Friday, August 13, 2010

So who else can play running back for Vanderbilt?

You've probably heard by now that Zac Stacy hurt his knee in practice yesterday — and exactly one play after tight end Austin Monahan went down screaming with a knee injury of his own.

Monahan is out for the season and Stacy is questionable for the season opener vs. Northwestern.

It's the third straight season that Monahan, a redshirt junior, has been felled early by injury. We know Brandon Barden, also a redshirt junior, is a good tight end and that Ryan van Rensburg, also a redshirt junior, can block and even catch a TD pass in a pinch and that redshirt frosh Mason Johnston is a decent prospect and that true freshmen Fitz Lassing and Blake Gowder have been getting reps at tight end and/or H-back.

While Monahan is certainly a painful loss, Barden would have likely started anyway and there's some decent depth there.

Except that van Rensburg may be needed at tailback if sophomore Stacy can't return and if redshirt frosh Wesley Tate (foot) and redshirt senior Kennard Reeves (hamstring) continue to be halted by their injuries.

If all that happens, then Warren Norman would be Vanderbilt's only scholarship running back, right as the Commodores are unveiling a two-running back depth chart and two-running back offensive sets. (Reese Lovell is a walk-on who played fullback in high school.)

So who would be our best bets besides van Rensburg to fill in at running back? When asked this question last night, Caldwell replied, “We might have a freshman out here somewhere who can do it and has done it.”

Looking at the entire roster, here's a quick top 10:

1. Eric Samuels, SO (6-0, 190) (pictured above): Showed flashes of brilliance as a fluid true freshmen who chalked up a fumble recovery and an interception return in his first game as a Commodore. More highly rated as a prep running back than both Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. In two seasons, gained 1,600 yards and scored 21 touchdowns for his Florida high school. Coaches might be more likely to leave Graham, who’s earned a starting job at cornerback, on defense, and take a flyer on Samuels at running back.

2. Charlie Goro, R-FR (6-2, 205): One of four quarterbacks competing for the starting job, Goro has bulked up and earned the reputation as a bruising runner. As a high school senior quarterback, rushed for a record 164 yards in the state championship game. Seems to have the weakest arm of the quarterbacks. With rumors that he’ll leave if he doesn’t play early in his career, coaches may give him a shot to play as a running back.

3. Jamie Graham, R-JR (6-0, 195): An impressive prospect at cornerback who's spent much of his Vandy career trying to bail out the offense as a receiver and sometimes even tailback. Has rushed for about 130 yards and a touchdown as a Commodore, plus 640 yards and 12 touchdowns as a high school senior. More likely to play in the secondary, where he has NFL potential, and occasionally move over to offense to add some firepower.

4. Casey Hayward, JR (6-0, 185): The latest lock-down cornerback for the Commodores and an All-SEC candidate. As a three-year starter at quarterback in high school, he rushed for 1,284 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year. With the caliber of receivers in the SEC, Hayward is too valuable as a defender to use regularly on offense.

5. Blake Gowder, FR (6-2, 215): An offensive machine who’s being projected as a tight end or H-back. Rushed for 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns and had 1,237 yards catching and 14 touchdowns as a high school senior in Georgia. A tough guy with nifty moves who could take the pounding, but lacks the burst and athleticism of an SEC tailback.

6. Trent Pruitt, FR (5-10,175): A quick scat-back who’s being projected as a slot receiver. Had 922 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing and 835 yards and eight touchdowns receiving as a senior for his Georgia high school. Awfully slight to play running back in the SEC, Pruitt could still add a burst of excitement every now and then.

7. Archibald Barnes, R-SO (6-4, 228): Rangy athlete played in every game as a redshirt freshmen last season on special teams and at outside linebacker and safety. Rushed for more than 1,000 yards for his Florida high school as a senior quarterback.

8. Larry Smith, R-JR (6-2, 220): Rushed for 670 yards as a quarterback on the Alabama 6A state championship team. Gained 213 yards rushing last season as Vanderbilt's starting quarterback. As the most experienced quarterback, Smith will likely stay at quarterback as either the starter or the top backup.

9. Micah Powell, R-SO (6-0, 215): A safety being converted to outside linebacker who played every game last season, mostly on special teams. Rushed for about 1,500 yards in two high school seasons.

10. Fitz Lassing, FR (6-3, 220): Listed initially as a linebacker, but getting preseason reps at tight end. Rushed for 1,417 yards, had more than 200 yards' worth of receptions and 21 total touchdowns as a grind-it-out fullback in his senior year of high school. He could take the beating but would lack the speed and burst.

Just to add salt in the wound, Rajaan Bennett rushed for 1,857 yards and 28 touchdowns as a high school senior. If he was still alive, we wouldn't be having this discussion.


