Saturday, November 26, 2011

What are your thoughts on the bowl-bound Commodores?

So we just destroyed Wake Forest 41-7 and are likely headed to either the Liberty Bowl or Music City Bowl.

This time last year, with two victories and no head coach and smarting from a blowout at the hands of the Demon Deacs, who'd have thought we'd be headed to a bowl.

We've got a heck of a head coach. Oh, and we've got a 1,000-yard rusher in Zac Stacy. And blue-chip recruits lining up to play for us. And we finished with an impressive road victory.

And did we mention that Tennessee is staying home?

What are your thoughts on this special season?

Donkeys fly, hell freezes over, UK beats UT and...

Vanderbilt just made a field goal.

We're leading Wake Forest 3-0 after forcing a Wake fumble on the game's opening possession.

James Franklin's being saying all week that Carey Spear would be our field goal kicker this week but then Ryan Fowler appeared on the field to boot the 33-yarder.

I'm sure that really tricked the Demon Deacs. But hey, maybe the best way to take pressure off our kicker is to make him think he's not kicking.

Yep, Tennessee always beats the you-know-what out of Kentucky!

Well, Derek Dooley's not celebrating today like he just won the Super Bowl. He's not saying that his team always beats the you-know-what out of Kentucky. Oh, and he's not making hotel reservations for late December in Nashville or Memphis.

Know why?

Because Mr. Orange Pants just led the Vols to their first LOSS TO KENTUCKY IN 25 YEARS.


Vanderbilt's future's bright regardless of how the Wake Forest game turns out

About 30 minutes from kickoff in Winston-Salem and I'm pulling for the Wildcats over the Vols in Lexington.

Yeah, it would be nice for the Commodores to play a bowl game in either Nashville or Memphis, and for the Vols to play in a bowl game, well, nowhere.

Of course, while the Cats just forced a punt and are trying their best to take care of business, the Commodores must take care of business too.

I'm not nervous about this one, though. I think we've got a decent chance to beat Wake Forest and I believe we'll play much better than we did last week. But I also believe that we don't need to win this game for the season to be a success. Sure, it'd be really nice to get another month of practice.

But I'm not going to freak out if we lose. Think what we've learned about this team since September:

1. We've found us an outstanding head coach.
2. We've got an offense that can find a way to move the ball and score against top-flight SEC defenses.
3. We've found a quarterback, we've developed a decent offensive line, and our receivers are making tough catches in traffic against SEC defensive backs.
4. We're getting commitments in droves from SEC-caliber players.
5. We're taking Top 5 teams to the wire.
6. We're nearly unstoppable on our home turf.
7. The future has never been brighter if you're a Commodore fan.

None of this changes if we lose today, but heck, let's top it off with a something we haven't done this season (win a road game) and do something nobody thought we could do (win six games and go to a bowl.

Let's do it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vandy likely bowling in Birmingham if it beats Wake Forest

At last night’s press conference, James Franklin finally made reference to a bowl berth, without saying the “B” word. He said, “I love these guys and I want to play with them as long as I can, and the only way I can do this is to win this week.”

If Vandy does beat Wake Forest to become bowl eligible, he’d likely get six full weeks to prepare for a bowl game. That’s because, with the loss to UT, Vandy likely fell to No. 10 in the bowl order.

Here’s the order of bowls with SEC tie-ins by payout:

1. BCS Championship Game: Jan. 9, New Orleans, La.
2. Sugar Bowl: Jan. 3, New Orleans, La.
3. Capital One Bowl: Jan. 2, Orlando, Fla.
4. Cotton Bowl: Jan. 6, Arlington, Texas
5. Outback Bowl: Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla.
6. Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Dec. 31, Atlanta, Ga.
7. Gator Bowl: Jan. 2, Jacksonville, Fla.
8. Music City Bowl: Dec. 30, Nashville, Tenn.
9. Liberty Bowl: Dec. 31, Memphis, Tenn.
10. Compass Bowl: Jan. 7, Birmingham, Ala.

