Here are some headlines as Vandy enters spring practice tomorrow. You won’t find these in the Tennessean, because the only reporter apparently allowed to think about the Commodores is in New Mexico right now covering our SEC championship basketball team.
NO MORE QUARTERBACKS IN THE RECRUITING CLASS OF 2011
You may remember that we had a whopping five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster last season, including three true freshmen – Lafonte Thourogood, Josh Grady and Kris Kentera. At the end of the season, during Liberty Bowl practice, coach James Franklin announced that Thourogood was moving to running back. Yesterday, he announced that Grady’s moving to slot receiver and Kentera’s moving to H-back/tight end. Recent signee Patton Robinette will likely redshirt while Jordan Rodgers and Austyn Carta-Samuels duke it out for the starting QB job, which means Grady would be the emergency No. 3 QB and will probably see some wildcat duty too. Franklin said Thourogood’s a big athlete who’s still looking for the right position, and that both Grady and Kentera needed to get on the field right away and would be competing for starting positions.
SHORTAGE OF RUNNING BACKS
Zac Stacy was a workhorse last season, and he could be doing it again in his senior season. That’s because both Warren Norman and Jerron Seymour are expected to miss most or all of spring practice with injuries. Norman, the 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year, sat out last season with injury and redshirted, while Seymour played injured and spelled Stacy. The other running backs on the spring depth chart are Thourogood, who may or may not be a running back, and somebody named Hasan Clayton, a walk-on listed on the roster as a cornerback. Of course, true freshman Brian Kimbrow, the highest Vandy recruit ever, will arrive in the summer but at last glance weighed 165 pounds and will not be an every down back.
SHORTAGE OF O-LINEMEN
Sure, six fine-looking recruits will report for spring practice, but pickings are slim in the meantime. Rising junior Mylon Brown, a 300-pounder who started part-time last season, has been dismissed from the team. To make matters worse, stalwart guard Ryan Seymour and part-time starter Chase White will also miss spring while rehabbing injuries. Franklin hopes Wesley Johnson can play at his natural position, left tackle, this season, but that depends on whether Spencer Pulley can become the new center. (Starting center Logan Stewart, you may remember, was dismissed from the team at the end of last season.) Franklin said Pulley has never played center, but that he’s a solid kid and good leader and the kind of player and person, at least on paper, that you’d like to have at center. We’ll see. We’re betting this experiment is a success.
BRADY BROWN GONE
Receiver Brady Brown, to our knowledge the highest rated receiver that Vandy’s ever recruited (yes, even higher than Earl), has left the team for personal reasons, Franklin said. We’re guessing that one of those “personal reasons” might be that he was never going to see the field. From the moment he set foot on campus, Franklin was saying he didn’t want possession receivers, and used Brown as an example of the kind of receiver he didn’t want. Ouch.
Meanwhile, some other players who’ve received limited or no playing time early in their careers – and who we’ve speculated might transfer elsewhere if they want to see some playing time – are still on the roster. That includes offensive lineman Grant Ramsay, slot receiver Trent Pruitt, and defensive end Thomas Ryan.
IN NAME ONLY
We won’t be seeing Mason Johnston on the field for the Commodores for a long time, if ever. The rising redshirt junior, who we’ve speculated is finished playing because of serious and persistent leg injuries, is listed on the roster as a non-participant and medical redshirt. We’re guessing he’s done, but the terminology leaves hope that he might have a six-year career like fellow tight end Austin Monahan is having.
THERE’S ROOM LEFT
By my count, Vandy is two scholarships under the limit, even if Johnston does remain on scholarship. Take him away, and the Commodores have room for those three guys transferring from Maryland – all-star quarterback Danny O’Brien, offensive tackle Max Garcia and linebacker Mario Rowson. Just saying. We think O’Brien would immediately step into the starting job, and Garcia would start in 2013 when he became eligible to play and would give our bumper crop of linemen more time to develop. And five of our linebackers in 2013 will be starting their second year as either sophomores or redshirt freshmen, so we could use some experience there too. We don’t think all those guys will end up as Commodores, but O’Brien’s still a strong possibility. Franklin can’t talk about prospects, but he repeatedly said that he was always trying to improve the talent level. In fact, he used that tone of voice he uses when he’s speaking in code. Like when he said, “I have great respect for COACH RICHT,” meaning that he hates Todd Grantham’s guts, or “I was really impressed with the enthusiasm and support from the fans at TENNESSEE,” meaning that our fans suck.
TOP OF THE DEPTH CHART
Grant Ramsay’s our starting left guard? Walk-on John Townsley has moved from quarterback to wide receiver and is starting ahead of Jordan Matthews? Walk-on Hasan Clayton is listed ahead of superstar recruit Lafonte Thourogood at tailback. WTF? Actually, Franklin ranks players on the spring depth chart according to seniority. You know, so players will get the message that every position is truly up for grabs.
FOUR AND DONE
As expected, the following players have graduated and left school with one year of eligibility remaining: Receivers John Cole and Akeem Dunham, defensive end Dexter Daniels, defensive tackle Taylor Loftley, linebackers DeAndre Jones and Al Owens, running back Micah Powell, offensive lineman Caleb Welchans and walk-on receiver Jamison Sackey.
RETURNING FOR A FIFTH YEAR
The following players are listed as having already graduated but are returning for a final year of eligibility: DT Cole Nichter, QB Jordan Rodgers and LB Tristan Strong. The following players are returning for a fifth year and will give graduation the old college try: LB Archibald Barnes, OG Josh Jelesky, DT Rob Lohr, TE Austin Monahan and DE Johnell Thomas. Austin Monahan hasn't graduated yet? We figured he'd be a doctor by now.
These players are listed as having already graduated, though they haven't completed their third year of college yet: RB Zac Stacy, CB Trey Wilson and S Eric Samuels.
SAVING THE BEST NEWS FOR LAST
Franklin announced that, “upon further notice,” all Vandy practices will be open to the public, at least until reporters start writing about the new schemes and trick plays he’s installing. Franklin’s doing a masterful job so far of changing the story of Vandy football, and he’s also doing a masterful job of dictating this story to the media. Here’s Vandy’s practice schedule:
• Opening practice at 4:15 on Friday.
• Saturday practices at 10 a.m. through April 17.
• Tuesday practices at 4:15 through April 10.
• Thursday practices at 4:15 through April 12.
• Black & Gold Spring Game at 6 p.m. on April 14.
Go Dores! Beat Harvard!