Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The expendables: Vanderbilt football players who fans would never miss

Last week, Richard Cagle and Rob Ashabranner vanished from the Vanderbilt depth chart, likely gone forever from the football team.

Nobody noticed, and nobody cared, because since those guys arrived on campus, the Commodores have added about a dozen offensive linemen with more talent.

At the end of last season, Gaston Miller, Austin Newton and Justin Green were honored on senior day, though each had a full year of eligibility remaining. Nobody noticed or cared.

So who could drop off the Vanderbilt depth chart today with little repercussions? Here's a list:

• Ryan van Rensburg, R-JR, H-back: Came to Vandy as a three-star fullback but the Commodores don't really use fullbacks. A big, strong guy who lacks the mobility to compete for playing time at tailback. Was a nice fill-in last season at tight end after second-teamer Austin Monahan was injured, but Monahan and Brandon Barden are back, and redshirt freshman Mason Johnston is the tight end of the future.

• Turner Wimberly, R-SR, WR: The fact that Wimberly started last season was a sad commentary on the Commodore receiving corps. He's listed second-team on the depth chart because he's a senior, but expect him to fall fast once the hotshot freshmen start practicing.

• Tray Herndon, R-JR, WR: Played well as a freshman at Minnesota, but was a disappointment last season, losing playing time to Collin Ashley, a true freshman who wasn't offered a scholarship until well after signing day. He'll get one more look, and he'd better be ready.

• Akeem Dunham, R-SO, WR: A former basketball star with loads of athleticism, Dunham was never a factor last season. He's got two years to get something going, but if he beats out half of the true freshmen it will be a surprise.

• Jared Funk, R-SR, QB: A three-star quarterback who supposedly has the best arm on the team, except after five years he still hasn't thrown a pass in a game. Last season he was on the punt coverage team until Larry Smith was injured. Coach Caldwell isn't planning to redshirt anybody who can help, which probably means he'll scrap Bobby Johnson's plans to redshirt quarterback Jordan Rodgers.

• Al Owens, R-SO, S: A nice recruit who played a bunch of special teams last season but didn't get much playing time in a secondary that featured three true freshmen. With a redshirt freshman and three true freshmen who all look like better prospects at safety, he'd better get used to special teams.

• Micah Powell, R-SO, S: Like Owen, a safety who played a bunch of special teams but faces a serious challenge from all those freshmen safeties. He's been getting a look at linebacker, where he must crack a depth chart loaded with fellow redshirt sophomores.

• Johnell Thomas, R-SO, DE: A non-traditional end (he's only 6-foot-1), Thomas got some meaningful playing time last season and looks like a solid player but faces serious competition from redshirt freshmen Walker May and Thad McHaney and true freshmen Kyle Woestmann and Thomas Ryan.

• Josh Jelesky, R-SO, DE: Another redshirt sophomore who looks promising but will likely get lost in the sea of young talent at end. May be one of those kids who converts to tackle if he can put on some more weight.

• Colt Nichter, R-SO, DT: Played sparingly last season and has a chance to get some key snaps this year with the departure of Billinger and the injury to Smotherman. But true freshmen Vince Taylor and Jared Morse, and maybe even James Kittredge, should make a splash early.

• Taylor Loftley, R-SO, DT: Sat on the bench last season, and though he's got tons of potential, his chances to play may not improve with the arrival of the three freshmen.


jaybeas said...

Maybe I'm being oversensitive here, but this post just seems unnecessary. Why take the time to essentially bash players who have devoted a significant amount of their life in the past year-plus simply because they have fallen down the depth chart? It must be hard enough on these guys, many of whom I'm sure were stars on their high school teams, to deal with the fact that they will see little, if any, significant playing time.

Pointing out the fact that nobody will notice if these particular players disappeared from the team altogether seems especially mean-spirited.


Thanks for the comment, and I see your point. Maybe I should have said:
"These are guys who need to work their butts off if they want a chance to get meaningful playing time this season."

I didn't mean to be mean-spirited or bash these guys.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Long time reader here. Love the crap out of MV, but hate this article. Let's take RVR, for example.

South African who didn't pick up football until he was a high schooler (where he was phenomenal btw), sees significant playing time as a RS Sophomore, formidable blocker out of the backfield, can play multiple positions, ran for a TD (1 of only 12 rushing TDs for team) and caught a TD last year (1 of only 6 receiving TDs for the team), played admirably as a TE after injury to Monahan, special teams contributor...oh and he still has 2 freakin' years to play.

Better yet, let's just cut him now why he's expendable. Accounting for 11% of our offensive touchdowns just won't cut it.


Nice defense of RVR, and yes, I'm having second thoughts about titling this 'the expendables.' Maybe I really wanted you guys to defend all the players who are falling off the radar. So who else has been unjustly labeled? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your openness to debate. All else is great on the site. Keep up the great work.

Vandyphile said...

You mention a couple of these are on special teams. That is a not insignificant. Somebody has to block for Norman, right?
They are all Commodores and valued just for that, if nothing else.


You're right, special teams are not insignificant. See my latest post. And I really, really appreciate the feedback.

Will said...

Did seem a little mis-guided and mean spirited, especially to someone whose coaches in HS made me believe I was helping our star players by being a good practice player....I still enjoying trying to pick out freshman who start out on the sidelines and hopefully end up on the frontlines, i.e., Kyle Fisher has been my guy for several years now, and hopefully this will be his break through year!!

Anonymous said...

Coming back to RVR - to drive the point home, here we are with Monahan out for the season and the running backs with its problems and RVR again is filling the shoes. I think it must be tough to be asked to stay at a certain weight one year and bulk up the next year to play in another position. Then to be asked to help at RB, HB, FB special teams etc. He has done everything asked of him and if you look at his stats - for someone with limited playing time he has some good stats. I think he needs a break.


With injuries to RB and TE, and with RVR able to do both, it appears that his time is now.