Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kyle Woestmann calls out Nash Nance

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned an entertaining web radio interview that a site called Unleash the Rage conducted with Kyle Woestmann and Chris Boyd, Vandy freshmen who'll be arriving on campus in the next week or so.

What made it so entertaining? Well, Kyle Woestmann, a defensive end, loosened up pretty well at the microphone and proceeded to criticize last year's team, bash defecting quarterback Nash Nance and praise Larry Smith.


“This season was just disgraceful, that’s the honest truth. They’ve got to step up and play harder. We’re getting recruits who are more hungry and have the desire to win. We need a few more classes of players ready to get after it. There’s no reason Vandy shouldn’t be winning 6 or 7 games a season.”

Then he said he was ready to get to campus and lead by example: "I’m not afraid of any dude on the other side of the line of scrimmage and I might be 18 and he might be a 23-year-old man but I’m going to whip his butt if I can."

"We’re gonna challenge every player at Vandy now and Vandy’s got to start winning."


“I wasn’t the biggest Nash Nance fan. You could ask 99 percent of our commits. Going on official visit with him I said I don’t want to be with this dude four years. He wasn’t who I want to be quarterback of my team. I don’t think he’d be a positive factor for my team. I didn’t get along with him. I can sack him all day for the next four years and I’m OK with that. Well, I can’t sack him if he’s on the bench. I hope he gets to play all four years and I hope I get to sack him all four years.”


“Larry Smith is exceptional. He’s probably the most jacked quarterback I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Yeah, the ability to pump yourself up in the weight room has always been a critical element to becoming an effective quarterback.

He also praised junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers, saying he had “an exceptional arm” and was a “good athlete.”

And he even had some love for Charlie Goro: "Charlie Goro stood out to me. He was hitting linebackers. I don’t know if I could sack this guy.”

Hey, I love it when football players talk a big game and can back it up. We now know Kyle can do the first part — and we'll soon see if he can do the second.

We're screwed: James Williams is academically ineligible

Might as well psychologically prepare yourself for a long season. Vandy's best offensive lineman, tackle James Williams, is academically ineligible and will be looking to transfer to another school, according to the Tennessean.

Williams, a redshirt junior, only played in seven games his entire career but cleared out huge holes for freshman Zac Stacy against LSU's massive defensive front in only his second start. It would also be his last game as a Commodore because he went down with a broken foot. The offensive line — and the Vandy offense — was never the same.

This makes the winter departure of Reilly Lauer, a rising senior and part-time starter, all the more painful.

Just to make ourselves miserable, let's compare this year's offensive line entering the 2010 season to last year's unit entering last season:

Linemen with starting experience:
2009: 7 (Bailey, Custer, Fischer, Hensley, Lauer, Vierling, Welch)
2010: 3 (Bailey, Fischer, Seymour)

Career starts:
2009: 67
2010: 19

Career games played:
2009: 169
2010: 84

Looking for a glimmer of hope? OK, here's one: Last season, James Williams was coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he played only three games, and mostly on special teams. By the second game, he was by far our most dominating lineman, including fellow tackle and eventual Patriots draft choice Thomas Welch.

So who are the likely starters? Here's how we'd rank all the offensive linemen, with the first five as likely starters:


