Friday, July 29, 2011

Surprise! Norman, Tate and Stacy win playing-time poll, now you can vote on Vandy wide receivers

Well, you've voted for the running backs you think will get significant playing time this season, and the results aren't surprising:

Warren Norman: 94%
Wesley Tate: 94%
Zac Stacy: 92%
Jerron Seymour: 22%
Mitchell Hester: 9%
Micah Powell: 3%

(53 voters)

Not sure why anybody would leave Norman, Tate or Stacy off their ballot unless they're psychic and foresee one of them getting hurt or something.

In case you're wondering, we generally close out the voting after at least 50 votes. Now you can vote for wide receivers. Remember, vote for as many guys as you think are going to play significantly.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vote for the Vandy running backs you think will get significant playing time this season

Because James Franklin doesn't have a depth chart yet, we're relying on you, the MV! audience, to build our own Vandy football depth chart and to predict who'll see significant playing time this season.

Just go over to the poll in the upper right-hand corner of this page and cast your vote for as many running backs as you think will see significant playing time this season.

We just closed out the quarterback voting. Sixty people cast a ballot, and Larry Smith appeared on 78 percent of them, but exactly half of the voters also thought that Jordan Rodgers would see significant playing time too.

As for the three true freshmen, a quarter of the ballots listed Lafonte Thourogood, while Josh Grady (16 percent) and Kris Kentera (10 percent) also saw some action.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Proof that recruiting rankings can be deceiving

Looking back at some old recruiting rankings and put together a list of our highest rated recruits on the current Vandy roster. I'll post the whole list sometime if you're interested, but in the meantime here are some highlights:

The following true freshmen or redshirts are considered the most talented players at their position and they haven’t taken a snap yet in black and gold:
• Lafonte Thourogood, QB
• Dillon van der Wal, TE
• Vince Taylor, DT
• Kyle Woestmann, DE
• Derek King, CB
• Larry Franklin, S

The following players will be considered the most talented at their position the second they set foot on campus in 2012:
• Brian Kimbrow, RB
• Jaydrick Declouet, WR
• Josh Dawson, DE
• Darrion Herring, OLB
• Jacob Sealand, ILB

The following players were top Vandy recruits who’ve emerged among the best at their position:
• Wesley Johnson, OT
• Kenneth Ladler, S

The following recruits flew under the radar until they took the field and emerged as go-to players for the Commodores
• Warren Norman, RB
• Ryan Seymour, OT
• Rob Lohr, DT
• T.J. Greenstone, DT
• Tim Fugger, DE
• Chris Marve, LB
• Casey Hayward, CB
• Sean Richardson, S

The following players have exceeded expectations:
• Jabo Burrow, OG
• Colt Nichter, DT
• Johnell Thomas, DE

The following players were highly rated Vandy recruits who haven’t yet panned out:
• Brady Brown, WR
• Taylor Loftley, DT
• DeAndre Jones, LB
• Al Owens, LB
• Thad McHaney, DE

Here are the 10 players on the current Vandy roster who were the most highly rated recruits:
1. Lafonte Thourogood, FR, QB
2. Dillon van der Wal, FR, TE
3. Wesley Johnson, R-SO, OT
4. DeAndre Jones, R-JR, LB
5. Vince Taylor, R-FR, DT
6. Kyle Woestmann, R-FR, DE
7. Larry Franklin, FR, S
8. Larry Smith, R-SR, QB
9. Mason Johnston, R-SO, TE
10. Jared Morse, R-SO, DT

These verbal commitments would crack the above top 10 once they join the team in 2012:
1. Brian Kimbrow, RB
2. Josh Dawson, DE
3. Darrion Herring, LB
4. Josh Sealand, LB
5. Barrett Gouger, OL

These players were all considered marginal recruits by the major recruiting services:
• Ryan Fowler, R-JR, K
• Austin Monahan, R-JR, TE
• Caleb Welchans, R-JR, OL
• Steven Clarke, SO, CB
• Chase Garnham, SO, LB
• Kris Kentera, FR, QB
• Andrew Williamson, FR, S
• Akeem Dunham, R-JR, WR
• Joe Townsend, FR, OL
• Tim Fugger, R-SR, DE
• Johnell Thomas, R-JR, DE
• Archibald Barnes, R-JR, LB
• Andrew East, R-FR, LB/SN

Monday, July 25, 2011

Which Vanderbilt redshirt juniors will return in 2012?

James Franklin has declared every position open and has said that even Chris Marve has to win his starting job.

That kind of talk won’t bother Chris Marve, but it has to concern Vandy’s 20 redshirt juniors. Not only are they competing for a starting job – they’re also fighting for a chance to return to Nashville for the 2012 season.

Franklin said back in the spring that he’s looking to give scholarships to 17 players on signing day, but he recently amended that number to 20. If he does sign 20, that means that, barring any career-injuries or transfers, he can only invite half of the current redshirt juniors to return for a fifth year.

