Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Police release new information about Bennett murder

This AJC article has new information regarding the shooting of Rajaan Bennett. Some rumors had been circulating on chat boards, but police revealed Tuesday that Bennett and his family were holed up in a bathroom when his mother's ex-boyfriend broke into the house. Rajaan called 911 asking for help and when police arrived, the boyfriend told Rajaan's mother to go to the door and say everything was fine. But she broke away and ran out of the house and the boyfriend went inside the dark bathroom and started shooting, hitting Rajaan in the chest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chris Nickson faces domestic violence charges

A Nashville TV station is reporting that former Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson was arrested on New Year's Eve after he held his girlfriend against her will for seven hours and then beat her up when she tried to escape.

Interesting that the Tennessean hasn't reported it yet. Surely they know about it. But the station, WKRN Channel 2, also linked to Nickson's player profile as a junior and reported that he started for Vandy his junior year and then was a part-time starter his senior year.

Actually, they're off a year. Nickson had a spectacular sophomore year, including an upset of Georgia in Athens, as a full-time starter, then was a part-time starter his junior year.

But WKRN wipes out all memories of Nickson's senior year, when he led the Dores to a stunning 5-0 start, came up huge in the win in Lexington that made Vandy bowl-eligible, and then while injured split time with Larry Smith in the Music City Bowl victory.

Yeah, they wipe out all memories of the Music City Bowl. Morons.

And Chris was a moron too if he did what his girlfriend says he did.

But if a station is going to get excited about the fact that he's a former Vandy quarterback — he's a thug just like the kids from UT, get it? — then the least they can do is get the facts right. Sure, he struggled and he had his problems, but Chris did something even Jay Cutler couldn't do. After a hot start and then a long losing streak, he stepped up and led us to victory against the Wildcats. It was a huge victory for the Vanderbilt program, and it was probably the best game of Chris' career.

I'll always remember him for that. Now it appears he's back in a slump and is in some trouble. People on chat boards are throwing around that word "heartbreaking" again.

Tomorrow, Bobby Johnson is speaking at Rajaan Bennett's memorial service. Now that's heartbreaking.

Chris Nickson is alive, and so is his girlfriend. Maybe he does time, maybe he'll find himself in an even deeper hole. But Chris Nickson has been down before and feeling the burden of being written off by thousands of fans. And he got back up and he played the game of his life.

This game's not over. Hang in there, Chris. You can do it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vanderbilt's loss to Kentucky was NOT heartwrenching

I've been hearing Vandy fans use "heartwrenching" and "heartbreaking" to describe Saturday's two-point loss to Kentucky.

Give me a break.

Yes, it would have been nice to see the Dores win, and yes, we came pretty darn close.

Yes, I was doing what all fans do, and that's second-guessing our coach and players. Why wasn't Jenkins in the game longer? Whoops, why did Jenkins take that three-pointer and get packed? Why can't AJ catch the ball? Where was Dolla? And yes, I thought more calls should have gone our way.

But we were in it at the end. Don't tell me we have more talent and a better team than Kentucky. We don't. You need a great point guard and a great big man to survive the NCAA tournament, and the Cats have arguably college basketball's best of each.

But we have a better team than anybody else in the SEC, and when could you say that? I'm not frustrated at all.

This is not heartwrenching. Heartwrenching is when you beat the No. 1 team at home and then a month later you lose to Siena 80-66 in the first round of the tournament. Remember that?

Our performance Saturday certainly didn't hurt our seeding in the tournament. What impresses me about this team is our defense and our ability to stay in games when in years past we would have folded.

This is not heartwrenching or heartbreaking. This is encouraging. Our guys our hungry and getting ready to make a run in the tournament.

In football terms, this could have been a body-bag game, where we get stomped and leave the game physically and mentally beaten down, and then we go on a losing skid. That happens when you've got inferior talent and zero margin for error. That doesn't apply to this year's Vanderbilt basketball team.

And while we're on the topic of football, I'll tell you what's really heartwrenching.

Rajaan Bennett.

Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bobby Johnson on Rajaan Bennett: Vanderbilt lost "an outstanding young man," not a football player

Win or lose, triumph or tragedy, I'm always impressed with Bobby Johnson and how much he cares about his players. Here's a video of Johnson talking about the death of Rajaan Bennett this morning. Particularly moving is his account of the challenges Rajaan faced and how the education and experience of Vanderbilt would have changed him.

Rajaan Bennett to Facebook friends: "Don't be scared"

Rajaan Bennett's last post on his Facebook page was at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday.

Via mobile phone, he wrote: "Dont be scared."

On Friday afternoon, as snow pelted Atlanta, Rajaan posted that he'd never seen anything like it and thought it was cool but he was also ready for warm weather.

And a few days earlier, he'd written: "I dare u 2 be yourself and not what people want u 2 be."

And just before signing day, when Tennessee and Kentucky and Vandy were still fighting for his signature, Rajaan posted this: "When GOD created me he was showin off."

He was telling the truth.

Now Rajaan Bennett is dead. A few minutes ago, one of his friends posted this:

"This world is so cruel. The people who have the biggest hearts are the ones who suffer the most. For all you SICK, DEMENTED BASTARDS out there, know that you CAN'T bring God's people down. Rajaan Bennett will always live! HE will always LIVE!"

Rajaan Bennett murdered this morning in Atlanta

News just starting to break that Rajaan Bennett, the Atlanta running back who was the jewel of Vanderbilt's recruiting class, was shot and killed this morning in his home, reportedly by his mother's former boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself. Rajaan was 18 years old. apparently broke the story and has more details.

Bennett, the oldest of four children, was described on signing day by his high school coach as "a guy that has been the man in his household for quite a while, yet still worked to maintain a solid GPA in class and become such a great player."

Rajaan became the man in his family as a sixth-grader when his father died. Like Vandy running back Zac Stacy, Rajaan had a special-needs little brother whom he cared for.

Forget that Rajaan was a four-star recruit and Bobby Johnson's highest rated prep player ever. He was a hero who apparently died protecting his mother and the rest of his family.

This just hurts. Our prayers go out to Bennett's family and everybody at McEachern High School.

Monday, February 15, 2010

You liked Trey Wilson and Brady Brown last season, and now Jonathan Krause, Chris Boyd and Rajaan Bennett

Our Moral Victory! poll last season was pretty accurate at predicting which recruits would play as true freshmen. You thought Zac Stacy would play, but like most experts you favored Wesley Tate, who redshirted, over eventual Freshman All-American Warren Norman. Also, you pegged Trey Wilson and Eric Samuels as players, but you favored Javon Marshall over Eddie Foster, whom everybody thought was too light.