If Vandy had won Saturday, it would have bounced UT from the bowl picture, leaving nine SEC teams and lining up the Commodores for a berth in either the Music City Bowl or Liberty Bowl. And if Florida had lost next week to FSU, and Vandy had beaten Wake Forest, then at 7-5 Vandy would have likely garnered a Chick-Fil-A Bowl berth over a 6-6 Florida team.

Instead, we collapsed in Knoxville. Now if Vandy wins in Winston-Salem on Saturday, which is a shaky thing to count on, then the Commodores will likely land a bid in the Compass Bowl, which plays on Jan. 7 and gives James Franklin lots of practice time. I can think of much better places to spend the first Saturday in January than ancient Legion Field in Birmingham, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Unless Tennessee loses to Kentucky, which would likely send Vandy to replace the Vols in the Liberty Bowl.

Unless Mississippi State somehow loses to Ole Miss in Houston Nutt’s finale, which would likely send the Commodores back to the Music City Bowl.

I know, I know. We’ve got to beat Wake Forest, and that won’t be easy.

James Franklin: "Wait till we've been here two years"

Listen to what James Franklin said in his postgame press conference when a reporter asked why Vandy can’t get over the hump:

“We’ve won 5 games — we’ve won 4 games in the last two years combined. Our kids fight and compete every single week. We’re recruiting better than ever. The culture’s been changed.

“We still got steps to take like everybody in the country but the culture has changed. These kids have invested, the coaches have invested, we’ve competed and played against everybody, everybody in the league, and we’ve been here 11 months.

“Wait till we’ve been here two years. You’ll see real culture change, I can guarantee you that.”

He did mention “obscure calls” from officials and injuries to the offensive line but his message was that his team played “awful” in the first half and still found a way to compete, and that he takes full responsibility and that “I’m gonna get it fixed.” When somebody asked what Tennessee did to stop his offense, he said: “They didn’t. It was us. We didn’t play well. You’ve got to run the offense, you can’t turn the ball over.”

As he left the field last night, Franklin yelled to the UT fans. “We’ll be back,” he said.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

So where's James Franklin's press conference?

I was particularly interested to hear Franklin's press conference after the game. But right now the official Vandy athletic site only has some postgame quotes from him.

No video, which usually pops up within an hour of the final horn.

Meanwhile, video from Dooley's entire postgame press conference is posted on the Vol's site. Plus, Houston Nutt and Joker Phillips both sat and talked about blowout losses to the Commodores while they were separated by only a flimsy wall from the Vandy locker room, which was rocking with noisy celebration, and those rather painful interviews were posted on their school's sites soon after they were taken.

Three thoughts on yet another Vandy nightmare

1. We played terrible, took the lead and then found a way to lose.
2. The refs did blow the whistle to kill the play. No way a referee was going to turn on his microphone in Neyland Stadium and say the touchdown was nullified because they blew the whistle. But they did blow the whistle.
3. Same old Vanderbilt. What else can you say? A pick six to lose in overtime? It could only happen to Vanderbilt. Yeah, we've found a great coach, but we're still inventing new ways to lose.

Archibald Barnes! Archibald Barnes! Archibald Barnes!

We'd be dead in the water without Archie, who has two interceptions and 128 return yards. With UT driving for another score and a 21-7 lead, Archie grabbed a Tyler Bray pass and sped 100 yards for a touchdown.

His legs were moving so fast his No. 15 looked like No. 16 and for a second I thought it was Eddie Foster, a former starting cornerback who's one of the fastest guys on the team but has been relegated to special teams.

With all the redshirt juniors screwing up for so far, Archibald's one redshirt who I guarantee you will be welcomed with open arms next season.

Let's get this win!

In the past, we've played great and then blown the game in the end. Today, we're playing terrible and we're tied with the Vols and have the moment.

We'll take it.