Here’s a quick run-down of who’s got the best shot to return next season:

• Ryan Seymour, OT
• Richard Kent, P

• Aaron Rodgers, QB
• Jabo Burrow, OG
• Caleb Welchans, OL
• Rob Lohr, DT
• Colt Nichter, DT

• John Cole, WR
• Austin Monahan, TE
• Johnell Thomas, DE
• DeAndre Jones, LB
• Tristan Strong, LB
• Archibald Barnes, LB
• Ryan Fowler, K

• Micah Powell, RB
• Akeem Dunham, WR
• Josh Jelesky, DT
• Taylor Loftley, DT
• Dexter Daniels, DE
• Al Owens, LB

And looking ahead, redshirt sophomores who need to start making progress and holding off competition from younger recruits if they want to return for a fifth year in 2013 include wide receiver Brady Brown, offensive lineman Mylon Brown and defensive end Thad McHaney.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

James Franklin acts like he's been there before

James Franklin performed masterfully at SEC media days. In other words, he acted like he's been there before and just kept repeating what he's been saying since he got here: Vanderbilt offers something nobody else does, he's got good players but not enough of them, there's no depth chart and everybody's fighting for his position, etc.

Nothing against Robbie Caldwell, who's one of the best position coaches in college football and was thrown into an exceedingly difficult situation. The guy had been interim head coach for less than a month, and that's why at SEC media days he was like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," but way funnier.

He was a breath of fresh air because he acted like he'd never been there before and was never going back.

Franklin is a career head coach. He's got big goals, and like Nick Saban, he's a process guy and he's building a foundation for future success. At media days, he got national questions like what he thought about eliminating kickoffs and could he ever win in the SEC, and he kept saying that he was focusing on improving Vanderbilt and not college football as a whole. He didn't compare Vandy to Stanford, he said Vandy could be better than Stanford.

For a fan, his online chat earlier this week was far better than his Q&A at media days yesterday. The most interesting question he got was about Jared Morse, a sophomore defensive tackle who's been flying under the radar. Not sure who asked it, but it was probably from one of Jared's relatives from nearby Oxford, Ala.

Our guys are flying way under the national radar. The Morse question highlights the fact that we've got some great position battles on the defensive side of the ball.

Jared will be competing for a starting position against senior T.J. Greenstone, juniors Colt Nichter and Rob Lohr, redshirt frosh Vince Taylor and even true frosh Barron Dixon.

At end, senior Tim Fugger will likely start at one spot, but the other is up for grabs between junior Johnell Thomas, sophomore Walker May and redshirt frosh Kyle Woestmann.

At corner, a bunch of guys are fighting for the spot alongside Casey Hayward: juniors Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster, sophomores Andre Hal and Steven Clarke and even true frosh Derek King.

At safety, Sean Richardson and Kenny Ladler return as starters, but they face a challenge from junior Eric Samuels, sophomores Javon Marshall, Karl Butler and Andre Simmons, and talented freshmen Larry Franklin, Jahmel McIntosh and Andrew Williamson.

This sort of competition is unprecedented. We've got depth we've never had before on the defensive line and in the secondary, and we're looking to vastly improve our talent at receiver and linebacker, and develop our talent on the offensive line.

Franklin has a plan, and it doesn't end with having a scrappy team that gets lucky every 53 years and backs into a second-tier bowl game.

Sure, his plan probably doesn't end with him coaching 30 years at Vanderbilt, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, won't we?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Priority No. 1 for Vanderbilt football: Recruiting SEC-caliber offensive linemen and defensive tackles

All this talk of this year’s depth chart and possible starters has me thinking about our future depth. In the current recruiting class, we have verbal commitments from a running back, three wide receivers, an offensive lineman, three defensive ends, three linebackers and one defensive back.

So what do we need to add to our current class? In addition to the best available athletes, we need a quarterback, two offensive linemen and two defensive tackles.

Sure, we have five quarterbacks on the 2011 roster. But by 2013 we’ll have two because Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers will have graduated and either Josh Grady or Lafonte Thourogood will have changed positions. I promise you that neither Grady nor Thourogood will spend his college career as a backup quarterback. We need a real quarterback, as opposed to an athlete, in this year’s class. Four-star Chad Voytik of Cleveland, Tenn., who’s narrowed his choices to Vandy and Pitt, would be a huge addition.

As for offensive linemen, it takes a couple of years to develop those guys for SEC play, and by 2013 we will have lost three starters, our top backup and probably at least one other backup. So we need two more of them to join Barrett Gouger in this year’s class, and the bigger and more game-ready the better. Franklin has said he's looking for big, athletic, long-armed tackles. And we need at least two more next year.

As for defensive linemen, we sorely need a couple of SEC caliber tackles, which means some 300-pounders. We lose T.J. Greenstone after this year, and by next year will have lost four more defensive tackles, including Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter. And we need two more in the signing class of 2013. That will be a tall order.

Some fans were distressed by Franklin's plans to improve the offense, which include long bombs, trick plays, going for it on fourth down, and faking punts and field goals. Hey folks, that's what you've got to do — at the right time, of course — if you plan to win in the SEC without an SEC-caliber offensive or defensive line.

