Monday, February 28, 2011

Sizing up the playing rotation: Which Vanderbilt Commodores are in the battle to see big-game action

Instead of depth charts, we've been thinking about playing rotations. Which players are going to get on the field during tight games? Let's go position by position to see how we think playing rotations will evolve from post-spring/pre-season to mid-season.

A bunch of guys are possibilities on offense and defense. Of last season's emergency running backs, we believe Eric Samuels will return to defensive back and Micah Powell stay on offense.

Of the true freshmen athletes, we think Derrick King and Jahmel McIntosh will head to the secondary and Jacquese Kirk will get a shot at receiver. Of the tight ends, Dillon van der Wal seems like too big a target not to play tight end, while Darien Bryant looks to us like a linebacker or defensive end. Joe Townsend should gravitate to the defensive side of the ball.

OK, here goes with the playing rotation (starters denoted by astericks):

Pre-season (after spring practice): R-SR Larry Smith*, R-SO Charlie Goro (running/goal line)
Opening game: R-JR Jordan Rodgers*, Smith (running/goal line)
Mid-season (not accounting for injuries): Rodgers*, FR Lafonte Thourogood (running/goal line)

Pre-season: JR Warren Norman*, JR Zac Stacy*, R-SO Wesley Tate
Opening game: Norman*, Stacy*, FR Jerrod Seymour
Mid-season: Norman*, Seymour*, Stacy

Pre-season: SO Jonathan Krause*, SO Jordan Matthews*, R-JR John Cole*, R-FR Chris Boyd, R-SR Udom Umoh
Opening game: Krause*, Matthews*, Boyd*, Cole, Umoh
Mid-season: Krause*, Matthews*, Boyd*, FR Jacquese Kirk, Cole

Pre-season: R-SR Brandon Barden*, R-SO Mason Johnston, R-FR Blake Gowder, SO Fitz Lassing*
Opening game: Barden*, FR Dillon van der Wal, Johnston, Lassing*
Mid-season: Barden*, van der Wal, Johnston, Lassing*

Pre-season: R-SO Wesley Johnson*, R-SR Kyle Fischer*, R-JR Ryan Seymour*, SO Logan Stewart*, R-JR Jabo Burrow*, R-JR Caleb Welchans, R-SO Mylon Brown
Opening game: Johnson*, Fischer*, Seymour*, Stewart*, Burrow*, Welchans, Brown
Mid-season: Johnson*, Fischer*, Seymour*, Stewart*, Burrow*, FR James Lewis, FR Jake Bernstein

Pre-season: R-SR T.J. Greenstone*, R-JR Rob Lohr*, R-JR Colt Nichter, SO Jared Morse, R-SR Tim Fugger*, R-SO Walker May*, R-JR Johnell Thomas
Opening game: Greenstone*, Lohr*, Morse, FR Vince Taylor, Fugger*, May*, R-FR Kyle Woestmann, R-FR Thomas Ryan
Mid-season: Greenstone*, Taylor*, Lohr, Morse, May*, Woestmann*, Ryan, Fugger

Pre-season: R-SR Chris Marve*, R-JR Archie Barnes*, R-JR Tristan Strong*, SO Chase Garnham, R-JR DeAndre Jones
Opening game: Marve*, Barnes*, Strong*, Garnham, Jones
Mid-season: Marve*, Barnes*, Strong*, Garnham, SO Karl Butler, FR Jimmy Stewart

Pre-season: SR Casey Hayward*, JR Eddie Foster*, SO Andre Hal*, JR Eric Samuels, JR Trey Wilson, SR Sean Richardson*, SO Kenny Ladler*, R-SO Jay Fullam, SO Andre Simmons
Opening game: Hayward*, Foster*, Hal*, Samuels, FR Derrick King, Richardson*, Ladler*, Fullam, Simmons
Mid-season: Hayward*, Foster*, Hal*, Samuels, King, Richardson*, Ladler*, Simmons, FR Larry Franklin

Pre-season: R-JR Ryan Fowler*, SO Carey Spear (kickoffs), R-JR Richard Kent*
Opening game: Fowler*, Spear, Kent*
Mid-season: Spear*, Kent*

Here are some other players not mentioned above who could battle their way into the playing rotation at some point during the season:
• FR Josh Grady, QB/WR
• FR Mitchell Hester, RB
• R-SO Mark Panu, FB
• R-FR Trent Pruitt, WR
• R-SR Austin Monahan, TE
• FR Steven Scheu, TE
• R-FR Andrew Bridges, OT
• R-FR Grant Ramsay, OG
• FR Barron Dixon, DT-DE
• FR Darrien Bryant, LB
• R-JR Dexter Daniels, LB
• R-SO Blake Southerland, LB
• R-SO Javon Marshall, DB
• SO Steven Clarke, DB
• FR Jahmel McIntosh, DB

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who on the Vandy roster won't be playing next season?

