Friday, July 31, 2009

Vince Taylor wants to be an electrical engineer and play linebacker

Learned a couple of things from Jeff Lockridge's recent article about Vince Taylor, Vanderbilt's latest verbal commitment.

(Lockridge, by the way, is doing a fine job as the Vandy beat writer, as evidenced by the fact that he's actually mentioning recruiting.)

As you may remember, Vince is the 6-foot-1, 270-pound young man who runs a 4.7 40. That's awfully fast for a defensive lineman, which explains why he wants to play linebacker for the Commodores.

But that's not why he's coming to Vanderbilt. He says he'll play wherever he's needed. The real reason Vince Taylor chose Vanderbilt?

He likes Vanderbilt's electrical engineering program.

So a good recruiting class doesn't mean that Vandy stops signing future electrical engineers. It means that Vandy has started signing electrical engineers who weigh 270 pounds and run 40 yards in 4.7 seconds.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alan Strong is missing, so more true freshmen might play right away

Three guys are missing from the new Vanderbilt football media guide.

Everybody knows about WR Terence Jeffers-Harris and his Hail Mary attempt to obtain eligibility.

And nobody’s terribly surprised that freshman Justin Cabbagestalk is nowhere to be seen after scrapping with the law in Tampa this summer.

But I just realized that junior cornerback Alan Strong is missing too. Strong’s been a solid backup at corner for the last two seasons. Anybody know what happened to Alan?

Which explains why Bobby Johnson’s been talking about Javon Marshall playing cornerback as a true freshman this season. We all knew that Trey Wilson and Eric Samuels would get a good look in their first year. But now the media guide says that Marshall and fellow true frosh Eddie Foster are also competing for key reserve roles.

Here are other true freshmen who get mentioned in the media guide as having a chance to play right away:

THE THREE RUNNING BACKS: Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate, of course. Tate was hailed as a prototypical SEC back on signing day, and Stacy showed up for school looking stronger and bigger than expected and has been the popular pick as of late to play early. But now Warren Norman’s name has been popping up on talk radio in Nashville. Should be interesting.

TWO WIDE RECEIVERS: WR Brady Brown has been expected to compete all along, but now thanks to the shaky status of Jeffers-Harris, the trusty media guide says that Collin Ashley is in the mix. If you’re wondering why he’s not in our poll to the right, it’s because he signed way after Signing Day and well after the poll had been established.

AND A BIG (AS IN 300-POUND) SURPRISE: OL Mylon Brown appears to have a shot at a reserve role. No Vandy offensive lineman in recent memory has played as a true freshman. But Brown’s the most game-ready – he’s one of only five Vandy lineman who weigh 300 pounds or more.

These freshmen appear headed for redshirt seasons:
• QB Charlie Goro
• TE Mason Johnston
• OL Wesley Johnson
• DE Walker May
• DE Thad McHaney
• LB Blake Southerland
• DB Jay Fullam

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vanderbilt grabs Vince Taylor, yet another defensive lineman, and you can't have enough of those

It's been a great week for Commodore recruiting. First Vandy gets a commitment from Bradley Roby, a big-time receiver who's been clocked at 4.34 seconds in the 40.

Now Vince Taylor of Hattiesburg, Miss., has committed to the Dores.

And get this: Taylor, who is 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, runs 40 yards in 4.7 seconds. Which means he's as fast as Nash Nance, the quarterback who committed to Vandy a couple of months ago. ESPN scouts say he has a "good motor." I'd say so. He's also tough against the run and an all-around "tough player in the trenches."

Anyway, Taylor turned down offers from Tennessee, Miss State and hometown Southern Miss, as well as Duke, Tulsa and South Alabama.

He gets a 77 rating from ESPN and three stars from Rivals and Scout, which is almost the exact rating of Vandy's three other defensive tackle commitments, Kyle Woestmann (77/3/3), James Kittredge (76/3/3) and Jared Morse (77/NR/3).

Yes, Vandy has commitments from FOUR three-star defensive tackles. That's a huge step for this program, which has always had trouble getting quality recruits and especially depth at running back and defensive line. Some folks on chat boards are worried that we're burning up all our scholarships on DTs. Get ’em while you can, I say. Kittredge can play defensive end, so throw in DE Thomas Ryan, another three-star guy and our first commitment, and we've got a ready-made starting lineup. Look at big-time programs like Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, USC. Those teams have no shortage of defensive linemen. Heck, maybe one of them got Justin Cabbagestalk's scholarship. (The February signee got arrested this summer and is not listed in the new media guide.)

And these four guys all have good motors and toughness and even a bit of cockiness and nastiness. Just look at Taylor's photo. Think he wants to run down a quarterback?

Oh, and for what it's worth, Vandy now has 20 verbal commitments, tied with LSU for the most in the SEC.

Vanderbilt players compete for the number 37

You know it's the dog days of summer when you're studying duplicate jersey numbers on the Vanderbilt roster. The little star next to a number on the roster means that the player listed next to it is a walk-on who will never, ever play.

For example, Jameson Sackey is 49*, while starter John Stokes is the real 49. Will Parker Roe gets the duplicate of Archibald Barnes' No. 15. Rich Tompkins gets Wesley Tate's 24. Reece Lovell gets Brandon Bryant's 35. Dan Sutton gets Tim Fugger's 41, Chris DeGeorge gets Rob Lohr's 84.

But what's going on with No. 37?

Elvio Tropeano gets the duplicate No. 37 belonging to... Eric Samuels and Al Owens.


Sometimes an offensive player and a defensive player will share numbers, but Samuels and Owens are both expected to play in the secondary, both are scholarship players, and both are freshmen (Samuels true and Owens redshirt).

So is Samuels going to play offense? He was a higher rated running back than Norman, Stacy or Tate. Is Owens in the doghouse and is sharing a number with a celebrated true freshman for motivational purposes? Or do they both just love the No. 37 and are competing for it in summer camp?

Probably none of the above. Who knows?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The 2009 Vanderbilt football media guide takes an honest look at the Commodores

Just saw the new Commodore media guide online. Click here to check it out. You can also pick one up at the campus bookstore for $15.

I think you'll like it, because it's not a puff piece on the team. For one thing, the individual bios actually examine players' weaknesses. Broderick Stewart's bio, for example, says he's awfully quick getting around blockers and getting to the quarterback, but he needs to get stronger.

There are also some clues to seemingly eternal mysteries like who'll be the starting quarterback.

Here's a little something from the outlook at the beginning of the guide:

“Adams has the most experience of the trio (Adams, Smith, Funk) with nine career starts and has shown flashes of brilliance as a dual threat under center over the past two seasons. However, Smith could be considered the favorite after demonstrating calm pocket presence, good decision-making and a strong arm in leading the Commodores to victory in his starting debut at the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl."

Smith could be considered the favorite: I've been telling you this since January and now here it is, in ink, right here in the good old media guide.

I've given most of it a pretty close read — reading between the lines, of course — and will fill you in on more details soon. But no, there's no mention anywhere of Terence Jeffers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bradley Roby, yet another Georgia boy, commits to Vanderbilt

Vandy got a verbal commitment today from Bradley Roby, a 6-0, 175-pound athlete from Suwanee, Ga. He's the 19th commitment for the Commodores (second in the SEC only to LSU's 20), the ninth from Georgia and the seventh from the Atlanta area — or the eighth if you have a really fast car, a radar detector and good directions to Calhoun.

Anyway, Roby's among the most highly sought-after guys yet this recruiting season to pick Vandy. He's got a solid three stars from and and a 78 from ESPN. He runs a solid 4.4 40, maybe a little bit faster ( says a 4.34!). Had offers from Auburn, Ole Miss and South Carolina, as well as Wake Forest, West Virginia, Boston College, Indiana, Maryland and Purdue. Even Ohio State gave him a long hard look.

ESPN describes him as a quick-twitch guy with serious hops, a long wingspan and big, soft hands. He's an "all hands, no body" receiver and has great kick return and kick coverage skills.

Vanderbilt's already got commitments from three other Georgia receivers (Boyd, Krause and Pruitt) as well as a Georgia quarterback (Nance) to get it to them. But Roby can play on either side of the ball. Rivals has him as a receiver, Scout has him as a cornerback and ESPN lists him simply as an athlete.