By 2013, we’ll need another running back (preferably a big one to eventually replace Wesley Tate) as well as a wide receiver, a tight end, a linebacker, two cornerbacks, a safety, a punter, and the four aforementioned linemen on both sides of the ball.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Here’s a look at our additions and subtractions over the next couple of years, as well as our recruiting needs right now:

• Losing: Larry Smith after 2011, as well as either Josh Grady or Lafonte Thourogood to position change; losing Jordan Rodgers after 2012
• Gaining: Nobody yet
• Needs: A quarterback recruit for the current 2012 class – as opposed to an athlete who can play quarterback – and another in 2013

• Losing: Micah Powell after 2011 (not invited for a fifth year); losing Zac Stacy and Warren Norman after 2012
• Gaining: Brian Kimbrow in 2012
• Needs: A big back for 2013

• Losing: Udom Umoh (graduation) and Akeem Dunham (not invited back) and possibly John Cole after 2011; possibly losing Jacquese Kirk to secondary after 2011; losing Brady Brown (not invited back) after 2012
• Gaining: Jaydrick Declouet, Cory Batey and Elston Lane in 2012; possibly Lafonte Thourogood or Josh Grady from quarterback in 2012
• Needs: Another receiver in 2013

• Losing: Brandon Barden and possibly Austin Monahan (who’d be a sixth-year senior) after 2011; likely losing walk-on Marc Panu and possibly Mason Johnston after 2012
• Gaining: Nobody yet; could gain Darien Bryant after 2011 if he switches from defense
• Needs: Another tight end in 2013

• Losing: Kyle Fischer after 2011; Caleb Welchans, Jabo Burrow, Ryan Seymour and possibly Mylon Brown after 2012; could eventually lose Joe Townsend to the defensive line
• Gaining: Barrett Gouger in 2012
• Needs: Two more offensive linemen in current 2012 class, another two or three in 2013

• Losing: T.J. Greenstone (graduation) and likely Josh Jelesky and Taylor Loftley (not returning for fifth year) after 2011; Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter after 2012
• Gaining: Ladarius Banks in 2012; possibly Joe Townsend from the offensive line
• Needs: Two true defensive tackles in the current 2012 class, and another one or two in 2013

• Losing: Tim Fugger (graduation), Dexter Daniels (not invited back) and possibly Johnell Thomas after 2011; possibly losing Thad McHaney after 2012
• Gaining: Tre Griffin, Caleb Azubike and Josh Dawson in 2012
• Needs: No pressing needs through 2013

• Losing: Chris Marve to graduation, as well as Al Owens and likely at least one other current redshirt junior – Tristan Strong, DeAndre Jones or Archibald Barnes — after 2011; losing the remainder of those players after 2012
• Gaining: Stephen Weatherly, Darrien Herring and Jacob Sealand in 2012
• Needs: At least another linebacker by 2013

• Losing: Casey Hayward after 2011; Eddie Foster and Trey Wilson after 2012
• Gaining: Paris Head in 2012
• Needs: Another two cornerbacks by 2013

• Losing: Sean Richardson after 2011; Eric Samuels and maybe Javon Marshall after 2012
• Gaining: Nobody yet
• Needs: Another safety or two by 2013

• Losing: Ryan Fowler after 2012, or maybe after 2011 if Carey Spear proves to be a better placekicker
• Gaining: Nobody
• Needs: No kicker needed until 2014

• Losing: Richard Kent after 2012, or after 2011 if he opts to graduate on time
• Gaining: Nobody
• Needs: A new punter after Kent leaves in 2012 or 2013

Hey, be sure to vote in our new poll

We've got a new poll over to the right of this posting, and we'd like you to vote, as they say in Alabama, early and often. We're going to swap it out every few days until we've covered every position and can amass a Moral Victory! user-generated depth chart. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

James Franklin: Change the players, not the uniforms

James Franklin had a great online chat with Vandy fans this afternoon.

My favorite moment was when somebody asked him about changing Vandy’s uniforms and he said, “The best way to make the uniforms look better is to develop the bodies that are in them.”

Here are the highlights:

• He thinks Larry Smith has the tools to be Vandy's starting quarterback and leader, and the next step in his development is to outperform Jordan Rodgers and the freshmen in camp: "I've been very impressed with what I've seen from Larry so far. It is hard for me to talk about Jordan because he was limited in the spring due to injury. I wanted to give Larry an opportunity to compete during camp against Jordan and the freshmen. It is too early for me to say until after camp."

• He's promised to give the freshmen quarterbacks at least one season to develop as quarterbacks, unless they decide to change positions and play earlier: “All three of those freshmen (Thourogood, Grady, Kentera) were recruited here to play quarterback. If their competitive nature pushes them to decide to move to another position to get on the field faster, wonderful. But we will not pressure any of them to move this year.”

• He's not ready to give up on Wesley Tate, whom he thinks is an SEC-caliber every-down back: “I would agree with you on his history of injuries, but you are also talking about the potential of a guy that is 230 lbs. and arguably the fastest guy on the team. Hopefully his and our luck is changing.”

• He badly needs playmakers at wide receiver to replace plodding route-runners who can't separate from SEC defensive backs, and that's why Jacquese Kirk will start his Vandy career at receiver: “Jacquese Kirk, we plan on starting him out at wide receiver. We are looking for playmakers at that position, but we also feel that he has the flexibility to play on defense.”

• Likewise, he's going to put 6-foot-7 freshman Dillon van der Wal at tight end instead of defensive end, at least for the time being: “He is going to start out at tight end, but he also has the flexibility to play on either side of the ball.”

