Vanderbilt Position Preview: TIGHT ENDS

While other positions in the Vanderbilt offense have struggled somewhat over the past few seasons, the Commodore tight ends have held their own. The top reason for that is that the Commodore coaches have been able to attract quality players to the position. Charles Bankins, who coached the tight ends at Maryland last year, takes over as tight ends coach for Vanderbilt.

Bankins has a bevy of talent to work with and if he can keep his players healthy his unit might help the team to achieve what few expect them to accomplish.



#6 Brandon Barden (6-5, 250 Sr.)


#86 Austin Monahan (6-6, 250 RS-Sr.)

Players to watch:

#85 Mason Johnston (6-4, 245 RS-So.)
#38 Fitz Lassing (6-3, 220 So.)
Steven Scheu (6-5, 235 Fr.)
Dillon van der Wal (6-7, 235 Fr.)

Brandon Barden is one of the best tight ends to ever wear the Black & Gold. All Barden has done since coming to Vanderbilt is deliver on the field, catching 91 passes for 1,001 yards and 8 touchdowns. The 2010 season was Barden's best as he snared 34 catches for 425 yards and 3 scores. However, probably Barden's most significant season at Vandy was his redshirt freshman season in 2008 when he replaced the injured Austin Monahan and proceeded to make 28 catches for four scores. Most of those touchdown catches were the difference between victory and defeat for Vandy. Scoring receptions against South Carolina, Kentucky and Auburn provided winning points for the Commodores. Yes, while several players made big plays to get Vanderbilt to its first bowl in 50 years, it is safe to say that without Barden Vanderbilt would still be suffering through that horrible string of bowl less years. The main gripe of coaches on Barden in the past has been his blocking. Barden more than makes up for that deficiency with his excellent ability to big catches. Barden originally signed with Virginia Tech but transferred to Vanderbilt after the tragic shootings there a few years ago.

Austin Monahan (photo at right by Stan Jones) is probably just as good of a tight end as Barden. He's the total package; he can block and make catches. His problem is that he's been riddled with injuries since coming to Vandy. Although Monahan was able to play in seven games in 2009 and caught 10 passes, he will likely be most remembered for his performance against South Carolina in 2007 as a true freshman. Monahan made a huge 5-yard catch to keep a drive going and Vanderbilt ultimately pulled off a stunning 17-6 upset over Steve Spurrier's No. 6 ranked Gamecocks.

Opportunity opened up for Mason Johnston (photo at left by Stan Jones) after Austin Monahan was injured during a preseason practice last year. Johnston made the most of his chance catching six passes for 56 yards and a score. He played in 10 games before being injured at Kentucky after making three catches against the Wildcats. Johnston, who played for the powerful Bolles School program in Jacksonville, made 24 catches as a senior and was named to the local paper's Super 24 squad.

Fitz Lassing (photo at right by Stan Jones) was another player who benefited from Monahan's injury last season. Lassing, who was likely looking at a redshirt year, was expected to play at running back but suddenly was switched to tight end after Monahan went down playing in 10 of 12 games. His only catch came against Wake Forest. Lassing starred at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy and earned All-State honors after rushing for 1,417 and compiling 221 receiving yards for 21 combined touchdowns. The Commodore staff may give him a look at fullback.

Steven Scheu (photo at left) finished prep career at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, Indiana with 93 receptions and 20 touchdowns. Scheu has great hands but will need to add some strength and will likely be looking at a redshirt year because of the current depth at the position.

One of Vanderbilt's most celebrated 2011 signees, Vandy fans were dancing in the streets when they heard James Franklin had convinced Dillon van der Wall to switch his commitment from Arizona State to Vandy. A Parade All-American, Dillon saw limited action as a tight end, catching only 6 passes. He really made his money at defensive end where he piled up an incredible 22 sacks.

Other Vanderbilt Position Previews

Defensive Ends
Defensive Tackles
Tight Ends
Wide Receivers
Running Back
Offensive Line

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