Brandon Barca, the web guy over at the VU athletic department, has a great feature on the official site in which he asked four Vandy writers covering preseason camp to name the players who’ve stood out to them over the past few week.
The names that kept popping up were WR Jordan Matthews, RBs Zac Stacy and freshman Jerron Seymour, DT Colt Nichter, FS Javon Marshall, K Carey Spear and three cornerbacks – SR Casey Hayward, JR Trey Wilson and SO Andre Hal.
Yes, the writers considered Hayward and Wilson to be among the very best players on the team, and Hal to be one of Vandy’s best defensive players.
So here’s what we have returning at cornerback: A preseason All-SEC pick and All-American candidate (Hayward), a returning starter (Eddie Foster, who received no mention from the writers), one of the best players on the entire team (Wilson), and a young guy who’s suddenly become one of our very best defenders (Hal).
Yes, I’d say cornerback’s definitely a team strength.
Or you could point to the whole secondary, where at safety we have a legitimate All-SEC candidate (Sean Richardson) and a returning starter (Kenny Ladler) but also, according to the writers, another guy who’s suddenly become one of our very best defenders (Marshall) and another young guy who’s been the surprise player of camp (Karl Butler).
The writers also consider defensive line to be a team strength, with Colt Nichter emerging as one of the team’s signature defenders, redshirt freshmen Vince Taylor and Kyle Woestmann showing dramatic improvement, and true freshman Barron Dixon also looking surprisingly sharp. And that doesn’t include returning starters T.J. Greenstone, Rob Lohr and Tim Fugger, or guys like Walker May, Jared Morse and Johnell Thomas.
At linebacker, Chase Garnham often looked like one of the defense’s top players, and Tristan Strong also was a surprise.
On special teams, Carey Spear appears to have grabbed the full-time placekicking duties from Ryan Fowler, and Richard Kent has a rested leg – at least for now – and is booming punts.
On offense, Jordan Matthews and Zac Stacy seem head and shoulders above everybody else – literally in Matthews’ case and figuratively in the case of Z.
Among the freshmen playmakers, RB Jerron Seymour had the entire team buzzing about his ability to accelerate and to cut and make tacklers miss. Fellow RB Mitchell Hester and QB Josh Grady also look like keepers. The Tennessean’s Jeff Lockridge says Grady had good arm strength, which was something recruiting sites have been questioning over the past year or so.
Oh, and redshirt junior running back Micah Powell also got a mention for stepping in capably when Warren Norman got injured. With all the little backs we have, Micah may very well be needed to get some tough inside yards or throw some blocks.
On the line, Wesley Johnson and Kyle Fischer look much improved, and Mylon Brown, whom the Tennessean’s Jeff Lockridge says was slow, fat and lazy last year, looks like a powerhouse as a starting guard. And Josh Jelesky, who moved over from defensive tackle, was also a huge surprise. Jesse Johnson of VandySports.com says Jelesky still looks a little light in the lower body (he’s listed at 265) but he’s got great hand technique and is catching on fast. Of the true freshmen, Spencer Pulley turned in the best performance in camp and just may play this year.
Keep in mind that these ink-stained wretches — or tech geeks, take your pick — are trying to show their expertise and originality by mentioning some names they think the other writers won’t mention. Where’s the excitement in naming Chris Marve as one of the team’s top players?
Many veterans who’ve already grabbed starting positions – TE Brandon Barden, QB Larry Smith, OT Ryan Seymour, DE Tim Fugger and yes, Marve – weren’t mentioned by the writers. That’s nothing to be concerned about. Do we really want Chris Marve leaving it all on the practice field? No.
After opening kickoff, it'll be a whole new ballgame.