Here's a stroll down memory lane, with the results:

1. DB Trey Wilson (52%) PLAYED
2. WR Brady Brown (46%) PLAYED
3. RB Wesley Tate (45%) REDSHIRT
4. RB Zac Stacy (43%) PART-TIME STARTER
5. DB Eric Samuels (42%) PLAYED
6. RB Warren Norman (19%) SEC FRESHMAN OF YEAR
7. DB Javon Marshall (16%) REDSHIRT
8. TE Mason Johnson (12%) REDSHIRT
9. DB Eddie Foster (10%) PART-TIME STARTER
10. WR Collin Ashley (late signee) PLAYED

The remaining eight players received less than 10 percent of the vote, and all of them redshirted:
• DE Thad McHaney
• DE Walker May
• QB Charlie Goro
• OL Justin Cabbagestalk
• OL Mylon Brown
• OL Wesley Johnson
• DB Jay Fullam
• LB Blake Southerland

Now here's an early look at which freshmen you think will play right away:
1. WR Jonathan Krause (64%)
2. RB Rajaan Bennett (39%)
3. WR Chris Boyd (35%)
4. DB Kenny Ladler (32%)
5. WR Jordan Matthews (28%)
5. DB Andre Hal (28%)
5. DT Vince Taylor (28%)
5. K/P Carey Spear (28%)
9. DT Kyle Woestmann (28%)
10. LB Chase Garnham (17%)
10. OL Grant Ramsay (17%)

These guys are getting more than 10 percent of the vote:
• WR Trent Pruitt (14%)
• DB Andre Simmons (14%)
• DT Jared Morse (14%)
• DL James Kittredge (10%)
• TE/LB Fitz Lassing (10%)

And these guys got less than 10 percent:
• OL Andrew Bridges
• OL Logan Stewart
• OL Chase White
• DB Steven Clarke
• DB Karl Butler
• DE Thomas Ryan
• TE Blake Gowder

We think there's no way Garnham plays as a true freshman, and we think receiver Pruitt and guard Ramsay have a much better shot.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ted Cain replaced by Jimmy Kiser as Vanderbilt offensive coordinator

OK, you can go ahead and celebrate.

Vanderbilt fans have been calling for Ted Cain's head for several years now, and believed there was no way Bobby Johnson would ever fire him. But since our signing day success, made possible in large part by Cain's efforts on the recruiting trail and especially in Atlanta, many fans have amended their wishes, now wanting Cain demoted instead of fired, but believing there was no way Johnson would ever demote him.

We've suspected something might happen after signing day, because so may recruits apparently wanted to come to Vandy BECAUSE of Cain. (Kids these days!)

Well, it's happened. Two weeks after signing day, Johnson has officially stripped Cain of his offensive coordinator job and given it to quarterbacks coach and passing game co-coordinator Jimmy Kiser.

Cain will continue to coach tight ends and will also assume the special teams coordinator job vacated by Warren Belin. Kiser will continue to coach quarterbacks but will surrender his passing game coordinator duties to receivers coach Charlie Fisher. Running backs coach Des Kitchings becomes running backs coach, which kind of makes sense. Robbie Caldwell continues as offensive line coach and assistant head coach. And defensive line coach Rick Logo assumes Belin's recruiting coordinator duties. We're still in the market for a linebackers coach.

I know, it's not what you wanted. You wanted Vandy to get a triple-option guy or bring in some big name we can get excited about during the pre-season.

Instead, the new offensive coordinator, Kiser, is the same guy who called the plays last season, and he'll call the plays this season in the same spread, no-huddle offense.

In today's Tennessean, Johnson explains that Cain was PLANNING the plays last season, and Kiser was CALLING the plays that Cain had planned.

"Jimmy was calling the plays, but he didn't have complete control over what plays were planned," Johnson said. "I thought it was extremely important that the guy calling plays should have the opportunity to craft the game plan around what they like to call in certain situations."

Further proof that more of Bobby Johnson's brain is occupied by defensive knowledge than offensive knowledge. But we knew that already.

It reminds me of what happened at Auburn in 2008, when Tuberville had Tony Franklin calling the plays but didn't actually require the position coaches to coordinate their game plans with his game plan. And because Tuberville coaches at Auburn instead of Vandy, he didn't have a couple of years to get things straightened out. He got fired.

Thankfully, Bobby Johnson's still our head coach. I think he's been the right guy for Vandy and he'll continue to be so, provided he it doesn't take us 10 years to crack the Top 100 in NCAA offensive production.

He needed to make a change after 2008 and he did, having Cain install a spread, no-huddle offense and tapping Kiser to call the plays.

He needed to make a change after 2009 and he's done it, turning the whole show over to Kiser. Hopefully Cain and the other offensive coaches are on board and willing to defer to Kiser. This seems like a close-knit staff — they've certainly been together for a long time — and I think they'll adjust just fine.

"I think with the X's and O's we're pretty good," Kiser told the Tennessean, "but we have to get our players to play better."

That kind of talk makes some fans angry. But I tend to agree. If your line can't block, your quarterback can't throw and your receivers can't catch, it doesn't matter how underrated your running backs are. It doesn't matter what kind of scheme you have. For example, running Kennard Reeves off tackle deep in Mississippi State territory would have been a good idea last season if James Williams wasn't sitting on the sidelines with a broken ankle. Sure, that might have been a bad call under the circumstances, but my point is that when you lose key players — or don't have them to begin with — then your options are severely limited.

For now, I like the move and look forward to seeing how it plays out. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Vandy redshirt freshmen will fare next season

A couple of days ago, we told you which true freshmen have the best chance to avoid redshirts and play right away. But what about the redshirt freshmen?

Of last season's 18 scholarship recruits, seven of them avoided a redshirt, but only at three positions:
• Wide receiver: Brady Brown and Collin Ashley (Ashley has since left school)
• Cornerback: Eddie Foster, Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson
• Running back: Warren Norman and Zac Stacy

The previous season, only Sean Richardson and Casey Hayward escaped redshirt seasons (John Cole was injured in the opener), and the rest played the following roles last season as redshirt freshmen:

• Regular starters: Receiver John Cole, kicker Ryan Fowler
• Part-time starter: Offensive tackle Ryan Seymour
• Backups and special teams players: Linebackers Archibald Barnes, Dexter Daniels, DeAndre Jones and Tristan Strong, offensive tackle Caleb Welchans, receiver Akeem Dunham, defensive ends Josh Jelesky and Johnell Thomas, defensive tackle Rob Lohr, defensive backs Al Owens and Micah Powell
• Limited or no playing time: Offensive lineman Richard Cagle, defensive tackles Colt Nichter, Taylor Loftley and John Burrow; walk-on punter Richard Kent

Expect more of the same, with a handful of guys competing for starting positions and a log jam of fresh talent providing depth and special teams talent. Here's a preview of who'll be available and how they might fare:


• WESLEY JOHNSON, OL (6-4, 252): One of Vandy's top recruits of 2009 who'd have been a four-star guy if he was heavier. Spent last season packing on 15 pounds and impressing coaches with his athleticism. Has practiced at all three line positions, and looks to us like an excellent prospect at center. Should push senior Joey Bailey at center and a host of candidates at guard. Needs to keep adding weight (and surely weighs more than his listed 252), but expect him to nail down a starting job by mid-season.

