Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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.

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