Monday, May 25, 2009

Vanderbilt targets Georgia high school football players; Grant Ramsay latest signee

The Commodores get their second signee of the 2010 class. It's Grant Ramsay, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive tackle from Pope High School in the Atlanta area. (Photo above.) He joins Thomas Ryan, a defensive end from Florida.

Recruiting the state of Georgia has become a big part of Bobby Johnson's formula for success. Last season's team had 21 players from Georgia, including starters Greg Billinger, Brandon Barden, Darlron Spead, Broderick Stewart, Sean Walker and Music City Bowl MVP Brett Upson, and freshmen T.J. Greenstone, who was Freshman All-SEC, and Casey Hayward, a likely starter next season.

This year's freshmen will include running back Warren Norman and linebacker Blake Southerland, both of Georgia.

Currently, Vanderbilt has 57 scholarship offers on the table, according to Of these, 15 are to players at Georgia high schools. Alabama is a distant second with six offers, followed by Florida with five and Ohio and Mississippi with four apiece.

The biggest catches out of the Peach state would be athlete Julian Horton, offensive tackle Max Garcia and cornerback B.J. Bostic.

Other guys Vanderbilt would love to sign include quarterback Andrew Hendrix, tackle Matt Rotheram and cornerback/running back Braylon Heard, all of Ohio; running back Corey Grant and defensive tackle Jeremiah Jackson of Alabama; and tight end Harrison Jones, tackle James Stone and linebacker Justin Maclin of Tennessee.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bradley Vierling of Vanderbilt named to Rimington Award Watch List

Vandy’s Bradley Vierling is one of 44 centers to be named to the Rimington Award Watch List.

Here are the six guys, including Vierling, to make the list from the SEC:

• Garrett Anderson, 6-4, 307, Sr., South Carolina
• J.C. Brignone, 6-2, 300, Jr., Mississippi State
• Daverin Geralds, 6-2, 312, Sr., Ole Miss
• Jorge Gonzalez, 6-3, 305, Sr., Kentucky
• Maurkice Pouncey, 6-5, 318, Jr., Florida
• Bradley Vierling, 6-2, 294, RS Sr., Vanderbilt

Note that Brad’s the only one of the bunch who red-shirted a year. He’s also the lightest at 294 pounds. Leave it to Florida to have a center who’s freaking 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds. Good for them.

Nice to see Brad make the list, even if more than a third of the starting centers in college football are on it too.

While we’re talking about him, check out this “Good to be Gold” promo Bradley made for Vanderbilt.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Vanderbilt football picked for the cellar again — and Commodore fans should stop whining about it

Chris Low came out with his post-spring SEC power ratings today, and Vanderbilt is No. 11.

He writes: "It's hard to say with conviction that Vanderbilt's passing game will be appreciably better in 2009 than it was a year ago, and the Commodores were pretty woeful throwing the football last season. Losing receiver Justin Wheeler to a serious knee injury in the spring was a big blow, making it more critical than ever that Terence Jeffers is eligible in the fall."

Read the comments below Low's post and you'll notice the unusually vocal Vanderbilt fan base. OK, three guys. They're angry at Low. How dare he pick Vandy below Auburn and Tennessee? Didn't he notice that Vanderbilt finished tied for fifth in the conference last season?

I'm not complaining. Look, we're supposed to be picked last in the preseason SEC polls. Last season, we barely become bowl eligible and it's our greatest season since the first Reagan administration. Auburn and Tennessee miss bowl eligibility by one game and have their worst seasons perhaps ever. Those teams are loaded, and they will be back very, very soon. As for Vandy, well, we're kind of new at this.

I guarantee you Bobby Johnson's pleased as punch to start the season in the cellar, or a single rung ahead of where we were this time last year. And he's even helped us stay in the pre-season cellar by doing the following:

• Not naming a starting quarterback after spring practice, and especially not naming Larry Smith the starter.
• Not talking about the new no-huddle offense or the fact that it's tailor-made for Larry and our lean, athletic offensive line.
• Keeping everybody in the dark about Terance Jeffers' academic status.
• Not talking about the fact that more than half of the 30 fastest guys on our team haven't even played a snap yet.
• Keeping up the "Aw, shucks, we know we're in a fight just to stay where we are" routine.

And he's right. He's still got the least amount of talent of anyone in the SEC. I dare you to dispute that. Even Miss State, Low's No. 12 team, is loaded with athletes. For example, with all our talk about our great freshman running backs, if we had Anthony Dixon instead of Jared Hawkins, we wouldn't be talking about them. And if we had the recruiting class that State did this year, we'd be talking about winning a national championship.

