Monday, October 31, 2011

James Franklin tallies explosive plays, Josh Jelesky makes his move, and Andrew Bridges wears a running back number

It’s time once again to review some highlights from the latest Monday press conference and depth chart.


• Explosive plays: James Franklin said he was pleased with the offense, which had 11 explosive plays compared to its goal of eight. He said the difference in the offense this week was the ability of Vandy’s receivers to catch balls in traffic. Remember, he’s said all along that if our wideouts can’t separate from SEC DBs, he at least expects them to make tough catches while being heavily defended. Matthews and Boyd did just that on Saturday. He also praised Krause for returning to the game as a punt returner after nearly getting his head knocked off a quarter earlier.

• Defending explosive plays: Franklin said the defense held Arkansas to four explosive plays, above the team’s goal of only two. No mention of a certain 96-yard explosive play from the Razorback defense.

• Something to work on: He said he’s concerned about the defense’s inability to stop drives at the end of the half. Here, here.

• Something to feel good about: He reminded everybody that Arkansas was “the same team we lost 49-14 to last year.” But he was quick to add: “We gave it away… We got to learn to win.”

• Something else to feel good about: He pointed out that Florida is dead last in the nation in fewest penalties and is last in the SEC in worst turnover margin.

• Looking ahead to the future: Franklin said this spring he plans to meet with Commodores currently playing in the NFL to get them involved in the program and make sure they’re happy with the direction of the program.


• Receivers: As usually, Boyd and Matthews are listed as co-starters at the x-receiver, but in the latest depth chart Matthews is also listed as a co-starter with Krause at the y-receiver. So maybe we’ll see Boyd and Matthews in the game at the same time. Kind of makes sense, huh? Wesley Tate is still listed as the z-receiver, but lately we’ve been starting FB Fitz Lassing instead. So far, Matthews has started six games, Krause five, Boyd three and Tate two. Udom Umoh’s also started two games, but his playing time at receiver has diminished.

• Offensive line: Looks like redshirt junior Josh Jelesky, who moved from defensive end in the preseason, will get his first career start at any position on Saturday, beating out right guard Mylon Brown. Franklin said Brown has made huge strides since the winter, but that Jelesky, whose playing time has increased over the past two games, has passed big Mylon for now on the depth chart. He would be the ninth O-lineman to start for the Commodores this season, joining Ryan Seymour, Kyle Fischer, Wesley Johnson, Chase White, Logan Stewart, Andrew Bridges and Jabo Burrow.

• Freshmen on the depth chart: The emergence of Jelesky, the return of Stewart, and the fact that redshirt junior Caleb Welchans is now listed at both backup center and right tackle has led to the disappearance of true freshmen linemen Joe Townsend and Spencer Pulley from the depth chart. That leaves RB Jerrod Seymour and DT Barron Dixon as the only true freshmen on the depth chart. Mitchell Hester made a brief appearance as a backup punt returner a few weeks ago but has yet to enter a game. Another true frosh, Dillon van der Wal, is seeing action at tight end and on special teams.

• Mr. Versatile: Speaking of tight ends, have you noticed that Andrew Bridges, who’s 6-6, 270 pounds and who started at tackle against Army, was playing tight end and wearing No. 43 in goal line situations against Arkansas? Cool, huh? And on at least one play, guard Ryan Seymour, who’s 6-6 and 300, lined up wide at tight end in the same formation as Bridges. Now if we could just get Vince Taylor to line up in the wildcat.

• Defensive end: Walker May is listed as a starter at defensive end over Johnell Thomas who’s started five games to May’s three.

• Strongside backer: Chase Garnham, who sat out Saturday’s game with injury, is listed as a co-starter with redshirt junior Al Owen, who started the first game of his career against Arkansas. Safety Karl Butler is listed as their backup.

• Safety: Javon Marshall, who’s started five games at free safety, is listed as the sole starter though Kenny Ladler’s started three games and has been listed as the co-starter in the past.

• Kicker: Carey Spear and Ryan Fowler are both listed as the No. 1 placekicker.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

November the bleakest month for Vanderbilt football

James Franklin swears this isn’t the Same Old Vanderbilt. I believe him, and I understand why it makes him angry to hear people say this, and why he wants to shelter his players from the idea that Vandy is forever cursed, and why he basically ordered the media not to write or report that this was the SOV.

(Word of advice to Coach Franklin: The best way to get the media to write something is to tell them not to write it.)

But Franklin hasn’t been around for all the pain and suffering. While he considers this a different team because he wasn’t affiliated with any of the other ones, it was impossible for a longtime Vandy fan to watch Zac Stacy’s fumble or Carey Spears' botched field goal attempt and not flash back to a thousand moments when a Commodore team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Now Franklin has an incredible opportunity to prove that this isn’t the same old Vanderbilt.

He can beat Florida in the Swamp, something Vandy hasn’t done since 1949.

And he can win two SEC games in November, something Vandy hasn’t done since 1975.

Speaking of November, did you know:

• In the past 25 years, Vandy has won 31 percent of its games before November, but only 19 percent during November. It needs to win 50 percent this year to go bowling.

• In the past 25 years, Vandy has played 46 games in November against SEC teams not named Kentucky and has won only once, against Tennessee in 2005? This year in November, Vandy gets two shots, playing Florida and UT in addition to Kentucky.

• In the six times over the past 25 years that Vandy has entered November with four or more wins — including four straight years under Bobby Johnson – it has won only three times in 20 games, beating Tennessee in 2005 and Kentucky in 1994 and 2008.

• In the past 25 years, Vandy has won only seven times in 42 road games — once in Knoxville, once in Annapolis, once at West Point, and four time in Lexington — or 17 percent. (Thank God for Kentucky.) Three of Vandy’s four November games this year are on the road — against Florida in Gainesville, against Tennessee in Knoxville and against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.

Since the advent of the 12-game season, Vandy has never won more than one game during November. I believe James Franklin will eventually convince everybody that this isn’t the same old Vanderbilt, but if he wants to do it this year, he’s got to win twice in November, win on the road, and beat somebody not named Kentucky.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No, this is not the same old Vanderbilt

I loved James Frankin's comments in the postgame press conference.

This team is not snakebit. This team is not still under a curse. And no, this is not the same old Vanderbilt.

We lost because we didn't play well enough, and we're working to get better. Here are some of the highlights:

• "We’re light years ahead of where we were when I arrived on this campus. This is not the same old Vanderbilt. This is not the same old Vanderbilt. I’m not going to allow anybody to write anything or report anything different. We are going to find ways real soon how to finish those games like that and we’re not going to make those mistakes much longer, I can guarantee you that."

• "I thought we played hard, I didn’t think we played smart. You can’t beat yourself."

• "I appreciate all the fans that showed up."

• "We've got to allow other teams to beat themselves, we can’t beat ourselves."

• "We’re not defeated. (The players) understand this is a step in the right direction. No one’s going to give you anything. You've got to go out and take it."

• On Carey Spear: "He's going to make kicks to win games this year and throughout his career. He’s a big-time kicker and we still believe in him."

• "You can learn lessons and win. You don’t have to lose to win lessons."