A great grab for the Commodores. Meanwhile, Loblaw over at Anything But Gatorade's been scratching his head over Rich Brooks' slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach to recruiting. And so far Kentucky has two recruits. For once, it's nice to be wearing black and gold in late July.

Earl Bennett was the rare Commodore to play on offense as a true freshman

Have you noticed all the redshirt freshmen on the Vanderbilt roster, including a whopping eight on the defensive line and three on the offensive line?

We all knew Bobby Johnson liked to redshirt players. But how much?

Let's take a look at his recruiting classes from 2005-2008. That starts with the first class of the post-Cutler era, when Johnson had already built a decent talent base and was consistently winning more than two games a year.

In those four classes, the Commodores signed 76 players who've stuck with the program past their first year. Of those, 12 — or less than 16 percent of them — have avoided redshirts. Here's a list:

• Earl Bennett, WR (2005)
• Bryant Hahnfeldt, PK (2005)
• Patrick Benoist, LB (2006)
• Greg Billinger, DT (2006)
• Myron Lewis, DB (2006)
• D.J. Moore, DB (2006)
• Brent Trice, DB-LB (2006)
• Brett Upson, P (2006)
• Theron Kadri, DE (2007)
• John Stokes, LB (2007)
• Casey Hayward, DB (2008)
• Sean Richardson, DB (2008)

Of these 12 guys, only one of them, Earl Bennett, played offense. Two were kickers and the other nine played defense.

Let's look at how often true freshmen play at Vandy, position by position:

KICKERS (2-3, 66 percent)
The team doesn't sign many placekickers and punters, so they're often needed right away. Bryant Hahnfeldt and Brett Upson played as true freshman. This year's likely starter at placekicker, Ryan Fowler, did not.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (4-11, 36 percent)
Johnson won't hesitate to play a talented defensive back as a freshman, and D.J. Moore, Myron Lewis, Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson are proof. (You could include Brent Trice, who began his Commodore career as a safety, but we're grouping him with the linebackers.) This season, expect Eric Samuels, Trey Wilson and maybe even Javon Marshall to take the field as true freshmen.

LINEBACKERS (3-12, 25 percent)
Patrick Benoist, Brent Trice and John Stokes avoided redshirts, but the best NFL prospect in the linebacking corps, Chris Marve, did not.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES (1-7, 14 percent)
Greg Billinger avoided a redshirt, unlike the talented Adam Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone. Kyle Woestmann of the 2010 signing class has set his sights on playing as a true freshman.

WIDE RECEIVER (1-8, 13 percent)
Earl Bennett is the exception to the rule, though true frosh John Cole returned punts in the opener last season before getting injured, missing the remainder of the season and redshirting.

DEFENSIVE ENDS (1-9, 11 percent)
Theron Kadri managed to avoid a redshirt, while starters Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone did not. Thad McHaney will be Johnson's highest rated defensive end recruit ever, but he'll probably take a redshirt too.

QUARTERBACKS (0-3, 0 percent)
Mackenzi Adams, Jared Funk and Larry Smith have all redshirted. Charlie Goro will do the same this year.

TIGHT ENDS (0-4, 0 percent)
If Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan couldn't join Jake Bradford in the lineup as true freshmen, then it's unlikely Mason Johnston will avoid a redshirt this season.

RUNNING BACKS (0-5, 0 percent)
Will likely change this season, when three-star recruits Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate join the team. Expect at least one of them to play.

OFFENSIVE LINE (0-14, 0 percent)
It's automatic: Regardless of how much weight they need to put on, offensive linemen always take a redshirt at Vanderbilt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Look who's the poster boy for Vanderbilt football tickets

Ads for Vanderbilt season tickets are popping up all over Nashville and on the Internet. I just saw one while I was online reading some stories by Jeff Lockridge, the Tennessean's prep writer who appears to have just switched jobs with Mo Patton and become the new Vandy beat writer.

Anyway, look who's on those season ticket ads, displaying the Music City Bowl trophy.

Larry Smith.

And you don't put the backup quarterback on your season ticket ads, do you?

No. No, you don't.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some thoughts going into the weekend

Not much to say today. I'm about to go slow-cook 30 racks of ribs. And too much has been said over the last few days in Hoover, Ala. Too much of nothing.

Are you ready for the season to start? I am. It doesn't matter to me how many players Vandy has on the preseason All-SEC team (1) or where we're predicted to finish (5th in the East). Who cares?

It will be decided on the field. I'll leave you with these words from Bobby Johnson, which are useful when you want to get into an argument with a fan from another SEC school about how much respect is due Commodore Nation:

"We weren't seeking respect. We were seeking to do as good as we could possibly do in our program. It comes with it. You know, if we continue to get better, I think people will know that we're just not an automatic win any more and we can be considered a contender for a championship if we continue to improve.

"I'm not that motivated by people patting you on the back and saying you're doing real well. I like going back and talking to our team after we win games, talking to our fans when they meet you after an away game, they meet you back at the stadium. Those kind of rewards are a whole lot better than — excuse me — the press."

As good as we could possibly do in our program. At Alabama, that means national championships. What does it mean for the Commodores?

I'm smelling hickory smoke. Have a good one.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sweet! Only one Commodore makes writers' All-SEC team and Vandy keeps flying under the radar

A couple of days ago, Bobby Johnson said he didn't want respect.

"I'm not that motivated by people patting you on the back and saying you're doing real well," he said. "I like going back and talking to our team after we win games."

Same for fans. I live in Auburn country, where for the last couple of years Auburn fans have been telling me what a competitive team Bobby Johnson is building and how nice it is to see smart boys play so well and sometimes even win. Well, it's a lot better to have Auburn fans avoid you in the hallway at church because your team beat them the night before.

Anyway, it was announced today that Vanderbilt again got no respect and had only one player on the All-SEC team, which was comprised of a first and second team. He was senior corner Myron Lewis, who made second team but who would be an All-Fashion first team. (Look at those rims!)

On the coaches team, released last week, senior linebacker Patrick Benoist and senior punter Brett Upson joined Lewis on the second team, and sophomore backer Chris Marve and senior safety Ryan Hamilton made third team.

But the writers love Florida and actually voted half the Gators' starting lineup, including special teamers, to All-SEC team.

For what it's worth, South Carolina was the only other teams with no All-SEC offensive players. Miss State actually had a player on the offensive second team. That would be running back Anthony Dixon, who's been fine-tuning his game in the offseason.

Click here for the whole list, including preseason rankings, which place Vandy at No. 5 in the East and No. 10 in the SEC.

Hey, who cares? By the end of the season, maybe the Dores will have snuck up the rankings. Maybe a bunch more players, including Benoist, Upson, Marve, Hamilton and even other guys like sophomore tight end Brandon Barden, senior center Bradley Vierling, senior tackle Thomas Welch and senior defensive linemen Greg Billinger, Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone can sneak onto the team.

In 43 days, we play Western Carolina in 43 days. And then we play LSU in 50 days and Miss State in 57 days. (WC at VU at 6:30 p.m. CST Sept 5, VU at LSU at 6 p.m. Sept. 12, MSU at VU at 6 p.m. Sept. 19.)

In the meantime, let the Bayou Bengals worry about Alabama and Florida. Let the Starkville Bulldogs wish they could grab some of the spotlight from those Rebels in Oxford.

We don't want more respect. We want to win.

Stars keep coming for latest batch of Vandy recruits

When we were last talking about stars, we told you that two Vandy recruits — OL Logan Stewart and DB Sharrod Golightly — had just picked up three stars apiece from Rivals. Well, add three more future Commodores to the list: RB Jerrell Priester, who got his less than a day after his verbal commitment; TE Davis Dudchock, whom many Vandy fans think is worthy of four stars; and DB Andre Hal.

That brings our three-star total to 12 out of 18 recruits. (The others include WR Chris Boyd, DL James Kittredge, WR Jonathan Krause, QB Nash Nance, OL Grant Ramsay, DE Thomas Ryan and DT Grant Woestmann.) DB Kenneth Ladler and WR Trent Pruitt have two stars, but four other guys haven't been rated yet: DB Karl Butler, DT Jared Morse, RB Myron Ross and OL Chase White.