A couple of weeks ago, after Vandy signed 21 incoming freshmen, we noted that the Commodores are five scholarships over the limit. We also predicted that these five players would be leaving to make room for them:

• Jamie Graham, R-SR, WR/DB
• Austin Monahan, R-SR, TE
• Justin Cabbagestalk, R-SO, OL
• Charlie Goro, R-SO, QB
• Brady Brown, R-SO, WR

We also said we were looking forward to seeing the updated roster and getting some clues. Well, the roster contained no changes (except for the absence of walk-on QB Matt Casas) but the profiles did have some clues, as we mentioned yesterday.

1. Cabbagestalk has had a career-ending knee surgery.
2. Graham is listed but his profile hasn’t been updated since last season. He has been rumored to be graduating.
3. James Kittredge, who played last season as a true freshman offensive lineman, also lacks an updated profile. Don’t want to speculate, but that could be an indication that his return is in jeopardy.

That leaves us with two scholarships over the limit of 85. Who else might be gone? Here are the guys we recently mentioned:
• Monahan: Listed as being questionable for spring practice. He’s had his expenses paid at Vanderbilt for four years. While big and talented, if he’s not making progress toward a 100 percent recovery, he’ll likely be done.
• Goro: With junior Aaron Rodgers likely still recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring, Goro and returning Larry Smith will get all the reps. Goro’s profile mentions that he’s a good athlete but lacks arm strength and accuracy. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Don’t be surprised if the preseason depth chart lists Smith first, Rodgers second and true freshmen Lafonte Thorougood and/or Josh Grady third. That would mean Goro could be moving to wide receiver… or to a lower-level school if he wants to play quarterback.
• Brady Brown: His new profile says he didn’t play last season – he’d already redshirted with injury the year before after limited play – because he’s been building his strength. Again, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Coach Franklin wants to carry the full contingent of scholarships while still having plenty of room for next year’s signing class. So what does he plan to do if he weeds out too many guys during spring practice? Well, notice that Graham, who’s been considered as good as gone, and Ryan van Rensburg, who was honored on senior day and is not even counted in our scholarship tally, are still on the roster. I’ll bet both those guys have applied to graduate school and if some players leave after the spring because of injury, academics or the desire for more playing time, then Graham and/or van Rensburg can hop into their slots. Linebacker Chris Johnson did that a couple of years ago.

So which Vandy freshmen should have been redshirted last season?

Vandy burned the redshirts off 13 players last season. That wouldn’t be a big number at some schools, but it is at Vandy, which last season had only four upperclassmen (seniors John Stokes and Theron Kadri and juniors Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson) who’d avoided redshirts.

Of course, the staff was trying to save their jobs. And granted, those 13 freshmen were pretty good. But should they have played? Here’s our take:


• FS Kenny Ladler: Played in all 12 games and started nine; had 57 total tackles, including 5.5 for a loss; had an interception against Tennessee; named to the coaches’ freshman all-SEC team.
• WR Jonathan Krause: Started 10 games, finishing third in receptions (24) and receiving yards (243); also scored two rushing touchdowns on six carries.
• CB Andre Hal: Played in all 12 games and started against Florida and Wake Forest; had 13 total tackles, including seven against Florida; returned 11 kickoffs for a 23.6 yard average, and had two returns for 58 yards against Florida
• C Logan Stewart: Played in team’s last eight games, starting six of them; took over after senior captain Joey Bailey was injured and then didn’t relinquish the job when Bailey recovered.
• WR Jordan Matthews: Played in all 12 games, getting one start; scored a touchdown in each of Vandy’s last four games; had seven catches for 74 yards in the finale against Wake Forest
• CB Steven Clarke: Played in 11 games; had 16 total tackles, including eight against South Carolina, and a sack against Arkansas

As bad as Vandy was last season, imagine the receiving corps without Krause and Matthews, the offensive line without Stewart, and the secondary without Ladler, Hal and Clarke. All those guys should have played.


• PK Carey Spear: Served as team’s kickoff specialist; 40 percent of his kicks were unreturned, and he limited opposing teams to a 20.7 yard average on kick returns; had a couple of tackles in coverage
• DT Jared Morse: Played in eight games, finishing with seven tackles; burned redshirt after Smotherman and Greenstone were injured

Sure, Spear was a superior kickoff guy to Fowler, but did we really need two kickers last year? Next time, let’s don’t sign a kicker who can’t handle kickoffs. And while Morse was a solid backup last season, didn’t we play three D-tackles (Billinger, Smotherman and Greenstone) during the Music City Bowl season? After we lost Smo and Greenstone to injury, we still had Lohr, Nichter, Loftley and Jelesky, who granted is awfully light to be playing tackle.