• He thinks taking risks is the key to improving one of the nation’s worst offenses: “Throw it deep, go for it on fourth down, fake a punt, fake a field goal, trick plays, onside kicks and players who aren't afraid to make a mistake.”

• He thinks the strength of the defense is “our depth on the D-line and in the secondary, and Chris Marve in the middle.”

• He thinks the key to having a decent offensive line this season is continuing to develop returning players and being patient with those true freshmen everybody's so excited about: “The offensive line is an issue and concern from a depth perspective. It is extremely hard to play and make an impact as a freshman at that position. We have to continue to develop depth from the veteran players returning.”

• Though he thinks the secondary is deeper than most positions, it's not deep enough to start moving a cornerback or safety or two to wide receiver: “We are not as deep in the secondary as you may think. Especially with our lack of depth at linebacker we may be forced to play more nickel and dime. As of right now, we have no plans of moving and defensive backs over to wide receiver.”

• He scoffs at the notion that the team lacks senior leadership: "I don't think there is a lack of senior leadership. We don't have a large number of seniors, but the seniors we do have (Barden, Fischer, Fugger, Greenstone, Hayward, Marve, Richardson, Smith, Umoh), I've been very impressed with. They were part of a bowl win and are excited about the opportunity to get back on the field and have success again. They've really taken ownership in the team and in what we are trying to do."

• He answers questions about long term goals by chanting the name of his first opponent. On when he anticipates being able to compete for SEC and national championships: “Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon.” On how he can start beating Tennessee: “Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon, Elon.”

New Vandy football fact book features no depth chart but lots and lots of battles for starting positions

Just in time for SEC Media Days, it's the Vanderbilt Football Fact Book, the publication formerly known as the Vanderbilt Football Media Guide. Click here to check it out.

We already knew that Charlie Goro has transferred to one of the Dakotas, and that Jamie Graham is headed to UCLA for graduate school, where he'll play out his last year of eligibility, and that James Kittredge, who was sitting out the season for a violation of team rules, has apparently transferred to Michigan State.

We'd heard that Blake Southerland, a redshirt sophomore who'd moved from linebacker to fullback in the spring, suffered a career-ending injury. Not sure about that, but he's no longer on the roster.

Freshman Darien Bryant, whom James Franklin calls a "jumbo athlete" and who's been listed by all the recruiting services as a tight end, is now listed as a defensive end/linebacker. Freshman Jacquese Kirk is still listed as a DB/WR but is mentioned in the section on wide receivers. Don't be surprised if he plays offense this year and then moves over to defense after all those receivers in the 2012 class arrive.

Oh, and a bunch of our guys are listed as an inch shorter than they were last year or, for freshmen, on signing day. Those are OL Mylon Brown (now 6-6), DB Karl Butler (6-0), DB Casey Hayward (5-11), FB Marc Panu (6-1), WR Trent Pruitt (5-9), DE Jimmy Stewart (6-3), C Logan Stewart (6-4), DT Vince Taylor (6-1), OL Jose Valedon (6-3) and DB Trey Wilson (5-11).

But the most interesting thing is the lack of a depth chart. In the new spirit of competitiveness, there was no depth chart in this year's fact book. But you can get a good idea by reading the offensive and defensive outlooks and the various player profiles. Lots of battles up for grabs.

In fact, Vandy has nearly every starter returning on both sides of the ball, but only seven guys appear to have starting jobs sewn up: Brandon Barden, Ryan Seymour and Wesley Johnson on offense and Tim Fugger, Chris Marve, Casey Heyward and Sean Richardson on defense.

Sure, there are front runners like Larry Smith, Warren Norman, Jordan Matthews, Jonathan Krause, Logan Stewart and Kyle Fischer on offense and T.J. Greenstone and Kenny Ladler on defense, but the possibility exists that those guys could lose their jobs. And even the sure-fire starter had better be on his game — it's not out of the realm of possibility that a healthy Austin Monahan could unseat Brandon Barden as he's done in years past, or that Walker May and Kyle Woestmann both jump ahead of Tim Fugger as starters.

But for now, we include Barden and Fugger among those whose starting jobs are written in ink.

The nine seniors are featured on the cover of the fact book: Fischer, Greenstone, Barden, Marve, Smith, Fugger, Richardson, Hayward and WR Udom Umoh, the veteran for whom playing time is most in doubt. All of them but Richardson and Hayward are redshirts.

All of the seniors except for Smith, Fugger and Umoh are being touted for post-season honors. Junior running backs Warren Norman and Zac Stacy and sophomore offensive lineman Wesley Johnson are also being pushed for accolades.

Stacy and Johnson are featured on the back cover of the fact book, as are sophomore safety Kenny Ladler, sophomore receiver Jordan Matthews and redshirt junior defensive tackles Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter.

For whatever that's worth.

By our count, 18 guys are battling for 11 jobs on offense, and 23 guys are battling for 11 jobs on defense.