Good Lord.

With Vandy down 14-7 at the start of the second half, Jordan Rodgers hits Chris Boyd for a 72-yard pass play. Boyd's tackled on the Vol 1-yard line.

But while Chris is battling toward the goal line, Josh Jelesky is clipping a Tennessee defender. And after Jordan had made the throw.

It's one thing to miss a field goal or trip over your own feet, but it's quite another to do something that freaking stupid.

We've been giddily declaring for weeks that this isn't the Same Old Vandy. It make take a bit longer to be sure of that. In the past 15 years or so, we've finished plenty of seasons with five victories.

If we don't pull our head out, that just may happen again.

By the way, UT's about to score again.

Hey Colby Cooke, can you enroll at Vandy right away?

Meet our next field goal kicker. His name’s Colby Cooke, and sure, he looks like a computer programmer, but he can’t be any worse than Carey Spear, who missed two first-half kicks against Bama and shanked a game-tying kick at the buzzer against Arkansas, or Ryan Fowler, who just missed two field goals in the first half against Tennessee.

Cooke’s supposed to grayshirt because Spear’s returning next season and Fowler will be a redshirt senior who may or may not be invited to return. Hey, might want to call Colby and tell him he can go ahead and plan to enroll in the summer of 2012 instead of spring 2013 as planned.

At halftime, we have more yards than UT (175-126), four more first downs and nearly 10 more minutes of possession.

But Jordan Rodgers looks shaky, fumbling on the first possession, throwing an interception on the second, killing a drive by falling tripping on his own feet and falling down on third down, and missing a wide-open Chris Boyd in the end zone toward the end of the half, just before Fowler hooked a 34-field goal to the left.

On the bright side, we did actually score our first touchdown in the first half of a road game this season. Before this game, we’d been outscored 45-3 in the first half on the road.

We should be winning in Knoxville right now. We shot ourselves in the foot just like we did in the first half in Gainesville. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the Vandy locker room right now.

Give ’em hell, Coach.

Don't chalk up a Vanderbilt victory over Tennessee yet

You can feel everybody in Knoxville, including fans, media and especially a certain head coach fond of wearing orange pants, preparing themselves for a loss to Vandy.

The Vols, the story goes, are far less experienced than the Commodores, and thanks to the nefarious Lane Kiffin have been stripped of talent. It’ll take a couple of years at least to rebuild.

Meanwhile, James Franklin, who seems more grounded to his home planet than does Derek “Feed the Orange Dog” Dooley, has inherited an experienced and surprisingly talented team.

There’s an element of truth to all of this, and some Vandy fans are already celebrating what they think is an inevitable victory in Knoxville, and some Vols season ticket holders are planning to sit this one out.

But the truth remains that Tennessee has no business losing to Vandy. I love it when people ask James Franklin about the “rivalry” with Tennessee. After repeating his well-known philosophy about six seconds and one game at a time, he says that it may be a rivalry for Vanderbilt but it’s not much of a rivalry for Tennessee.

Think about it. Who are Tennessee’s rivals? Alabama and Florida. And they now finish their season with Kentucky, which has been much more competitive than we have over the past decade.

Would Vols fans be poor-mouthing their team if they were 1-point underdogs to Alabama or Florida? No way. They’d have started tailgating days ago.

So is Vandy more experienced than Tennessee? Yes. Vandy starters, on average, are redshirt juniors, while the Vols are redshirt sophomores. The Commodores have eight senior starters to the Vols four, while the Vols have six true freshman starters to zero for the Dores.

Now what about talent? Despite all the talent that’s either transferred from Knoxville or been removed by the long arm of the law, the Vols starters had an average of 3.3 stars from Scouts when they were being recruitied, while the Vandy starters had an average of 2.2 stars. In fact, UT has more 4 and 5 star starters than Vandy has 3 star starters.