• S Karl Butler: Played every game on special teams; had three total tackles and an interception and 33-yard return against Florida
• LB Chase Garnham: Played in 12 games, mostly on special teams; had eight total tackles
• OL/DL James Kittredge: No notes with his new profile, but I think he played in just a couple of games
• TE Fitz Lassing: Played in 10 games, mostly on special teams, and also lined up at tight end after injuries piled up at that position; had a 3-yard catch against Wake Forest
• S Andre Simmons: Played in 10 games, primarily on special teams, and finished with four tackles.

We burned the redshirts off four guys – Butler, Garnham, Lassing and Simmons – so they could play mainly special teams and record a total of 15 tackles. Sure, Butler had a nice pick against Florida in mop-up duty, but was it worth losing a year of eligibility? Lassing’s 3-yard catch against Wake Forest sure wasn’t. As weak as our outside backers were, we’d be applauding the decision to play Garnham if he’d actually seen substantial time there, but instead he played primarily on special teams.

As for Kittredge, we’ll give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt. He was impressive in practice after moving to offensive line but had a less-than-memorable showing at center after Bailey was injured, which paved the way for Stewart, who grabbed the starting job and will probably keep it for the next three years. That’s how it works: A guy gets a chance and struggles and gets pulled from the game so the next guy gets a chance and he shines and he never leaves the lineup.

It could have been a whole lot worse. If Vince Taylor hadn’t hurt his hand in the preseason, he’d have played too. Now we’ve got three solid defensive linemen – Taylor, Thomas Ryan and Kyle Woestmann – who’ve got four years of eligibility left.

And if Krause and Matthews hadn’t proven to be SEC-caliber receivers, we may have burned the redshirts off Chris Boyd and Trent Pruitt trying to find somebody who could catch the ball. And if Blake Gowder hadn’t injured his shoulder, he’d have probably lined up at tight end after Mason Johnston got hurt.

Grant Ramsay would have likely played if he hadn’t injured his knee, and Chase White was queued up and ready to go if another O-lineman had gone down. Oh, and Jordan Rodgers might have burned up his redshirt if he hadn’t hurt his shoulder.

Not saying we’re glad guys got hurt so they would be redshirted, but if Jordan Rodgers rebounds and becomes our leader, won’t we be glad we didn’t waste one of his two years of eligibility on last year’s crappy season?

You’re probably thinking about Franklin’s so-called philosophy about not redshirting freshmen. I’ll remind you that the stud freshman quarterback he had at Maryland this past season – and who helped him get the Vandy job – was a redshirt. What Franklin means is, when you sign with Vanderbilt you’d best show up to campus ready to play right away. He’s not going to say on national signing day that he expects to redshirt this and that kid. Bobby Johnson used to do that. Remember, he was going to redshirt Warren Norman.

Is Franklin going to burn the redshirts off all three freshmen quarterbacks? No way. Is he going to burn the redshirts off two safeties, a linebacker and a tight end so they can all play special teams? That remains to be seen, but I hope not. We’ve got enough young talent to fill the roster on special teams without burning any redshirts to do it.

I think Franklin is going to be surprised at the general quality of the talent he’s inherited. Definitely something to build on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jordan Rodgers might be at half-speed in spring, and other news from new player profiles

Just went through everybody’s updated profiles, which you can access by clicking on each name on the new roster. Here are some clues about who may or may not be returning next season:

According to the profile for Jordan Rodgers, the junior college transfer, who sat out last season with a shoulder injury, will “participate on limited basis in 2011 spring drills.” Which means Larry Smith is going to get every possible chance to keep his starting quarterback job heading into the preseason.

These redshirt freshmen got particularly high praise in their profiles, evidence that they could be ready to shine when they finally see the field:
• Vince Taylor: Would have almost certainly played last season if he hadn’t suffered a hand injury in the preseason. By the time he was ready to play, fellow freshman defensive tackle Jared Morse had already burned his redshirt, a bunch of sophomores had were proving serviceable, and the season was headed down the toilet. In retrospect, the Dores wasted way too many freshmen last season in minor roles. Taylor could be a star, and it’s a blessing that he has four years of eligibility left.
• Chris Boyd: The Dores need receivers in a bad way, and Boyd was impressive on the scout team last fall.
• Kyle Woestmann: The highly touted end impressed in the fall and could push for a starting job.