At the least, expect Morse to pick up three stars, which he's already received from, known for being more conservative with its allocation of stars.

In last year's class, 13 of our 18 recruits picked up three stars from Rivals, but only five achieved that distinction from Scout.

But this season, Scout already has awarded eight three-star ratings to Vandy verbal commitments: Dudchock, Kittredge, Krause, Morse, Nance, Ramsay, Ryan and Woestmann.

In the current class, six linemen have three stars. That's more than we've had in the past decade combined.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Off the roster: Terence Jeffers-Harris would be a huge loss for Commodores

Click here and link to the latest Vanderbilt roster.

Look for wide receiver Terence Jeffers-Harris.

OK, stop. You won't find him. He's not on the roster.

That's right. Jeffers, or Jeffers-Harris as we're calling him lately, is not listed. And as everybody knows, he's been in summer school trying to amass enough credits to become eligible to play. And with a couple of weeks left in class, he's no longer on the roster.

I take this as a very bad sign. He's been listed all summer and as exams — and the start of the season! — approach, his name vanishes. Maybe it's a motivational tool. Maybe it's a ploy by the coaching staff to help opposing teams forget about him. Let's hope it's anything but what it appears to be.

We need Jeffers-Harris badly. Vandy fans know about his big play ability and have been counting on him to help move the offense away from that embarrassing 117th national ranking. He's a big, strong guy who goes over the middle and a fast guy who goes deep. In the spring, he and Larry Smith were developing into a lethal combination. Sure, we're putting together a nice collection of smart, quick little guys who run crisp routes and represent a fine supporting cast for... Mr. Jeffers-Harris.

More than ever, I think, this means true freshman Brady Brown needs to be ready to play right away. He's not physical like J-H or the deep threat J-H is, but he's a big target. Also, without J-H, the tight ends are going to be more important than ever. Barden and Monahan are huge targets, Justin Green has lots of untapped potential, and I'll be interested to see if the coaching staff will be tempted to take the redshirt off freshman Mason Johnston.

The D in D-Line stands for "deep" and other things we learned about the Commodores from SEC Media Days

Sure, Bobby Johnson got some stupid questions yesterday at SEC Media Days. I mean, how many ways can you ask what it felt like to win the Music City Bowl? And hasn’t he been answering that question since New Year’s Eve?

But I think we learned a few things from what he said, if we read between the lines a bit.

1. The quarterback competition is an illusion. Johnson said Mackenzi Adams “likes to get out there and mix it up” and Larry Smith “helps us win the Music City Bowl.” He’s not showing his hand, and both guys may play about evenly in the opener against Western Carolina, but expect Johnson to take the wraps off Smith in Baton Rouge. And Jared Funk? “You know,” Johnson said, “we've got some confidence in him, if need be.” If need be. Hopefully it won’t be.

2. Johnson really likes his depth on the defensive line. He singled out his front four (Stewart, Stone, Smotherman, Billinger), then added, “We’re going to have some people to push them.” Those people will likely be Tim Fugger, Terriall Brannon, Theron Kadri and Johnell Thomas at end, and T.J. Greenstone, Taylor Loftley, Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter at tackle.

3. The freshmen running backs will get a chance to tote the rock. Johnson said, “I think we'll be better at tailback. That's gonna make your offensive line better, too.” I don’t think he means Kennard Reeves, Gaston Miller, Jermaine Doster and Ryan van Rensburg have miraculously transformed themselves over the summer. I think it means he likes Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate and Warren Norman.

4. The front seven returns all starters and goes three deep at every position, but don’t forget about the secondary. Johnson calls safety Ryan Hamilton “an underrated player” and Myron Lewis “one of the best cornerbacks in the country.” The other starting positions, including nickel back, appear to be locked down by Casey Hayward and Jamie Graham (one at corner, one at nickel) and Sean Richardson (safety).

5. Expect to see freshmen play at defensive back, too. Johnson mentioned Javon Marshall last week. Yesterday in his interview, Myron Lewis mentioned freshmen cornerbacks Eric Samuels, Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster. Foster’s awfully light, but is probably the fastest guy on the team. Expect safety Jay Fullam to redshirt.

6. Vanderbilt players are smart “upstairs.” "You always have to have the smarts upstairs,” Myron Lewis told reporters. “Being much smarter helps you out with studying more film, carrying the film to the practice field and to the game." Guess it beats being smart downstairs.

7. Bradley Vierling is a fine center. He also just made the bulletin board in Gainesville. “Like Ole Miss and Florida last year, who would have known Ole Miss would win that game?” he told reporters. “Everyone thought Florida would go undefeated. Florida was playing great, but Ole Miss beat them. It might be Vanderbilt vs. Florida this year. You never know." OK, we never know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wow! While everybody's gabbing in Birmingham, the Commodores grab another recruit

We're sitting here analyzing a bunch of canned answers from Bobby Johnson and meanwhile Jerrell Priester is committing to Vanderbilt. Unbelievable. We've got the biggest recruiting class in the SEC right now, one more than we signed in our last class.

Priester's listed by some folks as a running back, others as an athlete. Douglas James over at VSL is comparing him to D.J. Moore. He's 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, about the same size Zac Stacy was this time last year. No stars yet, but ESPN just rated him as a 77, which is higher than Stacy, Tate or Norman from February's signing class. Priester had offers from Notre Dame and Kentucky.

Speaking of Kentucky, what the heck's going on with the Wildcats? They lose another recruit to the Dores and have only two commitments so far. Oh, and one of them is a kicker. is slowly slapping stars on everybody, too. Noticed that Logan Stewart and Sharrod Golightly each picked up three stars in the last few days, which means nine of our verbal commitments — exactly half — have three stars, and expect that number to grow.

Bobby Johnson: "We weren't seeking respect"

So somebody at SEC Media Days asks Bobby Johnson if people are showing him more respect this year because the Commodores are coming off a winning season.

I love his answer:

"No, that's not what we were seeking. We weren't seeking respect. We were seeking to do as good as we could possibly do in our program. It comes with it. You know, if we continue to get better, I think people will know that we're just not an automatic win any more and we can be considered a contender for a championship if we continue to improve.

"I'm not that motivated by people patting you on the back and saying you're doing real well. I like going back and talking to our team after we win games, talking to our fans when they meet you after an away game, they meet you back at the stadium. Those kind of rewards are a whole lot better than — excuse me — the press."

Bobby Johnson: Blah questions call for blah answers

Bobby Johnson said a lot today in Hoover, Ala., but in doing so he didn’t say much. And that’s because many of the questions were lousy.

Here’s a sample:

• What did he think about playing 12 straight games?: “I'm really not happy about it. I don't think there's anything anybody could do to avoid it. We certainly would have if we could have.”

• What about finally having a winning season and winning a bowl?: “We're very pleased with that... It was very enjoyable.”

• What about his feelings on the quarterback situation?: “I think it would be crazy to tell a guy he couldn't have a chance to compete for a starting position when you start practice. So we're gonna go out there, let ’em all work at it, try to make ’em better.”

• Who was his pick for All-SEC quarterback?: “Tim Tebow. I don't know if y'all are going to find the culprit who didn't vote. You could tell him it wasn't me.”

• What’s his scouting report for Florida?: “They got a chance to be pretty good.”

Thanks, Coach.

Some things Bobby Johnson said last week about Jamie Graham, Chris Marve and, yes, Javon Marshall

While we’re waiting to hear what Bobby Johnson says at SEC Media Days, let’s look at some comments he made last week to the guys at 104.5 The Sports Zone in Nashville. No, they didn’t ask him about the quarterback situation (wimps) or the spread offense or which freshmen running backs might play.

But they got him to throw out a few other names, and explain a few things, and it was still pretty good.

For example, here’s what he said about the team’s summer conditioning program:

“We used to sit here and send out cards to players and ask them to send it back and check to see if they’ve been working out, and they would check ‘Yes, I’ve been working out,’ and of course they weren’t.

“And now we have almost all of them here this summer, most of them going to some kind of summer school — at least one session — and others having jobs and others rehabbing and things like that. We have them all here and we know they’re getting in great shape. They’re working with Coach Sisk and he’s doing a great job of getting those guys ready to go.”