• MYLON BROWN, OL (6-5, 300): A two-star guy last year, probably because he missed his senior year with a broken leg. Is huge, has quick feet and good bloodlines (nephew of Jerome Brown). Impressed coaches as a tackle on the scout team last season. With James Williams and Ryan Seymour penciled in as tackles, expect Brown to compete for a starting job at guard. At the least, he should earn a spot in the playing rotation at either guard or tackle.

• JAY FULLAM, S (6-1, 190): A two-star Chattanooga private school kid who impressed coaches in preseason camp and appeared to be a lock to play as a true freshman until he tore ligaments in his right hand and missed two months of contact. His name's being mentioned as a candidate to fill the vacant starting free safety position, but he'll face stiff competition from true freshmen Kenny Ladler and Andre Simmons, as well as versatile defensive backs Jamie Graham and Eric Samuels.


• WESLEY TATE, RB (6-1, 215): A two- or three-star tailback who impressed coaches and teammates in the preseason, but so did Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. Continued to dazzle on the scout team. Has loads of potential as an every-down SEC back and should get some big carries this season, especially if he can establish himself in the spring as a better option than Kennard Reeves and in the preseason as a better choice than true freshman Rajaan Bennett.

• WALKER MAY, DE (6-4, 210): A skinny kid with 4.5 speed and mixed reviews from the scouting services, but one of the most impressive defensive players on last season's scout team. May be better suited as an outside linebacker, especially with Vandy in the market for some starting outside guys, but expect him to be on the field somewhere.

• JAVON MARSHALL, DB (5-10, 180): One of those two-star guys who flew under the radar, but coaches are excited about the speed and potential he showed as a nickel back on the scout team. Has a reputation as a hard hitter. A swing guy who can play corner or safety. Probably won't push for a starting job but will help avoid a repeat of last season, when true freshmen were thrown into action because of injury.


• MASON JOHNSTON, TE (6-4, 235): A three-star guy who's a tough blocker, but not as athletic a receiver or as big a target as Brandon Barden or Austin Monahan. He's a better option at tight end than Ryan van Rensburg, the fullback who filled in there last season, and he'll earn playing time this season as a backup and special teams guy.

• BLAKE SOUTHERLAND, LB (6-2, 230): A three-star recruit who was an impressive interior linebacker on the scout team. Would have a better chance to play or even start if he was a natural outside backer (you know, Chris Marve has a pretty good grip on the middle) but he'll likely play an important special teams role and get on the field as a backup.

• THAD McHANEY, DE (6-5, 235): A consensus three-star recruit who turned down an offer from Oklahoma, McHaney showed athleticism as a scout team defensive end and should push guys like Theron Kadri, Terrial Brannon, Josh Jelesky, Johnell Thomas, Walker May and maybe even one of the true freshmen for playing time. But that's a lot of guys competing for one starting job alongside Tim Fugger.

• CHARLIE GORO, QB (6-2, 192): Vandy's first-ever Parade All-American, Goro traveled with the team, learned the playbook and frequently ran the offense in practice with the second team. The fastest quarterback on the team, he could be a situational player until he gets his feet wet. Or if he has a big spring and poses a legitimate threat to Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, he could even prompt coaches to slap a redshirt on Rodgers. People who've seen this kid play rave about his leadership abilities.

• JUSTIN CABBAGESTALK, OL (6-3, 275): A two-star project, he played center on the practice squad last season and will be competing for a spot on the two-deep as either a center or guard.

Chris Boyd's an Eagle Scout, Jordan Matthews is Jerry Rice's cousin, and Fitz Lassing's a freaking genius

So you probably know what positions they play and how many stars they got. Now here's our annual look at things you may not know about Vandy's newest football players:

• RAJAAN BENNETT (Powder Springs, Ga.): Nicknamed “RB”; oldest of four siblings; named the offensive player of the year in Georgia’s largest classification of high school

• CHRIS BOYD (Roswell, Ga.): Won numerous leadership and academic awards at school; Eagle Scout; dad’s a real estate developer, mom’s an IBM program manager

• ANDREW BRIDGES (Atlanta, Ga.): AP Scholar award winner; dad played football at Virginia and owns Cadillac dealerships; plays the guitar

• KARL BUTLER (New Orleans, La.): Worked summers in dad’s law office; high jumper in track; a New York Yankees fan

• STEVEN CLARKE (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.): Nicknamed “Steve-O”; teammates in secondary signed with Michigan and Ole Miss; plans to major in computer engineering

• CHASE GARNHAM (Fairhope, Ala.): Member of National Honor Society; clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash; mom’s a kindergarten teacher

• BLAKE GOWDER (Blairsville, Ga.): Threw a no-hitter as a junior; dad’s the chief operating officer of a hospital; enjoys trout fishing

• ANDRE HAL (Port Allen, La.): Nicknamed “Dre”; mom owns two beauty salons, dad’s a construction worker; same school as Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter of the Saints

• JAMES KITTREDGE (Ramsey, N.J.): Four-year letterman for nation’s No. 1 high school football team; played varsity lacrosse; dad played football at South Carolina

• JONATHAN KRAUSE (Snellville, Ga.): Nicknamed “Smoove”; kin to Bears fullback Jason McKie and former 76ers guard Aaron McKie; enjoys playing video games

• KENNY LADLER (Stone Mountain, Ga.): First Vandy football freshman to enroll early; one of four siblings; eight classmates received major college football scholarships

• FITZ LASSING (Nashville, Tenn.): Missed a perfect SAT score by 10 points; third generation Vanderbilt student; organized a summer lacrosse camp for boys.