• Jamie Graham: We’ve been saying for months that the redshirt senior is allegedly graduating this semester and leaving the team, but then we were surprised to see him listed on the new roster. But there’s no summary on his profile and no notes for 2010, which leads us to believe he may be finished playing football after all.
• Ryan van Rensburg: The redshirt senior was honored on senior day, but popped up on the new roster. Except he’s got no summary or notes for 2010 on his profile, which may mean he’s gone after all.
• Justin Cabbagestalk: The redshirt sophomore is still listed on the roster, but his profile said he’s suffered yet another knee injury and his career is over.
• James Kittredge: We mentioned yesterday that the sophomore is now being listed as a defensive lineman, but he started last season at that position and unlike every other underclassman he has no updated summary and no notes for 2010. Maybe it was just an editing error.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Vandy roster released, and the gang's all here... though some of them are heavier

We’ve been wondering for a while who’s not returning to the team and who might be changing positions. Well, the 2011 roster was just posted to the official VU site and we don’t have a heck of a lot of answers.


So who’s not returning to the team? Um, Matt Casas. Yes, the walk-on quarterback has fallen off the roster. No, Goro hasn’t gone anywhere.

That’s it. Jamie Graham is still listed as a wide receiver/slash/defensive back. Oh, and Ryan van Rensburg, who was honored on senior day, is still on the roster. (The other senior day honorees with a year of eligibility left – Tray Herndon and David Giller – are gone.)

Not sure what Franklin’s going to do about scholarships, but he hasn’t seemed worried about it, indicating that he’d likely lose some guys to injury, grades and the desire to transfer and get some playing time.


Not a lot of changes. Here are the few we could find:
• R-JR Micah Powell: From linebacker to running back
• R-JR Eric Samuels: From defensive back to running back/defensive back
• SO Fitz Lassing: From tight end to fullback/tight end
• R-FR Andrew Bridges: From general offensive line to tackle
• SO James Kittredge: From offensive line to defensive line

I love moving Kittredge back to defensive line. We’ve got plenty of bodies now at O-line and Kittredge has always looked like a D-lineman to me. He’s going to make a splash.


These guys have gained at least 10 pounds in the off-season:
• R-FR OT Andrew Bridges: 25 pounds, from 240 to 265
• SO TE/FB Fitz Lassing: 15 pounds, from 220 to 235
• R-JR DT Josh Jelesky: 15 pounds, from 245 to 260
• SO WR Jonathan Krause: 12 pounds, from 168 to 180
• SO DB Andre Hal: 10 pounds, from 175 to 185
• SO DB Steven Clarke: 10 pounds, from 180 to 190
• R-SO Javon Marshall: 10 pounds, from 185 to 195
• JR RB/DB Eric Samuels: 10 pounds, from 190 to 200
• SO LB Chase Garnham: 10 pounds, from 215 to 225
• SO HB Blake Gowder: 10 pounds, from 215 to 225
• R-FR OL Chase White: 10 pounds, from 270 to 280

These guys have actually lost weight:
• R-SR TE Brandon Barden: 5 pounds, from 250 to 245
• SO DB Karl Butler: 5 pounds, from 210 to 205


These guys have a chance to crack the depth chart, and fast:
• Chris Boyd, WR
• Andrew East, SN
• Kyle Woestmann, DE
• Andrew Bridges, OT
• Vince Taylor, DT

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Look at the war room video and help us gather clues

For those of you still basking in the glory of signing day, you probably want to check out this video clip from the official Vanderbilt athletics site that takes you inside the signing day war room.

It shows Coach Franklin as he walks into work at 5 a.m., greets his fellow coaches, calls recruits to welcome them, fist-bumps his staff, etc. He looks like a fun guy to work for, if you worked hard and you were on the same page with him.

Oh yeah, and it also shows two giant status boards, one for offense and one for defense, and each with a depth chart. I could only catch glimpses of it. For example, the quarterbacks listed were Smith in orange as the starter, followed by Goro and the three new recruits. Yes, no mention of Jordan Rodgers on the depth chart. Not sure why.
We've been talking about Goro possibly not returning.

Also, walk-on Mark Panu, who played special teams last year and was listed as a defensive end, is on the chart as our starting — and only — fullback/H-back.

New recruit Jose Valedon, who's been primarily mentioned as a tackle, is listed as the backup center to Logan Stewart. Redshirt freshman Andrew Bridges is listed as the backup to left tackle Wesley Johnson.

Give it a look. If your computer and video player work better than mine you might be able to catch a few things I didn't.

What should you look for? Clues of who is not returning to school.

Am I saying that Jordan Rodgers is not returning to school? Or that candidates for H-back such as Fitz Lassing and Blake Gowder are gone or being moved to other positions? Or that Mylon Brown, who was listed last season as Johnson's backup, is gone or is losing ground to Bridges?

No, I don't know what I'm saying. All I know is that it would have been cool to have spent about 5 minutes looking at those war room boards.