But without a doubt, we're getting better talent than ever before, and most importantly, we're doing more with it. Johnson and his staff spot kids that fall under the recruiting radar, make sure they can handle Vanderbilt's academics, then sign them, slap on a redshirt and send them straight to the training table and the weight room. Then they coach them up and a year later they're ready for the big time. You know, guys like Chris Williams and Jay Cutler and now guys like Thomas Welch and Chris Marve.

So don't fight it. Let Low lament the loss of a wide receiver (Wheeler) who had less than 200 receiving yards last season. Let him and the rest of the media think our quarterback situation is up in the air. Let them think we can never replace D.J. Moore. And most of all, let the other teams in the SEC circle Alabama and Florida and even Ole Miss on their calendars.

You're dang right we're in the cellar. And I'm glad. When teams come down there to play us, they won't know what hit them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vanderbilt quarterback debate falls into 8 camps

Who should start at quarterback for Vanderbilt? To read the chat boards, there are actually eight camps:


Larry has a far better arm than Mackenzi Adams and Vandy has to throw to win. Did you see his pass that Sean Walker dropped against Wake Forest or his pair of deep throws in the first quarter of the Music City Bowl? And the entire team was impressed with his coolness under fire. And he’s actually a better runner and athlete than Mack, so why are we even having this argument? The reason he started the Music City Bowl is because he’s clearly the quarterback of the future. Besides, he led his Alabama high school to a state championship.


Mackenzi outperforms Larry in the weightroom and in combine-style drills and is actually a better athlete. He showed he’s a winner against South Carolina in 2008 and Auburn in 2009, and he didn’t get as many reps in spring practice because he has nothing left to prove. In fact, the only reason Larry played last season was because Mack was hurt. And Mack led his Oklahoma high school to a state championship.


OK, so Mack led us to a couple of big victories. But he never claimed the starting position, and the only reason he got on the field in the first place was because of Chris Nickson’s physical/mental meltdowns. And have you ever seen Mack throw more than 30 yards downfield? Let’s name Larry the starter now and keep him there. Mack has proven he can give us a spark off the bench if we need it. Remember when Bobby chose redshirt freshman Jay Cutler over fifth-year senior Benjy Walker? That was the right call then and this is the right call now.


Larry and Mack can both run and pass, so let’s choose the fifth-year senior who’s played in the most SEC games. How many times has Larry faced an SEC team? Zero.


Let’s not forget that Funk was as highly rated a recruit as Mack or Larry. Did you see all those touchdown passes he threw in spring practice? Right on the money.


Let’s face it, we can’t line up and run the ball against anybody, so we’ve got to use trickery. Our best offensive play last year was Chris Nickson pretending to pass and then turning upfield, at least until everybody realized he couldn’t hit the side of a barn and was going to keep every time. So Mack or Larry will start and run the draw play for a couple of games and get hurt, and then the other guy will start a couple of games and get hurt, and then Funk will enter the game – and have you seen how skinny he is? So about five minutes later we’ll be burning the redshirt off Charlie Goro.


Jared Hawkins will be healthy and Kennard Reeves looked good in the spring and then we’ve got three highly rated freshmen joining the backfield. And behind our line, which returns its top 10 players, we’ll be able to rely on our running game.


Start Larry or start Mack. It doesn’t matter. Whether he redshirts or not this season, Goro will be the man in 2010. Besides, he won a state championship in Illinois.


We're in Camp 1 and Camp 3. Larry gives us the best chance to win now and he’s our best hope for the immediate future. As for being a winner, Larry has as many wins as a starter at Vanderbilt as Mackenzi does. One win. In fact, Larry and Georgia’s Joe Cox are the only returning SEC quarterbacks to have won 100 percent of their starts (each are 1-0).

Mack is a fine backup. If he could have beaten Duke as a starter last season we’d probably be having a different conversation right now.

Everybody seems to think Bobby Johnson’s going to waffle around with the decision because of how he handled last season. Last season, he had to do whatever it took to get the monkey off his back, and he had a difficult situation with Nickson being a hero and then Adams being a hero and then both of them stumbling and battling injuries. He wants to play one quarterback, and I think he’s settled on Larry.

Even with a veteran line and talented young runners, we've still got to pass the ball to win. And as he showed in the bowl game, Larry can throw long and short and pose a running threat.

We all know Mack can step in and make plays in relief if Larry needs a breather or is injured. Funk might give us a spark, but nothing more. As for Goro, only time will tell. The Parade All-America thing was nice, but according to ESPN and Rivals, he’s more lightly regarded than Larry, Mack and Funk were coming out of high school. In fact, if any three of them were true freshmen right now, we’d be talking about them challenging for the starting job, which is ridiculous. All three of them redshirted, and so will Goro unless at least two of the quarterbacks are injured.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vanderbilt should allow football recruits to enroll early

Just wondering why Vanderbilt’s the only school in the SEC that doesn’t allow its football signees – or any athletes or even any students – to enroll early and take second-semester classes.