So how is this game any different from past Vandy heartbreakers?:

"We had a chance after those huge momentum plays in the other direction, and we stole it back."

Nothing we haven't seen before, huh?

Even if Spear hits that kick, I find it hard to believe we'd have won in overtime. We had to score a touchdown down there, and I'm disappointed that Rodgers just chunked the ball out of bounds on third down.

This is a bitter pill to swallow, and hearkens back the ghosts of so many games past. I don't blame anybody for saying "Same old Vanderbilt" after this one. We took control of the game and then we gave it away.

Oh yeah, we hadn't beaten a Top 10 team in our stadium since the 1930s.

Right now, I'm having flashbacks to our missed kick to tie the LSU game in the late 1990s. I'm also having flashbacks to Warren Norman's goal-line fumble against Army two years ago.

Can you believe that the Arkansas offense scored only two touchdowns in the game, and none in the second half?

But can you believe that the difference in the game was a goal-line fumble by Zac Stacy that in 10 seconds led to a 15-point turnaround?

I think it's great that our field goal kicker makes tackles on kickoffs. It would also be nice if he could hit chip-shot field goals.

This team's learning how to find ways to win. We've also got to stop finding ways to lose.

Peace out.

Not same old Vandy?

We fumble the ball on the Razorback 1, Arkansas returns it all the way for a touchdown.

Now instead of leading by 15, the game is tied.


We either fold here like we've done for the last 40 years, or we dig deep and take it back.


Zac Stacy is a stud.

We hadn't gotten a first down on four drives in the third quarter until Jordan Matthews made a huge grab on third down to convert. On the next play, Stacy ripped off a 62-yard TD run.

Vandy 28-17.

Now let's get the ball back!


Let's get this straight:

Marquel Wade of Arkansas just nearly killed a defenseless Jonathan Krause with a helmet to helmet hit while Jon was fielding a punt.

Wade gets thrown out of the game, and he starts screaming and the crowd's booing and he's shaking his fists at the crowd.

Dude, get off our field.

With 7 minutes remaining in the second half, we still haven't gotten a first down.

Unfortunately, we have to play the second half

Here's what's happened since the second half started:

• We throw an interception in our own territory.
• We somehow force Arkansas to kick a field goal; hanging on to a 4-point lead.
• We go three and out and punt.
• We miss a tackle on the punt returner and now the Razorbacks have great field position.

Arkansas is starting to get some swagger, like they always do in the second half. We're gonna need to grab the momentum back like we did against Georgia. The difference, of course, is that we've got a lead.

Hopefully, we can wear Tyler Wilson down. That guy's a warrior.

Archibald Barnes just dropped a pick six. That's the fourth INT we've dropped today — Hayward has three.

But now Arkansas is punting. We're hanging on.

Halftime report: Vandy looking good against Arkansas

Whether we win this game or not, we've got to feel good about the rest of our season. Arkansas is by far the best opponent remaining on our schedule, and we're leading 21-14 at halftime.

Rodgers continues to improve and is definitely a keeper at QB, and we look good at O-line, D-line and pretty much all areas.

Whoops. The half just started and Stacy threw a pick on a halfback pass and now the Razorbacks are driving.

It'll still be amazing if we win this game, but we just continue to get better. If you're a Vandy fan, you've got to be excited about this team.

Now our fans need to actually attend our games.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jordan Rodgers the lone QB, and other Vandy depth chart notes

Here are some observations from the depth chart for this week’s Arkansas game, along with some other stuff:

• Jordan Rodgers is listed as the sole starter at quarterback.
• Caleb Welchans is now listed as the backup at both right tackle, his usual position, and center. It’s the first week that a true freshman is missing from the two-deep for the O-line. Gone are Spencer Pulley, who played Saturday, and Joe Townsend, who’s been the backup center for most of the year.
• Walker May is listed as a starting defensive end, with Johnell Thomas dropping to second team. May got his second start of the year against Army.
• Karl Butler, a safety who was pressed into duty at outside linebacker against Army, is now listed as the backup to Chase Garnham at strongside linebacker.
• Casey Hayward is now listed as a co-starter at kick.

• Once again, Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews are listed as co-starters at the x-receiver position. Jonathan Krause and Wesley Tate are listed as the other starters at receiver. Last week, Boyd and Matthews were in the starting lineup together for the first time, with Vandy starting the game with two tight ends.
• Javon Marshall and Kenny Ladler are co-starters at free safety. Marshall started against Army and has four starts on the season to Ladler’s three.
• For another week, Richard Kent and Ryan Fowler are listed as co-starters at punter.

Here’s the different starting offensive sets that Vandy’s thrown at opponents, with Zac Stacy the lone running back:
• Elon: Two tight ends (Barden & Monahan, with WRs Umoh & Matthews
• UConn: Fullback (Lassing, with TE Barden and WRs Boyd & Krause)
• Ole Miss: Three receivers (Matthews, Tate & Krause, with TE Johnston)
• South Carolina: Fullback (Lassing, with TE Monahan and WRs Matthews & Umoh)
• Alabama: Fullback (Lassing, with TE Barden and WRs Matthews & Krause)
• Georgia: Three receivers (Matthews, Tate & Krause, with TE Barden)
• Army: Two tight ends (Barden & Monahan, with WRs Matthews & Boyd)

Here are Commodores who’ve gained the most yards this season, including on turnovers and special teams:
1. RB Zac Stacy, JR: 640 yards (579 rush + 43 pass +18 catch), 6 TDs
2. QB Jordan Rodgers, R-JR: 612 yards (190 rush + 422 pass), 3 TDs
3. QB Larry Smith, R-SR: 463 yards (-18 rush + 481 pass), 5 TDs
4. CB/KR Andre Hal, SO: 436 yards (all kick return), 1 TD
5. RB Jerron Seymour, FR: 315 yards (207 rush + 108 catch), 4 TDs
6. WR/PR Jonathan Krause, SO: 246 yards (50 rush + 149 catch + 47 punt return)
7. WR Chris Boyd, R-FR: 218 yards (all catches), 4 TDs
8. CB/RB/PR Casey Hayward, SR: 176 yards (57 rush + 12 punt return + 96 int. return + 11 kick return), 1 TD
9. S/KR Eric Samuels, JR: 159 yards (all kick returns)
10. WR Wesley Tate, R-SO: 143 yards (23 rush + 120 catch), 1 TD

• Tight end was supposed to be one of Vandy’s best positions, but it hasn’t generated many yards so far this season. Brandon Barden has gained 78 yards all season, followed by Fitz Lassing with 54 and Austin Monahan with 9 yards. Lassing is the only tight end to score, against Elon.
• At wide receiver, Jordan Matthews has only 117 yards receiving in seven games. Senior Udom Umoh, a returning starter, has 16 yards receiving and 34 total yards, counting a run and some returns.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vandy fans shouldn't make bowl reservations just yet

Nice game against Army.

We've got our starter at quarterback, and he thinks well on his feet and can tuck and run with the best of them. I've got some concerns about his arm strength. He threw some decent long balls but he didn't have much zip on his intermediate stuff. He's our best bet for the rest of the season, though I think we'd have blown out Army with Larry behind center too.