Here’s some other things he said:

• On sophomore Jamie Graham: “We brought Jamie in as a corner. We needed him last year (at wide receiver) because of injuries.” He added that he plans to put him in offensive situations — like he did with D.J. Moore last season — as well as using him as a decoy and also to return kicks.

• On sophomore Casey Hayward: “Casey may be our nickel (back) and Jamie take over (for D.J.) at corner or it may be vice versa.”

• On the four true freshmen defensive backs: “There may be a few freshmen who may have a chance.” The most celebrated were Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson, but the only one Johnson mentioned was Javon Marshall, whose high school coach predicted on his signing day that Vanderbilt wouldn’t be able to keep him off the field his first season.

• On Broderick Stewart’s return from a broken leg: “I tell you what, he missed the bowl game and that hurt him.” He added that Stewart is “as heavy as he’s ever been” and is running and cutting well.

• He said the defensive line is “probably our deepest position” and he names senior Greg Billinger, junior Adam Smotherman and sophomore T.J. Greenstone inside and seniors Stewart and Steven Stone, junior Theron Kadri and sophomore Tim Fugger on the outside.

• On sophomore linebacker Chris Marve: “I expect him to get better. Experience is really important at that position. He’s got the motor.” He said Marve needs to “improve his pass rushing; we can use him in that role a little more.”

• On the lack of a bye week this season: “Twelve straight is really tough.” He said the problem was created because the MAC conference pulled the Kent State game off the schedule. “We were in a dire situation when the MAC conference backed out on us.”

Click here to hear the entire interview.

Bobby Johnson's back at Media Days, wearing a tie and looking into a crystal ball resembling a football helmet

It's time again for Bobby Johnson to don his black and gold Brooks Brothers tie and take the SEC Media Days stage. He'll be on today from 1-3 p.m. Eastern time, and he'll have seniors Bradley Vierling and Myron Lewis with him. You can read what they say, after it happens of course, by clicking here and going to the SEC site.

It'll be interesting to see who Coach Johnson mentions. Here are a few things he said last year:

• Of D.J. Moore: "He's been a joy to have in our program." And D.J. was only starting his junior year. Sounds like they'd already talked about him leaving early for the NFL, huh? And so he did.

• He said he expected Chris Marve to start and excel at middle linebacker. And so he did.

• He expected Myron Lewis to have "a breakout year." And so he did.

• He talked about Ryan Hamilton's ability to make "big plays." And so he did.

• He said Jared Hawkins was "ready to step up." And so he did.

This year, expect Johnson to field questions about the following:

1. The quarterback situation.
2. The quarterback situation.
3. The quarterback situation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Larry Smith does his talking on the practice field; Mo Patton's back, and so is Chris Johnson

Ah, it's nice to have Mo Patton back from vacation, though he certainly deserved a break before the upcoming college football season, which more or less kicks off this week with SEC Media Days.

The Vandy beat writer for the Tennessean has a new story today about Larry Smith. Whoever writes Mo's online headlines always tries to push his stories in another direction. Today's Web headline: "Music City Bowl star wants to start for Vanderbilt."

But here's what Larry tells Mo:

"We're just trying to improve overall as a team, not just individually. I'm getting mental reps, physical reps, doing the best I can do when I'm in there."

And: "I'm feeling pretty comfortable right now. I wouldn't say I'm an upperclassman now, but I'm one of the older guys, with two classes under me. It seems like only yesterday I was a freshman and looking up to the other guys. The roles have kinda changed now."

Is Larry getting interview tips from Crash Davis? Anyway, everybody wants to report on the so-called quarterback controversy, but nobody — Coach Johnson, Larry, Mackenzi, teammates — are saying anything. Well, they're saying something without saying something.

Of course Larry wants to start. And Mackenzi wants to start, too.


Mo has an interesting blog post about Chris Johnson, writing that the senior linebacker and special teams ace, who's already graduated and was applying to business schools, got accepted to Vanderbilt's prestigious Owen School of Management. He's got a year of eligibility left, he's on campus, so what the heck, why not play SEC football for another year?

He's in summer workouts and Mo says that Bobby Johnson wants him on the team and plans to play him on special teams, where Mo reminds us that during his career Chris has put both Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster and Georgia's Thomas Jones on the injured reserve list.

Not that football players like to brag about that sort of thing.

B. Johnson also says that C. Johnson might play a little linebacker. The reason for being non-committal? The Commodores are stacked at backer, with returning starters Chris Marve, Patrick Benoist and John Stokes, as well as seasoned veterans Brent Trice, Nate Campbell and Austin Newton, as well as talented redshirt freshmen DeAndre Jones, Tristan Strong, Dexter Daniels and Archie Barnes, plus another fifth-year senior who's due a breakout year, Brandon Bryant.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vanderbilt stocks up on defensive linemen

We've mentioned it before, but with the verbal commitment of James Kittredge it bears mentioning again:

The Commodores are stocking up on defensive linemen.

In February, they signed two lanky defensive ends, Walker May and Thad McHaney. May is a tweener and may be a linebacker in the John Stokes mold, and McHaney could just as easily play tight end.

But it's a new recruiting class, and now the legitimate D-Line prospects are rolling in: Kyle Woestmann, Thomas Ryan, Jared Morse and now Kittredge. Woestmann and Morse are listed as tackles, Ryan as an end, and Kittredge is listed as an end by Rivals and Scout and as a tackle by ESPN.

It's enough to make you forget Garrison Smith, the five-star tackle who included Vandy in his Top 10 schools but recently chose the Georgia Bulldogs. OK, maybe not. But Vandy's never even signed three-star D-Line prospects before, and now it's got verbal commitments from four of them. Not bad at all.

ESPN calls Kittredge "a physical kid in the trenches" and says he has " a blue collar style" and "a good motor and pursues to the ball." Its evaluation concludes: "Could likely start off at end, but we feel his best long term fit may be at defensive tackle."

This season, Bobby Johnson should have his best D-Line ever, with senior Greg Billinger, junior Adam Smotherman and sophomore T.J. Greenstone, as well as a promising group of redshirt freshmen, including Rob Lohr, Taylor Loftley and Colt Nichter.

And apparently things are only getting better.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vanderbilt moves to East Coast and picks up 17th recruit

The Commodores just got their 17th commitment of the year, James Kittredge of New Jersey. After a long string of players from the South, especially Georgia, Vanderbilt has moved up the East Coast to get running back Myron Ross of Pennsylvania and now Kittredge.

He's a 6-foot-5, 260-pounder who's listed as a strongside defensive end by and a defensive tackle by Rivals and Scout each give him three stars and ESPN has him rated as a 76.

He had an offer from South Carolina, where his father played. Last month, tight end Davis Dudchock, who's father played for Auburn, snubbed the Tigers and chose Vandy.

Kittredge also had offers from West Virginia, Michigan State, Maryland, Pitt, Duke, Rutgers, NC State and Virginia.

Wow, 17 recruits. That's the size of the last class that signed in February.

Bobby Johnson is not a quarterback-by-committee guy

Everybody previewing the Commodores seems to think that Bobby Johnson likes playing a bunch of quarterbacks, and that's the reason why he hasn't named a starter yet.

Not true.

Johnson likes competition, and believes it makes everybody better. So Johnson doesn't announce his starters until late in the preseason. He's said this before. He wants his quarterback to be sharp and hungry — and confident.

And once he makes up his mind, he sticks with it, until he's forced to change it.

In seven years, Johnson has had two starters going into the regular season. Let's look at it year by year:

2002: Before the start of the season, Johnson chooses redshirt freshman Jay Cutler over redshirt junior Benji Walker. Cutler gets pounded in early blowouts against Georgia Tech and Auburn and produces horrible numbers, but Johnson sticks with him. Walker starts the MTSU game, but only because Cutler is benched after a run-in with a campus cop. The next week, Cutler is back in the lineup and starts every game the rest of his career.

2003-2005: Cutler is clearly the starter and leader of the team, even after three consecutive two-win seasons. A promising recruit, Steven Bright, is moved to H-back. Cutler's senior season, he leads the Dores to a 4-0 start and then a big upset over Tennessee in Knoxville.