1. RIGHT GUARD: Kyle Fischer, R-JR (6-6, 305): Vandy's most experienced lineman with 13 career starts and 25 games, Fischer made Freshman All-SEC in 2008 but has yet to stake his claim to a full-time starting position.
2. LEFT TACKLE: Ryan Seymour, R-SO (6-4, 295): A Freshman All-SEC selection in 2009, Seymour started for the injured Welch against Florida and delivered an impressive performance against the mammoth Gators line. But he injured his shoulder in the spring and is recovering from surgery.
3. CENTER: Joey Bailey, R-SR (6-4, 295): Started five games at guard as a sophomore, backed up Bradley Vierling last season at center and emerged from the spring as the clear starter at that position.
4. RIGHT TACKLE: Caleb Welchans, R-SO (6-5, 300): Played in every game as a redshirt freshman. Was Williams' backup in the LSU game but was not ready to fill his shoes as a starter for the rest of the season. May be ready this season.
5. LEFT GUARD: Wesley Johnson, R-FR (6-4, 265): The highly touted Nashville product is still awfully light for an SEC lineman but has impressed coaches since arriving on campus. We'll see.
6. Chris Aaron, R-SR (6-3, 295): Former walk-on played in eight games last season as a guard and will likely get a chance to prove his worth early in the season, but coaches are clearly hoping Burrow can pick up his new position quickly and supplant Aaron.
7. Jabo Burrow, R-SO (6-4, 275): Still hasn't played a down for the Dores, but he was a defensive end last year, and it's not unusual for a Vandy DE to ride the pine before switching to the O-line and emerging as a major contributor (see: Ryan Seymour and Reilly Lauer). He was listed as a starter entering the spring, but that seemed to be because coaches wanted to light a fire under Kyle Fischer's butt. The contenders:
8. Mylon Brown, R-FR (6-5, 315): A massive prospect who played well on the scout team last year and could make a James Williams like appearance in future Commodore starting lineups.
9. Richard Cagle, R-SO (6-4, 280): Played only in the Western Carolina game last season and is still considered a raw prospect.
10. Rob Ashabranner, R-JR (6-2, 280): With three career games entering his fourth year on the Vandy campus, significant playing time isn't likely unless there are more devastating injuries.
11. Justin Cabbagestalk, R-FR (6-3, 295): Played every line position on the scout team and could become a reliable substitute this season.
12. Grant Ramsay, FR (6-5, 290): The true freshman with the best chance to play in 2010. If guys like Aaron, Burrow, Cagle, Ashabranner and Cabbagestalk can't provide quality depth at guard, then Ramsay might get a shot. We'll know in the first few weeks of pre-season practice.
13. Logan Stewart, FR (6-5, 285): A nice prospect at guard who'll probably redshirt.
14. Chase White, FR (6-5, 265): A project at tackle who's a lock to redshirt.
15. Andrew Bridges, FR (6-6, 235): A lanky kid who played defensive end in high school, Vandy's going to send him to the weight room and the training table for a year and then see what he can do in 2011.

Vanderbilt gets smart and schedules Austin Peay

I've said all along that the first step to a successful football program for Vanderbilt is... weaker non-conference scheduling.

Kentucky has mastered this. When Vandy went to the Music City Bowl two years ago, the Commodores had a 6-6 overall record and a 4-4 SEC record. Meanwhile, the Wildcats also had a 6-6 record and a Liberty Bowl bid, but a 2-6 SEC record. Same overall results, thanks to a truly bad non-conference schedule, thanks in part to an inexplicably bad Louisville team.

Meanwhile, teams like Wake Forest that looked good on Vandy's long-range schedule suddenly started winning conference championships.

The key? Schedule really, really bad teams — or especially teams that will be really, really bad when you play them. And always schedule one team from a lower division.

Anyway, Vandy announced today that it's finally scheduled a home game with Austin Peay.

"It really makes sense for both parties," says David Williams, Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletics, which means he gets quoted in stories when the athletic director is supposed to get quoted but he's not the athletic director because that sort of thing is beneath a prestigious academic institution like Vanderbilt but not like Ohio State.

"It provides opposing fans with a close road trip to support their team and it creates more local college football talk and interest. The short travel also can add a budgetary benefit for the visiting school."

"Oh yeah, and we think we can beat the Peay out of those guys."

I added that last part. I lived in Clarksville, Tenn., for several years (great place, by the way) and while the game will be good for the Commodores, it'll also be good for Governors, whose program is on the rebound.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kyle Woestmann in Vandy log jam at defensive end

If you're a Vandy football fanatic, as opposed to just a fan, then you've got to check out the recent Unleash the Rage interview with Kyle Woestmann and Chris Boyd.

But it's an hour long, so if you don't have that kind of patience, then I'll hit some of the highlights in a few posts this week.

The most interesting thing to me was that Kyle, who's been listed since his sophomore year in high school as a defensive tackle, says he's going to play defensive end for the Commodores. In his signing day press conference, Bobby Johnson said Kyle could play end or tackle, and Kyle says Vandy coaches have told him he'll compete at end.

In the interview, Kyle said Florida wanted him to play center — he scoffs at the notion — but Georgia wanted him to play strongside defensive end. In fact, he admits he considered breaking his commitment to Vanderbilt after the 2-10 season, visiting Clemson and South Carolina, and really wanted to play for Georgia assistant coach John Fabris but Fabris was fired in December.