The O-line keeps getting better and better, Zac Stacy is the man, and Chris Boyd is emerging as our go-to receiver while Jordan Matthews look timid against Army and continues to be a disappointment.

Our depth at linebacker is a huge concern with Garnham ailing and Strong possibly out for the season, and junior Al Owens hurt too. Barnes looked confused on Saturday night, but he won't be defending the option much anymore, thank goodness. Karl Butler filled in nicely for Garnham at linebacker. We may be burning the redshirt off at least one guy who can play linebacker, which may be a true safety like Andrew Williamson or Larry Franklin or an athlete like Darien Bryant or Jimmy Stewart searching for a position.

Also, we've got to be concerned about facing a quarterback as accurate as Wilson of Arkansas. Aaron Murray and A.J. McCarron looked like All-Americans against us, and they're not.

Anyway, looking at the new BCS standings gives us a good idea about our best bets to win six games and become bowl eligible or even capture more wins.

Here's how we rank among our remaining opponents:

1. Arkansas (6-1, 2-1), No. 10 BCS
2. Florida (4-3, 2-3), No. 34
3. Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1), No. 39
4. Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3), No. 48
5. Tennessee (3-4, 0-4), No. 57
6. Kentucky (3-4, 0-3), No. 80

Watching Arkansas struggle in Oxford last week, we may have a shot at upsetting the Razorbacks. I wouldn't bet on it, but I'm starting to get the feeling we're a much better team at home, even with our continuing problems filling our own stadium with our own fans.

If we did beat Arkansas, we'd be sky-high and might have a decent shot at running the table and going to a great bowl.

While it's nice to dream, that's unrealistic at this point. Going 6-6 would be a huge success. We should beat Kentucky, but even though we're a bit ahead of UT in the BCS standings, I never never never take the Vols for granted, especially if Bray returns.

While we've had Wake penciled in as a possible victory, and the Deacs struggled last week to beat Duke, they always play us tough, Grobe is a terrific coach, and they should be favored to beat us in Winston-Salem.

The guys at ESPN now have us tapped for the Liberty Bowl instead of the Compass Bowl. Don't know about you, but I'd much rather watch a game on New Year's Eve in Memphis than a game in Birmingham on Jan. 7.

But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

James Franklin aims to be first Vandy coach to win four non-conference games

Sure, James Franklin likes to say that the most important game is the one we’re playing this week. But today’s Army game is hugely important.

Vandy fans are already talking about making bowl plans and even extending Franklin’s contract to prevent him from jumping ship. Hopefully, we’ll be doing those things soon. But let’s don’t jump to conclusions.

While we’re excited about Franklin’s recruiting abilities and his helicopter and his postgame speeches about never backing down, it’s important to remember that this team hasn’t arrived yet. At this point, Franklin hasn’t done anything on the field that hasn’t been done in the past 10 years.

Bobby Johnson improved our talent base considerably and took us to wins over Top 10 teams and a bowl victory. Franklin’s Hail Mary recruiting class of last February was nothing short of stupendous, and he’s already gotten verbal commitments from seven four-star recruits for next year’s class. So far so good.

Franklin started 3-0, beating Elon, UConn and Ole Miss. We should have beaten Elon, we expected to beat UConn and got tons of help from their weak quarterback, and then we soundly beat Ole Miss, building on what Robbie Caldwell and his staff did last year.

Then we got worn down by South Carolina (Bobby Johnson beat ranked Gamecocks teams twice) and Alabama (George MacIntyre beat the Bear and Watson Brown took Bama to the wire twice), and then dang near beat Georgia (something Johnson did in Athens and Gerry DiNardo did twice in his four years at VU).

But here’s something Franklin could do that no Vandy coach in the modern era has ever done: Go 4-0 in out-of-conference play.

We’ve played a four-game OOC schedule seven times in the last nine years as we were phasing into a 12-game schedule:

2010: Beat Eastern Michigan; lost to Northwestern, UConn and Wake Forest
2009: Beat Western Carolina and Rice; lost to Army and Georgia Tech
2008: Beat Miami-Ohio and Rice; lost to Duke and Wake Forest
2007: Beat Richmond, Eastern Michigan and Miami-Ohio; lost to Wake Forest
2006: Beat Tennessee State, Temple and Duke; lost to Michigan
2005*: Three opponents (Beat Wake Forest and Richmond; lost to MTSU)
2004*: Three opponents (Beat Eastern Kentucky; lost to Navy and Rutgers)
2003: Beat Chattanooga; lost to TCU, Georgia Tech and Navy
2002: Beat Furman and UConn; lost to Georgia Tech and MTSU

(In case you’re wondering, before the advent of the 12-game season Woody Widenhofer did go undefeated against out-of-conference opponents in 1999, beating Northern Illinois, Duke and the Citadel.)

Of course, we’re all painfully aware that we’d have gone to a bowl in 2005 if we’d beaten MTSU. That was the biggest knock on Bobby Johnson. He wanted to overpower people. When he was overpowered in 2005, he figured out a way to outsmart and outlast Wake Forest, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee and nearly Florida. In 2008, his Commodores outsmarted and outlasted South Carolina, Ole Miss, Auburn, Kentucky and even the rare scary Rice team.

But when he was favored to win, Johnson went conservative and got outsmarted and outlasted, by MTSU in 2005 and by Duke in 2008.

While wary of our past history against underdog opponents and particularly service academies, we’re excited about this Vandy team because so far it seems like Franklin plays to win instead of playing not to lose.

Our narrow loss to Georgia was not a rarity by any means, but it was unusual because of how we almost won. We didn’t take a huge lead and then blow it in the fourth quarter with a bone-headed fake punt or a fumble. No, we were getting manhandled, and Franklin somehow figured out a way to take control of the game. Though losing to UGA by five points wasn’t unusual, the difference is that Vandy fans were saying “Wow” and Georgia fans were stunned, as opposed to everybody in the stadium joining in a chorus of “Same Old Vandy.”

So we’re excited about our coach and our team. But he hasn’t done anything yet. It’ll be fun to watch him do it.

And does Franklin really have to go 4-0 against OOC opponents this year? No. Victories over Army, Kentucky and Tennessee and the resulting bowl berth would soothe the pain if we happened to lose our last game, on the road, to what’s shaping up to be another rock-solid Wake Forest team.

But right now, he absolutely must beat Army, which is no easy task. Vandy fans still feel the sting of the recent loss at West Point, and we also remember the time a quarterback who really wanted a Vanderbilt scholarship (Mike Bath at Miami-Ohio) led his team to a stunning upset in Nashville. Trent Steeleman, the Army QB who grew up in nearby Bowling Green, Ky., and otherwise known as the Man We Could Not Tackle, would like nothing more than to stick it to us tonight.

Here’s what I’d really like to see Franklin do: Make Vandy fans forget our past history. It could happen, but it’ll take some time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vandy picks Rodgers as starting QB, breaks in new left tackle

Looks like Jordan Rodgers is our starting quarterback. He's been a step behind because of his injury. While all of Franklin's talk about Larry being our best option to win has scared Vandy fans, it's clear he's been grooming Jordan all along to have a clear shot at starting.