I understand we’re different from schools like Tennessee and Alabama, and I appreciate that. When you’ve got a program with the least tradition and the smallest stadium and your biggest selling point is the best education in the SEC, then you don’t want to do anything to tarnish your image.

But I realized today that Kyle Griswould, a kid from my hometown of Columbus, Ga., has enrolled early at Duke and even participated in the spring game.

If Duke can do it, we can do it.

I mean, imagine if we had at least one of the three incoming running backs – Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate or Warren Norman – in spring practice. They’d be adjusted to school by the time the time the rest of the freshman class joins them in August. And, with Jared Hawkins injured, they’d already have a ton of reps under their belt.

While we’re still in fantasy land, imagine if we had at least one of the five incoming defensive backs who’d already been in school for a semester and participated in spring practice. I’m thinking especially of Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson, and maybe even Javon Marshall.

We’ve made huge strides since our chancellor was Joe B. Wyatt, who apparently thought that a crappy football team was a sign of a fine academic institution. His predecessor, Gordon Gee, eliminated the athletic department, which scared lots of folks, but our football team has actually improved since then, and anybody who knows anything about college football will tell you that Vanderbilt’s speed, depth and overall talent has improved dramatically since then.

In short, we’ve managed to improve our college football team while maintaining our academic excellence, even admitting kids like D.J. Moore who may have been considered at-risk but turned out to be model student-athletes. We've followed the spirit of the law without necessarily following the letter of the law.

So why can’t freshmen enroll early?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gaston Miller enjoys "relaxing social scenes"

Another postcard from Gaston Miller. You know, he's the Vanderbilt running back sending regular dispatches from Greece, where he's spending the month studying abroad.

Gaston reports that he and his classmates (two males and 11 females) took a ferry to an island for the weekend, where Gaston apparently stayed on the beach while senior safety Joel Caldwell toured the island on an ATV.

Be careful, Joel, we need all the depth we can get in the secondary next season.

Anyway, Gaston enjoyed his time on the beach during the day. And at night, he notes, there were "relaxing social scenes."

Here's betting more football players are studying abroad next May.

At least it gives us something to blog about with spring practice over and more than three months until the season opener with Western Carolina.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gaston Miller likes Greek food

Gaston Miller, the Vandy running back who's studying abroad this month, has filed another "Postcard from Gaston." He likes Greek food, including that yogurt spread they put on bread. His observations are interesting — he's a smart, thoughtful kid.

Check out the photo of Gaston, safety Joel Caldwell and the 12 other students on the trip. Eleven women and three men. Dang, I should have studied abroad when I was at Vandy.

Have a great Saturday.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vandy's your daddy, or did you forget?

Well, I was going to blog today about D.J. Moore's progress in the Bears mini-camp but, really, who cares? What does it mean if he shuts down George Smith and looks great? Nothing. We'll know more in preseason games, but we're not really gonna know jack until D.J. gets into real game situations in the real regular season.

So anyway today I offer you a video called "Vandy's Our Daddy," prepared by a pseudo Gamecock fan who is actually a Clemson Tiger celebrating Vanderbilt's two-year run of domination over Steve Spurrier and friends. Very funny, and a reminder that our next date with South Carolina is only about five and a half months away.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vanderbilt football players encouraged to get out of the weight room and go overseas

When 300-pound offensive tackle Mylon Brown signed with the Commodores a couple months ago, he told reporters how tough he knew it would be, but he was excited about the challenge of competing at such a high level.

He wasn't talking about playing in the SEC. He was talking about Vanderbilt's academics.

Coach Bobby Johnson knows he can't compete with Tennessee for guys like Bryce Brown, who are already thinking about which five luxury cars they're gonna buy when they sign an NFL contract in three years.

No, Johnson's looking for scholar-athletes. Guys like Gaston Miller and Joel Caldwell, who are in Greece right now taking a Maymester class called "Uncovering Greek Religion: Cults, Sanctuaries & Festivals in the Ancient World."

Miller's sending web postcards to the official Vanderbilt athletic site. Click here to read the first one.

Miller, a rising junior running back, and Caldwell, a rising senior safety, arrived in Greece on Tuesday. Miller said airport security was scanning body temperatures in an effort to detect swine flu.

For Miller, who hails from Murfreesboro, Tenn., it's his first trip overseas. He immediately noticed the small cars, the reckless drivers and the lack of open land.

Of course, Miller and Caldwell could be working out on campus right now instead of eating baklava.

That doesn't bother Johnson. "They can come back and still get in good shape by working out in June and July," he told the Commodores site. "I think it is fantastic, and I believe our players will be diligent enough to stay in shape when they are somewhere, and they won't be gone that long, so it is hard to get too out of shape."

