Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Job number one for Vanderbilt: Find somebody besides Chris Marve who can play linebacker
If you look at our last post about Vandy's 2011 playing rotation, you'll notice that we're heavy on talent at defensive back, and will be strong at running back after the incoming freshman class arrives.
We're slowly building talent and depth at wide receiver and on both lines of scrimmage.
You know where we're really weak? Linebacker, especially after Chris Marve finishes his career, hopefully in a bowl game. After Marve, here's what we've got:
• Four redshirt juniors — Archibald Barnes, Tristan Strong, Dexter Daniels and especially DeAndre Jones — who've started a total of one game and haven't come close to reaching their potential.
• A couple of projects in redshirt sophomore Blake Southerland and sophomore Chase Garnham.
• A kid, Andrew East, who was recruited to be a longsnapper and wasn't even a two-star prospect as a linebacker.
In fact, a popular parlor game for Vandy fans is to name all the players on the roster currently playing other positions who would be an improvement at linebacker. They include:
• Defensive end Walker May
• Running back Wesley Tate
• Tight end/H-backs Fitz Lassing and Blake Gowder
• Safeties Karl Butler, Jay Fullam, Andrew Simmons, Kenny Ladler and Sean Richardson
• A number of true freshmen, including tight end Darien Bryant; defensive ends Jimmy Stewart and Conor Hart; safeties Larry Franklin, Andrew Williamson and Jahmel McIntosh; and even quarterback Lafonte Thourogood
So why do we have so many defensive backs looking for a home? Because there are plenty of good ones out there. Conversely, there are fewer big stud linebackers and running backs. Sure, we've got good running backs, but they're all change-of-pace backs who wouldn't carry the load at programs with more talent.
Look at Zac Stacy, Warren Norman and the true freshman Mitchell Hester. All little guys who are great runners but not every-down backs. Coach Franklin swears that freshman Jerrod Seymour is an every down back. If that's true, then that's the kind of every down back we're gonna get right now — one that's 5-foot-5 and sneaking under the radar. You gotta love the comparisons to Barry Sanders. Let's hope so.
But our point is, we don't get the big studs who can play running back or linebacker. That's been the secret to TCU's success — recruit a bunch of true running backs and then move them all over the field, but especially to linebacker.
Maybe the closest thing we've got on our roster to a true running back, or at least one that can pass for one in an airport, is Wesley Tate. Tate didn't look very explosive last season, especially on the goal line against lowly Eastern Michigan, but maybe that's because he was recovering from injury. At any rate, he's the kind of athlete who'd make a lot of sense at outside linebacker.
Looking ahead to next year's signing class, here's how our current scholarship offers break down:
• 8 defensive ends
• 5 offensive linemen
• 4 running backs under 200 pounds
• 4 linebackers
• 3 quarterbacks
• 3 wide receivers
• 2 defensive tackles
• 2 defensive backs
• 1 tight end
• 1 running back over 200 pounds
Four linebackers? That's a good start.
Eight defensive ends? For some reason, defensive ends are always in abundance, and usually they're just tall guys with big frames who are decent athletes but don't really have a position. Ryan Seymour and Jabo Burrow started as defensive ends and moved over to O-line.