Because Rodgers missed spring practice because of injury, preseason was kind of like his spring, and his spot duty in the first half of the season has been like preseason. Now he's ready to take the reins and be our starter, very possibly for next season too.

With Stewart suspended for the first half against Army, Franklin said last night that Andrew Bridges will likely get the start at left tackle. That involves just one starter changing his position and it gets Bridges, a long athletic kid who is slowly putting on the weight he needs to play O-line, some prime time snaps against a lighter defense.

"He’s a big, physical guy getting bigger and stronger every day," Franklin said after last night's practice. "He moves extrememly well... This will give him an opportunity to step up — that's what this game is about, it gives us an opportunity to build some depth. It gives us an opportunity to give another guy a chance and he’s got to step up."

It's interesting that Caleb Welchans, a redshirt junior with starting experience in his first two seasons, hasn't gotten the nod yet this season though he's been a fixture on the depth chart and he's seen spot duty late in games and on special teams. That's a sign he may be four and done and not return for his redshirt senior year.

Anyway, after Army game we'll likely have had 21 guys on offense start games for us, compared to 14 on defense. Here's a breakdown:

Quarterback: Smith, Rodgers
Running back: Stacy
Receiver: Krause, Matthews, Boyd, Tate, Cole, Umoh
Tight end/fullback: Barden, Monahan, Lassing, Johnston
Offensive line: Burrow, Johnson, Brown, Stewart, Fischer, Seymour, White, Bridges

Defensive tackle: Lohr, Nichter
Defensive end: Fugger, Thomas, May
Linebacker: Marve, Garnham, Strong, Barnes
Cornerback: Hayward, Wilson
Safety: Richardson, Ladler, Marshall

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vandy-Georgia aftermath: No regrets for Franklin, Logan Stewart benched by SEC, 2 Dawgs suspended too

Logan Stewart has been suspended for the first half of Saturday's Army game for a flagrant personal foul, according to the SEC office.

In case you were wondering, Georgia's Kwame Geathers (the guy who punched Stewart) and Shawn Williams (the infamous No. 36) have been suspended for the first half of the Oct. 30 Florida game, Geathers for fighting and Williams for a flagrant personal foul.

We all saw Geathers punch Stewart and we saw Williams slap our kicker, the pesky Carey Spear, upside the head and draw another personal foul late in the game.

If you're tempted to feel slighted by Stewart's suspension, watch this video from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Stewart, our sophomore center, is a nasty player, which of course is a good thing in an offensive lineman, but here he crossed the line. I'm anticipating a long comment stream about cut blocks and chop blocks, but surely we don't teach our offensive linemen to tackle a defensive lineman in the back of the legs after getting a 20-yard head start.

While I'm delighted that Geathers punched Stewart and we got a first down out of it, in retrospect I can't say that I blame the big fella. It was a dirty play on Stewart's part. I wonder what James Franklin will say about it.

Speaking of Franklin, at Monday's press conference he was asked if he had any regrets. This is what he said: "I’m not a guy that has a whole lot of regrets. I’m pretty calculated, and I’m pretty well thought out with the things that I do for the most part. I am an emotional guy as you guys know as well. I would have liked the game to end differently. I would have liked to have won the game."

I'm not going to break this down, because it's a pretty unsatisfactory answer and I hope never to hear it again from him, in any situation. I do realize that he's not giving this explanation to his wife or his pastor, he's giving it to a bunch of sports writers, whom he doesn't particularly respect or feel like he needs to answer to. But if you don't think you did anything wrong, then just say so. That was the question. But don't say you don't have any regrets in life because you think everything through even though you're also an emotional person.

I really don't think he would have responded the same way if he had game-planned for that situation. His actions were fueled totally by emotion, which is understandable. He really, really wanted to win. Shawn Williams really, really acted like an ass. Franklin's a take-charge guy and he wanted to take-charge of the situation.

But after viewing several videoclips, it appears that Franklin sought out Grantham, who blew his stack and almost instigated a riot, then he found Richt, who wasn't far away to begin with, and quivering with anger he told Richt about Williams' inappropriate gestures and his exchange with Grantham, punctuating his explanation with a few choice words. Richt put his hand on Franklin's shoulder and nodded with understanding and then apologized. After Richt left, another Georgia assistant approached Franklin and shook his hand and Franklin took the opportunity to again complain about Williams and Grantham.

Why didn't Franklin just tell Richt? Why did he have to tell Grantham, a notorious hothead, first? And why did he keep complaining about it to another assistant after he talked to Richt?

Because he's human. Williams got under his skin, which is exactly what Williams was trying to do. Franklin let his emotions get the best of him, just like we all do. But in doing so, he let his players know he cared about them, and a few minutes later he gave his rousing "we will never back down ever because those days are over" speech.

These things happen in football. That was Franklin's sixth game as a head coach. You can bet he's going to learn from it, whether he admits it to the ink-stained wretches or not, and he's going to make the Bulldogs pay for it someday soon.

Back to Stewart, I hope Vandy starts Joe Townsend at center and leaves the rest of our lineup intact, instead of doing a fruit-basket turnover again and moving Wesley Johnson to center and Seymour to tackle and White or Jelesky to guard, and then moving everybody back when Stewart enters the game.

In review, here's our offensive line before and after Stewart's return from mono:

LT: Ryan Seymour, R-Jr
LG: Chase White, R-Fr
C: Wesley Johnson, R-So
RG: Mylon Brown, R-So
RT: Kyle Fischer, R-Sr

LT: Wesley Johnson, R-So
LG: Ryan Seymour, R-Jr
C: Logan Stewart, So
RG: Mylon Brown, R-So
RT: Kyle Fischer, R-Sr

It will be interesting to see the difference Stewart makes in our offensive line when he enters the game in the second half, if Franklin does put him in the game.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jordan Rodgers and Larry Smith still co-starters and other developments on the Vandy-Army depth chart

Let's take our weekly look at changes to the depth chart.


• Jordan Rodgers and Larry Smith are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the second straight week. Franklin said in his press conference today that he would prefer to play one quarterback. That bodes well for Rodgers, who has played in every game this season, seeing his playing time gradually increase.


• Redshirt freshman Vince Taylor and true freshman Barron Dixon are listed as backups to Colt Nichter at defensive tackle, forming a five-man rotation with Nichter, fellow starter Rob Lohr and sophomore Jared Morse. Dixon played in his first game against Georgia, replacing the injured T.J. Greenstone in the rotation. Taylor has been in the rotation since sitting out the opener against Elon, but this is his first week to be listed on the depth chart.

• Ryan Fowler is now listed as a co-starter at punter with fellow redshirt junior Richard Kent. Kent has started all season but was benched after dropping a snap that led to a Bulldog touchdown and was replaced by Fowler, who threw a long first-down strike to snapper Andrew East on a fourth down fake punt, but didn't appear to have Kent's power or hang time. Expect to see Kent return — Franklin has been calling him "Comeback Kent" in meetings.

