Vanderbilt needs linebackers.
Just look at our roster.
In the middle, we have one proven, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt SEC linebacker: Chris Marve. You already knew that.
We have two junior outside backers who’ll be in the starting rotation: Archibald Barnes, a wiry athlete who came to Vandy as a candidate for wide receiver or safety, and Tristan Strong, who’s been projected in the starting rotation for two years but has battled injuries instead.
And we have a true sophomore with great speed who played on special teams last year and seems ready to join Barnes and Strong in the rotation: Chase Garnham.
Then there’s DeAndre Jones, a terrific athlete from Memphis and even better prospect than Marve who but for injuries and whatever reasons hasn’t caught on.
Those are the linebackers. We’re looking for more, and until we sign some linebackers in the class of 2012 we’re stuck with finding them on our current roster.
This spring, Franklin shipped three potential linebackers – Fitz Lassing, Marc Panu and Blake Southerland – to fullback, and replaced them at linebacker with Blake Gowder, a guy who came to school as a fullback. Franklin actually uses a fullback and needed to find some, but he also needed SEC-caliber athletes at linebacker and Gowder is the best candidate from that group.
Micah Powell started last season at linebacker but moved to running back last season to provide depth and will stay there because we’re short on numbers at RB but also because Powell wasn’t the answer at LB.
Dexter Daniels – along with Barnes, Jones and Strong one of the four linebackers from the signing class of 2008 – has just moved to defensive end because for the time being we’re short on numbers at DE (that’ll change by preseason camp) but also because for three seasons Daniels hasn’t been able to turn heads at backer. Franklin said Daniels came to school at 247 and could put on another 15 pounds. Daniels came to school at 215 and doesn’t strike me as anything close to an SEC end. This is about giving a guy a chance late in his career because he’s not catching on.
Speaking of which, Al Owens has moved from safety to linebacker, creating the illusion that he’s getting to compete for playing time late in his career. Really, I think Franklin’s deciding now which of the redshirt juniors is coming back for a fifth year. Owens and Daniels won’t be, and their scholarships will go to some SEC caliber linebackers or other athletes.
We really, really need some linebackers in the next class, starting with a guy in the middle to replace Marve. Until we get them, we’ll keep shuttling guys around and fantasizing about moving athletes like Wesley Tate, Lafonte Thourogood, and nearly everyone of our safeties – Kenny Ladler, Sean Richardson, Andre Simmons, Karl Butler and incoming freshmen Larry Franklin, Andrew Williamson and Jahmel McIntosh – to linebacker.
Oh, and Wesley Tate’s a keeper at running back. He’s having a great spring and the coaches are talking about him as an every-down running back. Apparently, the foot’s healed.
As far as other guys moving around, Eric Samuels keeps moving because he’s one of the best athletes on the team and is going to play somewhere in the secondary.
For now, Franklin is playing McGyver, making a weapon with duct tape, drinking straws and paper clips because, well, he doesn't happen to have a bazooka with him right now.