Coach James Franklin said yesterday that he’s starting to set a depth chart internally, which I guess means he won’t publish it just yet but you can figure it out when you see who’s practicing with the first and second teams – or practicing at all.
He also said – and I love this stuff – he’s going to “make some moves and move some guys around.”
So who’s he going to move?
The who comes to everybody’s mind is Lafonte Thourogood, the four-star wide receiver and three star quarterback who reportedly chose Vanderbilt over Virginia Tech because we promised he’d get a shot at quarterback.
Well, Larry Smith looks like the starter, which we kind of expected, but another true freshman, Josh Grady, has emerged as at least the third-team quarterback, and right now he’s challenging junior Jordan Rodgers for reps with the second team. Meanwhile, Kris Kentera, also a true freshman, looks pretty sharp after summer workouts.
That means Thourogood, who’s battled a few apparently minor injuries, is currently the fifth-team quarterback. Do we really want one of the best athletes on the team to be under the bench?
But we kind of knew this could happen. Josh Grady is an exceptionally smart, polished kid who was ready for college life and ready to make a splash on the practice field. We’ve said a while back that Grady could easily be ahead of Thourogood on this year’s depth chart, and then drop behind him next year after Lafonte’s had a chance to develop.
But that would mean a redshirt year for Lafonte, right? At some point, one of those guys is going to change positions.
Franklin said a few weeks ago that he’d be thrilled if one of the freshman quarterbacks – meaning Grady or Thourogood but probably just meaning Thourogood – wanted to get on the field so badly that he came to Franklin and offered to play another position. That would mean Franklin could move him from quarterback without breaking his promise to give him a chance to play quarterback.
The big weaknesses on this team are wide receiver, offensive line and outside linebacker.
Offensive line is out. Yes, Thourogood’s big and athletic enough to play outside linebacker – or be an awesome, dominating wide receiver. At least, dominating by Vandy standards.
I think Lafonte wants to get on the field this year, and I’m hoping even if he wants to continue chasing his dream of being a college quarterback, he’ll offer to play receiver this season. It’s not like he’d be getting a bunch of reps, though he’d make a killer scout team quarterback.
Let’s take a look at some other candidates to move:
• Wesley Tate, R-SO, RB: Everybody thinks he could play receiver because he’s fast and his brother Golden is an NFL wideout, and he’s also an intriguing possibility at outside backer. But we’ve got two little veteran running backs who’ve struggled with injury (Norman and Stacy) and two brand new little running backs (Seymour and Hester). We’re gonna need big Wes in the backfield, at least before this season’s over.
• Jacquese Kirk, FR, WR: He’s also listed as a cornerback but he’s been working out with the receivers. Not much mention of him so far, those he’s posted on Facebook that he needs work on his route-running. He was primarily a shut-down corner in high school, and we’ve got three or four good-looking receivers who’ve committed to play next year. So if Kirk’s not ready to play receiver this year, he’ll probably get moved over to corner, where he’ll probably wind up anyway.
• Dillon van der Wal, FR, TE: He’s also listed as a defensive end but I think has been getting reps at tight end. But with Barden and Monahan chomping at the bit to have great seasons, Lassing and Johnston showing versatility and toughness, and true freshman Steven Scheu looking like a true tight end, coaches could move van der Wal elsewhere. At 6-7, 230 pounds, I don’t see him being ready to move to the defensive line and play this season. I still think he could end up being an offensive lineman. If coaches even think they want to take that direction, they’ll likely redshirt van der Wal. Or he could play tight end as a freshman, like Thomas Welch did, before concentrating on gaining massive amounts of weight. Oh, and he’ll need to make sure he finds a nice girlfriend, like Welch did, before he makes himself sloppy fat.
Other guys who could get a look at receiver include defensive backs Derek King and Jahmel McIntosh, but Vandy has only six scholarship corners right now and King could easily be getting significant playing time there any day now. And McIntosh is a wicked hitter who needs to be playing D.
Some guys who could get a look at offensive lineman: Not many candidates here, though redshirt-freshman Thomas Ryan could start practicing there if he doesn’t make the traveling team this year. If he doesn’t, with studs like Dawson and Azubike arriving next season, he’ll probably never play end for Vandy. He could eventually move to defensive tackle.
Guys who haven’t been getting much attention and may be ripe for a change are linebackers Blake Gowder and Al Owens and defensive end Dexter Daniels, but all of them changed positions already in the spring.
But I never would have guessed that Jelesky would have been moved to the offensive line this late in his career. I figured that Jelesky would just be put out to pasture and, to his credit, that's not something Franklin likes to do.