Sure, stars don’t matter much. Just don’t try to say that Vandy has the same caliber of talent as the Vols. We’re improving our talent at a rapid rate, and yes, Franklin has a far more talented team than the one Bobby Johnson inherited in 2002. But Tennessee is still bigger, faster, stronger and has more playmakers on both sides of the ball than we do.

Just look at the offensive lines. Vandy’s O-line averages 290 pounds. UT’s averages 320 pounds.

Can we win this game? Absolutely. But as game time approaches, we need to keep things in perspective. Tennessee has far more talent than any team we’ve beaten this year, and we’re playing them on the road, where James Franklin has never won a game as a head coach.

The Vols could have a breakout game and easily win this thing. At least, that’s what a student of history would say. But it appears that Franklin’s Commodores are having the kind of year that laughs in the face of history.

My point is, it’s not a done deal. We’re going to have to wait until it happens, and hopefully it will happen tonight.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's not even close: Franklin closes the gap at Vandy

This time last year, David Williams was trying to decide whether to retain Robbie Caldwell, and we here at Moral Victory! were wondering if it mattered that Vanderbilt under Caldwell was losing every game by four or five touchdowns, compared to the days when Bobby Johnson was losing the same number of games, but losing them by one touchdown.

Of course, it did matter to Williams, who after last season’s home loss to Florida said, "There's losing and there's losing. To be down 41-0 at halftime that wasn't one of my happiest days."

Happy days are here again.

So far, James Franklin has won half his games in his first season, and his most of his losses have been close ones — painfully close.

Last year, we calculated how Vandy coaches since Watson Brown rank in winning percentage, and, just for kicks, if you spot them a field goal and a touchdown. Here are the rankings with Franklin’s results so far this year:

1. Franklin: 5-5 (50%)
2. DiNardo: 19-25 (43.2%), never bowl eligible
3. Johnson: 29-66 (30.5%), bowl eligible once, one bowl victory
4. Widenhofer: 15-40 (27.3%), never bowl eligible
5. Dowhower: 4-18 (18.9%), never bowl eligible
6. Brown 10-45 (18.9%), never bowl eligible
7. Caldwell: 2-10 (16.7%), never bowl eligible

1. Franklin: 6-4 (60%)
2. DiNardo: 22-22 (50%), twice bowl eligible
3. Johnson: 45-50 (47.4%), bowl eligible five times
4. Widenhofer: 23-32 (41.8%), bowl eligible once
5. Brown 17-38 (30.9%), bowl eligible once
6. Caldwell: 3-9 (25%), never bowl eligible
7. Dowhower: 4-18 (18.9%), never bowl eligible

1. Franklin: 8-2 (80%)
2. DiNardo: 27-17 (61.4%), four times bowl eligible (in four seasons)
3. Johnson: 56-39 (59%), six times bowl eligible (in eight seasons)
4. Widenhofer: 26-29 (47.3%), bowl eligible twice (in five seasons)
5. Brown 25-30 (45.5%), bowl eligible twice (in five seasons)
6. Dowhower: 8-14 (36.4%), never bowl eligible
7. Caldwell: 3-9 (25%), never bowl eligible

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Simmons arrest has nothing to do with James Franklin's new culture of winning at Vanderbilt

The Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge is reporting that sophomore safety Andre Simmons has been arrested and is being held on $100,000 after allegedly being involved in the armed robbery of $5,000 cash from a safe in another Vandy student's dorm room.

When I was a Vandy student, I always took precautions and never kept more than a couple grand in my safe. Also, I never told anybody I had a safe. Not even myself. In fact, I don't think I even had a safe.

Anyway, the Vol fan base is naturally equating the fact that the Commodores are favored to beat Tennessee (something that most Vol fans seem to believe) with the news that Vandy quite possibly has a thug on their team.

Which leads to the assumption that James Franklin has relaxed recruiting standards and is now signing players who lack the character and the intellect of past Vandy players, all in the name of winning.

But who recruited Andre Simmons?