• JORDAN MATTHEWS (Madison, Ala.): Plans to major in economics; plays the piano; his favorite athlete is Earl Bennett; cousin of Jerry Rice

• JARED MORSE (Oxford, Ala.): Dad’s a truck driver and mom owns a Quiznos; grandfather played basketball for Alabama; plays guitar – well, Guitar Hero

• TRENT PRUITT (Fitzgerald, Ga.): Dad’s head football coach and mom’s guidance counselor; both brothers played at Valdosta State; enjoys playing ping pong

• GRANT RAMSAY (Marietta, Ga.): Helped Pope High School to first winning record in nearly a decade; dad’s CEO of a marketing firm; born in Illinois and a big Bears fan

• JORDAN RODGERS (Chico, Calif.): Grew 3 inches while attending junior college; dad is a chiropractor; brother Aaron is starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers

• THOMAS RYAN (Marathon, Fla.): Plays trumpet and French horn; dad is a dive boat captain near Key Largo; scuba diver who once ran a live bait business

• ANDRE SIMMONS (Lofton, Va.): Born in Germany; dad played football at Louisiana-Monroe; big Saints fan who wants to be a college football coach

• CAREY SPEAR (Mayfield Village, Ohio): Four-year letterman in football and soccer; mom’s an electrical engineer; an accomplished pianist

• LOGAN STEWART (Boiling Springs, S.C.): Nicknamed “Big Red”; hobbies include radio broadcasting and fishing; wants to become a football coach

• VINCE TAYLOR (Hattiesburg, Miss.): Nickname is “VT”; a teammate of Steve McNair Jr.; a big fan of the Chicago Bears

• CHASE WHITE (Plano, Texas): Named Texas Academic All-State; daily faced Jackson Jeffcoat, nation’s top recruits; movie trivia expert

• KYLE WOESTMANN (Marietta, Ga.): Plans to study pre-medicine; sister attends U. of Georgia and he turned down an offer to play for Bulldogs; snowboarder and fisherman

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jonathan Krause tops the list of Vanderbilt recruits who'll avoid redshirts and play as true freshmen

Which members of Vanderbilt's latest signing class have the best chance to play right away? Here's our best guess, from top to bottom:


1. JONATHAN KRAUSE, WR: A speedy little guy who can separate from DBs, Krause has a shot to start right away alongside Udom Umoh and John Cole. Scout lists him as having a sub-4.4 40, but Rivals clocked him at 4.41. Still, he's faaaast.

2. CHRIS BOYD, WR: Think Brady Brown last season. Boyd's still growing into his long body, so he could either present immediate match-up problems or take a while to develop. But because of Vandy's dearth of receivers, he's going to burn his redshirt and develop on the field.

3. TRENT PRUITT, WR: Think Collin Ashley from last year. He's the lowest rated of the four receiver prospects, but he's smart, runs crisp routes, and may be the most game-ready. Could return punts, too.

4. KENNY LADLER, S: Ladler's enrolled in school and hitting the weights, and he should be competing with redshirt freshmen Jay Fullam and Javon Marshall and sophomores Al Owens and Micah Powell for playing time at safety. And he'll have a leg up when fellow freshman Andre Simmons arrives on campus in the summer.


5. JORDAN RODGERS, QB: At quarterback, Vandy's got Larry Smith and three guys (Rodgers, Charlie Goro and Jared Funk) who've never thrown an NCAA pass. But Rodgers won a junior college national championship and appears to be the guy to either push Smith to be better or replace him altogether. If Rodgers struggles to adjust and can't out-perform Goro or Funk, then expect him to redshirt. But that's not likely.

6. ANDRE HAL, CB: Hal's a little light at 170 pounds, but the kid didn't surrender a completion during his senior year, and Eddie Foster showed last season that you don't need weight to pack a punch. Natural corners Jamie Graham and Eric Samuels may wind up as starters at safety and nickel (with Foster and Trey Wilson fighting to start at corner alongside Casey Hayward), freeing up Hal to get his feet wet as a backup corner and special teams guy.

7. VINCE TAYLOR, DT: The Commodores, which have rarely played more than three or four D-linemen in games, have two returning starters (Adam Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone) and two sophomores with game experience (Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter). Expect Taylor, the heftiest of the three newbies, to have the best shot of playing right away.

8. CAREY SPEAR, K: If Spear proves himself to be superior to Ryan Fowler on kickoffs, as expected, then he'll likely get that job as a true freshman, as well as long field goals. And if walk-on Richard Kent struggles as the starting punter, Spear could assume that role too.

9. GRANT RAMSAY, OL: With a truckload of veteran linemen leaving school, Vandy needs sturdy backups fast and will probably burn the redshirt off one of the four signees. Ramsay appears the most ready, though Logan Stewart may also be an option.


10. JARED MORSE, DT: The Commodores have the numbers at tackle, but need to upgrade their talent. Morse is a tall, quick guy who may be an instant upgrade but also needs to add another 25 pounds.

11. RAJAAN BENNETT, RB: Everybody says Bennett is too good to redshirt. But he's not going to beat out Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, at least not right away, and redshirt freshman Wesley Tate will get every chance to strut his stuff. And Kennard Reaves is a bruising senior who's paid his dues. Bennett could play as a true freshman if he's unstoppable in preseason camp or if somebody goes down with injury, and both of those are possibilities.

12. JORDAN MATTHEWS, WR: Just a hunch, but Matthews, who played against weaker competition in high school, may be the least ready of the freshmen to play right away. If sophomore Akeem Dunham, another tall, athletic receiving project, can step up his game then Matthews may redshirt and have a year to prepare for the SEC. But that's a big if.

13. KYLE WOESTMANN, DT: Woestmann was the only recruit from the Atlanta area with a Georgia offer, and he's an unmistakeably talented prospect. He also weighs 250 pounds, which means Vince Taylor may have the edge at tackle in preseason camp. Defensive end, where Vandy's already eight deep, could be Woestmann's ticket this season if he dominates on the outside during preaseason camp.

14. KARL BUTLER, DB: Butler and Hal received almost identical ratings from scouts, but Butler is bigger and more versatile. He may lack Hal's cover skills, but he can play safety and could get a shot at playing time.


15. LOGAN STEWART, OL: Stewart's packed on 25-30 pounds since verbally committing last summer, and may get a shot to burn his redshirt, especially if backups like Chris Aaron and Richard Cagle don't elevate their games.

16. ANDRE SIMMONS, S: Simmons will get a shot, and appears to be a better long-term prospect than redshirt freshmen Fullam and Marshall and sophomores Powell and Owens. But if Samuels and Graham can fill in at safety and Ladler emerges in the spring as an early entry freshman, then Simmons might redshirt.

17. BLAKE GOWDER, TE/HB: The 6-2, 210-pound Gowder can't touch massive veterans Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan as a tight end, and redshirt frosh Mason Johnston appears to be a nice backup. So expect Gowder to redshirt unless the receiving corps struggles and the Commodores decide to throw him in the fire as a receiver.

18. JAMES KITTREDGE, DL: Kittredge is in the same boat as Woestmann. A bit too light for tackle right now, but could be just right as an end, if he can fight off a boatload of competition, including promising redshirt freshmen Walker May and Thad McHaney.