Long listed at 6-2 or 6-3 and 265 pounds, Kyle says he now stands 6-4 but has slimmed down to 240 — and gotten faster.

Though many recruiting services had his 40 time at 4.9, he swears it's now 4.7.

Well, high 4.7s.

And I quote: "4.7948."

Yes, I'd call that a high 4.7.

He says he needs some work on his pass rushing but is looking forward to going one-on-one against offensive tackles instead of facing all the double teams and physical beatings that D-tackles face.

Speaking of competing at end, Kyle Woestmann will need to make an immediate, huge impression on coaches in the pre-season in order to avoid a redshirt. Vandy hasn't played a true freshman at DE since Theron Kadri in 2007. Here's his competition:

• Tim Fugger, R-JR, who started eight games last season and is projected to start this year.
• Theron Kadri, SR, who recorded three sacks last season.
• Terrial Brannon, R-SR, who played in every game and is projected to start this season.
• Josh Jelesky, R-SO, who played in 11 games last season.
• Johnell Thomas, R-SO, who played in 10 games last season.
• Walker May, R-FR, who was one of the stars of spring practice.
• Thad McHaney, R-FR, who turned down a scholarship to Oklahoma.
• James Kittredge, FR, who can also play tackle.
• Thomas Ryan, FR, a pure end who was Vandy's first commit in the 2010 class.

Throw in Woestmann and you've got a depth chart that goes five teams deep.

With Adam Smotherman injured and Woestmann apparently too light to play DT, Vandy's returning D-tackles are super-sub junior T.J. Greenstone and three redshirt sophomores — promising Rob Lohr, who had 14 tackles last year; Colt Nichter, who played in two games; and Taylor Loftley, who still hasn't played a snap.

This is good news for true freshman Vince Taylor, a DT who's a bit undersized at 270 but has 4.7 speed and an incredible nose for the football, and maybe even Jared Morse, another light-in-the-britches true freshman who's also an impressive football player.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vandy one of only two SEC schools with no 2011 football commitments

No commitments yet to Vandy's 2011 football recruiting class, which isn't terribly unusual. This time last year, only DE Thomas Ryan had verbally committed. But check back with us at the end of June, when we had nine commitments last year.

Of course, if you recognize the names Bradley Roby, Sharod Golightly, Davis Dudchock and Nash Nance then you know what verbal commitments are worth these days.

Here's what happened last season: We used momentum from the bowl victory to put together a rock-solid class, then had a bad season and spent most of the winter furiously trying to hang onto our verbal commitments.

The ideal thing for this next signing class: Coming off the bad season, we land some good prospects who want a Vanderbilt diploma, then we start playing football and pull off a few upsets, have a solid season and round out our class with top recruits at the very end of the signing period.

Ole Miss is the only SEC school with no commitments yet. Here's how the rest of the schools rate:

1. Alabama (11)
2. LSU (10)
3. Georgia (7)
4. Arkansas (5)
4. Auburn (5)
4. Miss State (5)
7. Florida (4)
8. Kentucky (3)
9. Tennessee (2)
10. South Carolina (1)

Bama and LSU are stocking up. The Tide has a five-star safety and four-stars at cornerback, defensive end, linebacker and receiver. The Bayou Bengals have a five-star at defensive tackle (of course) and offensive tackle, and four-stars at linebacker, receiver and two at running back.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vanderbilt's starting offensive lineup still up in the air

Lots of discussion about who'll start at quarterback for the Commodores, so we thought we'd trot out a starting offensive lineup for the 2010 season. This isn't the opening day lineup, but the lineup we think, barring injury, may (or is it should?) be in place by mid-season. Here we go:

1. Larry Smith (R-JR): Yes, Larry will get the keys to the offense. We think the coaching staff plans to redshirt Jordan Rodgers (Johnson's been talking about it since signing day) and if the Larry Smith Project fails it'll be mid-season and too late to burn up Rodgers' redshirt.
2. Charlie Goro, (R-FR): Just a hunch, though the Tennessean didn't even mention Goro in its recent article about quarterbacks. There's been much more talk about the playing time Jared Funk got in the spring, but we think that was just a reward for sticking it out for so long without playing. You know, one final chance. While Funk will get some mop-up duty against Eastern Michigan just to say he threw at least one pass during five years at Vandy, Goro would be our best bet if Larry goes down and Rodgers gets a redshirt. And Goro may turn out to be our best bet period. Time will tell.