2006: Johnson chooses redshirt sophomore Chris Nickson over redshirt freshman Mackenzi Adams and transfer Richard Kovalchek. Nickson has a superb sophomore season. Adams' only meaningful playing time is against Ole Miss after Nickson is injured.

2007: Nickson is clearly the starter, and even makes third-team preseason All-SEC. But after injury and several failed attempts to return, Johnson turns to Adams, who leads the team to a stunning victory over Top 10 South Carolina in Columbia. Kovalchek gets most of the snaps in his last game, on senior day, against Wake Forest.

2008: After a tight preseason race, Johnson chooses Nickson, who starts all five games during the Dores amazing 5-0 run, then starts against Miss State even after Adams leads a comeback against Auburn. Both quarterbacks struggle with injury and consistency throughout the season. Adams starts in losses to Georgia, Duke and Florida, then Nickson starts in the victory against Kentucky. He also starts against Tennessee and Wake Forest. With both QBs injured against Wake, redshirt freshman Larry Smith enters the game and makes rookie mistakes mixed with flashes of brilliance. He gets the start in the Music City Bowl and is replaced by Nickson on running plays. He makes a huge third-down throw to George Smith late in the fourth quarter to set up the winning field goal.

2009: The pick here is that, like he did with Nickson his sophomore year, Johnson will name Smith the starter and, barring injury or meltdown, stick with him for the next three years.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Larry Smith's right on track to be Vandy's starting QB

Seen the latest Vanderbilt preview by College Football News? The writer, Pete Fiutak, thinks Mackenzi Adams will start at quarterback but will be part of a three-quarterback rotation. For what it's worth, he also thought Adams would be the starter at the start of last season.

So what does he have to say about Larry Smith, who we and a bunch of other Commodore followers think should and will be the starter?

He says that Smith's Music City Bowl numbers (10-of-17 passes for 121 yards, 25 yards rushing) were "hardly good enough to hand the starting job over to him," though his performance was "conservative, mistake-free, and he got the win."

He adds: "While he’s not quite the runner that Adams is, he’s mobile enough to be used as a regular runner."

Of all three quarterbacks, he writes, "There isn’t anything special to get excited about with this group, but there’s plenty of experience and three decent options to work with."

Did Fiutak watch the Music City Bowl? Smith's performance was "conservative" because the Vandy game plan was conservative. On the first two drives, Smith threw long passes to get the Dores into field goal range and then Nickson entered the game and set up both kicks to put us up 6-0.

Did Fiutak watch the Wake Forest game? Smith would have an 85-yard touchdown bomb to his credit if it hadn't been dropped by Sean Walker. Nobody's thrown a pass like that since Jay Cutler was here. No, there's plenty special to get excited about with Larry Smith.

As for the assertion that Adams is a better runner than Smith, let's not forget why we signed Smith in the first place. Here's a bit of his evaluation before his senior year of high school:

"Smith is big, athletic and dangerous as a dual-threat QB. He reminds us of current Vandy QB Chris Nickson only Smith is much more imposing in terms of stature and is more likely to make more plays with his legs... Buys a lot of second-chance passing opportunities with his feet. Is an efficient passer when on the run and is extremely difficult to defend when he breaks contain. He can make people miss on the run and yet run over defenders when he lowers his shoulder. Makes quick decisions and does a good job of avoiding sacks... Overall, Smith has huge upside both as an athlete and QB in the spread. He has the physical tools and he is capable of creating plays on his own when things break down."

Keep in mind that those comparisons to Nickson were made after Nickson's stellar sophomore season.

We look for Smith to get the start against Western Carolina and work out the kinks before facing LSU.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bobby Johnson makes the Top 5 in the SEC

You know it's the dog days of summer when fans (me included) are arguing about the No. 9 quarterback in the SEC or the criteria for ranking the best team ever (even if those teams played 100 years ago). Yep, when it's the middle of July and you have nothing to do, you rank stuff.

One particularly popular thing to rank this time of year? Coaches. The other day Mark Bradley over at the AJC posted a list of the Top 10 coaches in college football. He included the following SEC coaches:

1. Urban Meyer
4. Nick Saban
7. Les Miles
8. Mark Richt

Now Bradley has added five more coaches to the list, and three are from the SEC. Bobby Johnson tops the list at No. 13, followed by Houston Nutt at 14 and Bobby Petrino at 15.

No, it doesn't mean much. And it shows that even though we've known all along that Bobby Johnson can coach ’em up, it's taken awhile for him to build a foundation and get some recognition, which is nice to see, and as we're discovering right now, it sure doesn't hurt recruiting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Five Commodores make coaches' preseason All-SEC team

The SEC coaches have voted for their preseason all-conference team, and five Commodores are on it:

• Patrick Benoist, Sr., second team linebacker
• Myron Lewis, Sr., second team cornerback
• Brett Upson, Sr., second team punter
• Chris Marve, R-So., third team linebacker
• Ryan Hamilton, R-Sr., third team free safety

That's four of Vanderbilt's back seven, plus the guy who boots the opposing offense into a hole.

Only Florida (7) and Georgia (5) had more defensive selections than the Commodores. (By the way, Florida's entire secondary was on the team.) LSU and Alabama tied the Dores with four total defenders.

Coach Bobby Johnson said he thought "several" Commodore defensive linemen deserved consideration, which would include senior Greg Billinger and redshirt junior Adam Smotherman, and perhaps even redshirt sophomore T.J. Greenstone, who made the All-Freshman team last season.

That's reasonable. And who knows? Maybe redshirt freshman linebacker DeAndre Jones will be this year's Chris Marve. That is, if he can get Benoist, Marve, senior Brent Trice or junior John Stokes off the field.

As for the offense, Vanderbilt was the only team with nobody represented. Johnson said he thought redshirt senior tackle Thomas Welch and redshirt senior center Bradley Vierling deserved consideration.

I'd even throw in Brandon Barden, the redshirt sophomore tight end who also made All-Freshman, but none of those battles are worth fighting. Hey, we had the third-worst offense in America.

I will tell you this, though: Larry Smith will be a more highly regarded quarterback by the end of the season than either of the quarterbacks who tied for third team, Mike Hartline of UK and Stephen Garcia of SC. And Terence Jeffers could make a strong bid for second or third team wide receiver.

Here's how each team fared:

1. Florida: 16 picks (6 offense, 7 defense, 3 special teams)
2. LSU: 10 (5, 4, 1)
3. Alabama: 9 (3, 4, 2)
3. Georgia: 9 (4, 5, 0)
5. Ole Miss: 7 (4, 2, 1)
6. Tennessee: 7 (4, 3, 0)
7. Kentucky: 6 (3, 3, 0)
8. Vanderbilt: 5 (0, 4, 1)
9. Arkansas: 4 (3, 1, 0)
9. South Carolina: 4 (1, 2, 1)
11. Auburn: 3 (2, 1, 0)
12. Miss State: 2 (1, 1, 0)

What does all this mean, besides the fact that Florida's loaded? Not a lot. But if you're tempted to take all this too seriously, remember this: Chris Nickson was preseason third-team All-SEC before his nightmarish junior season.

Vanderbilt gets 16th commitment... and he's NOT from Georgia

The Commodores just got a commitment from Myron Ross of Ambler, Pa. He's the first commitment north of the Georgia border. That's 16 commitments and it's the middle of July — Vandy signed 17 total in the signing class of 2009.

Ross isn't a name many fans have been talking about. In fact, right now ESPN doesn't even list him in its database of recruits. He's listed by and but has no stars from those guys.

Ross is big and strong and fast (6-1, 205 pounds, benches 350, runs a 4.5, 10.9 100M) and his coach calls him a "very physical player on both sides of the ball" and "very explosive."

He got offers from Pittsburgh, Boston College, Northwestern, Temple and Richmond.

Vandy's still got offers out to two other Pennsylvania kids, running back Ibraheim Campbell of Philadelphia and safety Eric Williams of Fairless Hills, wherever that is. Both are three-star guys.

The best Vanderbilt football team hasn't played yet

You know what some Vandy fans are talking about over at

The greatest Vanderbilt teams of all time.

Here's one guy's list, in order of greatness: 1897, 1910, 1921, 1922 and 1915.

Good Lord. Are we really harkening back to Commodore teams from 100 years ago?