Take a few minutes and check it out, and let us know if you see anything.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vandy football recruiting was on the upswing before James Franklin arrived on campus

Sure, everybody’s praising the last-minute recruiting trail heroics of Coach Franklin, us included. But Bobby Johnson had been making huge strides himself since the Music City Bowl victory. In fact, last year’s signing day class following a 2-win season was loaded with skill athletes and linemen on both sides of the ball.

This year's class of skill guys and linemen may be a notch lower than last year's but it's still solid and will nicely complement all those sophomores. But this year's collection of offensive backs and tweeners could be among Vandy's best ever.

Let’s take a look at how Vandy’s recruiting has improved position by position since 2007. Here’s the key:
4 — Player got 4 stars from either Rivals or Scout and 3 stars from the other.
3 — Player got 3 stars from both services.
3- — Player got 3 stars from one service and two from the other.
2 — Player got 2 stars from both services.

2007: QB Smith (3), RB Doster (2). Low on numbers.
2008: No players recruited. Miserable.
2009: QB Goro (3-), RBs Norman (3-), Stacy (3-) and Tate (3-). An unusually solid RB class for Vandy.
2010: QB Rodgers (3-). Death of RB Bennett (4) a huge blow.
2011: QB/ATHs Thourogood (4) and Grady (3), QB Kentera (2), RBs Seymour (3) and Hester (3-). A deep and versatile class, and one of Vandy’s best ever.
Summary: 2009 was a great year for running backs but no year has been great for quarterbacks. This year certainly appears to be different, with some exciting runners thrown in for good measure.

2007: WR Umoh (3) and ATH Graham (3-). Decent players but not nearly enough.
2008: WRs Cole (3-) and Dunham (2) and DBs Hayward (3-), Owens (3-), Richardson (2) and Powell (2). Not especially good on paper, but Hayward and Richardson were big-time sleepers.
2009: WRs Brown (3) and Ashley (3-) and DBs Foster (3-), Wilson (3-), Samuels (3-), Fullam (2) and Marshall (2). Deep and solid in the secondary but WRs haven’t panned out.
2010: WRs Krause (3), Boyd (3), Matthews (3-) and Pruitt (2) and DBs Hal (3), Butler (3), Ladler (3-), Simmons (3-) and Clarke (2). A deep and solid class all around. Franklin’s going to love these guys, nearly all of whom played as true freshmen.
2011: ATHs Kirk (3) and King (3) and DBs Franklin (3), McIntosh (-3) and Williamson (2). A versatile group that can plug holes all over the field.
Summary: We've been collecting talented DBs for three straight years now. But even promising receivers have been busts, which has caused fans to question the coaches developing our wideouts. 2010's receivers may still come up big.

2007: DE/LBs Stokes (4), Marve (2), Fugger (2) and Kadri (2) and TE/HBs Barden (3), van Rensburg (3) and Monahan (2). A reliable class. Stokes was never a superstar but Marve filled that bill. Barden could be NFL-bound.
2008: LB/DEs Jones (3), Strong (3-), Barnes (2), Thomas (2) and Daniels (2). A big class, these guys were supposed to be the future but time is running out.
2009: TE Johnston (3), DE/TE McHaney (3), DE/LB May (3-) and LB Southerland (3-). Impressive on paper; jury still out
2010: TE/HB Gowder (3), TE/LB Lassing (2) and LBs Garnham (2) and East (2). Not awe-inspiring; all these guys are still projects.
2011: TE/DEs van der Wal (4) and Bryant (3), TE Scheu (-3), LB/DEs Stewart (3-) and Hart (3-). One of Vandy’s best classes ever, but the DEs are all projects.
Summary: Since 2007's surprising class, we've gotten more 3 star players but they haven't quite panned out yet. 2011's TEs look great, unless they all go play defense. One thing's for sure, we need to recruit some linebackers in the worst way next year.

2007: OLs Fischer (3), Williams (2) and Ashabranner (2) and DT Greenstone (2). Not impressive on paper but three out of four were solid SEC linemen and two of those managed to stay in school.
2008: DTs Loftley (3-), Lohr (2), Nichter (2) and Jelesky (2), and DE/OLs Seymour (2) and Burrow (2). A big class that’s struggled to compete in the SEC.
2009: OLs Johnson (3), Brown (2) and Cabbagestalk (2). One 4-season starter and a couple of career backups.
2010: DLs Taylor (3), Morse (3), Woestmann (3) and Ryan (3) and OLs Ramsay (3), Kittredge (3), Stewart (3-), Bridges (3-) and White (2). Six consensus three-star linemen. One of Vandy’s best classes of linemen ever.
2011: OLs Lewis (3), Bernstein (3), Valedon (3-) and Pulley (3-) plus DL Dixon (3) and Townsend (2). Another rock-solid class.
Summary: The O-line has been a real weakness for two seasons, but we've got a ton of young talent — actually more than a ton.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vanderbilt is now five football scholarships over the limit — so who's not returning?