1. Warren Norman (SO), Zak Stacy (SO): The strength of our offense, these guys will often take the field at the same time, with Stacy lining up in the Wildcat and even running the option, and either one of them lining up in the slot and catching passes.
2. Kennard Reeves (R-SR), Wesley Tate (R-FR): Expect to see both these guys in big-game situations, with Reeves picking up tough yards in short situations and Tate lining up as a classic tailback or sometimes even a big receiver.

1. John Cole (R-SO), Udom Umoh (R-JR), Jonathan Krause (FR): The good news is Cole and Umoh return as starters. The bad news is Cole and Umoh return as starters. Neither should be a starting receiver in the SEC. And while you wish Krause had more size, he's probably the most game-ready of the true freshmen receivers and he's supposedly quick and physical enough to get separation from coverage, which was a real weakness of the receiving corps last season.
2. Brady Brown (SO), Chris Boyd (FR), Jordan Matthews (FR): Last year we thought Brown had a chance to start or at least be a major contributor but he didn't even catch a pass, which shows how shaky it is to have three true freshmen projected as your top six receivers. And it shows that Brown has been a bit of a disappointment, but he's got three years to go. Boyd's a huge target who's still growing into his body and Matthews is a tall, athletic kid who starred at a small school against lesser competition. What does that mean? It means fans should expect the unexpected.

1. Brandon Barden (R-JR): Barden is a future NFL tight end who didn't get the stage last season to make the kinds of game-changing plays he made as an All-SEC freshman in 2008. But he remains one of our biggest offensive weapons and should be a big part of Jimmy Kiser's game plan.
2. Austin Monahan (R-JR): Nobody's talking about how Monahan's loss affected last season, but it certainly played a role. He's a huge short target who can line up in the same formation with Barden and free him up to be a deeper threat.

1. Joey Bailey (R-SR): With all the talk of Bradley Vierling's delightful personality and blue-collar work ethic, the departed senior struggled last season and was far from the all-star candidate coaches had touted. Bailey's been a steady role-player on the O-line for the past three seasons and could even be an improvement over Vierling this year.
2. Chris Aaron (R-SR): The walk-on from Lehigh suffered a concussion in the spring but should be ready to spell Bailey.

1. Kyle Fischer (R-JR), Wes Johnson (R-FR): Fischer, a former All-SEC freshman, has been starting off and on since he took off his redshirt. Long one of the team's most gifted linemen with the size and athleticism to play left tackle, he still hasn't stepped up and claimed the starting position that coaches have been dangling in front of him for three seasons. In contrast, Johnson seems to have all the intangibles and will likely begin his playing career as a starter, but is still awfully light for an SEC lineman.
2. Jabo Burrow (R-SO), Justin Cabbagestalk (R-FR): Burrow, who didn't play a snap last season as a defensive end, is a scrappy blocker whose mention on the pre-spring starting lineup was a nod to his seniority over all those redshirt freshmen and maybe a reward for being so willing to switch positions. Cabbagestalk saw some time at center on the scout team and could be a utility guy on the line.

1. James Williams (R-JR), Ryan Seymour (R-SO): Williams, who blasted truck-sized holes for Zac Stacy early last year against LSU, is still recovering from a season-ending leg injury suffered in that game. Meanwhile, Seymour, an All-SEC left tackle who looked great filling in for Thomas Welch against Florida, is recovering from a shoulder injury in the spring. We need both these guys healthy.
2. Caleb Welchans (R-SO), Mylon Brown (R-FR): Welchans looked promising in some big-game situations last season, and Brown is a massive, SEC-sized tackle with nice feet who could emerge from the pack, especially if Williams or Seymour aren't ready to go.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Uninformed boo-birds ready for Larry Smith... and Bobby Johnson

Last week the Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge wrote an article stating that Larry Smith starting at quarterback was the "most likely scenario" for the Commodores, which led Vandy fans to comment on the Tennessean site and on fan boards that we're going to win only one game. Oh, and Bobby Johnson should be fired.

