Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hey, don't root for Larry Smith to fail

Hey guys, let's not read too much into what Coach Franklin says after practice. Many of our fans want to jump off a bridge when they hear him praise Larry Smith. But listen to what he says about him: Larry's got a strong arm. Larry's got a great body.

We already knew that.

Larry's the only quarterback he's got who's ever played in a football game. Why in the world would he come out and bash Larry?

And you know why he's praising Larry so much? Because the stupid reporters are asking him after a handful of practices who's going to start at quarterback next season. Well let's see... there's Larry, who looks great in the airport and has a cannon; there's Charlie Goro, who's starting his third season and has never taken a snap in a game; and there's Aaron Rodgers' little brother, who's still recovering from shoulder surgery.

What do you think he's going to say? He and Ricky Rahne and the other coaches are gonna coach him up and the light bulb's either gonna come on or it's not.

I think you'll see one of three scenarios by the season opener:

1. Larry Smith blossoms under the first real quarterback coaching he's had and easily wins the starting job over Rodgers, much to the chagrin of the Larry haters.
2. Larry struggles, Rodgers takes the reins when he joins full-contact practice and even dazzles everybody with his running and scrambling ability and wins the starting job.
3. Larry struggles, Rodgers struggles and the one who sucks the least gets the start while everybody calls for playing time for freshmen Grady and Thorougood, who look good in practice but aren't quite ready.

Clearly, Franklin doesn't want to go into his first SEC season with a brand-new quarterback. He's got an experienced guy, and he'll give him every opportunity to win the job. He also has a kid with Super Bowl champion bloodlines, and he'll give him chances too.

If he's got to throw a youngster into the fire, Grady's the most polished and could get the nod, but hopefully Smith or Jordan will grab the job and Grady will redshirt.

If that happens, Franklin has to decide what to do with Thourogood: Do you redshirt arguably the team's best athlete and let him develop as a quarterback or do you get him on the field as soon as possible and get him some touches?

We really, really need Larry to shine in the spring. That way, he'll either be our best option or he'll push Rodgers and if Rodgers wins the job then he'll likely be a solid starter. Then that takes the pressure off the freshmen and gives the staff time to evaluate both Thourogood and Grady as quarterbacks and athletes.


R-SO Blake Southerland has switched from linebacker to fullback, where his older brother started for Georgia. He'll compete with SO Fitz Lassing and R-JR Marc Panu. Not sure what role fullback will play in our offense, but I like Panu, a walk-on who's big and strong.

R-SO Javon Marshall and JR Eric Samuels have moved to safety. Franklin really likes Samuels as a big, fast athlete. Don't be surprised if he's our No. 1 nickel back.

JR Trey Wilson is having a great spring at cornerback despite tough competition from SR Casey Hayward, JR Eddie Foster and SO Andre Hal.

Don't be surprised if R-FR DE Kyle Woestmann and R-FR DT Vince Taylor start this season on the defensive line.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How recent Vanderbilt roster changes could affect the playing time of the true freshmen

Now that we know who's not returning next season and where certain versatile players will practice in the spring, we have a better idea where and how often the true freshmen may play when they finally arrive on campus. Let's take a look, position by position:

Developments: SR Larry Smith gets crash course on real quarterbacking from coaches while JR Jordan Rodgers heals and SO Charlie Goro gets some reps.
Likely scenario: Smith starts season at QB with Rodgers nipping at his heals.
What it means for freshmen: Lafonte Thourogood named third string QB, gets on field as short-yardage QB and receiver. Josh Grady also auditions for offensive role but headed for redshirt. Kris Kentera’s a project and likely redshirt.

Developments: JR Warren Norman’s still healing, JR Zac Stacy’s resting up and JR Eric Samuels has moved back to defense. That leaves SO Wesley Tate and JR Micah Powell all the carries in the spring.
Likely scenario: Norman and Stacy top the depth chart but can’t handle the SEC pounding by themselves. Tate better than Powell but still not the answer as an every-down back and is considered at receiver and linebacker.
What it means for freshmen: Coach Franklin swears Jerod Seymour’s an every-down back, something Vandy sorely needs. He’ll play early and often. Speedy Mitchell Hester redshirts if Norman and Stacy stay healthy and he’s not pressed into emergency duty at receiver.