You do the math: We've got 69 players with eligibility remaining who weren't recognized on senior day. (That's assuming that walk-on punter Richard Kent doesn't have a scholarship.) And we just signed 21 players to letters of intent.

Hmmm. 69 + 21 = 90

And as you probably know, the limit is 85. So which five players aren't returning to the team?

You have to look first at redshirt seniors. The list was culled down on senior day, with Tray Herndon and Ryan van Rensburg, neither of whom would be competing to start in 2011, both being honored and therefore announcing the end of their careers as Commodores.

Of the 11 left, every one has starting experience. But I keep hearing that Jamie Graham won't be returning for a fifth year. Also, you have to wonder if Austin Monahan is really going to return from a third season-ending injury.

Next, you have to look at who hasn't been getting playing time. Of the juniors, safety Al Owens played the least last season and has virtually no hope of cracking the depth chart with all our young talent at safety. Micah Powell's experiment at linebacker wasn't a rousing success and for now he's a stand-in running back. Akeem Dunham, Taylor Loftley and Josh Jelesky probably haven't improved their chances at playing time either.

But unless they decide to transfer to an FCS school like Alan Strong did three years ago, they'll probably want to stick around and pick up their free Vanderbilt diploma.

That leaves us with underclassmen who haven't cracked the depth chart and feel like they could transfer to an FCS school or even a mid-major and get some playing time. That list has got to include Charlie Goro, who hasn't played a snap in two years and now is facing additional competition from three of Franklin's hand-picked freshmen quarterbacks. I'll be shocked if Goro ever plays for Vandy.

Then there's Brady Brown, a big possession receiver who didn't play at all last season and now faces competition from redshirts Chris Boyd and Trent Pruitt, three true freshmen tight ends who can double as possession receivers (van der Wal, Scheu and Bryant), and a bunch of athletes (Thorougood, King, McIntosh, Kirk, Hester, Grady, etc.) who could also lineup at receiver.

And Thad McHaney, who had offers from places like Auburn and Oklahoma, played in less than half our games. But it takes a while for defensive ends to develop, and true freshmen like Hart and Stewart are probably going to need a redshirt before they're ready to go.

Sure, Franklin says he doesn't believe in redshirts; what's he going to say on signing day, we signed these guys to sit? But a 200-pound defensive end won't cut it in SEC play, and I'm sure he knows that.

Also, Justin Cabbagestalk missed last season with a knee injury and now finds himself behind about a dozen young linemen. And Javon Marshall is at the bottom of a depth chart loaded with slick young athletes at corner and safety. Maybe those guys take their games elsewhere.

The other factor, of course, is academics. I don't have everybody's transcript so I'm not going to try to predict that.

But I will make a prediction as to which five players won't return. I think all those redshirt juniors who don't play much will return, provided they qualify academically. They just won't be playing at Vandy as redshirt seniors. I think Graham and Monahan will go ahead and start the next chapter of their lives. I also think that Goro and Brady Brown, both of whom have been rumored to leave for more than a year, may bolt. That leaves us with one. Let's say Cabbagestalk.

I'm not saying these kids aren't talented and shouldn't be playing for Vanderbilt. In the case of Graham and Monahan, they could have made All-SEC if they'd been healthy. I seriously doubt I'll be right on all five. But these are all candidates.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

James Franklin puts together stellar class — now starts building a better one for 2012

Just finished listening to Coach Franklin’s signing day press conference, especially his comments on each individual player.

When asked who was going to redshirt, he said, “I don’t believe in the redshirt deal; redshirting is a defeatest mentality.” He said he wanted his recruits to arrive on campus ready to play and to make an impact right away.

I’ve heard Bobby Johnson conduct a bunch of these signing day press conferences, and you got the feeling he wanted to redshirt everybody and bring them along slowly, so he wouldn’t damage a kid’s psyche by playing him too soon and so he could reward the older guys who paid their dues.

Today Franklin said he wanted to create “one of the most competitive environments in the country.”

“If you don’t want to be a competitor, this isn’t the place for you,” he said. “If you’re afraid of competition, don’t come to Vanderbilt. I tell these guys, next year I’m gonna recruit somebody to beat them out.”

I love it. Johnson treated a good recruit like he was never going to get another one and he had to keep him on campus for five years. Franklin believes he can get more kids where these came from, and better ones too.

That doesn’t mean some of these kids aren’t projects and won’t redshirt. As he talked about his first class, the players seemed to fall into groups.

