What it means for freshmen: Considering Barden’s graduating and Monahan’s colorful medical history, Vandy needs to develop a big tight end fast, meaning 6-foot-7 Dillon van der Wal, who’s been mentioned as everything from O-line to D-end, will likely play right away and become a weapon at TE. Steven Scheu redshirts and makes a splash next year, and Darien Bryant moves to defense.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Developments: SO Justin Cabbagestalk’s knee ends his career before it begins, SO James Kittredge leaves school and R-FR Grant Ramsay still battles injury.
Likely scenario: Vandy’s top six linemen – SR Kyle Fischer; JRs Ryan Seymour, Jabo Burrow and Caleb Welchans; and SOs Wesley Johnson and Logan Stewart – keep their jobs and keep improving, but team needs to develop depth fast. SO Mylon Brown and FRs Andrew Bridges and Chase White get tons of attention in spring.
What it means for freshmen: Joe Townsend, listed on signing day as OL/DL, moves to offense and spends a redshirt year learning to play guard. Tackle James Lewis and guard Jake Bernstein best options to play this year, but ideally will take a redshirt to develop. Jose Valedon already penciled in as backup center but needs weight; expect him to redshirt and Burrow to back up Stewart at center. Spencer Pulley redshirts.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Developments: SR T.J. Greenstone recovered from injury and will be mainstay. JR Rob Lohr, a 12-game emergency starter, gets challenge from SO Jared Morse, R-FR Vince Taylor and JR Colt Nichter. JRs Taylor Loftley and Josh Jelesky provide depth.
Likely scenario: These guys are solid but not exceptional by SEC standards. Expect Taylor to jump up the chart in spring.
What it means for freshmen: Barron Dixon, listed as an end, is as big as Vandy’s other DTs at 280 pounds and growing. Team badly needs more athletes on line and Dixon will get a shot. If he’s a quick learner, he could crack the two-deep by season’s end.

DEFENSIVE END
Developments: SR Tim Fugger’s being touted as all-star candidate (that’s a stretch), SOs Walker May and Thad McHaney return from injury and JR Johnell Thomas remains a workhorse. R-FRs Kyle Woestmann and Thomas Ryan are fine prospects and will get a shot in spring.
Likely scenario: Pretty cloudy. Fugger’s got wheels but doesn’t strike fear in opponents while May looked sharp before injury. All these guys lack ideal heft to be SEC ends. Expect coaches to try anything and keep recruiting the biggest and best athletes they can find here.
What it means for freshmen: Connor Hart’s not a better prospect than Woestmann and Ryan were last year, and Jimmy Stewart and Darien Bryant are awfully light and could begin their careers at linebacker. That leaves the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Dixon, who’s the size of an SEC end. Expect him to get a shot inside and outside on the D-line.

LINEBACKER
Developments: SR Chris Marve of course a mainstay and the leader of entire team. JR Archibald Barnes a nice athlete but still learning, JRs Tristan Strong and DeAndre Jones struggle with injury and SO Chase Garnham mainly played special teams last year. JR Dexter Daniels still a possibility, SO Blake Southerland still developing, and R-FR Blake Gowder just moved over from tight end.
Likely scenario: Expect Barnes, Strong, Jones and Garnham to join Marve in a five-man rotation. The other guys are still catching on, and coaches may start pilfering a strong safety corps for LB candidates.
What it means for freshmen: The four junior linebackers aren’t where we expected them to be at this point in their careers. Coaches will look for a quick spark from either Jimmy Stewart or Darien Bryant, each perhaps best suited for end but too light.

CORNERBACK
Developments: SR Casey Hayward’s an all-star candidate, JR Eddie Foster started every game, JR Trey Wilson and SO Andre Hal have starting experience, SO Steven Clarke is battle-tested and JR Eric Samuels has returned after an emergency stint on offense. SO Javon Marshall’s moved to safety.
Likely scenario: All six shine in spring and preseason and make it awfully tough for coaches to decide who to play. Look for Hayward, Foster, Hal and Samuels to get the bulk of the action, with Clarke and Wilson also key performers.
What it means for freshmen: Derrick King is a special talent and will have the opportunity to learn the ropes; expect him to cut his teeth on special teams and excel when needed at corner like Hayward did as a true freshmen. Jacquese Kirk will likely begin his career on offense and will likely stay there.

