Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Jordan Rodgers' letter of intent means for Vanderbilt

Maybe you've heard that Aaron Rodgers' little brother, junior college quarterback Jordan Rodgers, just signed a letter of intent with Vanderbilt. He told a California newspaper that Vandy coaches "definitely want me to come and compete with the quarterbacks they have right now." He'll start school in January and says he'll get a chance to win the starting job in the spring, though he adds that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of a redshirt year.

This is encouraging news on many levels:

1. RODGERS COULD BE FOLLOWING THE SAME ROAD TO SUCCESS AS HIS BROTHER: Jordan played last season for Butte College in his hometown of Chino, California. Before becoming an NFL star, Aaron got no scholarship offers from D1 schools, though Illinois invited him to walk on. Instead, he played a year at Butte College, where he impressed Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who offered him a scholarship. In his second start, he upset No. 3 USC. Jordan is the same size (6-foot-2, 210-220) and has wheels like his brother, who by far leads the NFL for rushing yards by a quarterback. He had scholarship offers from Kansas, Washington State and Western Kentucky.

2. BOBBY JOHNSON IS SERIOUS ABOUT IMPROVING HIS TALENT: Jordan Rodgers says that Vandy coaches only contacted him a couple of weeks ago. (His official recruiter was Rick Logo). Chat-room jockeys are speculating that one of Vandy's other quarterbacks must be leaving, but the real reason Vandy made a move was because Mark Mangino was forced out at Kansas. Rodgers was considered a lock for the Jayhawks, where he had a good shot at replacing departing quarterback Todd Reesing. So Johnson and his coaches are tracking talent and are looking to grab a player under the radar. Let's face it: Vandy will always have trouble competing for the handful of 5-star quarterbacks out there, and we've all seen what a crap shoot it is developing 3-star quarterbacks (Nickson, Adams, Funk, Smith). Why not get one with some experience under his belt? And hey, let's not fall in love with our own talent. Sure, Bradley Vierling was the best center we had, but he hardly looked all-conference last season. Sure, John Cole's a scrappy guy and our best receiver, but could he really play for another SEC team? I'm not dissing those guys, especially Vierling, who had a solid career for us. But let's continue to upgrade whenever we can. And let's start on offense.

3. VANDY IS LOOSENING ITS MID-YEAR ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS: The Commodores will never be a haven for Jucos like, say, Mississippi State. In fact, Johnson has signed only two of them in eight years. But Rodgers is a smart kid who didn't get attention as a high school player so, like his brother, he stayed at home and developed his skills at the junior college level. Remember how Vandy missed out on J.P. Prince, the Memphis native and Arizona transfer who wanted to play for the Dores but wasn't allowed to enroll second semester? Well, that appears to have changed. Rodgers is enrolling and will compete in the spring. And Kenneth Ladler, a stud safety prospect from Georgia who apparently resisted a late wooing from Steve Spurrier, has said all along that he wants to start college classes next month, and it looks like he'll be allowed to do so at Vanderbilt.

4. JOHNSON ISN'T GOING TO PUT ALL HIS EGGS IN LARRY SMITH'S BASKET: Chat-room cowboys say Johnson brings his quarterbacks along too slowly. Um, that's because none of ours are ready to play when they get here. True blue-chip quarterbacks are extremely hard to sign. If we had Matt Barkley, he'd be playing as a true freshman. But he's at USC, where he beat out two other five-star quarterbacks. Don't tell me our three-star recruits are the same thing. Lots of fans still want to give Jared Funk a shot. Are you kidding? He's been holding a clipboard for four years on one of the worst offenses in college football and he still hasn't thrown a pass. In fact, he was on the punt coverage team this season. We'd have played him if he could play. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes ahead and graduates. As for Smith, nobody has supported Larry like I have; he's the best thing we've got, but can we do better? Based on last season, we've got to start looking at a Plan B. And besides, we've lost our starting quarterback to injuries the past three seasons. During the Cutler years, Johnson had three scholarship quarterbacks after he moved Steven Bright to fullback. After Cutler left, and with the absence of a true heir apparent, Johnson picked up Arizona transfer Richard Kovalchek and has gone with at least four scholarship quarterbacks ever since:
• 2006: Four: Starter Chris Nickson (R-SO), backups Mackenzi Adams (R-FR) and Kovalchek (R-JR), true freshman Jared Funk
• 2007: Five: Starters Nickson (R-JR) and Adams (R-SO), backup Kovalchek (R-SR), understudies Funk (R-FR) and Smith (FR)
• 2008: Four: Starter Nickson (R-SR), middle reliever Adams (R-JR), closer Smith (R-FR) and bench Funk (R-SO)
• 2009: Four: Starter Smith (R-SO), backup Adams (R-SR), special teams contributor Funk (R-JR) and true freshman Charlie Goro
• 2010: Five: Smith (R-JR), Rodgers (T-JR), Funk (R-SR)?, Goro (R-FR), true freshman Nash Nance

• Auburn's still making a run at Bradley Roby, but it looks like he still would rather be Vandy's top receiver than a nickel back at Auburn. And fellow commitments Chris Boyd, Jonathan Krause and Trent Pruitt all appear ready to line up for the Dores.
• Speaking of receivers, there's talk that Collin Ashley might be leaving school. That's OK. He was a tough little guy, but not an SEC caliber receiver. There's been some speculation, too, that Brady Brown might be getting restless because he never caught a pass. Who's fault was that? Vandy was dying for somebody, anybody to catch a pass last season. That said, I think Brown has the tools to be a solid receiver. Remember that Justin Wheeler didn't catch a pass his freshman year either (and he was a redshirt).
• Running back Myron Ross has reneged on his verbal commitment and will be matriculating at Temple. That's OK, too. We've got Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, and redshirt Wesley Tate may turn out to be a better player than both of them.
• Top recruits that we do need — tackles Jared Morse and Kyle Woestmann, athlete Jerrell Priester, and safety Ladler — appear to have gotten over their bouts with wanderlust. Priester's an exciting playmaker who'd flirted with Kentucky but maybe he's figured out that he's not touching the ball as long as a certain Randall Cobb's in Lexington.

This is by far the best recruiting class Vandy's had in modern history and I think you'll see some surprise decisions from the coaching staff once these recruits put ink to paper in February.

More later. Merry Christmas.


Anonymous said...

You haven't mentioned Gor once during your quarterback projections. Hhhmmmm is he the one leaving?

maddy said...

Really this post was awesome, Thanks for this!
Letter of Intent