19. STEVEN CLARKE, CB: Numbers-wise, Vandy's in better shape this season in the secondary and Clarke is the least regarded of the new DBs, though he is the fastest. So expect him to redshirt unless he demonstrates better cover skills than Hal.

20. CHASE WHITE, OL: White's plenty tall and approaching playing weight, but is still considered a project at tackle. Expect him to redshirt.


21. FITZ LASSING, TE/LB: With Vandy set at tight end and linebacker, expect Lassing to redshirt unless the Commodores have an unexpected breakdown in the punting game. But Lassing wasn't recruited as a punter and likely won't burn a redshirt to boot the ball.

22. THOMAS RYAN, DE: Ryan's a nice prospect but with all the competition at end, and with fellow freshman Kittredge appearing to be more game-ready, he's a lock to sit out his first year.

23. CHASE GARNHAM, LB: With five young linebackers already competing for one starting job, the speedy but slight Garnham will definitely take a redshirt and pack on some pounds.

24. ANDREW BRIDGES, OL: A redshirt if ever one there was. Bridges stands 6-foot-6 and weighs about 235. He'll be joining the Thomas Welch pack-on-the-fat workout program.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Georgia's new linebackers coach is Warren Belin, Vanderbilt recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach

Who was Bobby Johnson praising two days ago when he announced his best recruiting class ever?

His recruiting coordinator, Warren Belin.

And now Belin, who is also the Commodores' linebackers and special teams coach, is joining Mark Richt's staff as linebackers coach at Georgia. You can read the entire press release and get some analysis on David Hale's excellent Georgia blog.

Belin was with Bobby Johnson for the past eight years and helped develop linebackers Hunter Hillenmeyer, Marcus Buggs, Moses Osemwegie, Jonathan Goff, Patrick Benoist and now Chris Marve. If you're a Georgia fan and don't recognize those names, let's just say that all those guys were two-star recruits who developed into All-SEC players under Coach Belin's tutelage. Most of those guys are playing or will play in the NFL, and Hillenmeyer is the son of a stockbroker and the Bears linebacker who stripped the ball from Adrian Peterson in overtime of a late-season Monday night game to stun Farve and the Vikings.

Imagine what Belin can do with four- and five-star talent, if those guys are willing to learn and achieve their potential. Some of my UGA buddies tell me that's a big if, but Vandy fans don't feel any better about facing the Dawgs defense with Belin on their sideline.

And now Belin will be using his knowledge and skill recruiting in Georgia and especially the Atlanta area for the benefit of the Bulldogs, who really don't need any help getting that state's best talent.

Bulldog fans, our loss is definitely your gain.

Bobby Johnson names a starting punter... but not a quarterback

Bobby Johnson was just full of interesting information during his signing-day press conference. Here’s a sample:

• VANDY’S FINALLY GETTING OFFENSIVE LINEMEN WHO ARE ALREADY BIG: Sure, guys like Chris Williams and Thomas Welch leave campus big, but they arrive as projects. “Now we’re getting the big guys,” Johnson said, citing Grant Ramsay, Logan Stewart and Chase White, all of whom are at least 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds. He said one or two of them could provide depth and play as true freshmen. “They don’t have to gain weight, just learn a lot, but they’re smart guys,” he told 104 The Zone yesterday. Only Andrew Bridges is a throwback at 6-6, 245 and a certain redshirt. Expect either Ramsay or Stewart to see some time at guard this season.

• THE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE THE STRENGTH OF THIS CLASS: The defensive linemen usually redshirt at Vandy, too, but Johnson was almost gushing over his five defensive linemen — tackles Kyle Woestmann,Vince Taylor and Jared Morse and ends James Kittredge and Thomas Ryan. Kittredge can play tackle too, and Johnson said Woestmann could play inside or outside. He called these guys “probably the most ready-to-go defensive line we’ve ever recruited.” That’s an understatement. He said he expects them to “push some people and be a force.” Sophomores Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter should be especially wary.

• EVERY FROSH WIDE RECEIVER WILL GET A SHOT AT PLAYING TIME: Johnson mentioned 6-foot-4 Chris Boyd first, saying he will “be a presence right away” and “can handle all kinds of coverage.” And besides, Boyd just became an Eagle Scout (only at Vanderbilt). Another 6-4 guy, Jordan Matthews is the “big presence we need,” according to Johnson. He praised Jonathan Krause for his speed and agility, and also singled out Trent Pruitt as “one of those slot guys.” And as a coach’s son, “he knows how to please coaches.” While Pruitt was the least decorated of the receiver recruits, he runs crisp routes and could be one of the first freshmen to see the field, just like John Cole in 2008 and Collin Ashley in 2009.

• WALK-ON RICHARD KENT IS THE STARTING PUNTER: Johnson has mentioned several times in the past few days that Richard Kent, a redshirt sophomore, will be the starting punter. Freshman Carey Spear, expected to challenge Ryan Fowler at least for kickoff duties, will likely be the backup punter unless LB/TE Fitz Lassing somehow avoids a redshirt and establishes himself as the second best punter on the team.

• SPEEDY LB CHASE GARNHAM WILL REDSHIRT, THEN ASSUME A BUGGS-LIKE ROLE: Johnson said that Garnham, who moved from safety as a senior, will be used in the same way the team used Marcus Buggs. Except Garnham is about four inches taller.

• RAJAAN BENNETT COULD REDSHIRT: Johnson has said several times in the last few days that prize recruit Bennett could redshirt. If he doesn’t run wild in preseason camp, expect Bennett to travel with the team and be ready to play in the event of injury. Many experts, though, believe Bennett is too good to keep off the field. And don’t forget that Johnson had pegged Warren Norman for a redshirt before last season and he became the SEC’s freshman of the year.

• JOHNSON, ALREADY IN PRESEASON MODE, IS BEING COY ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS: While he’s quick to name a starter at punter, Johnson is setting the stage for a battle between Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers for the QB job. (Though he didn’t forget to mention Charlie Goro and Jared Funk. Hey coach, you forgot Matt Casas.) Junior college product Jordan Rodgers sure looked the part at the press conference on Wednesday, talking about how he hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps, and how “as a quarterback you want to go to a place where you compete at the highest level,” and how he’s been getting advice from Jay Cutler, and why he chose Vanderbilt (“the country music definitely didn’t hurt”).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let's run Vince Taylor in the wildcat formation!

If you want to be astounded, check out this film on Vince Taylor, the 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive linemen we just signed. This dude is quick and fast and lives in opponents' backfields. We're not keeping this guy off the field.

Oh yeah, and he can line up in the shotgun and run the wildcat. Check it out.