Developments: Franklin sees this as the team’s most glaring weakness. SOs Jonathan Krause and Jordan Matthews look like SEC wideouts and R-FR Chris Boyd also looks promising. But two returning starters, JR John Cole and SR Udom Umoh, still can’t separate from SEC defenders and the other guys – JR Akeem Dunham, SO Brady Brown and R-FR Trent Pruitt – are question marks.
Likely scenarios: Krause, Matthews and Boyd will continue to improve and Cole will likely still see time in the slot. But expect the coaching staff to look everywhere – including at running back, tight end and backup quarterback – for receiving help.
What it means for freshmen: Jacquese Kirk listed as WR/DB, but with a weak receiving corps and a strong secondary, he’ll get a long hard look at receiver the minute he steps on campus. And DB Jahmel McIntosh, a strong, athletic kid, could also get a look here, as could RB Mitchell Hester. If Thourogood wasn't promised a shot at quarterback, he could easily crack the starting lineup at receiver, and don't be surprised to see him take a break from his signal-calling tutorials to line up at receiver. Grady would also be a nice option here.

Developments: SR Brandon Barden’s poised for big season, JR Austin Monahan’s granted another year of eligibility and SO Mason Johnston returns from injury, sending SO Fitz Lassing to fullback and R-FR Blake Gowder to linebacker.
Likely scenario: Monahan joins Barden as a major target and Johnston concentrates on blocking.
What it means for freshmen: Considering Barden’s graduating and Monahan’s colorful medical history, Vandy needs to develop a big tight end fast, meaning 6-foot-7 Dillon van der Wal, who’s been mentioned as everything from O-line to D-end, will likely play right away and become a weapon at TE. Steven Scheu redshirts and makes a splash next year, and Darien Bryant moves to defense.

Developments: SO Justin Cabbagestalk’s knee ends his career before it begins, SO James Kittredge leaves school and R-FR Grant Ramsay still battles injury.
Likely scenario: Vandy’s top six linemen – SR Kyle Fischer; JRs Ryan Seymour, Jabo Burrow and Caleb Welchans; and SOs Wesley Johnson and Logan Stewart – keep their jobs and keep improving, but team needs to develop depth fast. SO Mylon Brown and FRs Andrew Bridges and Chase White get tons of attention in spring.
What it means for freshmen: Joe Townsend, listed on signing day as OL/DL, moves to offense and spends a redshirt year learning to play guard. Tackle James Lewis and guard Jake Bernstein best options to play this year, but ideally will take a redshirt to develop. Jose Valedon already penciled in as backup center but needs weight; expect him to redshirt and Burrow to back up Stewart at center. Spencer Pulley redshirts.

Developments: SR T.J. Greenstone recovered from injury and will be mainstay. JR Rob Lohr, a 12-game emergency starter, gets challenge from SO Jared Morse, R-FR Vince Taylor and JR Colt Nichter. JRs Taylor Loftley and Josh Jelesky provide depth.
Likely scenario: These guys are solid but not exceptional by SEC standards. Expect Taylor to jump up the chart in spring.
What it means for freshmen: Barron Dixon, listed as an end, is as big as Vandy’s other DTs at 280 pounds and growing. Team badly needs more athletes on line and Dixon will get a shot. If he’s a quick learner, he could crack the two-deep by season’s end.

Developments: SR Tim Fugger’s being touted as all-star candidate (that’s a stretch), SOs Walker May and Thad McHaney return from injury and JR Johnell Thomas remains a workhorse. R-FRs Kyle Woestmann and Thomas Ryan are fine prospects and will get a shot in spring.
Likely scenario: Pretty cloudy. Fugger’s got wheels but doesn’t strike fear in opponents while May looked sharp before injury. All these guys lack ideal heft to be SEC ends. Expect coaches to try anything and keep recruiting the biggest and best athletes they can find here.
What it means for freshmen: Connor Hart’s not a better prospect than Woestmann and Ryan were last year, and Jimmy Stewart and Darien Bryant are awfully light and could begin their careers at linebacker. That leaves the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Dixon, who’s the size of an SEC end. Expect him to get a shot inside and outside on the D-line.

