If all these national stories about The Little Vanderbilt That Could are sounding familiar, that’s because… THE SAME THING HAPPENED THREE YEARS AGO!
I found it unbelievable that a sportswriter from Tennessee, Roy Exum of Chattanooga, wrote after the Ole Miss victory that Vanderbilt was 3-0 for the first time since World War II.
Um, Roy, remember 2008? Vandy started 5-0? Hosted GameDay? Was ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation? Won its first bowl game since the Eisenhower administration?
It’s a shame that so many folks have already forgotten how remarkable it was that Bobby Johnson led Vandy to a winning record and a bowl victory in 2008. It was a huge step for this program. Clearly, Johnson and his staff weren’t the right people to take us to the next step, but they’re the ones who accomplished the thankless task of getting a group of kids to believe in themselves when the rest of the world believed they were cursed to be losers forever.
This current Vanderbilt team is nowhere near the band of losers that Bobby Johnson inherited in 2002. Now James Franklin and his merry band of coaches are picking up where Johnson and his staff left off.
Of our current players:
• Four started in the Music City Bowl as freshmen.
• Five played in the Music City Bowl as freshmen.
• Two played but had season-ending injuries during the winning 2008 season.
• 17 redshirted and watched the Music City Bowl from the sidelines.
• Six committed before the winning 2008 season.
• Two committed after the regular season but before the bowl victory.
• Five committed after the Music City Bowl victory, signing in 2009.
• 14 committed after the bowl victory, kept their commitment after the losing 2009 season and signed in 2010.
In other words, 55 of our 85 current scholarship players either played in the Music City Bowl, watched from the sidelines as official team members or committed to a defending bowl champion.
These guys considered themselves a part of that Music City championship team before the losing season of 2009. In other words, these guys were winners and thought they were joining a winner.
Here’s a complete breakdown of our current roster:
Current Vandy players who played in the Music City Bowl:
• LB Chris Marve: Redshirt freshman started every game at middle linebacker and was a freshman All-American; led the team in bowl with 10 tackles
• TE Brandon Barden: Redshirt freshman started last nine games of season and was a major offensive weapon, scoring winning TD against Auburn; one reception in bowl
• QB Larry Smith: Redshirt freshman got his first start in bowl, opened with two long passes to Sean Walker; 10-17 for 121 yards and no interceptions.
• OG/OT Kyle Fischer: Redshirt freshman started last half of season, playing guard against Boston College’s hulking front in bowl.
• WR Udom Umoh: Redshirt freshman played in every game in 2008, in bowl led team in receptions (3) and tackles in special teams coverage (4)
• DT T.J. Greenstone: One of only three defensive tackles to play in 2008; started two games as redshirt freshman, recorded four tackles in bowl game, one for loss.
• DE Tim Fugger: Worked himself into regular rotation as redshirt freshman, had a tackle in bowl.
• CB Casey Hayward: Special teams coverage ace as true freshman, and played shut-down coverage in bowl after D.J. Moore was injured.
• S Sean Richardson: True freshman played special teams and scored team’s only touchdown in bowl by recovering fumbled punt.
MAJOR BOWL CONTRIBUTORS
Current Vandy players who saw playing time in winning 2008 season before getting injured:
• TE Austin Monahan: Four-game starter as true sophomore before season-ending injury against Ole Miss.
• WR John Cole: Returned punts as true freshman in opener against Miami-Ohio, but suffered season-ending injury in that game.