For Vanderbilt's recruiting class, the gain far outweighs the losses

So Vandy lost some verbal commitments at the end. If you're one of those doom and gloomers on the message boards, stop it now. You wanted to land a couple of big recruits right before signing day, and that's exciting for sure. Instead, we lost a few guys and now you're blaming our miserable season and muttering stuff like "Same old Vandy."

Remember Stanford? Had a great season and became the trendy school for good football players who are smart... and lost 17 verbal commitments this year.

If we'd have landed, say, Chris Boyd and Kyle Woestmann and Thomas Ryan on Tuesday night, we'd all be on cloud 9. Instead, those guys committed in the summer and we took them for granted.

Look at Alabama. Tide fans are distraught because Auburn has landed some top recruits in recent months. But they forget that Bama has had a Top 5 class compiled since last spring.

In all, Vandy signed 11 guys who were consensus three-star recruits. That's more than Bobby Johnson's signed in all his previous seasons combined.

And let's not forget Rajaan Bennett. In the last week before signing day, we lost (1) a weak-armed quarterback with a meddling father, (2) a 160-pound safety whose strength is blitzing and (3) a 5-9 speedster who wasn't going to qualify for Vanderbilt anyway. Oh, and we gained a four-star running back who's being compared to Knowshon Moreno and Ricky Williams.

How can you not see Rajaan as the icing on the cake of what's been a terrific signing class for Vanderbilt?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Now's the time to show Ted Cain some love

By and large, Vandy fans have been praising this year's class of Commodores. But I've seen quite a few posts from Vandy people complaining about how much better this class would have been if:

• Those six recruits who jumped ship had stayed aboard.
• We'd have won eight games last season instead of two.
• We'd fired Ted Cain at the end of the season.

That last one is my personal favorite. Say what you want about his play calling, but Vandy's built such a solid class this year BECAUSE Ted Cain is on the coaching staff, not in spite of him.

The guy is a beast on the recruiting trail, especially in Atlanta.

We just signed 11 guys who were consensus three-star recruits, meaning they got three stars from all the major services. Five of those guys (Rajaan Bennett, Blake Gowder, Jonathan Krause, Grant Ramsay and Kyle Woestmann) were recruited by Ted Cain.

We signed nine guys from the state of Georgia, but eight of them from the Atlanta area (Bennett, Gowder, Krause, Woestmann, Ramsay, Andrew Bridges, Kenneth Ladler and Chris Boyd).

Ted Cain signed seven of the eight Atlanta kids — all of them but Ladler.

And in all, Cain helped land nine of our 24 recruits.

OK, I'm not always happy with the play-calling. But don't dare blame him for recruiting. We should be praising Ted Cain right now.

Blake Gowder, Andrew Bridges and maybe even Fitz Lassing will begin Vandy careers on offense

The official Vandy athletic site has released information about all the players who've signed with us. Great information, and you can even go back to the 2007 signing class to compare classes past and present.

I'm always interested to see where these guys are projected to play.

For example, last year Eric Samuels was listed by recruiting sites as a running back and Thad McHaney was a tight end. But on signing day, Vanderbilt listed Samuels as defensive back and McHaney as a defensive end, and that's where they played in pre-season camp and that's where they played last season, Samuels as a letterman on game day and McHaney as a redshirt on the scout team.

This year, Vandy's listing all of its swing players on offense, at least partially so:

• Blake Gowder (6-2, 210), TE/H-Back: Listed as an athlete and projected by many, including us, as too small to play tight end and too slow to play receiver but just right for linebacker, Gowder has apparently grown an inch or two. An accomplished receiver in high school with a ton of catches, yards and touchdowns, Gowder now has a chance to play right away as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He'd have surely redshirted as a linebacker.

• Andrew Bridges (6-6, 235), OL: Bridges was being projected at either DE or OT, and it looks like the Commodores will redshirt him and get him ready for the O-line. Remember that Reilly Lauer, Ryan Seymour and Jabo Burrow all spent at least a year at Vandy working as defensive ends before making the switch. Hopefully this will speed up Bridges' development at that position, but it'll take at least a redshirt year to get him up to weight.

• Fitz Lassing (6-3, 220), LB/TE: Lassing, a linebacker from the beginning, is also being listed at tight end. With Brandon Barden, Austin Monahan and now redshirt freshman Mason Johnston, and with Ryan van Rensburg and Blake Gowder able to play the position, Lassing will be a lock to redshirt no matter where he plays. That is, unless he emerges from pre-season camp as our best punter, but he's not listed as a punter.

• Carey Spear (5-11, 175), K/P: Spear has a great shot to at least handle kickoffs right away. He's also listed as a punter. The ideal situation, if Spear can quickly develop as a starting punter, is for Ryan Fowler to kick extra points and short-to-medium field goals and for Spear to kickoff, punt and boot the really long field goals. Walk-on Richard Kent may also get a chance to win the starting job.

Jerrell Priester wisely jumps ship... and ranks second among Vandy ship-jumpers

Thanks to ’Bilt, Russ, Aaron and CAR for holding down the fort this morning. If you're wondering, the winning word in the spelling bee was "innocuous."

Let's hope the loss of Jerrell Priester will be innocuous. The thing that could hurt about losing Priester to Kentucky, Sharrod Golightly to South Carolina and Nash Nance to Tennessee is that we play each of those teams every year. So if they develop into dangerous players and play roles in our defeat, then it'll be like rubbing salt in a wound.

So far, everybody else we expected has signed his letter of commitment except. Fitz Lassing, who's probably still celebrating his Vandy offer from yesterday, signed about 20 minutes ago. No suspense there.

Don't think we'll sign anybody else. Quarterback Tyler Arndt has committed to Texas State and may choose professional baseball. Looks like QB Darren Daniel's sticking with Stanford and the big TE from Memphis is heading to Chapel Hill. No word yet on the lineman Joe Burgess from Missouri or even if we give a darn.

In all, we lost six players who'd verbally committed. That's a sign that we'd turned the corner as a program and lots of kids desire great academics, a cool city and playing in the SEC... until we won two games and then some of them started jumping ship. But guys have decommitted from places like Alabama and USC and Georgia. So who knows?

Anyway, Priester wasn't a big surprise. Remember we lost DT Darrius McMullin this time last year because of his academics. From what I'd heard, if Priester had committed to Vanderbilt and couldn't make an 18 on the ACT, which for him would have been a stretch, then he'd have been off to prep school. But if he committed to UK and bombed the ACT, well, who cares? Here's your helmet and there's Commonwealth Stadium. So he did the safe thing and even the smart thing and went with the Wildcats.