Here's my vote: How ’bout the Vanderbilt team of 2009? That's the only one I care about right now.

Speaking of living for today, JC Shurburtt over at ESPN has a great article about why the Commodores are putting together such a great recruiting class.

His reasons:

1. Vandy players have a chance to be heroes instead of waiting in line. Listen to Kyle Woestmann, the DT from Marietta who turned down an offer from Georgia: "I am not saying that I could not have played at Georgia. I've grown up in Atlanta and I love Georgia to death, but I feel like I have a chance to come in and play as a true freshman, if I don't have to redshirt and get bigger. If I do redshirt, I can be a four-year starter there."

2. Bobby Johnson is a great coach and he's got great assistant coaches. Woestmann says Johnson and his coaches "are some of the finest in the nation." Logan Stewart, an offensive lineman from South Carolina who turned down an offer to be a Gamecock, says he chose Vanderbilt because Robbie Caldwell "is one of the best offensive line coaches."

3. Nashville is an actual city that has more to offer than, say, the Loveliest Village on the Plains. "The city of Nashville is a great city," says linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Warren Belin. "It's a dynamic and progressive city, but it never loses that hometown feel."

4. Oh yeah, kids can get a good education at Vanderbilt. "Vanderbilt as a university speaks for itself," Belin says. "It's a top 20-ranked school. The academics are a little tougher, but we've had guys go on to the NFL from here who have also left with a Vanderbilt degree."

5. While at Furman, Johnson and assistant coach Ted Cain and Johnson gained valuable experience recruiting scholar-athletes in the Atlanta area for Furman. So far this season, Cain has gotten verbal commitments for Vandy from five Atlanta kids.

6. While following UGA, prospects from the state of Georgia have watched Vanderbilt challenge the Bulldogs and become more competitive in the SEC. "The student-athletes in that state get to see a program that's on the rise in the Southeastern Conference," Belin says. "As a staff, we do a great job there, and will continue to do a great job there."

That should be enough reasons to stop talking about the stellar Commodore Eleven of 1897. Right?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ted Cain's key to a better offense: Better talent

Say what you want about Ted Cain, the man's pulling in offensive recruits from the Atlanta area.

He recruited Chris Boyd, the 6-5 receiver from Roswell who committed to the Commodores yesterday, and was also responsible for nabbing another receiver, Jonathan Krause, a speedster from Snellville.

He was the lead recruiter for quarterback Nash Nance of Calhoun and lineman Grant Ramsay of Marietta, and he worked with Rick Logo to get defensive tackle Kyle Woestmann, also of Marietta.

Over in South Carolina, he teamed up with Robbie Caldwell to get a verbal from offensive lineman Logan Stewart.

We've all heard — and have probably helped generate — criticism about Cain's playcalling. One argument in his defense has been that he hasn't had the offensive talent to work with.

Two of the most exciting athletes for the Commodores last season were D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis, both of whom were listed as wide receivers when they showed up on campus. And a guy who seemed to step up and give us a spark running and catching and even throwing the ball was Jamie Graham, who's being moved to cornerback this season.

Yes, the team is built around defense and special teams, but last season proved that even if you've got the greatest defense and special teams in the world, you still need to generate some offense. It's still incredible to me that Vandy had the second- or third-worst offense in America and still had a winning season, finished in the top half of the SEC and won a bowl against the team with the longest bowl-winning streak in college football.

Of course, that's got to change. And to Ted Cain's credit, he's doing all he can to get better talent to work with. Now if he can just keep them on the offensive side of the ball.

Who'd be starting for Vanderbilt this season if stars were all that mattered

It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re following recruiting, where all that matters is the number of stars on a piece of paper or on a computer screen.

So today we’re revealing our all-paper Vanderbilt team. We’ve taken all the players on the 2009 roster and chosen a starting lineup of the guys with the highest ratings coming out of high school. Here we’ve used star ratings from and and, for a tie-breaker, the 100-point scale grades from

The team includes 27 players, a second running back, a nickel back, a third defensive lineman (Greg Billinger and Taylor Loftley tied) and a kicker and punter. Of the 27 most celebrated recruits at each position, only eight have actually played in a game.

Pictured above are T.J. Greenstone (not all-paper) as well as all-paper selections Billinger and John Stokes, the only 4-star player on the current roster. Here's the list:

• Larry Smith, R-SO (2007); 6 total stars, 78 espn

• Ryan van Rensburg, R-SO (2007); 6 total stars, 75 espn
• Zac Stacy, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 76 espn

• Brady Brown, FR (2009); 6 total stars, 75 espn
• Udom Umoh, R-SO (2007); 6 total stars, 40 espn
• John Cole, R-FR (2008); 5 total stars, 74 espn

• Mason Johnston, FR (2009); 6 total stars, 77 espn

• Wesley Johnson, FR (2009); 6 total stars, 78 espn
• Kyle Fischer, R-SO (2007); 6 total stars, 75 espn
• Richard Cagle, R-FR (2008); 5 total stars, 74 espn
• Michael Bryant, R-FR (2008); 5 total stars, 74 espn
• Mylon Brown, FR (2009); 4 total stars, 77 espn

• Adam Smotherman, R-JR (2006); 6 total stars, 70 espn
• Greg Billinger, SR (2006); 5 total stars, 75 espn
• Taylor Loftley, R-FR (2008); 5 total stars, 75 espn

• Thad McHaney, FR (2009); 6 total stars, 74 espn
• Walker May, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 75 espn

• John Stokes, JR (2007); 7 total stars, 72 espn
• DeAndre Jones, R-FR (2008); 6 total stars, 78 espn
• Blake Southerland, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 76 espn

• Eric Samuels, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 78 espn
• Trey Wilson, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 75 espn
• Eddie Foster, FR (2009); 5 total stars, 74 espn

• Al Owens, R-FR (2008); 4 total stars, 78 espn
• Micah Powell, R-FR (2008); 4 total stars, 78 espn

• Ryan Fowler, R-FR (2008); 4 total stars, 40 espn

• Brett Upson, SR (2006); 4 total stars, 40 espn

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vandy gets verbal from another Atlanta kid

The Dores just got their 15th commitment of the year, from wide receiver Chris Boyd of Roswell. That makes eight recruits from the Peach state, and six from the Atlanta area.

Boyd's 6-foot-5 and has some wheels. Rivals gives him three stars. No rating yet from the other guys.

He didn't have the high-profile offers that some of our other commitments have had. Apparently he really wanted an offer from Georgia Tech but never got one. He had offers from Elon, Hampton, Akron, MTSU and Air Force, but had just picked up a couple of Big 10 offers — Illinois and Indiana — when he got one from Vandy and took it.

He's visited Vanderbilt six times.

Anyway, 15 verbal commitments. Remember, we had two this time last year.

More later.

Vanderbilt gets 14th commitment, and yes, that's a lot for this time of year

Sure, recruiting is about more than volume. But midway through July, having a bunch of commitments is an excellent thing. It means your favorite players, the guys you made offers to right off the bat and think are a good fit for your program, are choosing you.

This time last season, Vanderbilt had two recruits. Today, the Commodores have 14.

The latest is Sharrod Golightly, appropriately named at this point because ESPN says he's "a little light in the pants." How light is uncertain, because his weight ranges from 168 to 180 on the recruiting sites. But ESPN also calls him a "superb edge blitzer and contain strong safety," and describes him as a smart, quick and agile player who knows when to take chances. Sounds like a good fit for our defense, huh? Though he's listed as a safety, he could end up at cornerback. He's about 5-11, 180 pounds and had offers from Ole Miss, South Carolina, NC State, UAB and New Mexico.

Oh, and he's from Decatur, Ga., which brings to five the number of verbal commitments Vandy's gotten from the Atlanta area (also counting Grant Ramsay and Kyle Woestmann from Marietta, Kenneth Ladler from Stone Mountain, Jonathan Krause from Snellville), and six if you count Calhoun (Nash Nance), which is about 60 miles away. Trent Pruitt is about 160 miles south in Fitzgerald.

In all, half of our 14 commitments are from the Peach State.