Developments: SR Chris Marve of course a mainstay and the leader of entire team. JR Archibald Barnes a nice athlete but still learning, JRs Tristan Strong and DeAndre Jones struggle with injury and SO Chase Garnham mainly played special teams last year. JR Dexter Daniels still a possibility, SO Blake Southerland still developing, and R-FR Blake Gowder just moved over from tight end.
Likely scenario: Expect Barnes, Strong, Jones and Garnham to join Marve in a five-man rotation. The other guys are still catching on, and coaches may start pilfering a strong safety corps for LB candidates.
What it means for freshmen: The four junior linebackers aren’t where we expected them to be at this point in their careers. Coaches will look for a quick spark from either Jimmy Stewart or Darien Bryant, each perhaps best suited for end but too light.

Developments: SR Casey Hayward’s an all-star candidate, JR Eddie Foster started every game, JR Trey Wilson and SO Andre Hal have starting experience, SO Steven Clarke is battle-tested and JR Eric Samuels has returned after an emergency stint on offense. SO Javon Marshall’s moved to safety.
Likely scenario: All six shine in spring and preseason and make it awfully tough for coaches to decide who to play. Look for Hayward, Foster, Hal and Samuels to get the bulk of the action, with Clarke and Wilson also key performers.
What it means for freshmen: Derrick King is a special talent and will have the opportunity to learn the ropes; expect him to cut his teeth on special teams and excel when needed at corner like Hayward did as a true freshmen. Jacquese Kirk will likely begin his career on offense and will likely stay there.

Developments: SR Sean Richardson’s an all-star candidate at strong safety, while SO Kenny Ladler returns at free, and SOs Andre Simmons and Karl Butler are fine prospects. Jay Fullam has transferred to the Air Force Academy, and SO Javon Marshall has moved over from corner.
Likely scenario: Richardson and Ladler defend their starting jobs, Marshall serves as a backup, and Simmons and Butler turn heads in practice and make a case for either more playing time or a move to outside linebacker.
What it means for freshmen: Larry Franklin has the best chance to play right away, and is another guy who could eventually land at OLB. Andrew Williamson is a raw prospect and may redshirt, while Jahmel McIntosh could be a natural safety or even outside linebacker but may be pushed into service at receiver or see a redshirt.

Developments: JR walk-on Richard Kent’s being touted as an all-star candidate at punter, while SO Carey Spear continues to kick off and will challenge two-year starter JR Ryan Fowler for placekicking duties. R-FR Andrew East isn’t listed at linebacker anymore and will likely concentrate on longsnapping.
Likely scenario: Spear could supplant Fowler; Kent’s the team’s only apparent option at punter. East is the snapper. A ton of athletes on both sides of the ball can return kicks and punts.
What it means for freshmen: RB Mitchell Hester and CB Derrick King could start as returners.

That's my best guess. What do you think?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's the Vandy Spring Prospectus, where Monahan's a junior, Gowder's a linebacker, Goro has a strong arm

Just watched the Vandy basketball team choke once again. So would you rather root for a team that loses to a weaker opponent or a team that loses to a much stronger opponent?

In other words, do you already miss Vandy basketball or are you ready for some Vandy football?

I'm ready for some Vandy football.

Speaking of which, the Commodores just released their spring football prospectus — and as usual, we're happy to point out some of the highlights for you.

Turns out we were right about James Kittredge and Jamie Graham not returning to the team. We'd been hearing about Graham for quite some time, and it's not clear whether he left under his own accord or was not invited back for a fifth year on scholarship. About a month ago, we noticed that the player profiles for Graham and Kittredge didn't include any notes from last season or any comments about their future. Graham wasn't a huge surprise — redshirt seniors miss their final year of eligibility all the time, as WR Tray Herndon and FB Ryan van Rensburg are doing this season. But Kittredge, a rising sophomore, was a tough lineman who could play on both sides of the ball. The prospectus says he is "not available for the 2011 season" and "plans to return as a student next January." Not sure the deal, but we wish Kittredge the best.