Here's how I'd rate those losses:

1. Bradley Roby, WR: Unlike Ohio State, we were giving this kid a shot to play receiver and he'd have been by far our most talented player at that position and, in my mind, a lock for freshman All-SEC and maybe even SEC player of the year. OK, we're not talking about Bradley anymore. Hurts too much. At least we don't play the Buckeyes.

2. Jerrell Prester, ATH: Who can forget all those comparisons to D.J. Moore? JP is an exciting little athlete who could have moved all over the field. He probably would have been a cornerback, punt returner, and one of those guys who could play offense for two plays and catch two passes for two touchdowns against Kentucky's best defensive back. Oh, nevermind.

3. Davis Dudchock, TE: A big, talented tight end. You know, Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan won't be in Nashville forever, though we've kind of taken those guys for granted. But redshirt freshman Mason Johnston and true freshman Blake Gowder are consensus three-star prospects and look promising. And at least we don't play Stanford.

4. Sharrod Golightly, S: How we lost him hurts more than what we lost. True freshmen safeties Kenneth Ladler and Andre Simmons are comparable prospects, just bigger and maybe more versatile and game-ready. But we're gonna be facing Golightly every year... and we won't take him lightly.

5. Myron Ross, RB: Ross was a big, fast running back whose defection to Temple is all but forgotten because of the presence of Rajaan Bennett. If we'd had both, Ross may have shifted to linebacker and taken a year or two to get on the field. Even with the presence of Norman, Stacy and Tate, Bennett will compete for playing time right away.

6. Nash Nance, QB: The worst thing about Nance is that his presence on our commitment list all summer and fall and half the winter kept us from recruiting other, better quarterbacks. He left as part of a package deal so that his buddy can be an All-American and he can hold a clipboard like Jim Bob Cooter did for the Vols. Nash, we'll think about you only if Da'Rick scores against us in Knoxville.

It's spelled S-I-G-N-I-N-G D-A-Y

Yes, today is signing day, but I'll be joining you late here on Moral Victory! because I'm judging the county spelling bee this morning.

I'm not kidding. Who said a Vanderbilt education doesn't create opportunities?

Feel free to post your comments about our recruiting class if you hear any news. I'm curious about answering these questions:

• Will we hang on to super-athlete Jerrell Priester?

• Will we land a quarterback — maybe steal Darren Daniel from Stanford?

• Will we lose anybody at the last minute?

• Will we have any surprise pick-ups?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fitz Lassing is a Vanderbilt scholarship football player

It's a shame we had to wait until the very end to offer Fitz Lassing a football scholarship, but he's got one, and that's what matters.

Don't know if we were going to offer all along or if Fitz got the call from Bobby Johnson because Sharrod Golightly withdrew his Vanderbilt commitment yesterday. I'm sure somebody will set me straight on exactly what happened.

I do know that the 6-3, 225-pound Lassing had offers from Wofford, Furman and Harvard. In that regard, he's a throwback to the days not so long ago when many Vandy players had no other Division I offers. But in this heady recruiting season, when we're battling to keep our recruits from the likes of Steve Spurrier and whoever's coaching Tennessee these days, it's nice to have one throwback.

Lassing is a two-star linebacker from Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy, and also a scholar and a gentleman and the subject of thousands of incredulous chat-room postings from Nashville insiders — why in the world won't we offer Fitz Lassing a scholarship?

Well, it's done, and I'm glad. He'll probably redshirt just like all those three-star linebackers with other DI offers — Chris Marve, DeAndre Jones, Blake Southerland, etc. — before him. Or maybe he'll win the punting job as a true freshman. We need a punter, and he was one of the best in the state.

He's a local kid who really wanted a Vandy offer, but this is not Rudy. Fitz Lassing is going to make a name for himself as a student and a leader and a citizen, but he's also going to make a name for himself as a Vanderbilt football player, and not for a single play he made during mop-up duty.

Welcome aboard.

Bobby Johnson is everywhere... and now he's in Alabama looking for a quarterback

Bobby Johnson is everywhere. We told you that on Friday, and in truly bad weather, the Vandy coach was reported to be visiting Jerrell Priester in South Carolina and Rajaan Bennett in Atlanta.

And now we see this report from the Opelika-Auburn News prep writer that Johnson was also in Alabama on Friday night. He must have a fast car.

Johnson was visiting Darren Daniel, the quarterback we told you about yesterday whose name has started to pop up in conversations about replacing Nash Nance.

Sure, Daniel has committed to Stanford. Which also has commitments from two four-star quarterbacks. Have fun playing safety in the Pac-10, Darren.

Or if you'd like to compete for a starting quarterback job in the SEC, like a certain Big-10 safety prospect did about eight years ago (hint: he plays QB for the Bears and wears No. 6), then why don't you consider Vanderbilt?

I've really been impressed by Johnson and our entire coaching staff on the recruiting trail.

Which recruits could Vandy least afford to lose?

It always hurts to lose, so it hurts to lose Sharrod Golightly to the Gamecocks. But it doesn't hurt as bad as losing Bradley Roby did.

Which brings us to the question we'd rather not ask: Who would it hurt most to lose?

You could answer it by (1) who's the highest rated, (2) who'd play first, and (3) who do we think has the most potential and will be the most valuable over the long run.

1. Rajaan Bennett, RB
2. Kyle Woestmann, DT
3. Vince Taylor, DT
4. Jerrell Priester, ATH
5. Andre Hal, CB

1. Jonathan Krause, WR
2. Jordan Matthews, WR
3. Kenneth Ladler, S
4. Chris Boyd, WR
5. Karl Butler, CB

1. Rajaan Bennett, RB
2. Kyle Woestmann, DT
3. Grant Ramsay, OL
4. Andre Simmons, S
5. Jared Morse, DT

Right away, we can't afford to lose any wide receivers, even though they're not among our most highly regarded recruits. Even a two-star kid like Trent Pruitt has a chance to play right off. We won't lose Kenneth Ladler because he's already enrolled in school, and we can't afford to lose either Karl Butler or Andre Hal, because we usually play cornerbacks right away and we need all of them we can get.

As far as the long haul, who knows? Rajaan Bennett's our signature recruit, a big, powerful back who should only get bigger and stronger. All three defensive tackles (Woestmann, Morse and Taylor) are fine prospects, and Andre Simmons is a big, athletic safety. But this is a deep, fine class, even with the defections.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sharrod Golightly chooses South Carolina's superior academic programs

Well, Vandy finally has a recruit who says he's basing his decision solely on academics (check) and playing time (check).

And then he chooses South Carolina. His reason? He liked South Carolina's defensive scheme. Hey, what was all that about finding the right business school?