Now that's competition. Here's how it shakes down by position:

• Battle: R-SR Larry Smith (front-runner) vs. R-JR Jordan Rodgers
• Freshmen playmakers: Lafonte Thourogood, FR Josh Grady
• Freshman project: Kris Kentera

• Battle: JRs Warren Norman and Zac Stacy (front-runners) vs. R-SO Wesley Tate
• Freshmen challengers: Jerron Seymour and Mitchell Hester
• Role players at fullback: SO Fitz Lassing and R-SO Marc Panu
• Struggling for playing time: R-JR Micah Powell

• Battle: SO Jordan Matthews and SO Jonathan Krause (front-runners) vs. R-FR Chris Boyd and two-year starters R-JR John Cole and R-SR Udom Umoh
• Freshman challenger: FR Jacquese Kirk
• Other challengers: R-SO Brady Brown, R-FR Trent Pruitt, R-JR Akeem Dunham, R-JR walk-on Jamison Sackey

• Starter: R-SR Brandon Barden
• Challengers: R-JR Austin Monahan and R-SO Mason Johnston
• Freshmen challengers: Dillon van der Wal and Steven Scheu
• Backup: SO Fitz Lassing

• Starters: R-JR Ryan Seymour (right tackle) and R-SO Wesley Johnson (left tackle or center)
• Battle: Returning starters R-SR Kyle Fischer (right guard), R-JR Jabo Burrow (left guard) and SO Logan Stewart (center) vs. R-JR Caleb Welchans and R-SO Mylon Brown
• Redshirt freshmen challengers: Andrew Bridges, Chase White, Grant Ramsay
• Freshmen ready to compete: Jose Valedon, Jake Bernstein, James Lewis
• Freshmen likely to redshirt: Spencer Pulley, Joe Townsend

• Battle: Injured starter R-SR T.J. Greenstone, returning starter R-JR Rob Lohr and part-time starter R-JR Colt Nichter vs. SO Jared Morse and R-FR Vince Taylor
• Freshman challenger: Barron Dixon
• Struggling for playing time: R-JRs Josh Jelesky and Taylor Loftley

• Starter: R-SR Tim Fugger
• Battle for other starter: R-SO Walker May vs. R-FR Kyle Woestmann and R-JR Johnell Thomas
• Challenger: R-SO Thad McHaney
• Struggling for playing time: R-JR Dexter Daniels and R-FR Thomas Ryan
• Likely redshirt: FR Connor Hart

• Starter in middle: R-SR Chris Marve
• Battle for two outside jobs: SO Chase Garnham and R-JR Tristan Strong vs. R-JR Archibald Barnes
• Challenger: R-JR DeAndre Jones
• Freshmen challengers: Darien Bryant and Jimmy Stewart and possibly one of the safeties
• Struggling for playing time: R-JR Al Owens, walk-on Bobby Jewell, R-FR Blake Gowder, R-FR Andrew East

• Starter: SR Casey Hayward
• Battle for other starter: JR Eddie Foster vs. JR Trey Wilson, SO Andre Hal and SO Steven Clarke
• Freshman challenger: Derek King
• Other challenger: Walk-on Reggie Ford

• Starter at strong safety: SR Sean Richardson
• Battle for free safety: SO Kenny Ladler (front-runner) vs. JR Eric Samuels, SO Karl Butler and SO Andre Simmons
• Freshmen challengers: Larry Franklin, Jahmel McIntosh and Andrew Williamson
• Struggling for playing time: R-SO Javon Marshall

• Battle for placekicking: Spear vs. R-JR Ryan Fowler
• Starter for kickoffs: SO Carey Spear
• Backup for kickoffs: R-JR Ryan Fowler

• Starter at punter: R-JR Richard Kent
• Backup punter: R-JR Ryan Fowler

• Snapper on punts: R-FR Andrew East
• Battle for snapper on kicks: R-JR Rob Lohr vs. East

• Battle for kick returner: JR Warren Norman (front-runner) vs. JR Eric Samuels, SO Andre Hal and JR Trey Wilson
• Freshmen challengers for kick returner: Jerron Seymour, Mitchell Hester and Derek King
• Battle for punt returner: R-JR John Cole vs. JR Zac Stacy and SO Jonathan Krause
• Freshmen challengers for punt returner: Jacquese Kirk, Derek King

Andrew Bridges leads Vandy's clean plate club

Ah yes, the new preseason roster has been released so it’s time to recognize the winners of the clean-plate club, or the Vandy players who’ve gained the most weight since the start of last season, or in the case of the freshmen, since signing day.

Redshirt freshman Andrew Bridges showed up on campus as a quick and agile left tackle of the future, and the far distant future, thanks to his 240 pounds. But a year later, he now weighs 270. Still light for an SEC lineman, but pretty close to the weight of starter Wesley Johnson.