So we noticed on signing day that Vandy was five scholarships over the 85 limit. That's now down to one, now that Kittredge and Graham are gone, as are DB Jay Fullam (transferring to Air Force) and OL Justin Cabbagestalk (career-ending knee injury).

Charlie Goro's fans were mighty ticked off when we quoted his profile as saying he needed to work on his "arm strength." Well, you'll be happy to know that the sports information department has actually edited that comment and replaced it with "Goro could develop into a contributor with a strong spring." And Larry Smith's profile now uses words like "athleticism" and "toughness" instead of "shaky" and "struggling."

Here's how the first section of the prospectus introduces the upcoming candidates in the quarterback battle:
• Larry Smith: "The two-year starter"
• Charlie Goro: "The only other healthy quarterback on scholarship"
• Jordan Rodgers: "The player most observers believe could compete with Smith for the starting job"

The prospectus says Rodgers should be at "full health" by the close of spring. Other guys who will be limited during spring practice are TE Austin Monahan and DE Walker May. Guys who'll miss contact altogether include RB Warren Norman, TE Mason Johnston, OL Grant Ramsay, DT Rob Lohr and DE Thad McHaney.

We'd speculated that R-SR TE Austin Monahan might not be back for a fifth year. Turns out he's gained an additional year of eligibility and is now a junior, which makes sense because he's only played in 20 games during his four years on campus. Of course, the NCAA doesn't always make sense but in this case they appear to have gotten it right. He's a huge kid and a great talent, and it'll be nice to have him next year after Brandon Barden graduates.

Monahan's extra year of eligibility likely helped the staff decide to move R-FR Blake Gowder from tight end/H-back to linebacker. Gowder, undersized for a tight end at 6-2, 215, is an athletic kid who'll give Vandy some options at linebacker at least after the four redshirt juniors (Barnes, Jones, Strong, Daniels) are gone. Fitz Lassing, another kid who could have moved to linebacker, will stay on offense to play fullback and emergency tight end.

As we've mentioned before, walk-on Marc Panu is moving from defensive end to fullback, where he has a legitimate shot at some playing time. R-SO Javon Marshall is moving from cornerback to safety after the departure of Jay Fullam, and JR Eric Samuels is moving back to cornerback from running back, where he held down the fort last season after injuries to Norman and Stacy. Looks like R-JR Micah Powell, who last year moved from safety to linebacker to running back, will stick at running back and will challenge Wesley Tate in the spring.

Bet you forgot that John Cole was actually an all-star candidate in last year's spring prospectus. Ah, that was a long, long time ago. This year the VU sports information department once again tries its hand at picking all-star candidates... and has more on offense than on defense. What? Sure enough, there are a whopping six all-SEC candidates on offense, five on defense and one on special teams. Here they are:
• R-SR Brandon Barden, TE (All-SEC)
• R-SR Kyle Fischer, OL (All-SEC)
• R-SO Wesley Johnson, OL (All-SEC)
• JR Warren Norman, RB (All-SEC)
• R-JR Ryan Seymour, OL (All-SEC)
• JR Zac Stacy, RB (All-SEC)
• R-SR Tim Fugger, DE (All-SEC)
• R-SR T.J. Greenstone, DT (All-SEC)
• SR Casey Hayward, CB (All-American)
• R-SR Chris Marve, LB (All-American)
• SR Sean Richardson, S (All-SEC)
• R-JR Richard Kent, P (All-SEC)

We'll see how it all shakes out. Practice starts at 4:40 on Friday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanderbilt players battle for jobs in spring and summer

Here are some key matchups to watch out for in the spring and summer. Most of the pre-season battles involve incoming freshmen, except for quarterback, which will kick into full force then because Jordan Rodgers is coming off shoulder surgery and will likely be on light duty in the spring.