• Lafonte Thourogood, QB/ATH
• Jarron Seymour, RB

• Barron Dixon, DL
• Josh Grady, QB
• Jahmel McIntosh, DB
• Derrick King, DB
• James Lewis, OL

• Darien Bryant, TE/DE
• Jimmy Stewart, DE/LB
• Andrew Williamson, DB
• Jacquese Kirk, WR/DB
• Dillon van der Wal, TE/DE

• Jake Bernstein, OL
• Larry Franklin, DB
• Conor Hart, DE
• Spencer Pulley, OL
• Steven Scheu, TE
• Jose Valedon, OL

• Kris Kentera, QB
• Joe Townsend, OL/DL

VANDERBILT RECRUITING UPDATE: Commodores appear done for the day, and Larry Mazyck isn't on board

UPDATE: 2:45 PM: Well, look whose name just popped up on our official signing list again. Yep, Joe Townsend. And look whose name is nowhere to be seen? Yep, Larry Mazyck. On Rivals, Mazyck is now listed as being uncommitted, but only having interest in Vanderbilt. That leads me to believe that he's having problems getting admitted to school.

And it looks like this class is done. Wow, 21 players. Here's what we've got:


Verbal commitments as of last night:
1. Jake Bernstein, OL
2. James Lewis, OL
3. Jose Valedon, OL
4. Jimmy Stewart, DE
5. Larry Franklin, DB
6. Steven Scheu, TE
7. Spencer Pulley, OL
8. Barron Dixon, DL
9. Kris Kentera, QB
10. Derek King, DB
11. Conor Hart, DL
12. Andrew Williamson, DB
13. Jacquese Kirk, WR/DB
14. Mitchell Hester, RB
15. Jahmel McIntosh, DB
16. Dillon van der Wal, TE/DE

Previously undecided players:
17. Josh Grady, QB
18. Jerron Seymour, RB
19. Damien Bryant, ATH

Players who changed their commitments today:
20. Lafonte Thourogood, QB (from Virginia Tech)
21. Joe Townsend, OL/DL (from MTSU)


UPDATE: 1:50 CST: Dillon van der Wal has finally signed his letter of intent. Man, those West Coast kids need to wake up at dawn and go ahead and commit. This means we've got TWO four-star recruits, van der Wal and Lafonte Thorougood. An unbelievable class, considering the late start Franklin had, and will be even better if Larry Mazyck comes through. Larry, by the way, lives on the East Coast, in the eastern time zone.

UPDATE: 1:30 CST: The Commodores just signed Darien Bryant, a 6-4, 210-pound athlete who decommitted from Nebraska late last year. He's three-stars but kind of a tweener like Archibald Barnes was three years ago. Except that Bryant's got three stars from rivals and scout. He's projected either at tight end or on defense, and will probably redshirt.

UPDATE: 11:45 CST: Joe Townsend's name has vanished from Vandy's official list of signees. There's been some speculation that perhaps he's a grayshirt, which means he'll pay his way for his first semester and then join the team in 2012, when his scholarship will count against the total.

Vandy steals lineman from MTSU at last minute — so did we lose Larry Mazyck?

Still no word from TE Dillon van Der Wal, who lives on the West Coast, or from Larry Mazyck, the gigantic linemen.

I'm especially worried about Mazyck because we just got a letter of intent from Joe Townsend, a 6-4, 280 pound linemen from Hendersonville, Tenn., who can play on either side of the ball. Talk about flying under the radar. Townsend's a two-star guy who just decommitted from MTSU and whose only other offer was from Tulane.

Check out Townsend's profile on the Vandy site. No comments from his high school coach, which is an indication that something just happened to open up a slot for Townsend. Like maybe things didn't work out with Mazyck. Just a hunch.

That would be a loss, sure, but even without him this is still a startlingly good class for Vandy.

Holy crap! Vandy steals Lafonte Thourogood from Virginia Tech — and Franklin's not finished yet

Wow, we just got something that Vandy doesn't get very often, and that's a signing day surprise involving a four-star athlete.

Sure, VU coaches are still waiting on TE Dillon van der Wal to fax his letter to us. But we just got a letter from Lafonte Thourogood. His name alone is worth putting on the roster. But Lafonte is also a four-star athlete, who had committed to Virginia Tech to play wide receiver, but apparently we're giving him a shot at quarterback. I bet he'll wind up at receiver, and if he does he'll be the kind of player we've sorely lacked at that position: Tall (6-2), big (225), fast and supremely athletic.

And click here to read more about him on the Vandy site.

But we need a quarterback. Also, we just got a signed letter of intent from Josh Grady, the three-star athlete who can play quarterback, receiver or cornerback, and we're awaiting one from Jerron Seymour, a running back with an offer from Tennessee who recently gave us a verbal commitment.

When's the last time we finished this strong, both in January and on signing day?

Franklin and his staff have worked wonders. He's now got a ton of athletes, including three quarterbacks — all of whom are athletic and can play different positions — and about a half dozen more skill guys who could play on either side of the ball.