It was Bobby Johnson, not Franklin. But even then, Simmons, a three-star player from Lorton, Va., was a member of the National Honor Society and not the kind of kid you'd expect to get into a scrape with the law.

Vols fans are talking like we're going to just sweep this under the rug. I guarantee you that Franklin kicks him off the team if he's guilty of the charges. Simmons has already been suspended indefinitely.

Sure, it's not that big of a loss. Simmons played in only one game all season, on special teams against Elon. We've got three other sophomore safeties who are better — Kenny Ladler, Javon Marshall and Karl Butler (who's currently listed as a backup linebacker). And we've got junior Eric Samuels and a bunch of promising freshmen who are redshirting — Larry Franklin, Jahmel McIntosh and Andrew Williamson.

And sure, we could use the scholarship to sign another receiver or offensive lineman.

But I believe James Franklin would boot anybody off the team who did what Simmons is alleged to have done. No question.

Sure, this is not the Same Old Vandy. But that's because we're about to win three consecutive games in November, not because we just had a kid apparently go astray, which could have happened on any past Vandy team and on any college campus in America.

Franklin will deal with it swiftly, and I don't expect this to become a trend comparable to those in other SEC football programs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Derek Dooley prepares for Vandy by feeding his team's spirit

James Franklin has his team focusing on doing the best job they can for six seconds at a time, and taking one opponent at a time. Week after week, he sounds like a broken record, but the Commodores are getting better every Saturday.

And Derek Dooley? What’s he telling the media?

Check out these quotes from Monday’s press conference:

• “We’re on the ropes — we’re not out yet.”

• “It’s so important that our team feeds their spirit with some positive thoughts.”

• He said his team needs to be “solution-oriented” not “results-focused.”

• On Vandy: “Nobody can never pull away from them.”

• On what he’ll tell his team if the Vols don’t make it to a bowl this year: “We need to stay on Vandy. We’ll get through the Vandy game and see how we perform there.”

• “This one game is not going to impact our entire program the next 3 years, I’m not approaching it that way. It’s a big game for this season. If we don’t win we don’t go to a bowl.”

Wow. Sounds like he’s preparing his fan base for a loss. He knows this is going to be a tough game against a well-prepared team that’s feeling confident.

Remember, it’s so important that his team feeds their spirit with some positive thoughts.

Still, Tennessee has the 4- and 5-star athletes and we don’t. Tennessee has the tradition and we don’t. Tennessee has 100,000 screaming fans and we don’t. I’m looking forward to Saturday and I hope we win, but I’ll have to see it to believe it.

For Vanderbilt, a slightly better offense yields dramatically different results

For the first time in five years, Vanderbilt has a double-digit ranking for total offense. Right now, the Commodores are No. 99.

Here's our total offense ranking for the four previous seasons:
• 2010: No. 110
• 2009: No. 110
• 2008: No. 117
• 2007: No. 103

It's amazing to think we had a winning season in 2008 with such a terrible offense. This season, we're gaining per game about 30 more yards on the ground, 50 more yards in the air, and seven more points a game than we did in 2008.

And while we're only gaining about 35 more yards per game than we did last season, we're scoring 10 more points a game.

Here's how our stats compare to last season:
• Rushing offense: 162.2 ypg (No. 59), up from 138.8 ypg (80)in 2010
• Passing offense: 172.5 ypg (100), up from 159.4 ypg (105)
• Total offense: 334.9 ypg (99), up from 298.3 ypg (110)
• Scoring offense: 26.1 ppg (68), up from 16.9 ppg (112)

No, our offense isn't dramatically better in yards gained, but we've taken risks to break long plays (Franklin calls them "explosive plays") when we can't move the ball consistently. Lately, though, we've started moving the ball consistently, at least consistently for us. That's why we had fewer explosive plays against Kentucky in one of our most dominating offensive performances of the season.