Does anybody remember that we are and will always be underdogs? Sure, we could have gained some momentum with another winning season last year but by the second game of the season we'd lost this:
• A starting wide receiver
• A projected all-conference caliber wide receiver
• Our top offensive lineman
• A starting defensive end
• A starting safety
• Our starting tailback

Oklahoma, a preseason top three team, lost two starters in the season opener and lost a total of five games in the regular season, five more than its fans expected. Vandy lost six starters and about five more games than its fans expected.

Remember what Bobby Johnson says about Vandy having a zero percent margin for error? Well, it's true, and it will always be true, regardless of who's the coach. Oklahoma — and at least half of the SEC — has linemen and receivers and quarterbacks on its third team that we'd love to have in our starting lineup. Our fourth receiver last year, Collin Ashley, has transferred to Arkansas... as a walk-on. Have fun on the scout team, Collin.

Still, Vandy fans maintain that Johnson should be getting better players and doing a better job of developing them. This is evidenced by these popular myths:

MYTH NO. 1: Larry Smith was horrible last season and should never see the field again.
TRUTH: It's not Larry Smith's fault that nearly every SEC team that faced us last season had that week's conference defensive lineman of the week. I'm not kidding. Smith was on the run. His receivers couldn't catch. And he made bad decisions? You bet he did. Remember Jay Cutler's first season as a full-time starter? He threw for fewer yards/game and more interceptions than Smith. And Cutler didn't win more than two games a season until his senior year, when an overlooked, future NFL receiver named Earl Bennett arrived on campus and a lanky left tackle named Chris Williams miraculously developed into a first round draft pick. Larry Smith needs and will get another chance, though his supporting cast still isn't up to SEC standards. Meanwhile, all those Vandy fans continuing to delude themselves can't wait to boo Smith and Johnson.

MYTH NO. 2: Jared Funk is a better quarterback than Larry Smith.
TRUTH: Funk hasn't thrown a pass in nearly five years on the Vandy campus. In 2008, Johnson chose Smith over Funk when Nickson and Adams both went down against Wake Forest, and he chose Smith as his starter in the bowl game. In 2009, he chose Smith as his starter, Adams as his backup, and he moved Funk to the punt coverage team. Why are we still talking about Jared Funk? Remember the last Vandy quarterback to start his first game in the season opener of his senior season? It was Hi Lewis, and against Mississippi State he threw six passes, had two of them intercepted, one for a touchdown, and he never played again.

MYTH NO. 3: Jordan Rodgers should be the starter right now because he's Aaron's brother.
TRUTH: Rodgers looked promising in the spring, but not like a guy who can lead us to victory with bad wide receivers and a makeshift offensive line. Who could do that? Maybe his brother, Aaron, who's playing for the Green Bay Packers. Fans are acting like Jordan was recruited by every team in the nation. He wasn't, and unlike his brother Aaron, he couldn't get a scholarship offer from anybody in the pass-happy Pac-10.

MYTH NO. 4: Charlie Goro should be the starter right now because he was a Parade All-American.
TRUTH: Anybody who uses this argument doesn't understand anything about recruiting. Yes, Goro was a great high school player and an impressive leader and winner, and he was recognized by Parade for his prep achievements, but as a recruit he wasn't as highly regarded as Larry Smith or even Jared Funk, who both got three stars apiece from Scouts and Rivals. Maybe Goro will turn out to be a great SEC quarterback, but not because he was a Parade All-American.

Many Vandy fans are desperate, they want a savior, and Larry Smith couldn't save them last year so they want temporary relief by hearing that the new starter is:
• Aaron Rodger's little brother.
• A fifth-year senior who hasn't played yet because Bobby Johnson's an idiot.
• A redshirt freshman who was once named one of the top seven prep quarterbacks in America by a magazine specializing in celebrity interviews.

Larry Smith's got more experience and at least as much talent as any of the other guys, and he's going to get a chance to lead this team in 2010.

He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders and so-called Vandy fans, at least the ones who don't realize that football teams even have offensive lines, aren't going to make it any easier for him.

Godspeed, Larry.

And keep practicing, Jordan and Jared and Charlie. When Larry gets either carried or booed off the field, we're going to need you.