Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vandy starts 10 different pass-catchers in first 3 games

With the release of the latest depth chart, we thought this would be a good time to point out how many different pass-catchers have started games for Vanderbilt.

In three games, we've started one quarterback (Larry Smith), one running back (Zac Stacy) and six offensive linemen (center Wesley Johnson, tackles Ryan Seymour and Kyle Fischer and guards Mylon Brown Jabo Burrow and Chase White, who replaced Burrow after a career-ending injury.

Though nobody doubts that James Franklin would pull a guy who's under performing, it also appears that he and his staff are trying to build continuity. Larry's struggled at times and Rodgers has gotten reps, but Larry's undoubtedly the starter. Zac was being stuffed repeatedly for no gain in the first three quarters against UConn while true freshman Jerron Seymour looked quicker and more effective but we've continued to play both and started Stacy against Ole Miss, and that turned out pretty good, huh?

As for the O-line, the only opening day starter not starting now is Burrow, whose playing days are over. Chase White started in his place against UConn and struggled a bit, but Franklin said he was sticking with him. Logan Stewart, who started the last half of last season at center, is returning from injury and played in mop-up duty Saturday but is not listed on the latest two-deep.

So Franklin and his staff have stuck with all the starters except the guys in pass-catching roles, where 10 different guys have filled the remaining four positions in the starting lineup.

• WR: Jordan Matthews, 6-3, 202, So.
• WR: Udom Umoh, 6-0, 180, R-Sr.
• TE: Brandon Barden, 6-5, 246, R-Sr.
• TE: Austin Monahan, 6-6, 242, R-Jr.

• WR: Chris Boyd, 6-3, 208, R-Fr.
• WR: John Cole, 5-11, 184, R-Jr.
• FB: Fitz Lassing, 6-3, 240, So.
• TE: Brandon Barden, 6-5, 246, R-Sr.

• WR: Jordan Matthews, 6-3, 202, So.
• WR: Jonathan Krause, 5-11, 184, So.
• WR: Wesley Tate, 6-1, 224, R-So.
• TE: Mason Johnston, 6-4, 242, R-So.

Barden was replaced by Johnston in the starting lineup against Ole Miss because of injury, and is now listed as a co-starter on the South Carolina depth chart with Austin Monahan, who started with Barden in a two tight end set in the Elon game.

Fullback Fitz Lassing, who plays like an H-back and is also an effective tight end, started against UConn.

At wide receiver, Matthews, the rage of spring and preseason practice, started the first game and then was replaced by Chris Boyd, who was Elon's daddy. Meanwhile, Udom Umoh and John Cole, the veterans of many an offensive debacle, took turns starting in the first two games.

We waited until the Ole Miss game to start with a three wide receiver lineup, going with Matthews; Krause, who became a fixture last year as a starter and has already carried the ball seven times this season on reverses; and Wesley Tate, the converted running back with the Golden bloodlines who's shown flashes of brilliance while learning the ropes.

As far as substitutes go, Akeem Dunham is listed as a second team receiver, while Trent Pruitt has played in every game on special teams. Walk-on Jamison Sackey has played in two games. Cole is currently injured and is not listed on the depth chart. Other possibilities include true freshman Jacquese Kirk, who's listed as a DB/WR; third-string quarterback Josh Grady; and fourth- or fifth-string quarterback Lafonte Thourogood; as well as sophomore Brady Brown, who's now sporting a cool Jesus haircut but has been apparently injured since the summer. None of those guys has played yet.

True freshman tight end Dillon van der Wal and walk-on fullback Marc Panu have each played in two games, with van der Wal getting some significant playing time spelling Barden after he got injured against UConn. Two other possibilities who haven't played yet include two true freshmen, Steven Scheu, who hasn't played this season but is an exciting prospect and a clone of Barden, and Darien Bryant, a touted prospect at tight end who's been working mostly at defensive end.

This week's depth chart lists the following:

WR: Matthews or Boyd
WR: Krause (Umoh second team)
WR: Tate (Dunham second team)
TE: Barden or Monahan (Johnston second team)
FB: Lassing (Johnston second team)

Of course, we can't start all five of these guys, so it'll depend on what set we open with. Continue to see Matthews and Boyd sharing the featured X-receiver role, with Krause settling into the Y-position and Tate becoming a permanent fixture in the Z/slot. Now that we're in SEC play, we need a big strong receiver in the slot who can run after the catch. John Cole is a tough little guy but now that we're entering SEC play, it's likely he may never start again even if he does return from injury.

While we're talking starters, Vandy has started 12 guys on defense this year, swapping only Javon Marshall for Kenny Ladler against Ole Miss, but those guys have been listed as co-starters every game this season.


Anonymous said...

Brady Brown is Vandy's Yancy Thigpen. As for John Cole, just bless his heart. He's had his best games against non-SEC competition. Never thought of him as a true SEC receiver.


Yes, remember how he torched Eastern Michigan last year? He could be All-MAC. We've dramatically upgraded our receiving corps in the last two years but still have work to do.

Anonymous said...

