Saturday, April 2, 2011

Vanderbilt: Desperately seeking linebackers

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.


Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if Franklin's moves are less philosophical (i.e., throwing an upperclassman a bone on his way out) and more about spped. Franklin doesn't fully know the true talents of reserve players at this point and my gut tells me he made moves mostly based on how fast these guys can run (with toughness also playing a role). Owens too slow as a DB (move to LB), Daniels too slow as a LB (moved to DE), Fitz/Panu/Southerland too slow as a LB (moved to FB), and Gowder faster than the 3 former so he moved to LB. My guess is that Franklin said <=4.5 for secondary, 4.5-4.7 for LB, 4.7-4.9 for DE/FB. Obviously guessing, but it seems like a logical reason given his public call for team speed/athleticism and his short time evaluating backups.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anonymous, but I also feel that this shows that Franklin is trying to get more athletes on the field or at least contributing to his style of defensive play. I am impressed that he and the staff have evaluated several players and have determined a more effective role for them to get them on the field. I also feel that on defense the staff is looking for speed and physicality which is very important over the course of a long SEC season. For the 1st time in several years, I think Vandy has alot to work with on offense and clearly they are trying to coach up the qb position. Even last season, we had several promising prospects at corner and safety; it only makes sense to move some players around (esp on defense) until he has a full year to recruit his type of defensive players. I like what I'm hearing out of camp so far. Finally Dimon, I hear that the team elected it's "Leadership Council". Any word on who they are and what it tells about the makeup of this group of players compared to last season's team leaders ? Keep it coming Dimon !Go Dores !

Vandygal78 said...

I'm impressed with these coaches. They are figuring out what we have to work with and making the player moves to maximize our potential for the season. As long as these moves won't be too big an adjustment for some of these guys, I think this is great. Franklin isn't waiting for the next recruiting class ( well he is but...) but is trying to get the team to be successful this year. I imagine Franklin wants to make a major splash this year and will go for the big plays, trick plays, whatever and that takes speed. I also hope they double up Norman, Stacy, and Tate to confuse the opponent's defense. Having those three guys should be a major plus for Vandy. BTW, how is Norman? He has been out forever, is this normal length of time to be out for his injury?

Anonymous said...

"It doesn't make sense (to stay in a 4-3) if you're fifth and sixth DBs are better than your second, third or fourth linebacker," Franklin said. "Let's get our best guys on the field and put them in a position to be successful, and I think that will also allow us to be faster."

He doesn't think he can line up in dime or nickle on 1st and 2nd down in the SEC?

He doesn't mention down and distance in this quote. I assume he is talking about 3rd down and 4th down and long like 15 yards or more!

His personel up front isn't good enough to pressure the pocket either in the SEC, and everyone (SEC coaches)knows it. We will have to blitz, which makes us very predictable. Our coaches will have to out scheme in order to cover up weakness in personel packages.Not a great position to be in. Also there is a reason Saban lines up in a 3-4. It is easier to find better LBer's than DL prospects which are worth there weight in gold.(Just ask Stanley McGlover)

My prediction is if we can teach our d-line not to let the OLine get to the second level our linebackers will be fine. Tomorrow's lesson is on; why we should cut Larry Smith some slack.

Anonymous said...

Great observation anonymous 1:48pm. Recruiting bigger and stronger athletes for both lines of scrimage and at the LB position is a priority for this coaching staff. I also agree that we shouild cut LS just a little slack until we see what he can do with an adequate SEC offensive line. It appears that the WR's will be much improved this year with Mathews, Krause, and Boyd. By the way did, anyone remember that last seasons National Championship Auburn team offensive line had reportedly played / started together for a few years; yea it helps to have NFL talent but the lines of scrimage and LB's on defense are critical to Vandy having a credible defense this year. I'm glad that the coaching staff is looking to make moves this early. Shows that they are not making excuses for thier talent or lack thereof at any given position. Go Dores !

Anonymous said...

Ok Larry Smith. Here are just a few things that have to go right in order for the passing game / QB to have a chance to execute a play and play well.

1. Center-QB exchange of football is first.

2. O-line Interior (Center,Guards)make proper line calls based on front.The line calls instruct them in were the hand placement and first step should be. If this is not done correctly the DL 3-technique or inside backer can come clean. Result sack,loss of yards,fumble or injury.

3. Same with our tackle,TE,HB who do I block? A decision has to be made in 1/10 of a second on who gets blocked by who? Oh and guess what the defense gets to fake and move

4.All the while Larry is trying to read the coverage and get us in to the right play which by the way has to jive with the same read the WR sees.

5. LS if everything goes well the exchange from center. The lineman block, the blitz is picked up,backfield blocks there responsability. The QB-WR see things the same way. Larry at this point has to do usually a 3,5 or 7 step drop based on the coverage which has to be read by the WR and QB as the same. Only then does Larry get the opportunity to display his physical talent learned on the Prattville High gridiron, by delivering the ball to the receiver or haul ass out of the pocket because one of his teammates screwed up his assignment.

Based on my observations from last year it was about 33%-LS screwing up. 33% Oline and 33% WR. In Larry's 33% included about 12-15% of the prior coaches screw-ups.

The moral to the story is it's a team game with more than enough blame to go around, and by the way they aren't getting paid.

Oh and one other thing in about 20 to 25 years Larry will start to notice pain in different areas of his body i.e. neck,angle,knee and back. When he gets up every morning he will be stiff and in pain......Hell by then he may have a E.D. problem effecting him that can be trased back from the physical and emotional beat down he has taken at Vanderbilt.

Anonymous said...

Thanks anonymous (3:28) for that detailed post. While I agree in general with your LS comments, its also a little depressing to read...While that scenario would be correct for any team, I'm not sure who or which position on the field you are blaming for all the teams problems....

Anonymous said...

I don't blame 18-22 young men unless they don't give there all physically. The mental part is on the coaches. Like I mentioned in the post there is enough blame to go around.

LS because of his position as the QB on a SEC team gets most of the blame, and guy's and gals it just aint so.

Noticed a article in paper with a couple of comments from LS where he mentioned the dream of going to the "next level".

While that seems like a stretch it tells me he believe's in himself and has a dream, my thoughts are if you don't beleive in yourself no one else will.