The key to our offensive improvement has been our wide receivers. Sure, the offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds, and in Rodgers we found the quarterback we've been looking for. But the biggest difference is that we've found two legitimate receiving threats in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Since the Arkansas game, those guys have been making tough grabs in traffic. Watching the Kentucky game on Saturday, as Boyd and then Matthews made big catches to set up another big run by Zac Stacy, I thought how far we've come since last season, when our two top receiving threats were John Cole and Udom Umoh.

And this better offense has made our defense, which was already much improved, dramatically better because it's kept them off the field. Here's how our defense compares to last year's:
• Rushing defense: 122.9 ypg (No. 32), compared to 193.0 ypg (100) in 2010
• Passing defense: 204.7 ypg (39), compared to 226.3 ypg (75)
• Total defense: 327.6 ypg (22), compared to 419.2 ypg (93)
• Scoring defense: 21.6 ppg (31), compared to 31.2 ppg (94)

This year, we're scoring 10 more points a game and we're allowing 10 fewer points a game.

And we're hitting our stride. When's the last time a Vanderbilt team was better in November than it was in September or October?

This team is better. Now let's go beat the Vols in Knoxville!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Franklin expands Vandy senior day, boosts level of competition

In years past, senior day at Vanderbilt has always been interesting because the redshirt juniors who are definitely graduating and leaving school are honored, and the ones who are probably staying with the team for another year are not.

James Franklin has changed this. On Saturday, every player who's on campus for his fourth year (or in the case of JC transfers like Jordan Rodgers, his second year) will be honored on senior day.

I love it. At this point, with three games remaining to be played and with the staff working on more big recruiting commitments, it would be impossible to know who's staying and who's not. Franklin said that some guys might be honored again next year "if they choose to do that," saying again that "they have the choice to do that."

I guarantee you he doesn't mean that every redshirt junior on scholarship will have the option of returning next year, though he worded it vaguely to avoid questions — and the media obliged by nodding like sheep and moving on to the next question.

This time last year, we honored only two redshirt juniors, Ryan van Rensburg and Tray Herndon, on senior day. Of the redshirt juniors not honored, only Jamie Graham eventually left the team, graduating and choosing to play out his last year of eligibility at UCLA, where he went to graduate school. The other seven (Barden, Fischer, Umoh, Marve, Fugger, Smith and Monahan) have been pillars of the team this season. Monahan, by the way, has since been granted another year of eligibility and is once again listed as a redshirt junior.

After Franklin arrived and signed his first class, we had 90 scholarships tied up, which meant we needed to part with five players. By the time preseason camp rolled around, we'd parted ways with:
• R-SR defensive back Jamie Graham, who graduated and went to UCLA.
• R-SO quarterback Charlie Goro, who transferred to South Dakota after apparently falling out of favor with Franklin who when asked about Goro's departure talked about his expectations for players on and off the field.
• R-SO offensive lineman Justin Cabbagestalk, with a career-ending injury
• SO offensive lineman James Kittredge, who was suspended and then transferred to Michigan State
• R-SO safety Jay Fullam, who transferred to the Air Force Academy to follow his dreams of becoming a fighter pilot.

Since then, two more players — redshirt freshmen Blake Southerland, a fullback, and Blake Gowder, a linebacker — have vanished from the roster. Southerland apparently suffered a career-ending injury but not sure about Gowder, other than it wasn't a good year to be named Blake and play for Vandy.

Which brings us to this year. We currently have 20 verbal commitments, if you count Wyoming transfer Austin Carta-Samuels, who's already enrolled in school. That means if nobody on our current roster left school early, we'd need to part with eight of this year's redshirt juniors.