For the most part, CJF is getting the most from the WR core 3 games into the season. Until the O-line settles down with better pass-blocking, its hard to really know how good our wr core is. The wr's really have not had enough balls thrown thier way to make a true determination of how good they are relative to "1,2 or 3rd" wr. So far, LS must rely on 3 step (rather than 5 step) drops to get rid of the ball through 3 games (because of O-line pass-blocking issues); lets see how the core wr's perform after about 3-4 games against SEC corners / defenses. I feel that Krause , Mathews, Boyd are likely the top 3 WR's in no particular order. I don't think we can really determine a #1 wr until 3-4 games of SEC play. Cole has always appeared to be very talented and a good route runner but I always envisioned him as a kickoff or punt returner rather than an SEC wr. Never quite figured out why Brady Brown did not get an opportunity to get into the wr rotation other than poor position coaching by the previous staff. Brady Brown looks to be an undersized TE rather than a wr. Glad to see CJF moving some guys around (Tate) to find depth and potential playmakers at the wr position. Very impressed with the defense so far.


I still think Tate is a natural in the slot and could really own that position. And yeah, you're right that Cole is a punt returner.

Anonymous said...

Dimon (4:33pm), I totally agree with your comment regarding Tate in the slot. However, I would have him backup Krause at the slot and leave Boyd and Mathews on the outside. While Tate was recently moved to WR and is still learning the WR position, he appears to be a really good athlete. Boyd and Mathews appear to have the size to creat mismatches against smaller corners and man-to-man coverages. I feel that once our core wr's get some experience they will be a force to deal with. Go Dores !


All four of these guys can and will play a lot. I think Tate has a bigger upside longterm as a slot receiver than Krause but you're right that he's still developing. I can't wait until McDonald and Batey join these guys next year. Talk about some competition!

Jayden said...

as i alluded last week, Cole has gone down with a foot injury. 6 weeks minimum, potentially season-ending. this hurts us more in punt returns, but he was a polished guy who could find a soft spot in a zone for a crucial 6 yard gain. similar physical abilities to Umoh, but 10x better hands.

As for Krause, he is a phenomenal route runner, and can do a lot of the little things to gain space and separation, but currently lacks the size and toughness needed to hang in there mentally for a full game against SEC monsters at cb

Dimon said...

Think Cole returns for a fifth year?

Anonymous said...

Dimon, Cole is a good player and I'm sure a very solid young man with a great future post graduation. I think he will likely see the writing on the wall relative to playing time and contributions to this team (realative to a 5th year) with the next recruiting class of wr's coming in. I doubt he sticks around for a 5th year. CJF appears to have really upgraded the WR position with the younger WR's and has 2-3 more solid WR recruits coming in to compete for time next season. Cole is a good guy and will do well after he graduates. Go Dores !

Anonymous said...

Cole's injuries have really been his limiting factor. I think he has the ability to perform well in the SEC. And I think he makes an excellent slot receiver, creating match-up problems with linebackers with his speed and quickness. He also is probably our best blocking wide receiver despite his size, which says something against our other guys.

I envision the slot receiver as the exact opposite of a "big, strong guy to play the slot" that you stated in your write-up. I think you put your big guys on the outside, and your smaller guys in the slot a la Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, etc. I thought Cole & Krause made the best slot guys, with Matthews & Boyd on the outside.

I personally would love to have him back a 5th year and do believe he could still provide solid contributions to the team despite the recruiting classes. His route running and blocking are tops on the team at the position. His ability to consistently field punts and save us field position is also a very underrated skill. Unfortunately, I think with his injury history, it might be best for him to move on to other post-graduation opportunities and be able to hopefully walk without pain when he's 40 years old.

jayden said...

Cole is good at route-running and blocking, but is certainly not the best on the team at either. Right now, there are still too many variables to say whether he'll be back or not. Despite the early success of this season, CJF is still looking at the big picture of the program. If he gets some boom-or-bust WR prospects, he might take a chance and get rid of the steady but unspectacular Cole.

Anonymous said...

I think we should definitely bring Cole back for a 5th yr. Hes solid and provides depth, seemed to have improved a lot from last yr to this yr. May not crack the rotation but hes a good guy to have around as insurance

Anonymous said...

Heres how I break down the RS-Jr who will or wont be invited back, would love to hear your thoughts Dimon

Definitely Coming Back: Archibald Barnes, DeAndre Jones, Richard Kent, Rob Lohr, Austin Monahan (though with Van Der Wal, Scheu, Bryant, Johnston, and Lassing may not be invited back), Colt Nichter, Jordan Rodgers, Ryan Seymour, Tristan Strong, Johnell Thomas

Possibly Coming Back: John Cole, Josh Jelesky, Caleb Welchans

Gone: Jabo Burrow, Dexter Daniels, Akeem Dunham, Ryan Fowler, Taylor Loftley, Al Owens, Jameson Sackey, Micah Powell

Anonymous said...

As strange as this sounds, it may be the wr play that dictates how well we do this upcoming stretch of SEC games. It appears that our running game is getting better and more reliable. However there will come a stretch of games when LS and the WR's will have to make plays to convert 3rd downs and "keep the chains moving" and give the defense some rest. From what I have seen so far, the wr core is much improved over the last few seasons yet are very young. CJF style is so different from the last coaching staff(s) that we can completely ignore whatever any wr did last season and judge them on performance this season. The O-line must give LS more time to make his reads / progressions for us to have any chance of beating SC this weekend. Go Dores !


Your R-JR list looks solid. Sackey is a walk-on and is paying his own way.

jayden said...

Dunham was injured in practice this week. If it holds him out for even just a few weeks, his window could be closed completely. It's a shame too, cause he's one of the few receivers with the size and bulk you really look for in the SEC, but he never could get perform with the pads on.