• Cornerback Casey Hayward is listed as a backup to punt returner Jonathan Krause. The Commodores have struggled to break anything off a punt return, and Hayward could be just what the doctor ordered.

• Mylon Brown is listed as the sole starter at right guard, after being listed last week as a co-starter with redshirt junior Josh Jelesky, who's still learning the ropes since moving to offense late in the summer. Brown started against Georgia, and has started in every game so far this year.


• Five offensive players (running back Zac Stacy and linemen Ryan Seymour, Wesley Johnson, Kyle Fischer and Brown) and eight defensive players (end Tim Fugger, tackles Lohr and Nichter, linebackers Chris Marve and Chase Garnham, cornerbacks Hayward and Trey Wilson and safety Sean Richardson) are set to start their seventh game of the season.

• Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd continue to be listed as co-starters at wide receiver, but Matthews has gotten the nod over Boyd in five out of six games so far. Jonathan Krause, who had his bell rung in a dirty play by Georgia, is listed as the other starter, and Wesley Tate is listed as the third starter if Vandy goes with a three-receiver lineup, which it's done twice this season.

• Junior Al Owens is listed as the backup at both strongside and weakside linebacker but hasn't been seeing much big-game action at either position. With the injury to Tristan Strong, Vandy has serious problems with depth here. Also, I notice that redshirt freshman Blake Gowder is no longer on the roster. That frees up another scholarship. With the verbal commitment of mammoth Texas tackle Adam Butler, we've got one solid scholarship left but I expect us to clear out another 2-4 scholarships by the end of the season.

• For the second straight week, Kenny Ladler is listed as the solo starter at free safety after losing his starting position to redshirt sophomore Javon Marshall in preseason camp. Ladler and Marshall have each started three games this season.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vandy's future bright, Mark Richt's is cloudy after Georgia victory

Did Saturday's game feel like 2007 all over again or what? Remember in 2007, when Georgia was coming off a whipping in Knoxville and fans were screaming for Richt's head? Vandy had taken the lead over the Dawgs in Nashville and were driving for the touchdown that would put it away.

But Georgia recovered a fumble, drove into field goal range and then booted the game winner. The night ended with the Bulldogs dancing on the Vandy star in the middle of the field, Bobby Johnson showing his displeasure, and Richt grabbing his players and telling them to show the Commodores some respect.

The Bulldogs had a bye week and then headed down to the World's Largest Cocktail Party where they showed Florida some disrespect after their first touchdown when the entire Georgia team rushed the field and celebrated, drawing a penalty and firing up the team.

In other words, don't disrespect a team that you're supposed to beat handily but it's fine to disrespect the defending national champions. Anyway, Georgia ran the table after the Vandy win and looked like the best football team in America. If Vanderbilt had beaten Tennessee, Georgia would have gone to the SEC championship to play eventual national champion LSU, and I believe the Bulldogs, with a red-hot Matthew Stafford, plus Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green and a ton of other talent, would have won and then beaten Ohio State in the BCS Championship.

But Vandy squandered a lead in Knoxville, crumbling under the pressure of delivering a sixth win and becoming bowl-eligible, something they would finally — and barely — manage to do the following year after starting the season 5-0.

Georgia got another chance the following week, needing Kentucky — the same Wildcat team that beat No. 1 LSU — to beat Tennessee to send the Bulldogs to the Georgia Dome for the SEC title game.

Didn't happen. Fulmer's Vols beat Kentucky in about a thousand overtimes, tying the Bulldogs for the SEC East title but going to Atlanta because they won head-to-head. LSU won, and a two-loss Bayou Bengal team faced the two-loss Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS title game, leaving a two-loss Georgia team at No. 3.

Georgia began the following season at No. 1, but were destroyed by Alabama in Athens after Saban took Richt to school in the first half.

The Bulldogs haven't been the same since, raking in top talent but failing to meet the resulting high expectations on the field.

On Saturday, Mark Richt needed to beat Vanderbilt worse than he's ever needed to win a football game. Losing to Vandy has sealed the fate of many an SEC coach — one of Richt's predecessors, Ray Goff, among them — and he would have lost his job if Udom Umoh or Kenny Ladler could have evaded the Georgia punter and taken the ball into the end zone ("the football is not perfectly shaped," Coach James Franklin pointed out after the game) or if Chris Boyd could have hauled in the pass from Jordan Rodgers.

It didn't happen and the Bulldogs got their swag back. If Richt was canned, his jackass of a defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, would have gotten canned too, and when Coach Franklin crossed paths with Grantham while looking for Richt, who had mysteriously disappeared, Grantham in the euphoria of maintaining steady employment went nuts with self-righteous anger and all his players gathered round and appeared to have their swag back.

I was surprised they didn't run over and stomp on the star. In the press conference, Richt lamented that everybody couldn't have just shaken hands like gentlemen, and he confessed that he'd uttered some "choice words" during the game himself.

Yeah, those Dawgs were really blessed to win, gosh-darnit.

Did you see how much more talent Georgia has than we do? It was ridiculous. Jordan Rodgers played a gutsy game, but he lacks the arm strength to gun the ball in there — though Larry wouldn't have gotten rid of the ball or eluded the rush like Jordan did. Our offensive line played well, but was outmanned by Georgia's huge D-tackles. The big problem remains our wide receivers, who can't consistently make catches in traffic.

I take three things from our losses to SC, Bama and UGA:

1) Their receivers made tough catches in traffic on third down — or in the end zone — and ours didn't.

2) Their quarterbacks looked like All-Americans against our vaunted secondary, and that's because we couldn't put pressure on them. We've got a scrappy, technically sound defensive line but these guys are not prototypical SEC players and couldn't get by the mammoth O-lines of the Gamecocks, Tide or Bulldogs.

3) You can't defend the pass successfully when your only hope to score a touchdown is to get an interception and take it to the house. That's what was happening in the third quarter when Hayward was taking chances and trying to figure out where the ball was going and was out of position on almost every play.

But back to Georgia. They've got the athletes, but right now they lack the character, the coaching and the team chemistry to be an elite team. We lack the athletes, but Saturday we had the character, the coaching and the chemistry to hang with them, even when we were making a ton of mistakes. We should have lost that game by four touchdowns but our guys wouldn't let that happen.

That's the difference between this team and the one that lost to UGA in the final seconds in 2007. That team was playing not to lose, and all the fans left the stadium saying, "Same old Vanderbilt."

This team had no business being in the game, but they nearly pulled off a stunning upset. Did you see Georgia's fans after the game, their eyes dazed and their mouths agape as if they'd lost the game? These are the same fans who'd commented online earlier in the week that they expected to make short work of Vandy so they could watch the Bulldogs' second- and third-string quarterbacks play. I bet not many folks said, "Same old Vanderbilt" after the game.

If I'm one of the recruits from Georgia who were visiting the game or watching it on TV, and I was the kind of kid who likes to work and has a head on his shoulders, I'd be seriously considering the Commodores right now. Sure, I'd be concerned about all those red-clad fans in the stands. But I'd also want to play with a team that's doing something special, that's trying to make history, and that's not afraid to stand and fight when things aren't going their way.

Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Georgia's head coach, who had a bad feeling about this game like he always does when he goes up to Nashville, and whose only hope at the end was to pray for deliverance.

As Coach Franklin says, "there are no moral victories." But the future is brighter than I can remember it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Larry Smith vs. Jordan Rodgers? It's not that simple

After James Franklin stated in Monday’s press conference that Larry Smith was injured but could have returned against Alabama if needed and that there would be a competition this week, Vandy reporters and bloggers (not us) began to salivate over the possibility that Franklin was going to bench Larry in favor of Jordan Rodgers. It’s not that simple.

First of all, Franklin talks about players competing all the time. After last night’s practice, somebody asked Franklin who was getting the most reps at quarterback, thinking that the guy playing the most in practice would be winning the quarterback competition that everybody got so excited about on Monday.

Franklin said this:

• Larry’s not practicing much because he’s still injured though not as much as he was on Sunday. He said he thinks Larry will be “ready to go” on Saturday because on game day “you can do some things with medicine” to get a guy ready to play. In other words, Larry may not practice at all and still start against Georgia.

• The “competition” Franklin was talking about could have been Rodgers competing against himself to improve. “Has he done anything this week to help his situation in terms of the depth chart?” Franklin said of Rodgers last night. “I’m not ready to say that.” Franklin has maintained that a healthy Smith still gives us the best chance to win.

• The “competition” Franklin was talking about could have been Rodgers competing against true freshman Josh Grady. He said he continues to be impressed with Grady and has told him to get ready to play.

• The decision could be made by “gut feeling.” And when will he make it? “It could be Saturday running out on the field he said.” And who might it be? “It could be Larry to Josh Grady.”

All this reminds me a little bit of our quarterback situation in 2008 at this exact point in the season: Fans were screaming for Mackenzie Adams to get the start against Mississippi State after he’d relieved an injured Chris Nickson early in the Auburn game.

Of course, Nickson started and Adams tried to bail us out of a bitter loss in Starkville. Then Bobby Johnson benched Nickson in the next game against Duke and started Adams, who along with the rest of the offense performed miserably in a demoralizing homecoming loss.

It was musical chairs for the rest of the season while both guys battled injury and ineptitude. Nickson got the nod against Kentucky and led us to a rousing victory to become bowl eligible, then both guys were hurt at the end of the season and we were forced to take the wraps off redshirt frosh Larry Smith, who showed flashes of brilliance against Wake Forest and then started against Boston College in the Music City Bowl.

I don’t think our current situation is nearly as dramatic. For one thing, Jordan Rodgers isn’t coming off a heroic performance in a dramatic upset of a ranked team from Alabama like Adams was, and Rodgers doesn’t have a Top 10 upset under his belt like Adams did (in South Carolina the year earlier).

And Smith, while certainly a threat to tuck and run, doesn’t pose the same dangerous running threat that Nickson did.

Oh, and we’re not 5-0.

Meanwhile, many of our fans are acting like we’re going to walk all over Georgia. Folks, Georgia has an enormous defensive line and freakish athletes just like South Carolina and Alabama did. Arkansas and Florida do too.

In other words, with our current offensive line and wide receivers, we might as well go ahead and throw Josh Grady’s name into the mix as well. The odds just keep getting better that he’ll be on the field before the season’s over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vanderbilt's James Franklin calls 12 recruits after loss to Alabama

So you're a hotshot high school football player considering Vanderbilt, and you watch the Commodores lose 34-0 to Alabama. You have questions. You have concerns. About an hour after the game, you're kicking back, chilling. Your phone rings.

It's Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. He's on the bus back to Nashville. He wants to know what you thought of the game. He also wants to tell you how you would improve his roster and make the kind of impact he needs to do something really special at Vanderbilt, which by the way is located in the best city and has by far the best academics in the SEC, which of course is the best conference in college football.

During today's press conference, Franklin said he talked to 12 recruits during Saturday night's three-hour bus trip. That's one recruit every 15 minutes.

And further evidence that nobody's going to outwork, outplan, outthink or — yes — outtalk James Franklin.

I hope he was talking to a quarterback — hey, let's steal Chad Voytik from Pitt or Patton Robinette from North Carolina! — and also a couple of wide receivers and a bunch of offensive linemen.

Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers listed as co-starters for Georgia, and other notes from the latest depth chart

Listened to Franklin’s weekly press conference and looked at the depth chart for the Georgia game. Here are some highlights:

1. Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers are listed as co-starters at quarterback on the depth chart, which was released after Franklin fielded numerous questions about whether Smith would remain as a starter.

Franklin has repeatedly said that Larry gives the team the best chance to win – which of course drives a certain percentage of our fan base crazy – and he also likes to keep opponents in the dark as to the status of injured players. Today he said two or three times that nothing has changed. He said something about competition determining the starter this week and also something about injuries being announced on Wednesday and something again about nothing changing. Franklin said Rodgers played “extremely well” in the first half but that he wasn’t pleased with his performance in the second half.

Everybody's wondering who the starter will be and acting like there's a big controversy. I think it plays itself out without much drama. If Larry's healthy enough to play this week, he'll be the starter. If he's not, Jordan Rodgers will get the nod. But if Larry's reasonably healthy, I think he'll start until Rodgers proves himself without a doubt our best option at quarterback. Franklin's not going to bench Larry just for a change of pace, but he is going to continue to increase Rodger's playing time.

In case you were wondering, Franklin tends to list injured starters as co-starters. For example, he listed Brandon Barden the past two weeks as a co-starter with Austin Monahan. Barden missed the South Carolina game with injury, played in the Alabama game, and is now listed once again as the sole starter at tight end.

2. Carey Spear, who missed two field goals in the first half against Bama, is still listed as the starting kicker. Franklin said he had “no concerns” about Spear and likened a kicker’s mechanics to a golfer’s swing.

3. For yet another week, Jordan Matthews is listed as a co-starter with Chris Boyd at the X-receiver position.

Matthews has started five games this season to Boyd’s one. When asked about Matthew’s struggles at receiver – he has five catches for 63 yards in five games – Franklin said it was a combination of poor play from the offensive line, the plays being called, and the fact the quarterbacks were throwing for a high percentage. He said he expects Matthews to start making some big plays soon and he said the challenge now was keeping him from listening to family members, friends and the media saying that he wasn’t getting enough touches.

4. Archibald Barnes remains a starter at outside linebacker, where he’s filling in for the injured Tristan Strong, whom Franklin actually said he hopes to get back “soon.” DeAndre Jones, listed as Marve’s backup in the middle, is still getting snaps in both halves of every game, and Al Owens, who had a tackle for loss against Bama, is listed as the backup at both outside positions.

5. Redshirt junior Josh Jelesky, who moved to the offensive line from defensive end in the preseason, is listed as a co-starter at guard along with Mylon Brown, who’s started every game this season. Franklin said he wanted Brown to face some competition. He's the most inexperienced of the current starters.

6. Sophomore Logan Stewart will start his second game of the season at center after taking several months to recuperate and gain the weight he lost while battling mononucleosis over the summer. He started the last half of last season. To accommodate Stewart, Wesley Johnson moved back to left tackle, Ryan Seymour moved from left tackle to left guard, and Ryan Fischer remains at right tackle.