• DT Josh Jelesky, R-Jr: 20 pounds (265)
• FB/TE Fitz Lassing, So: 16 pounds (236)
• CB Steven Clarke, So: 15 pounds (195)
• DE Dexter Daniels, R-Jr: 15 pounds (245)
• DT Jared Morse, So: 15 pounds (285)
• K Carey Spear, So: 15 pounds (190)
• OL Jose Valedon, Fr: 15 pounds (295)
• WR Jonathan Krause, So: 14 pounds (182)
• LB Blake Gowder, R-Fr: 13 pounds (228)
• LB Chris Marve, R-Sr: 12 pounds (242)
• S Javon Marshall, R-So: 11 pounds (196)
• DE Thad McHaney, R-So: 11 pounds (256)
• DE/LB Darrien Bryant, Fr: 10 pounds (220)
• LB Chase Garnham, So: 10 pounds (225)
• TE Steven Scheu, Fr: 10 pounds (245)
• DE/LB Jimmy Stewart, Fr: 10 pounds (220)
• OT Chase White, R-Fr: 10 pounds (280)

• WR Brady Brown, R-So: 15 pounds (195)
• TE Austin Monahan, R-Jr: 13 pounds (242)
• OG Mylon Brown, R-So: 10 pounds (300)
• DE Connor Hart, Fr: 10 pounds (240)
• RB Micah Powell, Fr: 10 pounds (205)
• DE Thomas Ryan, R-Fr: 10 pounds (230)

Monday, July 18, 2011

James Franklin's not trying to be a standup comedian, but he is looking for playmakers

Just listened to a recording of James Franklin's interview last week with 104.5 in Nashville, from which we can learn a few things:

1. His goal is NOT to become a media darling this week in Birmingham. Remember the star of SEC Media Days last year? Yes, everybody fell in love with the homespun turkey inseminator, Robbie Caldwell, who was apparently thought he was on an episode of "Hee Haw."

2. The quarterback job is Larry Smith's to lose. Sure, everybody's excited about Jordan Rodgers and the workout video he made with his Super Bowl champion brother. But Franklin was quick to point out last week that he still hasn't seen Rodgers play, and until he does, he can't really compare him to Larry. He did say that he feels he has two QBs in Larry and Jordan who can compete in the SEC. Expect him to repeat this over and over again this week in Birmingham. He also said he's looking forward to developing the young quarterbacks.

3. Expect to see Josh Grady and Lafonte Thourogood play as true freshmen, but not necessarily as quarterbacks. Franklin didn't say this. But he did say that (1) the team has a shortage of offensive playmakers and (2) that the young quarterbacks need development. Jordan Matthews can be a big-time SEC receiver, he said, and he's working on ways to get the ball to Brandon Barden, whom he recruited while a Maryland assistant, but he still needs playmakers. While true freshman Jacquese Kirk is listed as a receiver and could be an immediate upgrade over John Cole and Udom Umoh, Thourogood is likely the best receiver prospect on the team, and Grady by all accounts is an electrifying ball carrier with a knack for getting himself out of jams. Both have apparently been promised a shot at QB, but in the meantime expect them to get their hands on the ball as receivers or in the wildcat.

4. Expect to see some defenders get a shot to play offense. Kirk's best position, at least in high school, was cornerback but his first stop on the Vandy practice field will be at wide receiver. Likewise, Dillon van der Wal was a sackmaster at defensive end in high school, but he's listed at tight end. Sure, we've already got Brandon Barden, but who can resist the idea of a 6-foot-7 kid jumping for the ball in the red zone? And while Darien Bryant is a long athlete capable of packing on pounds and playing all over the field, it appears he'll get his first shot at playing time either as a pass-catching tight end, H-back or wide receiver. Also, don't be surprised if defensive backs Derek King or Jahmel McIntosh gets some touches in practice. At 195 pounds, King is an SEC-ready cornerback who could be starting by season's end, but at the least he'll get some reps as a return man.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Franklin raises the bar for talent; so start defending your favorite Vanderbilt football player now

Remember when James Franklin said on signing day that he didn’t want anybody who wasn’t ready to compete, and that he was telling new recruits he was going to go out and get somebody better than them?

You know I think Bobby Johnson made huge progress improving the Commodores’ overall level of talent and depth. I noticed this during our victory at South Carolina four or five years ago when even the guys on our bench looked like SEC players, which was not the case when I attended Vandy in the late ’80s.

But it was all relative – while our players were good by Vandy standards and capable of the occasional upset or even seven upsets in one season, they weren’t good enough to win consistently. Instead, Johnson blamed losses on a lack of execution, valued experience and work ethic over talent, and immediately redshirted nearly every freshmen who set foot on campus.

Now here comes James Franklin, who’s focused like a laser on our talent. He’s run off Charlie Goro, whom he said didn’t meet his standards for a quarterback, and criticized Brady Brown for waiting to get tackled when he catches the ball.

His philosophy, as he stressed to the other day to Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge (who by the way is doing a bang-up job, probably in part because Franklin is a straight-shooter), is to go out and get the best possible talent:

“One year I threw it to a really good player or handed off to a really good player and it went for 85 yards, and all of a sudden I’m smart. And the year before I threw it to a guy that was a good kid, but you know, it went for seven yards. Our staff understands, our players understand, our recruits understand that recruiting is paramount to our success."

You think some of the returning starters are nervous going into training camp?

Franklin has said that he’s looking for playmakers and difference-makers, and that he’d rather have a tremendous athlete who can compensate for a mistake than a mediocre athlete who executes everything perfectly. Um, think Turner Wimberly or Nate Campbell would have started for Franklin?

Here’s what’s going to happen in preseason camp:

• Josh Grady and Lafonte Thourogood are going to push Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers hard, and then they might just move over to the receiving corps and, together with fellow freshman Jacquese Kirk, ensure that John Cole and Udom Umoh never see the field.