• Defensive tackle: R-JR Rob Lohr vs. R-FR Vince Taylor and SO Jared Morse
• Defensive end: R-SO Walker May vs. R-FR Kyle Woestmann
• Outside linebacker: SO Chase Garnham vs. R-JR Tristan Strong and R-JR DeAndre Jones
• Cornerback: JR Eddie Foster vs. SO Andre Hal
• Kicker: R-JR Ryan Fowler vs. SO Carey Spear
• Guard: R-JR Jabo Burrow vs. R-SO Mylon Brown

• Quarterback: R-JR Jordan Rodgers vs. R-SR Larry Smith
• Third running back: FR Jeron Seymour vs. R-SO Wesley Tate
• Fourth receiver: R-JR John Cole vs. FR Jacquese Kirk
• Second tight end: R-SR Austin Monahan vs. FR Dillon van der Wal
• Backup left tackle: FR James Lewis vs. R-FR Andrew Bridges
• Backup offensive lineman: FR Jake Bernstein vs. R-JR Caleb Welchans
• Third cornerback: FR Derek King vs. SO Steven Clark and JR Eric Samuels
• Third safety: SO Andre Simmons vs. FR Larry Franklin

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coach Franklin's early recruiting strategy: Target kids in his new backyard, his old backyard and metro Atlanta

Coach Franklin and staff have been hitting Georgia hard for recruits. Of the 43 offers they’ve made to high school juniors, 11 of them have been to Georgia kids, according to

And get this, they’ve offered six kids in Stone Mountain, five of them at Stephenson High School, which is starting free safety Kenny Ladler’s alma mater, and another kid from Stone Mountain High School.

Based on the kids offered so far, this seems to be Franklin’s strategy:

1. Georgia, especially metro Atlanta: 11
2. Tennessee, his new backyard: 6
3. The DC area, his old backyard: 9 (6 in Maryland, 3 in Virginia)
4. Florida, a hotbed of skill athletes: 5
5. Everywhere else: 12 (2 each from North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan; 1 apiece from New Jersey, Colorado, Washington, South Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio)

Hey, what do they have against Alabama?

Franklin doesn’t mind offering kids from the same high school either. Of his 43 offers, 11 of them have been to kids from three high schools:

• Stephenson in Stone Mountain, GA: Offers to two outside linebackers, a running back, a tight end and a defensive end.
• Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, MD: Two wide receivers and a running back
• DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, MD: Two defensive ends and an outside linebacker

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rivals has scoop on Fullam leaving for Air Force

Thanks to VandyGal78 for pointing us to this great article on Jay Fullam. He talks about why he's leaving for the Air Force Academy, where he'll start over and go to school for four years and will have two years of eligibility.

He'd actually been participating in Navy ROTC the past two years. In his interview with Rivals, he talks about how exciting it was to start against Northwestern and how he thinks he played poorly and will never forget the final play, where he was wrongly called for a head-to-head hit on the Wildcat quarterback.

All the best to Jay. He's a class guy and we're in good hands having people like him defending our freedom.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scholarship update: Looks like Jay Fullam's leaving Vanderbilt to become a fighter pilot

A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned that we've got five more players on the roster than we have scholarships for.

Then, based on the updated roster, we told you that it looks like we're two scholarships over. That's assuming that the following players are finished: Justin Cabbagestalk (career-ending knee injury), Jamie Graham (profile not updated; likely graduation) and James Kittredge (profile not updated; could be transferring).

Now it appears that safety Jay Fullam is gone too. A commenter named CAR just told us he's transferring to Air Force. I think that means he's got to start over and attend the academy for four years, though he would have two or three years of eligibility.

Fullam's grandfather was a fighter pilot who was shot down in Vietnam. Since he arrived on campus, Fullam's official player bio has listed his career ambition as "fighter pilot." Air Force Academy is a good place to go if you want to do that. He could have cross-enrolled in Air Force ROTC at Tennessee State in Nashville, but it would have been difficult to juggle football, academics and an ROTC program. Of course, it's even more hectic and stressful just to attend a military academy, especially during the first year, but the over-arching theme in Colorado Springs would be the military. At Vanderbilt, it's juggling academics and football, and at UT it's juggling playing football and escaping brushes with the law.