7. Chase White has returned to second team, where he’s listed as a backup guard. Other reserves include tackles Caleb Welchans and Andrew Bridges and true freshman center Joe Townsend. True freshman guard Spencer Pulley has dropped off the depth chart after being listed at second team since the Elon game.

8.Another player who’s dropped off the depth chart this week is tight end/fullback Mason Johnston, who was injured against Bama. He's replaced by walk-on fullback Marc Panu. Another walk-on, receiver Jamison Sackey, returns to the depth chart for the second straight week as a backup.

9. Warren Norman, who’s been listed at second team since the start of the season, has been finally removed from the depth chart. It appears likely he will redshirt.

10. True freshman Mitchell Hester, who made his debut on the depth chart last week as a punt returner, did not play against Alabama and is still eligible to redshirt. He’s been replaced this week by Eric Samuels, who’s now listed as a punt returner backing up Jonathan Krause. Sophomore Steven Clarke is now listed as a co-starter at kick returner with Andre Hall, replacing Samuels in that role.

11. Junior Johnell Thomas is still listed as a starter at defensive end after suffering an injury against Bama.

12. Kenny Ladler is now listed as the sole starter at free safety, after being listed as a co-starter with Javon Marshall on every pregame depth chart before today. He’s started two games this season while Marshall has started three.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

For James Franklin, getting better at Vanderbilt means getting better players to come to Vanderbilt

What did James Franklin say after last night’s 34-0 loss to Alabama?

He said: “We’re gonna get this fixed, I can guarantee you that.”

What’s he doing to fix Vanderbilt? Sure, he’s installing his system, which includes working hard and believing in yourself and trying to execute as well as you can and all that. That’s not incredibly different from the kinds of things past Vandy coaches have said.

But the biggest thing he’s doing is recruiting. Unlike other coaches, who seemed to believe they were limited by the types of athletes they could attract to Nashville, Franklin believes he can stockpile authentic SEC athletes. The way he closed on last year’s class was a minor miracle – or looked that way to Vandy fans – and the way he’s piled up verbal commitments in the last six months have been nothing short of spectacular by VU standards.

Some Vanderbilt fans are starting to complain that Franklin’s offense is no more productive than, say, Bobby Johnson’s. And the team's biggest problem, they believe, is that the wrong guy on our roster is playing quarterback.

Listen to what Nick Saban said about Vanderbilt last night after the game:

“They are doing a good job with their team. They play hard and create a lot of problems for you on offense and do a lot of things to take advantage and play well with the guys they have.”

Play well with the guys they have. That’s what Franklin’s doing. He’ll tell you that he loves the players he has, and we believe him, but the players he’ll be loving in four years are going to be better than the ones he’s loving today. That’s what he’s guaranteeing us, and I for one believe him.

Listen to what Franklin said after the game about his receiving corps:

“We’re not in a situation right now where we’ve got guys creating a lot of separation. That’s fine. That’s the world we’re living in right now. We’ve got to be able to make the catch with the guy hanging all over you.”

That’s the world we’re living in right now. In a couple of years, the world we’re living in will have receivers who can separate from SEC defensive backs or at least make tough catches.

Last night Alabama receivers made four touchdown receptions with our DBs draped all over them.

James Franklin plans to go get a whole team full of players who can compete with Alabama and South Carolina and Georgia.

Yes, Georgia. Get yourself ready, folks. The Bulldogs aren’t as well-coached as Alabama but they’ve got the same caliber of athletes, even on the defensive side of the ball.

The future of Franklin’s Commodores does not depend on Vandy going to a bowl this season. Army and Kentucky look extremely beatable. Tennessee appears to be having another down year, but they’ve still got better athletes than we do on both sides of the ball. And the other team we’ve been chalking up as a victory since summer, Wake Forest, just embarrassed Florida State and is undefeated in the ACC.

Don’t get your hopes up.

This is not about going to a bowl this season, though it's certainly possible and would be awfully nice. This is about getting the kind of players we need to compete – and who can compete academically at Vanderbilt. Those guys are out there, and James Franklin’s going to find them.

And once he does, the product he puts on the field will sell itself. For now, he's got to sell what's going to happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can Vanderbilt fans handle the truth about their team?

Jess Nicholas (not to be confused with Col. Nathan Jessup) over at has an interesting preview of Vandy. I think it’s important to read what educated fans at other schools say about us. Sure, many Vandy fans would agree that Larry Smith is not a legitimate SEC quarterback. But how many of us would say that Zac Stacy is slower than other SEC running backs or that our defensive backs lack the athleticism of those in an elite program?

And yet, if we dare to fantasize about competing in the SEC we must objectively compare our players with those on other SEC teams (and not just Kentucky and Ole Miss.)

We ask this question every now and then: How many of our players would even get playing time at another SEC school?

I’m not bashing our players. This question is on James Franklin’s mind when he says things like “We have good players here, just not enough of them.”

Yesterday, a reporter asked Franklin what he was doing to improve the offense and he replied that he was recruiting. A few minutes later, he said that Vandy was going to have to run trick plays and take risks in order to compete. Implying, of course, that he won’t have to do this as much when he gets the players he wants. Oh, and if you're wondering why we don't just run a trick play on every down, he was quick to add that you have to wait for the right circumstances to run a trick play even if you're desperate.

I’m starting to see some similarities between Franklin and Nick Saban – apart from Franklin’s superior people skills. Saban said a couple of days ago that Vanderbilt is doing some nice things with the players they have.

Maybe some Vandy fans would be offended by that. James Franklin wouldn’t be.

Anyway, here’s some highlights of what Nicholas had to say about our team. If you find yourself boiling over with anger at his assessment, take a deep breath and realize that he’s comparing us to the team he studies every day, which is getting the kind of results that we can only dream of.

How many matchups does he have us winning against the Tide? Zero. Fair enough.


Overall observations:
• Ranks 116th in passing offense.
• Ranks 117th in total offense.
• Ranks 116th in sacks allowed.
• Wide receivers remain a weakness.
• If Bama contains Chris Boyd, it should have “no problems” containing our passing game.
• The offensive line is “pretty offensive.” (Ha, ha. The truth hurts.) The interior line “is a question mark.” Vandy doesn’t “protect the passer” and run blocking is “scattershot.” D-line “strongly wins” the battle with our O-line. (Duh.)

Notes on players:
• Larry Smith: Not a legitimate SEC quarterback; mobile enough but lacking in arm strength.
• Jordan Rodgers: Has “showed flashes in limited work.”
• Zac Stacy: “Clearly lacking in speed compared to other SEC starters.”
• Jerron Seymour: “Oddly built” but has been a “capable backup so far.”
• Brandon Barden: Likely a “scratch for this game thanks to an ankle injury.”
• Austin Monahan: “Almost as good as Barden” but without Barden our two tight end set is “a lot less effective.”
• Chris Boyd: “Has some homerun ability.”
• Kyle Fischer and Ryan Seymour: “Decent tackles.”