• Dillon van der Wal, Steven Scheu and Darien Bryant are going to make backup tight ends Mason Johnston, Austin Monahan and Fitz Lassing earn every second of playing time.

• Jarron Seymour’s going to motivate Wesley Tate to hit the holes as quick as he can, and he’s going to have Warren Norman and Zac Stacy getting as fit as they can, because if they get hurt this season they may not have a starting job when they come back.

• James Lewis and Jake Bernstein may not start right away, but they could see the field a whole lot sooner than projects like Andrew Bridges and Chase White.

• Barron Dixon already weighs nearly 40 pounds more than our heaviest defensive end and as much as our defensive tackles, and appears to be the most SEC-ready defensive linemen we’ve had in a long time. That’s got to motivate juniors like Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter and underclassmen like Vince Taylor and Jared Morse.

• And you’ll see guys like Kyle Woestmann, Walker May and Chase Garnham try to grab starting positions as fast as they can, because it won’t be any easier next year when a boatload of talented ends and backers — Sealand, Herring, Weatherly, Azubike, Dawson and friends — arrives in Nashville.

• Oh yeah, and true freshmen safeties Jahmel McIntosh, Larry Franklin and Andrew Williamson could boot guys like Karl Butler and Andre Simmons off the depth chart or move to outside backer and do the same to a host of veterans over there.

• And don’t forget Derek King, who’s got the talent to immediately knock Wilson, Foster or Hal out of the starting rotation.

Sure, it kind of hurts saying that guys who’ve worked hard and paid their dues may never see meaningful playing time. Go ahead and comment about guys you think I’ve slighted. Folks have been defending Goro on this site for years. Somebody recently commented that Chase Garnham will be a third- or fourth-round draft pick. Maybe so. But that doesn’t mean we’re gonna write his name – or anybody’s name – in ink on our depth chart.

This doesn’t mean Franklin’s out looking for thugs or morons. But it also doesn’t mean he has to settle for MAC- or WAC- or CUSA-level talent.

Go to his Twitter account sometime and read his posts. They make Norman Vincent Peale look like a pessimist.

The guy’s walking into the living rooms of the nation’s top prospects and he’s telling them he’s not taking no for an answer. If a recruit tells Franklin that other SEC coaches are saying Vanderbilt’s academics are too hard, then Franklin tells the recruit that those SEC coaches are really telling the recruit that he’s not smart and not a hard worker.

And is that true? Of course not. Does the kid — who, for example, may be the No. 2 all-purpose back in the nation and run a 4.2 40 — have what it takes to get a Vandy degree AND play in the SEC? Of course he does. At least, of course we're going to see if he does.

Franklin’s got a different blueprint for success than his predecessors. Instead of thinking he can lead the SEC’s worst recruits to a bowl victory every decade, he absolutely believes he can get the best talent in the nation and challenge for championships.

Heck, let’s try it and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A look at Vanderbilt's starting lineup... for 2013

Folks on chat boards excited by Coach Franklin's recruiting efforts are saying they can't wait for this season to start. I can. Sure, I'm curious to see who Franklin puts on the field and what plays he calls for them, but I'm really interested to see what happens after he puts a couple more classes together, say in 2013.

Speaking of which, here's a projected starting lineup for 2013, which is cause for excitement but also highlights our needs in recruiting (WR, OL, DL, K, P):

1 - Lafonte Thourogood, JR
2 - Josh Grady, R-SO

1 - Wesley Tate, R-SR
1 - Brian Kimbrow, SO
2 - Jerron Seymour, JR
2 - Mitchell Hester, R-SO

1 - Jonathan Krause, SR
1 - Jordan Matthews, SR
1 - Jaydrick Declouet, SO
2 - Chris Boyd, R-JR
2 - Cory Batey, SO
2 - Trent Pruitt, R-JR

1 - Darrien Bryant, R-SO
2 - Steven Scheu, R-SO

1 - Wesley Johnson, R-SR
1 - Logan Stewart, SR
1 - James Lewis, JR
1 - Jake Bernstein, JR
1 - Dillon van der Wal, R-SO
2 - Barrett Gouger, SO
2 - Andrew Bridges, R-JR
2 - Grant Ramsay, R-JR
2 - Jose Valedon, R-SO
2 - Spencer Pulley, R-SO

1 - Vince Taylor, R-JR
1 - Barron Dixon, JR
2 - Jared Morse, SR
2 - Ladarius Banks R-FR

1 - Kyle Woestmann, R-JR
1 - Josh Dawson, SO
2 - Conner Hart, R-SO
2 - Thomas Ryan, R-JR

1 - Jacob Sealand, SO
1 - Darreon Herring, SO
1 - Stephen Weatherly, SO
2 - Chase Garnham, SR
2 - Jahmel McIntosh, JR
2 - Jimmy Stewart, R-SO

1 - Derrick King, JR
1 - Jacquese Kirk, JR
2 - Andre Hal, SR
2 - Paris Head, SO

1 - Kenny Ladler, SR
1 - Larry Franklin, JR
2 - Andre Simmons, SR
2 - Karl Butler, SR

1 - Carey Spear, SR
2 -

1 - Fitz Lassing, SR
2 -

What do you think?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Here we go: Vandy picks up two wide receivers in a day

After yesterday’s recruiting trifecta, the Commodores got another verbal commitment, from wide receiver Jaydrick Declouet of Louisiana.