Anonymous said...

Any more info you can provide on these "Goro's gone" rumors? Also, what freshman do you think Caldwell was referring to at RB?

Dimon said...

Haven't heard anybody but the Go Goro guy say it. Have no idea who Caldwell was talking about. Gowder and Lassing were both 1,000-yard rushers in high school but are really TE/H-back guys. If he meant a true freshman then probably Trent Pruitt. I think he may have been talking about Samuels, who played in four games and barely missed being a redshirt freshman.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Samuels. I don't know, from what little I saw he just seems like he's one of the top athletes on the team. I hope he finds his way on the field somewhere.

Dimon said...

Yes, Samuels is an outstanding athlete. He struggled some with injury and I think also adjusting to college but he's one of those guys who's too good to keep off the field especially at Vanderbilt.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure the go goro guy is responsible for 80% of the goro poll votes. You can easily set your computer to re-vote on these polls.

Also starting to think the go goro guy has brainwashed some people. Goro's a stud in all categories but arm strength. While that "sub par arm strength, throw to a spot and the receiver will meet the ball there" tactic worked for Danny Weurful and Spurrier's fun n gun, it doesn't really fit in with Vandy's quick strike spread. Sure, goro is good at eluding tacklers in the back field, but if you're gonna scramble in the SEC then you need a good arm to throw on the run. Goro's a sick athlete, a high school winner, and accurate and I still think he should get some meaningful reps to prove he can be #1 guy. But, my guess is he's not the best option on the field right now.

In fact, to compare the quarterbacks on paper, I'd have to lean towards Rodgers.

Arm = good
Mobility = good
Leadership = good
accuracy = below average

Arm = below average
Mobility = good
Leadership = good
accuracy = good

Arm = good
Mobility = good
Leadership = good
accuracy = good

I'm pulling these assessments out of my ace and really don't know much about Rodgers except for a few videos, but to me Rodgers seems the most solid across the board. Smith is good but inaccurate, Goro is good but has a weak arm. Rodgers (I hope) appears to be good in all categories.

I say:
Redshirt Rodgers
Start Smith. If he has a good year, great. If not, let Goro/Funk compete for some time.
Next year, Rodgers knows the system down pat and leads VU for 2 years -- 2 years in which they'll be more stacked (relatively speaking) than they've been in a long time.

Dimon said...

Out of your ace?

Great comments, and yes, the Goro guy has obviously been voting like crazy for... Goro.

But the last couple of practices have been the best in Goro's career as a Commodore.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ace. Just trying to keep it clean in the name of Bobby Johnson.

It does sound like Goro is having some solid practices of late and I hope he continues to emerge because I think he's go the most moxy of the mix.

Either way I think we need a mistake free, reliable, mobile guy behind center. Maybe Goro is that guy. I just hope there's a clear winner of the group. Our best bet is to win with continuity, defense, special teams, and a few bobbled punts that Richardson falls on in the end zone.

Anonymous said...

The Goro Guy will admit that he has voted a multiple times of no MORE than maybe 15 votes. You'll need to forgive me, as I thought that to be normal (I'm from Chicago). That being said - take away my votes and you'll see that Goro is still regarded as a formidable candidate


Thanks, Goro Guy. We appreciate your enthusiasm. And if the system lets you vote 15 times, then have at it. But I think many of us would like to see the kid excel.

Some questions for you:

I've said before that if coaches agree to redshirt Rodgers, then Goro will eventually supplant Funk as the backup and will play this year when Larry gets injured; do you see that as being a good possibility?

Will Goro leave if he doesn't see playing time this year?

Why should Goro start over Larry Smith?

Anonymous said...

The Johnson scenario of Rodgers 3 to play 2 doesn't work in Goro's favor, as it would run into Goro's designed time to be a starter. If their going to use Rodgers they should use him now and give Goro his chance when it was designed to be his time.

My over achieving campaign to have Goro start over Smith was only wishful thinking. Smith will rightfully be our starter this year and back-up should be Goro or Rodgers. Funk should not be even discussed as an option - that would destruct the whole future of Vanderbilt football - and Caldwell's intentions should be for future.

Goro made his decision to go to Vanderbilt with hopes he could play in a major program. He took his chances. He could have went to Central or Western Michigan or Northern Illinois and would've had a better shot at playing time. However, there's a reason Charlie chose Vanderbilt over those schools - education.......and I don't see Charlie leaving a premier educational university to give his sporting abilities another shot - he'll take the degree.


Thanks, Goro Guy. I hope Charlie sticks around and I hope he gets to play sometime.

I too am tired of hearing that Funk is competing for the starting job.