These guys have a lot of growing up to do, but they're gonna get on the field fast and it's gonna be fun to watch.

One question: It looks like we've got a class of at least 19. Still waiting on letters from Mazyck and van der Wal. So which of our current scholarship holders flunked out of school or decided to graduate on time or transfer?

Vandy waiting on two recruits, and feeling better about the defensive line

As of 10:15 a.m. Central time, 15 guys have signed letters of intent to play at Vanderbilt. The only verbal commitments yet to sign are OT Larry Mazyck and TE Dillon van der Wal.

Both of them are big gets for us. At 6-7, 320 pounds, Mazyck would be our biggest player the second he sets foot on campus. And van der Wal would be the rare four-star athlete. The only four-star recruits we've had in recent memory are John Stokes, who's finished playing and is heading to medical school, and Rajaan Bennett, who signed last February and was dead weeks later.

I tell you, the best player in this class could be Barron Dixon, the Atlanta-area defensive lineman who had committed to Mississippi State before changing his mind and choosing the Dores. He's pictured above about to kill a ballcarrier.

Vandy's official signing day site lists Dixon at 6-4, 280 pounds. And most schools recruited him as a defensive end! Most of Vandy's defensive ends show up on campus barely tipping the scales at 200 pounds. (See Walker May two years ago and Jimmy Stewart this year.)

With Dixon, sophomore Jared Morse and redshirt freshmen Vince Taylor and Thomas Ryan — and maybe even James Kittredge, who played on the offensive line last season and who I'd like to see move back to D — we've got some impressive young SEC-caliber talent on the D line. These guys are versatile too, and could slide out to end. I'd like to see Taylor, who's 280 but can really move, get a shot at playing fullback (he ran the wildcat in high school) and maybe even middle linebacker.

We really need more bulk at end, and if Dixon and some of the other guys are as athletic as everybody says they could fit the bill. Speaking of which, I'd love to see Walker May get a crack at outside linebacker. Fresh signee Conor Hart looks like a nice prospect, and Kyle Woestmann should be ready to go after a redshirt year.

Vandy's new offensive linemen eager to sign on the dotted line

Are our offensive line recruits eager or what? The first guy to fax in his signed letter of intent this morning was Jake Bernstein, followed by James Lewis and Jose Valedon.

So far four more guys have officially committed: another lineman Spencer Pulley, as well as tight end Steven Scheu, safety Larry Franklin, and defensive end Jimmy Stewart.

Click here for live updates on James Franklin's first signing class at Vandy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vandy wraps up whirlwind class with 10 recruits in 10 days — but do they still have more scholarships to give?

Less than 24 hours from signing day, Vandy just got another verbal commitment, this time from quarterback Kris Kentera of Colorado. That's our 10th commitment in about 10 days. Imagine what Coach Franklin and his self-proclaimed dream team of recruiters will do on the recruiting trail with a full year to operate.

Clearly, Kentera is not this staff's first choice at quarterback. He's unrated by Scout and ESPN, and got two stars from Rivals. He's got good size at 6-4, 195, but had no other FBS offers. (His offers came from Montana, Northern Colorado, Weber State and Wofford.)

That said, Franklin has said he wants five scholarship quarterbacks on the team during a season, and right now he's got three — Smith, Rodgers and Goro. So under that reasoning he's got room for one more quarterback after Kentera — and Josh Grady and Lafonte Thourogood are still considering the Commodores.

Here's how we're looking for the next four seasons at QB:
2011: R-SR Smith, R-JR Rodgers, R-SO Goro, FR Kentera
2012: R-SR Rodgers, R-JR Goro, R-FR Kentera
2013: R-SR Goro, R-SO Kentera
2014: R-JR Kentera

Using the five-quarterback rule, Franklin can sign two more quarterbacks over the next two seasons. So if he can still get Grady or Thourogood, he probably will, especially because both guys are athletes who could play all over the field. In fact, Thourogood's best position is probably receiver.

That brings us to another question: How many scholarships does Vandy have left to give? Right now, none, and that's assuming that Jamie Graham is not returning for a fifth year of eligibility and that punter Richard Kent still has no scholarship.

I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of guys vanish from the roster between now and the start of spring practice. This time last year it was redshirt senior lineman Reilly Lauer and sophomore receiver Collin Ashley.

A prime candidate might be redshirt senior Austin Monahan, who's suffered a long string of devastating injuries. Guys who were rumored to be leaving last season were WR Brady Brown and QB Charlie Goro, and neither of them played a snap last year. Of course, with the shortage of quarterbacks, Goro might be advised to stick around and see if he can crack the depth chart with a new set of coaches. Also, redshirt junior safety Al Owens saw action in only one game and is now last on a depth chart loaded with young safeties. He may wish to stick around and get his Vandy diploma — that's what I would do.