There are only a few changes to the depth chart for the Ole Miss game. You know how our main concerns going into this season were quarterback, receivers and offensive line? We felt good about all three of these after the opener against Elon, and now... not so good, huh? And these concerns are apparent from the latest depth chart.
Of course, not many concerns about the defense, where the same guys have started every game, and we've got former starters like Greenstone and Ladler providing depth. The biggest weakness on the D was supposedly outside linebacker (i.e. anybody not named Marve) but Chase Garnham and Tristan Strong are really flying around and looking sharp, and so is Archibald Barnes.
In our regular rotation, we're playing 10 defensive linemen (starters Lohr, Nichter, Greenstone, Fugger and Thomas, and reserves Morse, Taylor, Woestmann, May, McHaney), five linebackers (Marve, Garnham, Strong, Barnes and Jones) and 11 defensive backs (starters Hayward, Wilson, Richardson and Marshall, and reserves Ladler (listed as a co-starter), Butler, Clarke, Foster, Hal, Samuels and Simmons).
Not quite as set in stone on offense, where five wide receivers (Boyd, Cole, Krause, Matthews and Umoh) have started so far this season. Matthews, supposedly one of our best overall players, has struggled a bit. Maybe that's because he's been the target of opposing defenses or Larry can't get him the ball because he doesn't have protection from his offensive line or he just can't hit the broad side of a barn or he doesn't have the mental fortitude to perform under pressure or see any Vanderbilt chat board for more reasons. (By the way, you may notice that we at MV! don't spend a lot of time whining about Larry Smith and calling for his ouster. We like Larry, right now he's the best quarterback we've got, we've been pulling for him since he committed out of Prattville, Ala., and we'll continue to pull for him.)
But any way you look at it, the offense is a huge concern. Larry's still the starter and Rodgers the backup, so no changes to the QB depth chart at this time, but Franklin's got to be concerned about (1) the line's ability to protect the quarterback and (2) the quarterback's ability to make plays when everything breaks down and especially (3) the quarterback's ability to stay alive after taking such a beating game after game. I think we're gonna see Josh Grady before the SEC season is very old.
We've had six starters so far on the offensive line, with redshirt freshman Chase White replacing redshirt junior Jabo Burrow, whose career ended with an injury sustained in the Elon game. Franklin said in yesterday's press conference that he was pleased with Chase as a human being for accepting the challenge and playing his best, but that he's not satisfied with the way he played. In other words, Chase is going to continue to get better — and fast — or somebody else is going to be playing in his place. Other candidates include:
• Redshirt junior Caleb Welchans, who's been playing and starting occasionally for three years now
• Redshirt freshman Andrew Bridges, who's being groomed to play tackle
• Redshirt junior Josh Jelesky, a recent convert from the defensive line who hasn't played yet this season but is the newest addition to the depth chart at backup right guard
• True freshmen Spencer Pulley and Joe Townsend, who both played against Elon. Other possibilities include redshirt freshman Grant Ramsay and true freshmen Jake Bernstein, James Lewis and Jose Valedon.
In other depth chart news, Akeem Dunham remains listed at second team though he didn't play against UConn; Warren Norman continues to be listed at second team and Franklin insists he's ready to play when we need him; Mason Johnston is now listed at both fullback and tight end as a backup.
Speaking of tight end, we'll be seeing more of Dillon van der Wal, who got his first action on Saturday against UConn, especially if Barden can't return right away from injury. Also, Vince Taylor was the other player who saw his first action against UConn; I think Vince will be a real standout by the end of the season.