But back to our point about numbers being a good thing in July. Only Alabama (16), Florida (15) and LSU (15) have more verbal commitments right now than Vandy does. And those are the only schools in the SEC the Commodores haven't beaten for recruits. Here's a look at the remaining schools, including their total commitments so far and the players we've outrecruited them for.

Georgia: 14 total commitments. Lost Kyle Woestmann to VU.

South Carolina: 13 total. Lost Sharrod Golightly, Logan Stewart and Woestmann to VU.

Tennessee: 12 total. Lost Davis Dudchock to VU.

Auburn: 8 total. Lost Dudchock and Jared Morse to VU.

Arkansas: 8 total. Lost Morse to VU.

Miss State: 7 total. Lost Jonathan Krause, Nash Nance to VU.

Ole Miss: 2 total. Lost Golightly and Krause to VU.

Kentucky: 2 total. Lost Morse and Thomas Ryan to VU.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trey Wilson among Commodores who'll play as true freshmen this season

So we’ve been concentrating a lot on next year’s signing class. Hey, it’s something to do in the summertime. But what about this year’s class? Who’s got the best chance of playing as true freshmen?

Glad you asked. According to our poll, you think Trey Wilson does, followed by receiver Brady Brown, running backs Wesley Tate and Zac Stacy and cornerback Eric Samuels. There’s a big drop-off after that.

Keep in mind that only three true freshmen played last season (Casey Hayward, Sean Richardson and John Cole, with Cole redshirting after being injured in the first game), and none of them started.

Here’s a look at each true freshman, in the order of votes received in the Moral Victory! poll:

Position: Cornerback
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 52% (No. 1)
Main competition for playing time: Junior Alan Strong and freshman Eric Samuels
Will play right away: If he shines on special teams
Could have a big impact in 2009: If sophomore corners Graham or Hayward struggle against SEC receivers

Position: Wide receiver
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 46% (No. 2)
Main competition for playing time: Sophomore Udoh Umoh and redshirt freshman Akeem Dunham
Will play right away: If he makes big catches in pre-season camp and clicks with quarterbacks Smith and Adams
Could have a big impact in 2009: If he’s the big target and sure-handed possession receiver that everybody believes he is

Position: Running back
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 45% (No. 3)
Main competition for playing time: Junior Kennard Reeves and fellow freshman Zac Stacy
Will play right away: If Jared Hawkins struggles with injury or Reeves fails to step up against SEC defenses
Could have a big impact in 2009: If he proves himself to be an every-down back in the SEC

Position: Running back
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 43% (No. 4)
Main competition for playing time: Junior Kennard Reeves and fellow freshman Wesley Tate
Will play right away: If Reeves struggles early and if he’s better prepared than Tate to play right away
Could have a big impact in 2009: If he proves himself to be quicker hitting the holes than other backs on the team

Position: Cornerback
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 42% (No. 5)
Main competition for playing time: Junior Alan Strong and freshman Trey Wilson
Will play right away: If he shows the kind of athleticism that made him a sleeper pick as a high school senior
Could have a big impact in 2009: If Graham fails to adjust on defense or if Lewis or Hayward are injured.

Position: Running back
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 19% (No. 6)
Main competition for playing time: Freshmen Wesley Tate and Zac Stacy and junior Gaston Miller
Will play right away: If he shows in the pre-season that he can do something better than any other back, such as catch passes out of the backfield, and if he dispels the view that he’s not physically ready for the SEC
Could have a big impact in 2009: If the upperclassmen struggle and if he shows an elusiveness that the other freshmen lack

Position: Defensive back
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 16% (No. 7)
Main competition for playing time: Redshirt freshmen Al Owens and Micah Powell and true freshman Jay Fullam
Will play right away: If Owens and Powell struggle and any of the regular safeties is injured.
Could have a big impact in 2009: Would be a role player at best.

Position: Tight end
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 12% (No. 8)
Main competition for playing time: Junior Justin Green
Will play right away: If he shows himself to be a significantly better receiver and blocker, and more aggressive, than Green in preseason workouts
Could have a big impact in 2009: If he beats out Green early and then is forced into a bigger role because of injuries to Barden or Monahan

Position: Cornerback
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 10% (No. 9)
Main competition for playing time: Freshmen Samuels and Wilson
Will play right away: If he dispels the belief that he’s too light to play right away and that Samuels and Wilson are better prepared for SEC football
Could have a big impact in 2009: If put in a role, such as a returner, that highlights his 4.3 speed

Position: Wide receiver
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: N/A (signed late; not included in fan poll)
Main competition for playing time: Senior Alex Washington and junior Turner Wimberly
Will play right away: If Washington struggles with injury or can’t step up and if Wimberly doesn’t have what it takes to be an SEC receiver.
Could have a big impact in 2009: If John Cole, who looks like a clone, or another regular struggles with injury and Ashley is pressed into duty and shines

Position: Defensive end
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 9% (No. 10)
Main competition for playing time: Five defensive ends with significant playing time, as well as three redshirt freshmen
Will play right away: If he’s physically ready and if he’s too good to keep off the field
Could have a big impact in 2009: This is unlikely. A redshirt year is the best bet.

Position: Quarterback
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 5% (No. 11)
Main competition for playing time: Jared Funk
Will play right away: If the three quarterbacks ahead of him get injured. Highly unlikely.
Could have a big impact in 2009: If Larry Smith goes down and the other quarterbacks struggle, but this is highly unlikely.

Position: Offensive line
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 5% (No. 11)
Main competition for playing time: Nine linemen with playing experience and four redshirt freshmen
Will play right away: Highly unlikely, and possible that he won’t be allowed to attend Vanderbilt
Could have a big impact in 2009: No chance.

Position: Offensive line
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 4% (No. 13)
Main competition for playing time: Nine linemen with playing experience and four redshirt freshmen
Will play right away: If he’s recovered from injury and has talent that can’t be kept off the field.
Could have a big impact in 2009: A redshirt year is a much better bet.

Position: Safety
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 4% (No. 13)
Main competition for playing time: Redshirt freshmen Owens and Powell and true freshman Marshall
Will play right away: If the other freshmen struggle and the secondary is hit hard with injuries.
Could have a big impact in 2009: Not likely

Position: Offensive line
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 2% (No. 15)
Main competition for playing time: Won’t play. Will be too busy eating and lifting. This boy’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with in a year or two.
Will play right away: See above.
Could have a big impact in 2009: See above.

Position: Linebacker
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 2% (No. 15)
Main competition for playing time: With seven veterans returning and four talented redshirt freshmen chomping at the bit, playing this season won’t be an option.
Will play right away: See above.
Could have a big impact in 2009: See above.

Position: Defensive end
Fans who think he’ll play as true freshman: 0% (No. 16)
Main competition for playing time: Too much competition. He'll be with Wes Johnson in the dining room and weight room.
Will play right away: See above.
Could have a big impact in 2009: See above.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Does God want Garrison Smith to go to Vanderbilt?

Thanks to Aaron, who points out that Atlanta's Garrison Smith, widely regarded as the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect in America, has narrowed his college choices down to 10.

They are, in alphabetical order: Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, USC and...

Oh yeah, Vanderbilt.

Don't believe it? Click here and read it for yourself on

This says a lot about the Vanderbilt program. A five-star prospect lists nine perennial powerhouses and Vanderbilt as his top 10 choices.

Smith, who at 6-4, 250 is light for a DT but who runs a 4.7 (!) 40-yard dash, says he's going to let God point him to the right school. So if you're a Vanderbilt fan who believes in the power of prayer, you'd better get down on your knees and pray.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brandon Barden downsizes his uniform number, and other observations from the rough-draft roster

With SEC Media Days less than two weeks away, the Vanderbilt athletic department is putting the finishing touches on the 2009 roster, and it looks like TE Brandon Barden has traded his No. 87 jersey for No. 6. Kind of a big guy to be wearing such a little number, huh? Sort of like TE Jason Whitten wearing No. 1 when he played for the Vols?

Anyway, Barden, who wore No. 6 as a high school quarterback, got the number when Darlron Spead decided to forgo his fifth year and graduate on schedule. And true freshman wideout Collin Ashley gets Barden's old 87, though probably not the same jersey, seeing how Barden is half a foot taller and 75 pounds heavier.