Two receivers in a day. That’s big for the Dores, who badly need receivers. It’s our biggest weakness as far as depth goes.

Oh, and I bet Brian Kimbrow can play a little wide receiver too.

Sure we need offensive linemen, but we’ve got a bunch of large- framed kids in Nashville right now eating six meals a day and lifting weights and pushing trucks and whatever Dwight Galt has them doing.

And we need outside linebackers, but we’ve got a bunch of good-looking freshmen and sophomore safeties (Franklin, McIntosh, Williamson, Butler, Simmons) who could eventually move up to outside backer, not to mention three four-star recruits (Herring, Sealand, Weatherly) slated to arrive next year.

No, receiver was our biggest need. We’ve got Krause and Matthews returning, and Boyd looks like he’s developing, but after that what do we have?

Now we’ve got Declouet and Cory Batey, who commited yesterday.

Declouet is 5-10, 175 and runs a 4.4 40. ESPN ranks him as the 52nd best wide receiver in the nation and says he’s one of the best route runners coming out of high school, is both fast and quick, and can play outside or slot.

He doesn’t have any other SEC offers as far as we can tell, but he’s still probably our best receiver recruit at least on paper since Earl Bennett. (Jonathan Krause could fall into the same category; Jordan Matthews flew under the radar.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

UPDATE: A look at Vandy's recruiting class after Brian Kimbrow, Caleb Azubike and Cory Batey commit

Maybe you heard that three high school football players from Tennessee called a press conference and committed to Vandy.

One of them, Brian Kimbrow of Memphis (pictured here), runs a 4.2 40, is commonly regarded as the fastest man in high school football, and is the nation’s second-ranked all-purpose back. No kidding.

The other two are Caleb Azubike of Nashville, whom Rivals ranks as the 21st-best weakside defensive end, and Cory Batey of Nashville, who runs a 4.4 40 and is a 3-star wide receiver according to Rivals.

There are rumors that others will be hot on their heels, even some guys from out of state, which certainly makes sense.

Some initial thoughts:

Is Vandy really getting the fastest kid in America? This is the kind of blue-chip recruit we’ve never gotten before, and his presence will likely trigger commitments from a bunch of other top-notch recruits currently considering Vanderbilt.

How do all these defensive ends stack up against each other? ESPN likes Weatherly the best and gives him 4 stars, followed by 3 stars for everybody else with Dawson ranked highest, followed by Griffin then Azubike then Banks. Rivals gives everybody 3 stars, with Weatherly as a linebacker and Banks as a tackle; Azubike as the best weakside end, followed by Dawson; and Griffin as a strongside end. Scout gives Dawson 4 stars, Azubike 3 stars and everybody else 2 stars.

How does Batey rate as a wide receiver? Not among the nation’s best. He gets three stars from Rivals, who gives lots of people 3 stars, but isn’t ranked at receiver by any of the services we mention. But he’s got speed and people who’ve seen him say he’s the real deal. Though he's probably our lowest rated recruit at this point, he’d also be an important one because we really, really need wide receivers. And remember that this time last year Jordan Matthews had only one 3-star rating, also from Rivals, and wasn’t ranked at receiver by anybody.

If you’re interested, here’s some more information on all the commitments, including the new guys:

5-9, 165
ESPN: 4 stars, 80 rating, #20 athlete
Rivals: 4 stars, 5.9 rating, #2 all-purpose back
Scout: 4 stars, #20 running back

6-2, 220
ESPN: 4 stars, 79 rating, #15 inside linebacker
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.7 rating, #18 inside linebacker
Scout: 3 stars, #62 outside linebacker

6-4, 225
ESPN: 3 stars, 79 rating, #43 defensive end
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.7 rating, #30 weakside defensive end
Scout: 4 stars, #27 defensive end

6-2, 205
ESPN: 4 stars, 79 rating, #28 outside linebacker
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.7 rating, #42 outside linebacker
Scout: 3 stars, #72 outside linebacker

6-5, 240
ESPN: 3 stars, 76 rating, #102 defensive end
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.7 rating, #21 weakside defensive end
Scout: 3 stars, unranked defensive end

6-5, 197
ESPN: 4 stars, 79 rating, #23 defensive end
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.6 rating, unranked outside linebacker
Scout: 2 stars, unranked defensive end

6-5, 285
ESPN: 3 stars, 78 rating, #66 offensive tackle
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.6 rating, #76 offensive tackle
Scout: 3 stars, #86 offensive tackle

6-2, 265
ESPN: 3 stars, 75 rating, #127 defensive end
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.5 rating, unranked defensive tackle
Scout: 2 stars, unranked defensive end

6-1, 170
ESPN: no stars, 45 rating, unrated cornerback
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.6 rating, #53 cornerback
Scout: 2 stars, unranked safety

6-2, 235
ESPN: 3 stars, 77 rating, #82 defensive end
Rivals: no stars, unrated, unranked strongside defensive end
Scout: 2 stars, unranked defensive end

6-1, 184
ESPN: no stars, 45 rating, unranked wide receiver
Rivals: 3 stars, 5.5 rating, unranked wide receiver
Scout: 2 stars, unranked