Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vanderbilt converts another end to offensive line

Coach James Franklin said after yesterday’s practice that redshirt junior defensive tackle Josh Jelesky is moving to the offensive line.

When a reporter asked if this was a further sign of lack of depth on the O-line, Franklin replied that he was making the move to “give him an opportunity to lengthen his career.” Don’t read that to mean Jelesky has a shot at the NFL, but that Jelesky is being given a shot to return to Vandy next year for a fifth year.

Franklin explained that Jelesky was deep in the rotation at defensive line (behind Greenstone, Lohr, Nichter, Morse, Taylor and probably even freshman Barron Dixon) but may have a chance to eventually start on the offensive line. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds.

Jelesky came to Nashville as a defensive end. As is evident in our current recruiting class, it’s a lot easier for Vandy to recruit defensive ends than other positions, which is why so many of our starting offensive linemen – Ryan Seymour and Jabo Burrow this year and guys like Reilly Lauer in years past — start their college careers as defensive ends.

This is not the same old Vandy, however. For one thing, Franklin is now recruiting defensive ends like Josh Dawson and Caleb Azubike who have SEC athleticism and can quickly compete for a starting job on defense. (Dawson, by the way, is slated to join LB Jacob Sealand as an early enrollee in January.)

Another thing that’s new is that Franklin identifies kids who aren’t going to play and gives them a chance at another position. In the spring, with Dexter Daniels lost in the log jam of redshirt junior linebackers, Franklin moved Daniels to defensive end. Meanwhile, he moved redshirt junior Al Owens from safety, where he clearly was never going to play, to outside linebacker.

This sends two signals: (1) We believe in you and like having you on campus and want to give you an opportunity to play, but (2) don’t be surprised if we don’t invite you back to use your fifth year of eligibility.

So moves like this are either a new beginning or the beginning of the end. This is the latest I can remember a Commodore moving from defensive end to offensive line. Seymour made the switch during his first year on the team, while Burrow switched during his second year. Jelesky is starting his fourth year on campus.

Jelesky’s move may pave the way for true freshman Joe Townsend to move to defensive line. That’s just a hunch. Vandy’s having trouble as always recruiting true SEC defensive tackles and will be losing T.J. Greenstone next year and Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter the following year. Townsend appears to be in the mold of those guys – a tough, overachieving kid with a pretty good motor.

As the Commodores prepare for their first day of practice in full pads, let’s take a look at some players who stood out yesterday:

• Wide receiver: SO Jordan Matthews made two spectacular catches and looks like the star receiver we’ve long been lacking.

• Quarterbacks: R-SR Larry Smith and R-JR Jordan Rodgers appear to be settling into a nice quarterback competition. At the least, Rodgers is going to sharpen Smith.

• Offensive linemen: Returning starters R-SR Kyle Fischer, R-JR Ryan Seymour and R-SO Wesley Johnson continue to show progress. James Franklin says Seymour is bigger, faster and stronger, as evidenced by the fact that the preseason factbook is pushing him as an all-star candidate. R-SO Mylon Brown, one of Vandy’s biggest linemen at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, is stronger and looks more athletic and ready to compete for playing time.

• Linebackers: Franklin says R-JR Archibald Barnes has improved physically and will definitely challenge for a starting position, while adding that outside linebacker is still remains a concern for the team. Barnes is battling R-JR Tristan Strong and SO Chase Garnham. Oh, somebody named Chris Marve appears to have emerged as a potential starter amidst this new competitive environment.

• Defensive backs: SO CB Andre Hal, who’s overshadowed by senior Casey Hayward and juniors Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster, made an interception in practice. He could see some starting time before the season’s over. Also, R-SO S Javon Marshall is proving himself to be a big hitter.


Anonymous said...

I doubt Jelesky was that far behind in the rotation. He was probably #4 or 5, which is why they wanted to give him a shot at OL. I cant imagine Loftley or Morse getting a chance to extend their careers anytime soon.


Morse is a sophomore who didn't redshirt, and is actually ahead of where Greenstone and Lohr were at this point in their careers. He has a bright future at defensive tackle and was ahead of Jelesky. You're right about Loftley, who's playing his last season as a redshirt junior.

In hindsight, the Johnson/Caldwell administration should have moved Jelesky to offensive line at least a year ago instead of moving him to defensive tackle. He does have a lot of potential there, and he doesn't have to start this season to get invited to return next year. He just needs to learn quickly, compete and prove to be a better option some of the young guys we've got. He's about the same size as Andrew Bridges.