SAFETY
Developments: SR Sean Richardson’s an all-star candidate at strong safety, while SO Kenny Ladler returns at free, and SOs Andre Simmons and Karl Butler are fine prospects. Jay Fullam has transferred to the Air Force Academy, and SO Javon Marshall has moved over from corner.
Likely scenario: Richardson and Ladler defend their starting jobs, Marshall serves as a backup, and Simmons and Butler turn heads in practice and make a case for either more playing time or a move to outside linebacker.
What it means for freshmen: Larry Franklin has the best chance to play right away, and is another guy who could eventually land at OLB. Andrew Williamson is a raw prospect and may redshirt, while Jahmel McIntosh could be a natural safety or even outside linebacker but may be pushed into service at receiver or see a redshirt.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Developments: JR walk-on Richard Kent’s being touted as an all-star candidate at punter, while SO Carey Spear continues to kick off and will challenge two-year starter JR Ryan Fowler for placekicking duties. R-FR Andrew East isn’t listed at linebacker anymore and will likely concentrate on longsnapping.
Likely scenario: Spear could supplant Fowler; Kent’s the team’s only apparent option at punter. East is the snapper. A ton of athletes on both sides of the ball can return kicks and punts.
What it means for freshmen: RB Mitchell Hester and CB Derrick King could start as returners.

That's my best guess. What do you think?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good write up, though you've reached in a couple of areas.

1. Grady is more developed as a passer than Thourogood this point so it's more likely he'd be 3rd string than Lafonte.
2. Tate is no more a WR than Zac Stacy is, you won't see him moving to WR and yes, he is an every-down back if you don't have Norman and Stacy there to take away carries.
3. Kirk's already been assigned to WR but McIntosh is not a WR in the SEC and will stay at safety/linebacker when he gets here.
4. Pulley, Bernstein and Valedon will likely play more than Lewis or Townsend will, especially Pulley and Bernstein. Valedon will likely have to play unless one of the upperclassmen can give them a pulse at backup center.
5. It's very unlikely that Darien Bryant plays linebacker at VU, ever. Jimmy Stewart yes, Bryant no. Just because he's 230 doesn't mean he's a candidate at linebacker.
6. It's spelled Derek King and McIntosh is not a cornerback.

DIMON KENDRICK-HOLMES said...

Thanks for the comment. Just getting some dialogue going. I realize Grady is a more polished passer but if Vandy already burns LT's redshirt because he's too big and athletic to leave off the field then I think he may be No. 3 while Grady redshirts. If they had to start a true frosh on opening day, then yeah, Grady would have the upper hand.

Tate's built like an every-down back for sure but we'll see if he can get it done or as you say even gets the chance because of Stacy, Norman and now Seymour.

Kirk's still listed as a WR/DB while Townsend went from an OL/DL on signing day to an OL. Yeah, I think Kirk will stick at receiver. As for McIntosh, you're right that he's a safety and may eventually be a backer. I do think at some point the coaching staff starts taking a look at anybody who can play receiver which is why McIntosh might at least get an audition there in preseason if he's lost in the logjam in the secondary.

Sounds like they're looking at Burrow at backup center in addition to starting guard but we'll see. Lewis was probably our most highly regarded recruit as a lineman and at 290 he's big for a Vandy freshman (but Mylon Brown was even bigger). Does his technique need a year of polishing before he hits the field? I agree that Bernstein could be the first to play, especially at guard. You know, Hand likes to stick with 7-8 guys and won't burn redshirts unless we have injuries or a guy just can't bring it. You could see Valedon listed at second team center like Chase White was last year and still redshirt.

You're probably right that Bryant will never play linebacker but, like wide receiver, you may see a bit of experimentation at that position, at least in practice.

Thanks again for the comments and for keeping me on my toes. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

F.Y.I., "heels" grow on the back of your feet, "heals" is what happens when "heels" are injured.

Dimon "I crank this crap out as fast as I can" Kendrick-Holmes said...

Thanks, nice to know that blue-haired retired English teachers read this blog too. How do you rate my syntax? Would you prefer some allusions to Keats and Lord Byron?

Anonymous said...

Franklin singles out Larry Smooth with some high praise (see video).

http://vucommodores.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/032211aae.html

Would be interesting to be able to gauge Smith's improvement under new coaching.

Ledger said...

Larry Smooth, huh? No question he's getting the best coaching of his college career.

Anonymous said...

any takeaways from Saturday's practice/scrimmage?

Anonymous said...

Dimon - what's your take on Spring so far? Franklin publicly gives props to Larry Smith again after yesterday's practice. Is it too early to see who's emerging early on in Spring?