In fact, Johnson thinks it may help him attract the kind of student-athletes he's looking for. "I think Gaston and Joel will have some good stories to tell and interest guys into looking at places all over the world that are available. We've already started talking to some recruits about it. A lot of regular college students across the country are studying abroad, and we want to make that available for our athletes."

If you had sons who were major college prospects — and had a head on their shoulders — wouldn't you want them to play for Bobby Johnson? I sure would.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vanderbilt football season tickets available, of course

Headline on the Tennessean Web site: "Vandy football season tickets available."

Of course they're available.

Wouldn't it be news if Vandy football season tickets WEREN'T available?

But where else in the SEC can you buy a season ticket for $109? And unlike fans at places like Alabama and Georgia, you don't have to make a huge donation to earn the right to purchase season tickets.

Click here for more information on season tickets, which officially go on sale tomorrow.

It's a home good schedule too:

• Western Carolina, Sept. 5: This is the only so-called cupcake on the Vandy schedule. Hopefully we'll take the wraps off Larry Smith in this one. It'll be interesting to see which true freshmen get playing time. Best bets are defensive backs Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson, receiver Brady Brown and maybe one of the running backs (Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate, Warren Norman).

• Miss State, Sept. 19: Payback time. Last year we thought we'd need to beat the Bulldogs to have a winning season. We didn't, but it wasn't necessary. A victory over State in Nashville almost certainly will be necessary. And it's better we catch Dan Mullen's new offense early in the season.

• Ole Miss, Oct. 3: Nobody will expect us to beat the Rebels, which are in everybody's preseason Top 10. But don't underestimate the loss of first-round pick Michael Oher at left offensive tackle and first-round draft pick Peria Jerry at defensive tackle. Of course, with quarterback Jevan Snead and speedy receivers like Dexter McCluster, the Rebels will likely stay away from Myron Lewis and test our youth at the other corner.

• Georgia, Oct. 17: Ideally, you'd like to catch new starting quarterback Joe Cox earlier in the season, though if he slips and the Dawgs lose a couple of games early then Mark Richt might decide to break in a freshman quarterback, which is what happened when we beat Georgia and freshman Matthew Stafford in Athens in 2006. And our quarterback then was a redshirt sophomore from Alabama, Chris Nickson. This year it will likely be a redshirt sophomore from Alabama, Larry Smith.

• Georgia Tech, Oct. 31: This is a not the kind of non-conference game you want to play late in the season. We're capable of derailing the Yellow Jackets here or getting humiliated. Remember that Tech beat Miss State 35-7 the week before we lost to the Bulldogs in Starkville.

• Kentucky, No. 14: We haven't won a home finale since 2003, when we beat the Wildcats. This season's UK team has a tough D and a questionable O. Kind of like us. This is another game we likely must win to at least break .500 on the season.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Vanderbear Update: D.J. shuts down George — then Earl takes them to Denny's, though he doesn't feel like the number 85

D.J. Moore is already impressing coach Lovie Smith in the Bears' mini camp. He had an especially fine play the other day when he stripped the ball from a receiver. Unfortunately, the receiver was George Smith, D.J.'s former Vandy teammate and a long-shot to even make it to pre-season camp.

But everything's cool. Earl Bennett took D.J. and George out to dinner. To Denny's. Hey, this economy is tough on everybody.

Speaking of Earl, he's changed his number from 85 to 80. “It wasn’t anything specific,” he told the official Bears site. “I just wanted to change my number. I feel like ‘80’ fits me a little bit better. I think it’s in my character. I didn’t really think ‘85’ really fit it."

You know, I don't really feel like an 85 myself.

Did you know that Earl, who didn't have a catch last season, was the No. 1 receiver on the Bears' draft board last year? Who does Earl have photos of?

Turns out that Rex Hogan, a regional scout for the Bears, lives in Nashville and his wife actually works at Vanderbilt. And now the Bears have five Vanderbilt players — six if you count George Smith, which I wouldn't do if I were you.

So what do Hogan and other scouts see in Vanderbilt players? "The one thing scouts in general like about our guys is they're smart guys," says Vandy assistant coach Charlie Fischer. "They're sharp guys on and off the field. They can learn, and they're good locker-room presences. They're stable guys, and that's important."

In D.J.'s case, in addition to his incredible story of perseverance, he's got hops.

“The guy’s got incredible leaping ability," Bears GM Jerry Angelo says of D.J. "He made an interception against Georgia — there aren’t three guys in the league that can make that interception going up for the ball. He’s got some special ball skills.”

So while some NFL folks couldn't get past that one catch A.J. Green had over D.J. in the first quarter, Angelo remembers that great pick against the Dawgs a few minutes later.

And so do I.