Overall observations:
• Ranks 4th in pass efficiency defense.
• Ranks 11th in total defense.
• Ranks 15th in scoring defense.
• Ranks 25th in rushing defense.
• Has 14 interceptions and ranks 5th in turnover margin.
• No glaring weakness on defense for “the first time since the Woody Widenhofer days.”
• Stout rush defense, which could lead to more passing this week from Alabama.
• Good depth on defensive line. The Tide O-line shouldn’t have “much of an edge” over the Vandy D-line.
• Secondary is “deep” and “opportunistic” but with the “possible exception” of Casey Hayward “lacks the top-gear athleticism” of Alabama’s DBs.

Notes on players:
• Rob Lohr, Colt Nichter, T.J. Greenstone: “Good-sized players.”
• Tim Fugger: One of the SEC’s “most underrated and unknown ends.”
• Johnell Thomas: A “matchup problem” for offensive tackles who “lack good footwork.”
• Chris Marve: “Would easily start for Alabama.”
• Sean Richardson and Kenny Ladler: “Among the league’s biggest” safeties.
• Casey Hayward and Trey Wilson: Have “good size” and “can run.”

• Ranks a “respectable” 27th in net punting.
• Punt and kickoff returns are “middle of the pack or worse.”
• Kickoff coverage ranks in middle of pack in SEC but higher than Bama’s.
• Carey Spear even with Bama’s field goal kicker and Richard Kent is the better punter, but Vandy will struggle to contain Bama’s return game, which is among “the tops in the nation” in both kickoff and punt returns.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Warren Norman may redshirt and Jordan Rodgers will continue to take snaps every week

Coach James Franklin was in a generous mood today and actually talked about plans to play certain players.

As for facing Bama, he said, “It’s a tremendous challenge and an even bigger opportunity.”

He said Logan Stewart had mononucleosis this summer and lost a bunch of weight and “is now back at the weight he needs to be to play in this league.” Expect to see Stewart back in the starting lineup, maybe as early as Saturday. Chase White has been starting since Jabo Burrow ended his playing career with concussion concerns.

Larry Smith is rested and ready to smart, he said, but Jordan Rodgers will continue to get some snaps. “Our plan is to play Jordan each week,” he said.

He said Norman’s role is “Emergency No. 3” and that the junior may redshirt. “There’s a possibility to redshirt him,” he said. “It’s the best option for everybody if he’s not ready and we don’t need him. But if we have an injury he’s ready to go and we’re gonna play him.”

He said he expects Cole to return this season. That could be another way to say that, regardless of Cole’s playing status, you’ll see him being honored on senior day and not returning for a fifth year. Just a hunch.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vandy freshman Mitchell Hester may play against Bama

Here are some observations from the new depth chart and game notes, released today:

• Freshman Mitchell Hester, who is yet to play this season, is listed at second-team punt returner.

• Junior Warren Norman, who’s been injured and has yet to play this season, is still listed along with freshman Jerron Seymour as the backup to Zac Stacy.

• Sophomore Logan Stewart, who’s returning from injury, is now listed as a co-starter at left guard along with redshirt freshman Chase White, who’s started the last two games there. It’s Stewart’s first appearance on the depth chart this season.
• Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are still listed as co-starters at X-receiver.
• Johnell Thomas is still listed as a starter at defensive end, despite seeing Walker May, who’s listed on second team, start in his place against South Carolina.
• Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan are still listed as co-starters at tight end. Barden missed the last two games with injury.
• Sophomore Andre Hal is now listed as a co-starter to Eric Samuels at kickoff returner.
• Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall are still listed as co-starters at free safety.

• Walk-on junior Jameson Sackey is listed on the depth chart for the first time in his career, at wide receiver, in place of redshirt junior Akeem Dunham.
• With the season-ending injury to starting outside linebacker Tristan Strong, redshirt junior Archibald Barnes is now the starter, and redshirt junior Al Owens is listed as the backup at both outside slots.
• Sophomore safety Andre Simmons has dropped off the depth chart for the first time this season.


• QB Larry Smith, RSr
• RB Zac Stacy, Jr
• C Wesley Johnson, RSo
• OG Mylon Brown, RSo
• OT Kyle Fischer, RSr
• OT Ryan Seymour, RJr

• DT Rob Lohr, RJr
• DT Colt Nichter, RJr
• DE Tim Fugger, RSr
• LB Chris Marve, RSr
• LB Chase Garnham, So
• LB Tristan Strong, RJr (season-ending injury against South Carolina)
• CB Casey Hayward, Sr
• CB Trey Wilson, Jr
• SS Sean Richardson, Sr

Sunday, October 2, 2011

ESPN boots Vandy-Bama to the U — I don't blame them

ESPN was waiting to see the results of Saturday’s games before announcing its prime time lineup for Oct. 8.

It was going to match its three 6 p.m. CST games – on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU – with the following offerings:

• Auburn at Arkansas
• Georgia at Tennessee
• Vanderbilt at Alabama

Well, the results are in. Auburn upset South Carolina and Arkansas outgunned Texas A&M, so those teams get the top slot on ESPN.

Georgia whipped Mississippi State and Tennessee took care of Buffalo as expected. That should be a good matchup.

Meanwhile, Alabama got behind Florida early in a hostile environment but quickly recovered to systematically destroy the Gators.

Um, which game would you rather watch if you weren’t rooting for Bama or Vandy?

Right. Georgia-Tennessee is on ESPN2, while Bama-Vandy plays on the U.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Vandy kids, especially our young offensive linemen, respond to playing one of the best football teams in America in one of the most hostile – and exciting – sports venues around. For all those folks who want to see Jordan Rodgers play more than one series or to see Josh Grady burn his redshirt, well, this could be just the moment you've dreamed of.

It’ll be character-building to say the least.

Probably not terribly interesting for the rest of America, but pretty darn interesting to us Vandy fans. Right?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking stock in Vandy players: Who's up, who's down?

With our regular season a third of the way finished, here’s a look at the current stock of Vandy players. Who’s up and who’s down?

1. Javon Marshall, S, RSo.
2. Jerron Seymour, RB, Fr.
3. Mylon Brown, OG, RSo.
4. Chase Garnham, LB, So.
5. Thad McHaney, DE, RSo.
6. Trey Wilson, CB, Jr.
7. Andre Hal, CB, So.
8. Colt Nichter, DT, RJr.
9. Joe Townsend, OL, Fr.
10. Johnell Thomas, DE, RJr.

Honorable mention:
• Karl Butler, S, So.
• Rob Lohr, DT, RJr.
• Spencer Pulley, OL, Fr.
• Fitz Lassing, FB/TE, So.
• Chris Boyd, WR, RFr.
• Tim Fugger, DE, RSr.

1. Warren Norman (injury)
2. Eddie Foster, CB, Jr.
3. Logan Stewart, OL, So. (injury)
4. Jordan Matthews, WR, So.
5. T.J. Greenstone, DT, RSr.

Honorable mention:
• Udom Umoh, WR, RSr.
• Brandon Barden, TE, RSr. (injury)
• John Cole, WR, RJr. (injury)
• Caleb Welchans, OL, RJr.