Let's break the current class of redshirt juniors into groups to see where the eight bodies might come from:

• PK Ryan Fowler: Sure, it's nice to have three scholarship kickers, but Carey Spear has hopefully worked out the kinks and can handle the kickoffs and placekicking next season. Plus, another all-purpose kicker, Colby Cooke, has verbally committed to the next signing class.
• WR John Cole: A tough player for us before his injury, if not a legitimate SEC receiver, but we'll be adding four-star Andre McDonald and local star Corey Batey to a solid rotation of Matthews/Boyd/Tate/Krause.
• RB Micah Powell: A special teams performer who'll be easily replaced.
• WR Akeem Dunham: A raw athlete who climbed to second team before injury.
• DE Dexter Daniels: Moved to end this year but has been relegated to special teams.
• DT Taylor Loftley: His fate was sealed when T.J. Greenstone was injured and the staff burned a redshirt off Barron Dixon to fill out the rotation.

• QB Jordan Rodgers: Duh
• OL Ryan Seymour: Duh
• DT Rob Lohr: Duh
• LB Archibald Barnes: A versatile linebacker who's been slow to develop, but with our shallow depth at linebacker will be needed next season.
• DT Colt Nichter: Has started every game this season.

• DE Johnell Thomas: Even with five commitments at defensive end, many of those guys are going to take time to develop; Thomas is battle-tested and has had a solid season.
• LB Tristan Strong: A solid starter until his injury after the fourth game; will return for sure if he recovers.
• P Richard Kent: Should punt again next year, unless true frosh Colby Cooke takes his place, but there's word that Cooke may be a grayshirt.

• OL Josh Jelesky: A little used defensive end, he was a shoo-in to leave at the end of this season until a last-minute move to the O-line breathed new life into his collegiate career. Now he's a starter at guard.
• OL Caleb Welchans: The former starter has been strictly a backup this season despite a number of unforeseen openings on the offensive line. He could be replaced as a backup by a redshirt freshman like James Lewis or Jake Bernstein, though it would be ideal to keep a big body with his experience on the roster.
• LB DeAndre Jones: He could step into the middle backer job vacated by Chris Marve, especially if true freshman Jacob Sealand, who plans to enroll in January, isn't ready. Still, if you take away the injury to Tristan Strong, so far he's been the least important of the four redshirt junior linebackers.
• LB Al Owens: He started the season as the most likely redshirt junior to be four and done, but he's starting right now in place of Chase Garnham. His fate could depend on the development of true freshmen Darreon Herring and Stephen Weatherly, and whether Barnes, Jones or Strong leave early.
• TE Austin Monahan: He turns 24 at the end of this season, and next season would be his sixth in black and gold. Vandy has a bunch of tight ends (Lassing, van der Wal, Johnston, Scheu and Bryant) but nobody with Monahan's experience. It'll likely be his call.

Of course, with the way Franklin finishes strong in recruiting, we could add another five players to our recruiting class. If that happens, we'll have to cut deep into our redshirt juniors or experience some turnover among underclassmen and juniors.

Some possibilities:
• R-FR offensive lineman Grant Ramsay: He's the only one of five offensive linemen from the signing class of 2010 not to play in a game, and he's buried beneath true freshmen Pulley and Townsend on the depth chart.
• R-FR receiver Trent Pruitt: A John Cole clone, he was played special teams the first three games. Not sure if he's injured, but he doesn't look like an SEC-caliber receiver, especially compared to our latest recruits.
• R-FR defensive end Thomas Ryan: He's played in only one game this season, in mop-up duty, and it doesn't look any better with five ends planning to commit in February. He'll likely try a new position in the spring, either DT, OG or even TE.
• R-SO receiver Brady Brown: Once an impressive recruit from Texas, he's played once in three years, and that was during his redshirt year! His future doesn't look bright.

I'm not saying Franklin kicks these guys off the team. He first moves them to another position to give them another chance and then if they see no playing time in sight and want to play at a lower level, maybe they transfer.

And there's always the guys who fail out of school or suffer injuries. We won't try to predict that.

Guys with remaining eligibility also being honored on Saturday: Jabo Burrow, who suffered a career-ending injury, and three walk-ons (Jeff Gendelman, Bobby Jewell and Jamison Sackey).