Speaking of true freshmen, running back Zac Stacy, who was listed at 5-foot-8 as a high school prospect and 5-foot-9 when he signed with the Commodores, is now listed at 5-foot-10. Which means he'll be 6-foot-2 when he's a senior. Everybody was worried about Stacy's size, but he's almost the exact same size as senior starter Jared Hawkins.

But true freshmen DE Walker May, OL Wesley Johnson and WR Brady Brown are apparently shorter — on signing day they were all listed at 6-foot-5 and now they're all 6-foot-four. OL Justin Cabbagestalk is listed 10 pounds heavier since signing day (no word yet on any repercussions from his recent arrest). DB Eddie Foster, who was 165 pounds on signing day, is all the way up to 170 now.

If you're wondering who picked up D.J. Moore's No. 17, that would be freshman quarterback Charlie Goro.

To get all the numbers for incoming freshman football players, click here for a page from the Barca Blog, an informative site by a guy who works in the athletic department, posted recently on the Vanderbilt Athletics Facebook account.

This is all tentative. For example, true freshman defensive back Eric Samuels is listed at No. 37, but so are two other DBs, redshirt freshman Al Owens and redshirt sophomore Elvio Tropeano. Tropeano's a walk-on who'll never see the field, but I would think Samuels and Owens could be out there at the same time, particularly on special teams, and would need different numbers.

One other observation: Vandy has six defensive tackles on the roster, including last year's three-man rotation of Billinger/Smotherman/Greenstone plus three redshirt freshmen, Rob Lohr, Colt Nichter, and Taylor Loftley. (We're not counting John Burrow, who's listed at DE/DT but that's probably because the Commodores are three-deep at DE; Burrow's only 250.) Together those six average 286 pounds. The three redshirt freshmen have gained a total of 56 pounds since last season, with Loftley making the biggest climb from 250 to 280. Billinger, who was 285 last season, is now listed at 297, Smotherman's up 5 pounds to 290 and Greenstone has held steady at 280.

Vanderbilt gets verbal commitment from Jared Morse, its second three-star defensive tackle of the 2010 class

Have I mentioned that Bobby Johnson's putting together a stellar recruiting class?

Here's further evidence: Johnson has never signed a three-star high school player listed as a defensive tackle. Today, he got his SECOND verbal commitment from a three-star defensive tackle, Jared Morse of Oxford, Ala. (He did get a verbal last year from Darrius McMullin of Alabama, who never signed with the Commodores.) The first this year was Kyle Woestmann of Georgia.

Morse is 6-3, 260 pounds, and gets three stars from and a 77 from ESPN, which describes his game as having a "blue collar feel" and calls him a nice combination of "toughness and smarts." hasn't rated him yet, but you can expect Morse to get three stars from them too. Morse has offers from Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky. (Kentucky has to be worried, with only two verbals so far to Vanderbilt's 13.) He also got offers from La Tech, Troy, UAB and Tulane.

ESPN says Morse has a long, wide frame that's capable of putting on more weight. He also runs a 4.9 40 yard dash. We've also noticed that he averaged 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists as a junior on the Oxford High basketball team. You've got to love a defensive tackle with the footwork and quickness to play basketball.

Vanderbilt has plenty of defensive ends waiting in the wings, but the Commodores have always needed defensive tackles. Last season, they played three — Greg Billinger, Adam Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone. An SEC team that played only three defensive interior linemen all season? Unbelievable, and it's even more unbelievable considering Vandy won half its conference games.

Now Vandy's trying to land three-star DT Vince Taylor of Hattiesburg, Miss., who's also got offers from Tennessee and Miss State, as well as Duke and his hometown Southern Miss.

According to, Vanderbilt has offered scholarships to five defensive tackle prospects in this recruiting class:

• Kyle Woestmann of Georgia, No. 42 DT prospect in nation. Committed to Vanderbilt.
• Wilson Love of Alabama, No. 47. Committed to Alabama.
• Jeremiah Jackson of Alabama, No. 57. Committed to Arkansas.
• Vince Taylor of Mississippi, No. 71. Undecided.
• Jared Morse of Alabama, No. 84. Committed to Vanderbilt.

Not bad, huh?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Robert Bolden commits to Penn State

This morning we were talking about how Robert Bolden, the No. 8 prep quarterback in America, has a Vanderbilt offer. How good is Bolden? Well, you'll have to decide for yourself when you watch him in a year or two on television... while wearing one of those bland Penn State uniforms.

Yes, Bolden just made a verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions. (Thanks, Aaron, for the tip.)

I still like the fact that the Commodores are looking to sign a big-time quarterback even though they've already found somebody in Nash Nance who looks like a good fit. And they may have Cabbagestalk's scholarship to give to somebody else.

Vanderbilt still shopping for quarterback recruits, at least the one named Robert Bolden

In June, Vanderbilt had offers out to four three-star quarterbacks, and Nash Nance of Calhoun, Ga., was the first to commit to the Commodores.

So Vandy had its one quarterback of the 2010 class, right?

Well, maybe. Nash, 6-4, 205 pounds, was the lowest rated of the four prospects. The best guy, Sam Gibson of Larry Smith's alma mater Prattville High, was really an athlete who could play anywhere, and he quickly committed to LSU, who seems to get whoever they want. Now Sean Robinson of Illinois has committed to Purdue. Devin Burns of Georgia hasn't chosen a school yet.

Bobby Johnson was quoted after Nash's commitment as saying that he'd have to call the other quarterbacks and tell them he'd found his man.

Right after Nash's signing, gunslinger Tyler Arndt of Texas popped up on's list of players who've received Vandy offers. Maybe the offer was already on the table and now Arndt has been told to look elsewhere. Scout and Rivals haven't given him any stars, but has him on their 150 Watch List.

But today I notice that Vandy has now offered a scholarship to quarterback Robert Bolden of Michigan. Bolden is a four-star guy who's on the ESPN 150 Watch List. Scouts has him rated as the No. 8 quarterback prospect in America (Burns is 31, Robinson 38 and Nash 77). Also 6-4, 205, he's big, strong and fast with a great arm. He's running a simple high school offense right now, but looks perfect to run the spread the Commodores are installing.

I'm glad Bobby hasn't closed the book on quarterbacks. Nance is a nice prospect and worth signing but we can't pass up the opportunity to take a shot Bolden, who would be as close to an elite quarterback as we've ever had.

Of course, we're not the only school that's noticed him. Everybody and his mama has offered this guy: Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big 10; Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska in the Big 12; Duke, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Louisville and West Virginia in the Big East; and Oregon in the Pac-10.

Oh, and Vanderbilt, the pride of the SEC.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vanderbilt has best football season ticket deal in SEC

Vanderbilt season tickets are now on sale, and you can click here for more information, including a little video pep talk from Coach Bobby Johnson.

I know, I know, you probably don't live in the Nashville area or if you do you can't make all six games.

Wake up and smell the coffee! Vanderbilt offers an incredible season ticket deal for the SEC, especially if you have children under the age of 18.

Let's say, for example, that you want to take your spouse and two children to see the Commodores play just two games, against preseason Top 10 Ole Miss and perennial powerhouse Georgia. Tickets are $50 each to SEC games, so that'll cost you a total of $400.

But a Family Season Ticket costs $289 for two adult and two youth tickets to ALL SIX Vandy football games this season. That's an average of $12 per ticket. So instead of tickets to two games you could save $111 by buying a family season ticket and then individually sell the tickets you don't want to use. Believe me, outside of the Western Carolina game you'd have no problem unloading any of these tickets (Ole Miss, Miss State, Georgia, Kentucky, Georgia Tech).

The tickets are located in the end zone, which is the only drawback. But you still can't get a deal like this anywhere in the SEC. Heck, you can't get season tickets anywhere these days without making a large donation to the athletic department.

But Vanderbilt fans can still pick up the phone or go online and get home tickets for the entire season. An individual season ticket is $185 ($31 average) or $109 for the end zone ($18 average). Individual ticket prices are $50 for SEC games, $40 for Georgia Tech and $20 for Western Carolina (if you buy that one individually instead of picking one up through stubhub or outside the gate, you're stupid).

We all want Vanderbilt to be a consistent winner in the league, and if that ever happens, you can kiss season ticket deals like this goodbye. So take advantage of it while you can.