Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vanderbilt football recruits who will, won't and might play right away — Eric Samuels will

You've seen our list of signees. So which ones might you see on the field next season?

Keep in mind that Vanderbilt played only three freshmen last season — defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson and receiver John Cole, who was injured for the season in the first game. What follows is only a guess, but I'm predicting we'll play at least five true freshmen this season. Here goes:


• ERIC SAMUELS, DB (6-0, 185; 3 stars)(photo above): Last season, we returned all our defensive backs and reserves, and still played true freshmen Sean Richardson and Casey Hayward. In the Music City Bowl, Richardson scored our only touchdown and Hayward played a mean shut-down corner after D.J. Moore got hurt. So expect to see our most athletic, dynamic DBs on the field as true freshmen, especially with Moore, Reshard Langford and reserves Jared Fagan and Josh Allen gone. Samuels, a top running back prospect already being listed by Vanderbilt as a DB, is one of those guys. Expect him to be put on the D.J. Plan: Play a lot as a true freshman, excel on special teams and position himself to help out some on offense as an upperclassman.

• WESLEY TATE, RB (6-2, 210; 3 stars): We've missed having a breakaway threat at tailback since Cassen Jackson-Garrison left, and Tate is a rich man's Jackson-Garrison. Kennard Reeves looked good against Wake Forest and will get some playing time next season, and Jared Hawkins will be our go-to guy, but expect to see Tate get some snaps in the Western Carolina game, which is our only sure-fire cupcake opponent, and then play more and more for us as the season progresses.

• TREY WILSON, CB (5-11, 182; 3 stars): He's already a lockdown corner like Casey Hayward was as a true freshman. Expect him to be a special teams demon early on and then build up some serious playing time.

• BRADY BROWN, WR (6-5, 200; 3 stars): We need two things at wide receiver: A possession receiver and a deep threat. Hopefully redshirt freshmen John Cole and Akeem Dunham will be the deep guys, maybe sophomore Udom Umoh too. Jamie Graham can do a bit of both. But at 6-foot-5, Brady Brown will be given every opportunity to be the possession guy.

• JAVON MARSHALL, S (5-10, 180; 2 stars): Last year the Dores began grooming a true freshman, Richardson, to take Reshard Langford's place. Expect them to start grooming Marshall to replace Ryan Hamilton. He's a raw, tough hitter whom his coach says will find a way to get on the field, kind of like Richardson did last season. And he's one of our two-star recruits, just like Richardson was. But I'm less sure about Marshall than the four guys listed above — if the coaches are comfortable enough with redshirt freshman Al Owens, they may redshirt Marshall.


• MASON JOHNSTON, TE (6-4, 235; 3 stars): With outstanding sophomores Branden Barden and Austin Monahan returning, we're covered at tight end. But it's nice to have more than two, and third-teamer Justin Green is still awfully thin and unimposing. Johnston is stout and athletic. If he shows up ready to play and turns heads in practice, he could see some meaningful playing time next season.

• THAD MCHANEY, DE (6-5, 235; 3 stars): We've got Brandon Stewart and Steven Stone returning as starters, and Theron Kadri, Teriall Brannon and Tim Fugger with big-game experience. But if Thad McHaney can come in and display Stewart-like athleticism, then I don't see how we can keep him off the field. And it's not like he needs to add bulk — he already weighs five more pounds than Stewart.

• EDDIE FOSTER, DB (5-10, 165; 3 stars). At 165 pounds, he needs to put on some weight. But if he shows toughness right away, then it might be hard to keep one of our fastest players off the field. And as I've said already, we're gonna need to replace Moore, Fagan and Allen on the two-deep chart at corner. Besides, it'd be nice to have a 4.3 guy covering kickoffs and punts, huh?

• ZAC STACY, RB (5-9, 192; 3 stars): With Hawkins, Reeves, Gaston Miller and untested Ryan van Rensburg returning, we probably won't play two true freshmen running backs. But Stacy could surprise people early on and might be one of those guys who sticks around on the depth chart and then needs to be pressed into action because of injury. Sure, he's short, but he's stout.


• WARREN NORMAN, RB (5-10, 188; 3 stars): The biggest thing he's got going for him is his pass-catching ability out of the backfield. In that respect, he could be a nice backup to Hawkins. But if Tate fills the bill as a big-time SEC back, then we can use guys like Reeves and Miller as situational guys and red-shirt Norman. And Norman's own high school coach says he needs to get bigger and stronger.

• MYLON BROWN, OT (6-5, 300; 2 stars): Jerome's nephew is recovering from injury. With everybody returning on the two-deep at offensive line, expect to see the 300-pound Mylon take a redshirt, get stronger and even bigger, and compete to be a starter in 2010.

• WALKER MAY, DE (6-5, 210; 2 stars): At 210 pounds, he'll probably be living in the weight room and dining hall for the next 18 months. But if the coaches want to play one of the true freshmen ends and May can outplay Thad McHaney early, he may have a shot. But don't bet on it, especially with the Dores already five-deep at end. As for playing linebacker next season, he can forget it. Sure, John Stokes was this size when he showed up in Nashville, but he also had those four stars.


• BLAKE SOUTHERLAND, LB (6-2, 235; 3 stars): With all three starters returning at linebacker, super-talented Brandon Bryant hopefully rebounding from injury, and promising DeAndre Jones, Tristan Strong and Dexter Daniels coming off redshirt seasons, expect Southerland to sit for a year.

• CHARLIE GORO, QB (6-2, 192; 3 stars): Let's see... Sophomore Larry Smith and Senior Mackenzi Adams are competing to start, and former three-star recruit Jared Funk, already a junior, is hungrier than ever for some playing time. Goro will redshirt, but could be a special player for us when he hits the field.

• WESLEY JOHNSON, OL (6-5, 250; 3 stars): A great talent who'd probably be signing with somebody like Alabama or USC if he was 30 pounds heavier. So he'll have the enviable task of strapping on the feedbag for the next 18 months.

• JAY FULLAM, S (6-1, 190; 2 stars): A smart, tough kid with good instincts. But with Al Owens and Micah Powell coming off redshirt years and the four aforementioned DB recruits showing more speed and athleticism, expect Fullam to sit a year.

• JUSTIN CABBAGESTALK, OL (6-3, 265; 2 stars): Needs to add 30 pounds or so. Probably will play guard.

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