It's obvious why all the redshirt juniors will be honored on Saturday: Because they're going to have to compete in the spring in order to stay another year. As Franklin said on signing day, he wants to create the most competitive environment in the nation where nobody's job is safe. He's well on his way to doing just that.

Injuries and senior day change Vandy starting lineup

Here's a look at some highlights of the depth chart for the Kentucky game:

• Starting receivers are Chris Boyd or Jordan Matthews at one receiver, and Matthews or Jonathan Krause at another. Last week at Florida, Boyd and Matthews appeared together in the starting lineup for the first time. They've been listed as co-starters at the x-receiver on game week depth charts in nearly every game this season. Matthews has started seven games this season, with Boyd starting four. Krause has started five games, while Udom Umoh and Wesley Tate have started two apiece.

• Likewise, Javon Marshall and Kenny Ladler are listed as co-starters opposite Sean Richardson at safety once again this week.

• Redshirt senior Udom Umoh is listed as the third starter at wide receiver. James Franklin said he plans to start some seniors on or use them in key plays on Saturday, which is senior day, in recognition of their contributions to the team but that they wouldn't necessarily be in the main rotation for the duration of the game.

• Same for T.J. Greenstone at defensive tackle, who's listed ahead of Colt Nichter as a starter. Expect to see Greenstone start the game and play the first series and then give way to Nichter, Vince Taylor and Barron Dixon.

• Surprisingly, nobody asked if Larry Smith was going to start, though I fully expect to see Larry in the game for at least a couple of plays, hopefully not as a wide receiver. But Rodgers is clearly our quarterback, and despite the fact that we're a double-digit favorite, we could easily lose this game.

• Guard Ryan Seymour, who's started all nine games this year, is listed as a co-starter with redshirt freshman Chase White, which is Franklin's way of saying that Seymour will probably miss the game because of injury.

• Likewise, Chase Garnham is once again listed as a co-starter with Al Owens, which means that Garnham is likely not ready to return from injury.

• Guard Josh Jelesky is listed as the sole starter at right guard and barring injury appears to have won the job for the rest of the year over Mylon Brown, who will continue to see action. Franklin said he had to move a D-lineman over to offense in the preseason because of Stewart's mononucleosis, Kittredge's departure and maybe even Burrow's head injuries, which I believe started early in the preseason, and that the staff considered Walker May (too slight) and Vince Taylor (too short) before settling on Jelesky, whose development has been nothing short of remarkable considering he'd never played O-line in his life. This would be Jelesky's second start.

• Walker May is listed as the sole starter at defensive end opposite Tim Fugger, who's started all nine games this year. May's started four, with junior Johnell Thomas starting five.

• At placekicker, Ryan Fowler and Carey Spear are listed as co-starters.

Twelve players have started every game for the Commodores this season. They are:
• Zac Stacy, RB
• Ryan Seymour, OL
• Wesley Johnson, OL
• Kyle Fischer, OL
• Rob Lohr, DT
• Colt Nichter, DT
• Tim Fugger, DE
• Chris Marve, LB
• Casey Hayward, CB
• Trey Wilson, CB
• Sean Richardson, S

In addition to the above players, these guys have played in every game this season:
• QB: Jordan Rodgers
• RB: Jerron Seymour
• WR: Jordan Matthews, Jonathan Krause, Chris Boyd, Wes Tate, Udom Umoh
• TE: Austin Monahan
• FB: Fitz Lassing
• OL: Mylon Brown, Andrew Bridges, Caleb Welchans
• DT: Jared Morse
• DE: Walker May, Thad McHaney
• LB: Archibald Barnes, Al Owens, DeAndre Jones
• CB: Andre Hal, Stephen Clarke, Eddie Foster
• S: Javon Marshall, Kenny Ladler, Eric Samuels, Karl Butler
• Special teams: Carey Spear, Richard Kent, Micah Powell, Andrew East