Anyway, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, even from our esteemed and informed MV! audience, but I just checked Fullam's info on his Facebook page and he identifies himself as "studied at Vanderbilt." Then I checked a bunch of other guys, including Jabo Burrow and Wesley Johnson and Grant Ramsay, and their info says "studies at Vanderbilt." Notice the tense. The other guys study at Vanderbilt. Present tense. Fullam studied at Vanderbilt. Past tense. Which means he doesn't study there anymore.

Fullam looked pretty good as a redshirt freshman starting the season opener at free safety against Northwestern. But a shoulder injury opened the door for true freshman Kenny Ladler, who took over and now enters 2011 as a lock to start over Fullam.

Fullam would have faced stiff competition from sophomores Andre Simmons and Karl Butler and true freshmen Larry Franklin, Jahmel McIntosh and Andrew Williamson.

I had projected him to have dropped out of the playing rotation by mid-season at the latest.

Fullam's a solid student and just the kind of kid you'd expect to see playing for the Falcons. Heck, he's got a better chance of going to a bowl than he would have at Vandy.

Whatever his situation, we wish him the best.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Job number one for Vanderbilt: Find somebody besides Chris Marve who can play linebacker

If you look at our last post about Vandy's 2011 playing rotation, you'll notice that we're heavy on talent at defensive back, and will be strong at running back after the incoming freshman class arrives.

We're slowly building talent and depth at wide receiver and on both lines of scrimmage.

You know where we're really weak? Linebacker, especially after Chris Marve finishes his career, hopefully in a bowl game. After Marve, here's what we've got:
• Four redshirt juniors — Archibald Barnes, Tristan Strong, Dexter Daniels and especially DeAndre Jones — who've started a total of one game and haven't come close to reaching their potential.
• A couple of projects in redshirt sophomore Blake Southerland and sophomore Chase Garnham.
• A kid, Andrew East, who was recruited to be a longsnapper and wasn't even a two-star prospect as a linebacker.

In fact, a popular parlor game for Vandy fans is to name all the players on the roster currently playing other positions who would be an improvement at linebacker. They include:
• Defensive end Walker May
• Running back Wesley Tate
• Tight end/H-backs Fitz Lassing and Blake Gowder
• Safeties Karl Butler, Jay Fullam, Andrew Simmons, Kenny Ladler and Sean Richardson
• A number of true freshmen, including tight end Darien Bryant; defensive ends Jimmy Stewart and Conor Hart; safeties Larry Franklin, Andrew Williamson and Jahmel McIntosh; and even quarterback Lafonte Thourogood

So why do we have so many defensive backs looking for a home? Because there are plenty of good ones out there. Conversely, there are fewer big stud linebackers and running backs. Sure, we've got good running backs, but they're all change-of-pace backs who wouldn't carry the load at programs with more talent.

Look at Zac Stacy, Warren Norman and the true freshman Mitchell Hester. All little guys who are great runners but not every-down backs. Coach Franklin swears that freshman Jerrod Seymour is an every down back. If that's true, then that's the kind of every down back we're gonna get right now — one that's 5-foot-5 and sneaking under the radar. You gotta love the comparisons to Barry Sanders. Let's hope so.

But our point is, we don't get the big studs who can play running back or linebacker. That's been the secret to TCU's success — recruit a bunch of true running backs and then move them all over the field, but especially to linebacker.

Maybe the closest thing we've got on our roster to a true running back, or at least one that can pass for one in an airport, is Wesley Tate. Tate didn't look very explosive last season, especially on the goal line against lowly Eastern Michigan, but maybe that's because he was recovering from injury. At any rate, he's the kind of athlete who'd make a lot of sense at outside linebacker.

Looking ahead to next year's signing class, here's how our current scholarship offers break down:

• 8 defensive ends
• 5 offensive linemen
• 4 running backs under 200 pounds
• 4 linebackers
• 3 quarterbacks
• 3 wide receivers
• 2 defensive tackles
• 2 defensive backs
• 1 tight end
• 1 running back over 200 pounds

Four linebackers? That's a good start.

Eight defensive ends? For some reason, defensive ends are always in abundance, and usually they're just tall guys with big frames who are decent athletes but don't really have a position. Ryan Seymour and Jabo Burrow started as defensive ends and moved over to O-line.