Friday, May 20, 2011

Prep linebackers choosing Vandy before they get left behind

We’ve established that Vanderbilt needs linebackers, especially outside guys, in the worst way, and the Commodores have certainly extended scholarship offers to a bunch of them.

But until this week, we had only one verbal commitment, from DE Tre Griffin of Kennessaw, Ga.

That didn’t mean kids weren’t interested. Lots of good student athletes, particularly in the Atlanta area, are interested in Vanderbilt. But like any kid, they’re also interested in getting lots of offers from big football schools so even if they choose Vandy they can say they chose the Dores over Georgia or Auburn or whatever.

So the conventional wisdom is that you sit back with your Vandy offer, see what else you can get, and then make a decision. Because the Vandy offer will always be there, right?


On Sunday, Jacob Sealand, a great-looking outside backer from Tucker, Ga., with offers from Miss State, UNC, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, chose the Commodores and then the next day rejected an offer from Miami. (OT Barrett Gouger from Chattanooga also committed.)

That opened the floodgates.

Yesterday, Darreon Herring, an outside backer from Stone Mountain with offers from Nebraska and Clemson, committed to Vandy, and so did Stephen Weatherly, another outside guy from Atlanta with offers from Ole Miss and Illinois.

And DE Ladarius Banks from Dallas, Ga., also chose the Dores.

Oh, and did we mention that Sealand, Herring and Weatherly are all on ESPN's 150 Watch list?

If you're a linebacker or defensive end prospect, your Vandy offer suddenly isn't such a sure thing. Because at some point we're gonna check linebacker off our list and begin stockpiling at other positions.

These guys told the AJC that Coach Franklin has them pumped up to turn the Vandy program around.

Word’s getting out. If you’re a great student-athlete and you want to be part of the biggest turnaround in college football history, you’d better get on board fast.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thanks for checking up on me

Hey gang, thanks for continuing to visit and comment on MV! even though I haven't posted anything in a long time. The haiku was especially touching, and I'm not being sarcastic.

Yes, I am fine. This has been an especially busy spring. I've been busy with my day job as a newspaper editor, and also am teaching a couple of freshman composition classes at the local university and am actually enjoying it, and then three of my kids are on Little League baseball teams and the oldest is playing travel ball which is a strange world indeed. Oh, and I'm trying to teach my 15-year-old daughter to drive. And I'm trying to figure out an acceptable way to observe my 20th wedding anniversary, which is in less than a month.

Any advice is welcome.

Also, I haven't felt much urgency in regards to the Vandy football program. Usually at this time of year, I'm blogging about the 5-star recruits who are considering Vandy, as well as every Commodore player's odds of starring or starting or even just seeing the field next season.

But the arrival of James Franklin has changed all that. For one thing, Vandy fans on chat boards seem particularly excited about the 5-star players who've listed Vanderbilt as one of their top 20 schools. It's always been this way, folks, even before Coach Franklin. Bobby Johnson was a likable guy, and lots of superstar athletes during his tenure showed strong interest in Vandy, probably to send a signal to their mamas that they were serious about academics.

I'm no longer interested in which players say they might want to attend Vandy. There's two reasons for this: Lafonte Thourogood and Dillon van der Wal. Franklin hadn't even unpacked in Nashville when he stole these kids from Virginia Tech and Arizona State. He didn't ALMOST steal these kids, like BoJo had done so many times before. No, he actually did it. And these guys showed up on our commitment list out of the blue, and at the last minute.

So it really doesn't matter in May who says they love Vandy or another school or who says they're committing to Vandy or another school. It ain't over until they fax in their John Hancocks in February. Yeah, we were looking for moral victories in recruiting because we wanted to feel good about something. But we just had our best recruiting class in recent memory from a coach hired only a month or two, and so I'm gonna just sit back and watch who he signs next February and in the meantime I'm not going to worry about who's got VU in his top 20. You can only attend one school at a time. (Even if you're Cam Newton.)

Also, I don't want to speculate about who's going to play and who's not because I think the freshmen really are going to get a shot to play, especially at the skill positions.

Larry Smith looked like the starter in the spring and Jordan Rodgers still hasn't gotten the reps he needed. But if we don't win (and it could happen — Lou Holtz went winless in his first season at South Carolina and Nick Saban lost to UAB in his first season at LSU and to a directional Louisiana college in his first season at Bama) then expect to see Franklin toss the keys to Lafonte or Josh Grady.

Other players who'll be tough to keep off the field include RB Jarod Seymour, WR/DB Jacquese Kirk, DB Derek King and safeties Larry Franklin and Jahmel McIntosh.

It'll also be interesting to see what Franklin does with what he calls his "jumbo athletes." Dillon van der Wal and Darien Bryant can both play tight end but won't be needed immediately because of seniors Barden and Monahan and depth in sophomores Mason Johnston and Fitz Lassing. So do you send them over to the D-Line? Van der Wal could be a beast at defensive end or even left tackle, but that would take a lot of training table meals. He could have an immediate impact as a target on offense. Remember Thomas Welch played some TE before converting to OT and getting drafted.

Like I say, it'll be interesting.

I'll have more later. Sorry to drop off the radar for so long. Thanks for checking up on me.