Monday, August 15, 2011

UPDATED: Why Franklin moved Wesley Tate to receiver

Just saw on the official VU athletic site that Wesley Tate has moved to wide receiver.

Obviously, Vandy needs wide receivers in the worst way, but not at the expense of a big, every-down back. But Jerron Seymour has emerged as a force, and James Franklin has been calling him an every-down back since the day he faxed in his letter of intent. He’s our every-down back, not Tate, who has the speed and strength but has lacked explosiveness when hitting holes. I can’t forget the blowout against Eastern Michigan last year when we kept giving Tate the ball on the goal line and he kept getting stuffed.

Franklin’s putting together a big puzzle here, and the pieces just fell into place:

1. Seymour has been bursting through holes, pounding defenders and running to daylight since he showed up on campus. We can’t keep this guy off the field.

2. Zac Stacy has lost 10 pounds at Franklin's behest and is now quicker and is what Franklin calls "Mr. Reliable," being able to get the yards he's supposed to get and then take one to the house every now and then.

2. Mitchell Hester’s looking great too, sticking his foot in the ground and making people miss. Franklin said today that he needs to stop cutting back all the time, which is typical for a young back. But he’s clearly going to get some carries.

3. Micah Powell’s had a solid camp and can handle some of the short stuff.

4. Meanwhile, Tate was still a factor at running back and would have played ahead of Powell, but he was not the dominating tailback that fans have fantasized about since he signed with the Commodores. He would have been a role player but not THE man, which coaches had hoped in the spring that he could be. Franklin discussed it Monday with the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge: "How big of a role? I haven’t determined that yet, but he would have played and contributed as a running back this year for us.”

4. Meanwhile, Jacquese Kirk is struggling with route running – he was primarily a cornerback in high school – and at 160 pounds is still awfully light to be taking on SEC cornerbacks.

5. Chris Boyd has been injured in camp and none of the other guys – Cole, Umoh, Dunham, Pruitt, Brady – has shown that he’s going to start separating from SEC cornerbacks.

6. The coaches have had time to watch film now and know that Cole struggles as a slot receiver to get open and then to advance the ball. No doubt they've been thinking about replacing him in the slot with Tate, who's bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic.

6. Lafonte Thourogood will need to put in some serious work at quarterback if he wants to play that position on the college level. Franklin has promised him a shot at quarterback and he’s not going back on his word, though he’s made it clear that Lafonte can say the word and change positions any time he wants. Looks like Lafonte is sticking with QB for the time being. The emergence of Josh Grady doesn’t really complicate things – Josh was supposed to be more polished and game-ready as a signal caller and we knew Lafonte was a work in progress as a quarterback. Just because he’s not the No. 3 QB this year doesn’t mean he won’t be No. 2 or even No. 1 next year. Bottom line, we may design some plays for Lafonte as a runner and receiver, but if we think he’s the quarterback of the future, we may redshirt him instead of moving him over to wide receiver for a year.

In summary, we think that Tate just didn’t have the stuff to be a top-flight SEC tailback but that with his speed and strength and, yes, bloodlines he could be a nice receiver, especially in the slot. If you disagree with the part about him dominating as a tailback, just note that Franklin said he "would have played and contributed" at running back this season. That's a positive thing to say, but not exactly a ringing endorsement when you're half a foot taller and 30 pounds heavier and faster than some of the guys ahead of you on the depth chart.

I like how Franklin has made so many moves. When he decides that a player isn't going to dominate at his current position, he moves him to another position that plays to his strengths. We saw him do it in the spring with Blake Southerland (whose career ended with an injury), Blake Gowder, Al Owens and Dexter Daniels. In the next few days, you're going to hear him praise Wesley for his progress at receiver, just like he's been praising Josh Jelesky for his work on the offensive line.

This doesn't mean he's going to start, though it very well could. It just means that he thinks he's matched Wes up with a position that suits him and he's going to give him plenty of encouragement.

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