Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Out of nowhere, Javon Marshall grabs free safety job

Remember how we broke down the Vanderbilt Football Fact Book last month and could see who the coaches expected to be starters?

Well, thanks to the Tennessean’s Jeff Lockridge, we know who’s been practicing with the first team and who hasn’t, which means we can now look back at the fact book to see who’s living up to expectations, who’s exceeding them, and who’s slipping.

The big winner is Javon Marshall, one of nine players that the factbook implied didn’t have much of a chance to see meaningful playing time. Most of them were redshirt juniors: RB Micah Powell, then-DT Josh Jelesky, DT Taylor Loftley, DE Dexter Daniels and LB Al Owens. Three more were redshirt freshmen: DE Thomas Ryan, LB Blake Gowder and LB Andrew East. Marshall was the only redshirt sophomore.

So Marshall has come out of nowhere to apparently knock returning starter Kenny Ladler, a sophomore, from his position as a starting free safety. Sure, the coaches and factbook writers seemed to think Ladler would get some competition, but from junior Eric Samuels, sophomores Andre Simmons and Karl Butler, and true freshmen Andrew Williamson, Larry Franklin and Jahmel McIntosh instead of from Marshall.

In fact, Marshall is the only current member of the Commodore secondary to ever redshirt. He arrived on campus in 2009 with Eddie Foster, Trey Wilson and Eric Samuels, and he was immediately shown the end of the bench, while the others played as true freshmen.

But his high school coach in Ohio, Jay Minton, was brimming with confidence on signing day about Marshall's chances of contributing at Vandy:

"They're going to love Javon at Vanderbilt, you wait and see. He's going to be one of those guys that will find a way to get on the field. He'll have a positive impact there just like he did here. On the field, Javon is a real tenacious player, and one of the very best tacklers this school has produced. He also has the speed you want in a defensive back and can really move his hips in coverage. Javon also is fundamentally extremely sound in technique.”

Marshall was a two-star guy who was not as ready for the college game as Foster, Wilson and Samuels. Still, an ESPN scouting report recognized his potential as a free safety:

“…Marshall's best football is definitely ahead of him. His reactive athleticism, sound awareness skills and ability to cover a lot of ground quickly project well at free safety. Continued physical development should dictate his success at the next level.”

Marshall weighed 175 pounds when he signed with Vandy, and he’s now hovering around 200. He’s been listed as a cornerback since he got to Vandy, but one of the first things Coach Franklin did in spring practice was move Marshall and Samuels to safety. He's apparently hit the jackpot with Marshall, leaped over seven players on the depth chart.

We look forward to watching Javon flying around in the secondary – and offensive backfields – this season.

Other guys making big leaps on the depth chart are FB Fitz Lassing and OL Mylon Brown. Those guys were considered contenders in their position battles but weren’t exactly expected to be starters on opening day.

On most counts, the factbook was on the money:

The eight guys who were considered sure-fire starters – TE Barden, WR Matthews, OL Seymour, OL Johnson, DE Fugger, CB Hayward, SS Richardson and of course LB Marve – are all practicing with the first team as expected.

And most of the guys expected to be front-runners to start are also winning their position battles – RB Smith, OL Fischer, OL Burrow, DT Lohr and CB Wilson.

Let’s take a look at winners and losers – at least for today – in all the position battles:

• Quarterback: R-SR Larry Smith over R-JR Jordan Rodgers

• Running back: Jr Zac Stacy over JR Warren Norman (injured) and R-SO Wesley Tate (moved to receiver)

• Wide receivers: SO Jordan Matthews and R-JR John Cole over R-FR Chris Boyd (injured), SO Jonathan Krause (injured) and R-SR Udom Umoh

• Tight end: R-SR Brandon Barden

• Fullback: SO Fitz Lassing

• Offensive linemen: R-SO Wesley Johnson and R-JR Ryan Seymour plus R-SR Kyle Fischer, R-JR Jabo Burrow and R-SO Mylon Brown over SO Logan Stewart (injured) and R-JR Caleb Welchans

• Defensive tackles: R-JR Colt Nichter and R-JR Rob Lohr over R-SR T.J. Greenstone, SO Jared Morse and R-FR Vince Taylor

• Defensive ends: R-SR Tim Fugger plus R-FR Kyle Woestmann over R-SO Walker May and R-JR Johnell Thomas

• Linebackers: R-SR Chris Marve plus SO Chase Garnham and R-JR Tristan Strong over R-JR Archibald Barnes

• Cornerbacks: SR Casey Hayward plus JR Trey Wilson over JR Eddie Foster, SO Andre Hal and SO Steven Clarke

• Safeties: SR Sean Richardson plus R-SO Javon Marshall over SO Kenny Ladler, JR Eric Samuels, SO Karl Butler and SO Andre Simmons.


Anonymous said...

Is Kenny Ladler really out of the job? He is predominately featured on the new Commodore Creed video. Would be odd if Franklin put a benchwarmer on that video.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he's changing jobs? Darlron Spead was always the #1 nickel back, but never listed at CB/S. I could see Ladler excelling in that role.


No, I don't think Ladler's gonna be a benchwarmer. Franklin has said all along that he's going to play a bunch of DBs, especially because we're so short on quality LBs.

Good point about Darlron. But I think Ladler could end up playing linebacker for us. He's at the lower end of the speed spectrum among our defensive backs.