Yes, Phil Kornblut of The State reports that the Gamecocks have landed Sharrod Golightly. And it makes sense. I mean, don't kids commit to the place they're visiting the weekend before signing day? That's why Chris Boyd said he canceled his Georgia Tech visit on the same weekend; he didn't want to be confused.

Anyway, we wish Golightly the best. It's hard to root against a kid whose mother's serving our country in Afghanistan. South Carolina isn't a bad school. My brother-in-law went there and he seems pretty smart — at least, he speaks Russian and he married my sister.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't recap the guys who've jumped ship. Hopefully that's it, though I've got to say I don't have a good feeling about Jerrell Priester. I hear he's still not academically qualified for Vanderbilt. Oh, and check out his My Space page.

Here's the list of fellas who've bailed on us after making verbal commitments.

1. Davis Dudchock, TE (Stanford)
2. Myron Ross, RB (Temple)
3. Bradley Roby, ATH (Ohio State)
4. Nash Nance, QB (Tennessee)
5. Sharrod Golightly, S (South Carolina)

It's not the end of the world, and it's not like we had one scholarship reserved for a safety; we've got two more, and both of them are well regarded.

Here's how they rate:

1. KENNETH LADLER (5-11, 188)
Scout: 2 stars; No. 105 safety
Rivals: 3 stars; No. 42 safety
ESPN: 3 stars; No. 43 safety (78 rating)

2. ANDRE SIMMONS (6-1, 195)
Scout: 2 stars; No. 148 safety
Rivals: 3 stars; No. 35 safety
ESPN: 3 stars; No. 59 safety

3. SHARROD GOLIGHTLY (5-11, 167)
Scout: 3 stars; No. 85 safety
Rivals: 3 stars; No. 56 safety
ESPN: 2 stars; No. 109 safety

Darren Daniel: The name of another quarterback for Vandy fans to ponder

Led by Bobby Johnson, the Vandy coaching staff is finishing strong with recruiting. Think about it: We've unloaded a whiny quarterback with a meddling father, reeled in a stud running back, and managed to keep Ga Tech from stealing a kid who could be starting at receiver for us in seven months.

All while trying to convince another kid that we're a better academic school than South Carolina.

And maybe trying to steal a quarterback.

We've thrown out the name of Tyler Arndt but I've got no idea where he stands; Scout says he's high on Missouri and Houston and medium on Vandy and about 10 other schools.

Now some chat-room jockeys are saying we're making a play on an Alabama quarterback committed to Stanford.

That would be Darren Daniel (6-3, 185) of Phenix City. He's listed as an athlete. But think about all the talent we've got at running back and listen to this ESPN scouting report on Daniel and then tell me what you think:

"Very impressive looking on the hoof with his great height and long, well-built body. Projects best as a dual-threat quarterback with his great mobility and would likely need to play in a spread zone-read or option type of offense to remain under center...

"A better passer on the move outside of the pocket. Great job feeling and eluding the pressure; can improvise with his great feet and athleticism. Consistently creates a big gainer out of a broken play. Buys time for his receivers to get open...

"Overall, Daniel needs to become more consistent but has enough ability to remain at quarterback in the right spread offense if a team is patient with his development. Could get recruited to play receiver, safety or even outside linebacker; really has a good blend of size, speed, athleticism and ball skills to develop."

Could you see Daniel in two or three years running the triple option with the likes of Warren Norman, Zac Stacy, Rajaan Bennett, Wesley Tate and Jerrell Priester? All those guys would still be in school! Or bring in Goro at quarterback and let Daniel shift wide to receiver.

All this fantasizing has me wondering what sort of offense, seriously, that Ted Cain and Bobby Johnson are talking about running next season.

Why Sharrod Golightly shouldn't be impressed by the SEC Academic Honor Roll

This morning we told you how Vanderbilt commitment Sharrod Golightly visited South Carolina over the weekend and how impressed he was to learn that the Gamecocks made the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

In fact, if you look at the whole honor roll, which was recently released, you'll find that the Gamecocks are actually at the top of the list.

Yes, the Gamecocks lead the SEC with 78 athletes on the honor roll. But that includes men's and women's soccer and volleyball. Vanderbilt, which doesn't have men's soccer or volleyball, leads the SEC in football players on the honor roll with a whopping 37.

But hey, Sharrod, don't take the honor roll seriously. Because Gamecock athletes get their grades taking Gamecock classes. Vandy athletes earn their grades taking Vanderbilt classes. Using the SEC honor roll — which awards players for earning a 3.0 GPA — to compare Vandy and SC is like comparing apples and oranges. But if you want to do that, keep in mind that Vandy has 37 football players on the list to 29 SC football players.

But the real rankings to examine are those compiled by US News & World Report. According to those, Vanderbilt is No. 17 in the nation, and that includes all the Ivy League schools.

And South Carolina?

No. 110.

Sharrod, if you like Columbia and Coach Spurrier and those garnet uniforms and having a Cock for a mascot, just say so and go there and we wish you well.

But don't try to tell us it's because of South Carolina's academics.

Sharrod Golightly trying to decide whether Vanderbilt or South Carolina is the better academic institution

With two days until signing day and an impressive Vandy class of 25 recruits, all efforts have turned to keeping who we've got.

Of the 25, Sharrod Golightly seems to be the most likely to jump ship at the last minute.

The safety visited South Carolina over the weekend and says today he'll officially decide between the Commodores and the Gamecocks. He told Columbia's The State newspaper that he'll make his decision based on "academics" and "the opportunity to play."

Um, Sharrod, what's there to decide?

It seems he was impressed when South Carolina coaches mentioned the school is listed on the SEC academic honor roll. That's like Vandy coaches telling this year's Alabama recruits they should be impressed because we have a Music City Bowl championship.

As for the opportunity to play, we've got a safety position up for grabs. Sophomores Al Owens and Micah Powell, redshirt freshmen Jay Fullam and Javon Marshall, and true freshmen Andre Simmons and Kenneth Ladler all have a shot. And Golightly, if he can somehow turn down the opportunity to live in the Palmetto State and attend an SEC academic honor roll school.

Could we lose anybody else? Auburn fans are murmuring about an offer to Jared Morse, and Kentucky fans think they've got a great chance to steal Jerrell Priester. Both have been on and off soft verbal commitments, so neither one is outside the realm of possibility.

As far as additions to this class, I don't have anything solid. I imagine we might be taking a shot at Texas QB Tyler Arndt, who's yet to commit to anybody. Massive Missouri lineman Joe Burgess supposedly has offers from us and Nebraska.

If we want to sign a true punter, Pablo Beltran of Texas is still on the market. If we want to sign a tight end, three-star Quinton Alton of Memphis is still looking for a good offer, too.

We'll see.