Saturday, August 7, 2010

First day of Vandy football practice and all eyes on the offensive line

A day ago, fans were lamenting that Herb Hand wasn't coming to Vanderbilt because of something they didn't see on his Twitter — or something. But there he was yesterday, coaching up the offensive line.

And he's going to need to do some serious coaching. With no full-time starters returning, the unit is now facing the loss of senior Chris Aaron, whom the official VU site says is NOT going to return from injury (he suffered a concussion in the spring), and redshirt freshman Justin Cabbagestalk, who's struggling with a knee injury.

Some people, including Chris Low of ESPN, had projected Cabbagestalk to be a starter. The shaky status of both C'Stalk and Aaron has prompted the coaches to move James Kittredge (pictured above) from D-Line to O-Line, where he is reported to have looked impressive in yesterday's shorts-and-helmet practice.

Hand doesn't seem too concerned about the lack of experience. "It won't be my first go-around with that," he told the Tennessean. "My first year (2007) at Tulsa we had to replace four starters from the previous year … we did that and we led the nation in total offense that year. I like the challenge of it."

That's exactly the MacGyver-like quality we need in our coaches — here's some bailing wire and duct tape, now win some ballgames.

Take Aaron (6-4, 295) and Cabbagestalk (6-3, 290) out of the mix, and here's what you've got:

• Joey Bailey, R-SR (6-4, 295)
• Kyle Fischer, R-JR (6-6, 310)
• Ryan Seymour, R-SO (6-4, 305)
• Caleb Welchans, R-SO (6-5, 300)
• Jabo Burrow, R-SO (6-4, 285)
• Wesley Johnson, R-FR (6-5, 280)
• Mylon Brown, R-FR (6-5, 310)
• Grant Ramsay, FR (6-5, 285)
• Logan Stewart, FR (6-5, 290)
• James Kittredge, FR (6-4, 270)
• Chase White, FR (6-5, 270)
• Andrew Bridges, FR (6-6, 240)

Only four of these guys — Bailey, Fischer, Seymour and Welchans — have ever played a college football game. (Burrow sat out last season while gaining weight and making the transition to the offensive line.)

Caldwell told a radio station last week that he plans to rotate seven linemen this season. If you take out true freshmen, you're left with seven guys — the four guys with game experience, Burrow, and the two redshirt freshmen, Johnson and Brown.

In other words, some true freshmen will need to step up, especially when the injuries start popping up. Ramsay, who's the most highly touted of the frosh linemen, has told his Facebook friends he believes he may play this season, and Stewart is also big and strong enough to get a shot. White is considered a project at tackle, and Bridges will almost certainly take off a year to get bigger and stronger.

That leaves Kittredge, a tough, confident kid who seems to have a nasty streak and despite being a little light could be a pleasant surprise for us this season.

Meanwhile, let's hope Cabbagestalk's knee allows him to get into games and be productive.

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