BOWL TEAM MEMBERS
Current Vandy players who redshirted in 2008 and were on sidelines at Music City Bowl:
• DT Rob Lohr (Listed as second team during 2008 but three-man rotation stayed healthy and he never played)
• DT Colt Nichter (Also traveled with team and was prepared to play but wasn’t needed)
• DE/OL Ryan Seymour
• DE Johnell Thomas
• LB Tristan Strong
• LB Archibald Barnes
• LB DeAndre Jones
• OL Caleb Welchans
• P Richard Kent (Walk-on who became starter after bowl MVP Brett Upson graduated)
• WR Akeem Dunham
• S/LB Al Owens
• S/LB/RB Micah Powell
• PK Ryan Fowler
• DE/OL Josh Jelesky
• LB/DE Dexter Daniels
• DT Taylor Loftley
• DE/OL Jabo Burrow (Suffered career-ending injury this season but still part of team)
Current Vandy players who verbally committed before the 2008 season, kept their commitment and signed about a month after the Music City Bowl victory:
• CB/RB/S Eric Samuels (Our first commitment in the recruiting class of 2009)
• RB Zac Stacy
• RB Warren Norman
• TE Mason Johnston
• DE Walker May
• WR Brady Brown
POST-REGULAR SEASON COMMITMENTS
Current Vandy players who committed to Vanderbilt after the 2008 season and before the Music City Bowl:
• OT/OG Mylon Brown
• OT/C Wesley Johnson
Current Vandy players who committed to Vanderbilt after the Music City Bowl:
• CB Trey Wilson
• CB/S Javon Marshall
• CB Eddie Foster
• DE Thad McHaney
• RB/WR Wesley Tate
Current Vandy players who committed to Vandy’s 2010 signing class after the Music City Bowl and – unlike Davis Dudchock and Bradley Roby, who jumped ship to Stanford and Ohio State, respectively – kept their word and stayed with the Commodores after the miserable 2-10 season of 2009:
• DE Thomas Ryan (First verbal commitment)
• S Kenny Ladler
• S Karl Butler
• WR Jonathan Krause
• WR Chris Boyd
• OG/C Logan Stewart
• OT/OG Chase White
• OG Grant Ramsay
• DT Jared Morse
• DT Vince Taylor
• DE Kyle Woestmann
• CB Andre Hal
• WR Trent Pruitt
• S Andre Simmons (Committed after Vandy’s encouraging early-season loss to LSU in Death Valley)
Current Vandy players who committed to Vanderbilt after the miserable season of 2009 was over:
• QB Jordan Rodgers (JUCO transfer)
• WR Jordan Matthews
• TE/FB Fitz Lassing
• OT Andrew Bridges
• CB Steven Clarke
• PK Carey Spear
• LB Chase Garnham
• LB Blake Gowder
• LB/SN Andrew East (Signed late after death of commitment Rajaan Bennett)
Current Vandy players who committed before the miserable 2-10 season of 2010:
• OT James Lewis (First commitment)
• OG Jake Bernstein
• DE/DT Conor Hart
Current Vandy players who committed during the miserable 2-10 season of 2010:
• OG Spencer Pulley
• OT/C Jose Valedon
• CB Derek King
POST-FRANKLIN HIRING COMMITMENTS
Current Vandy players who committed after the hiring of James Franklin:
• CB/WR Jacquese Kirk
• S Jahmel McIntosh (de-committed from Memphis)
• S Andrew Williamson
• S Larry Franklin
• TE Dillon van der Wal (de-committed from Arizona State)
• TE Steven Scheu
• DT Barron Dixon (de-committed from Mississippi State)
• QB Lafonte Thourogood (de-committed from Virginia Tech)
• RB Jerron Seymour
• TE/DE Darien Bryant
• LB/DE Jimmy Stewart
• QB Josh Grady
• QB Kris Kentera
• DT/C Joe Townsend (de-committed from MTSU)
Players who would still be on the roster if they hadn’t left the team early:
• OT James Williams (left school)
• DT/OG Rob Ashabranner (left school)
• OT Michael Bryant (left school)
• OT Richard Cagle (left school)
• DT/OG/C James Kittredge (suspended; transferred to Michigan State)
• OL Justin Cabbagestalk (career-ending injury)
• RB Jermaine Doster (left school)
• WR/CB/S Jamie Graham (graduated, transferred to UCLA for last year of eligibility)
• WR Collin Ashley (left school)
• S Jay Fullam (transferred to Air Force Academy)
• QB Charlie Goro (left school)
• LB/FB Blake Southerland (career-ending injury)