Vanderbilt Position Preview: LINEBACKERS

Vanderbilt's linebacker position, along with the offensive line, was considered an area of concern for head coach James Franklin after spring drills. While the Commodores have some fine players returning, the unit has fewer playmakers than in the past. VandyMania.com will now preview the Vandy linebacker position.

Vanderbilt was once considered a linebacker factory in producing NFL players like Jamie Duncan, Jamie Winborn, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Jonathan Goff. However, things have changed and it could get worse before it gets better. The Commodores lost veteran John Stokes and the reliable Nathan Campbell after the 2010 season to graduation.

Vandy also lost linebacker coach Warren Belin in February of 2010 to Georgia. Belin, who must have seen rough waters ahead, was an outstanding coach and recently was hired away from UGA by the Carolina Panthers. Former defensive coordinator and now Furman head coach Bruce Fowler took over as skipper of the linebackers in Belin's absence and had only mediocre results.

Vanderbilt welcomes Brent Pry as the new co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. Pry has extensive experience coaching defense and linebackers in particular. He coached Louisiana-Lafayette's linebackers for five years before being promoted to assistant head coach. He has also coached defensive lines at Memphis, Western Carolina and Virginia Tech. Most recently he was defensive coordinator of a Georgia Southern unit that ranked No. 9 nationally in total defense.

Here's a look at VandyMania.com's projected linebacker lineup. Remember, Vanderbilt did not release a depth chart after the spring and the linebacker position is one of the more uncertain positions on the Vandy team. Other than middle linebacker things are pretty much a roll of the dice as to how things will end up.

LINEBACKERS

Starters:

OLB #36 Chase Garnham (6-2, 220 So.)
MLB #13 Chris Marve (6-0, 238 RS-Sr.)
OLB #15 Archibald Barnes (6-4, 225 RS-Jr.)

Backups:

#34 Andrew East (6-1, 225 RS-Fr.)
#29 Tristan Strong (6-1, 228 RS-Jr.)
#47 DeAndre Jones (6-0, 235 RS-Jr.)

Players to watch:

#37 Al Owens (6-2, 215 RS-Jr.)
#26 Blake Gowder (6-2, 225 RS-Fr.)
#16 Bobby Jewell (6-0, 225 RS-Jr.)
#41 Patrick Sutton (6-0, 210 RS-Fr.)
Jimmy Stewart (6-3, 210 Fr.)
Darien Bryant (6-4, 210 Fr.)


Chris Marve is an example of the kind of player that made the Johnson/Caldwell staff somewhat successful. Other than VU, Marve had no SEC offers and few offers at all but he has done nothing but produce at Vanderbilt. He started as a redshirt freshman and made one of the key plays that vaulted Vandy to its first bowl win in 50 years. During the 23-17 win at Ole Miss a Rebel player was about to cross the goal line to score what would have been a likely winning touchdown. However, Marve made a game saving forced fumble which the Commodores recovered. Snubbed by other SEC programs, Marve has earned SEC honors every season he has played at Vanderbilt. He started 11 games in 2010, missing only Eastern Michigan game due to an injury. Marve finished 2010 with 80 tackles including eight for losses. He has an incredible 306 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 6 1/2 sacks during his Commodore career. Marve is the only for sure starter of the Commodore linebackers; he'll start for certain at middle linebacker.



Archibald Barnes (photo at right by Stan Jones) is an athletic player who has been mostly a backup in the past but could move into the starting lineup in 2011. In 2010 Barnes saw action in all 12 games and started the LSU game. His one career start makes him the only Commodore linebacker other than Chris Marve (36 starts) with any starting experience. Barnes seems more effective in passing situations because of his height and athleticism. Barnes, who played who played high school ball at Berkley Prep in Tampa, rushed for over 1,000 yards as a senior. During the Black & Gold game he had 4 tackles including one for a loss.

Chase Garnham (photo at left by Stan Jones) saw action in all 12 games last season as a true freshman. Garnham is a physical player who runs downhill to the football. He played his high school ball at Fairhope High School in Alabama where he had 135 tackles and six sacks as as senior. Garnham continued to impress during the Black & Gold game coming up with eight tackles including six solos, two tackles for losses and a sack. Look for Garnham to see more action in 2011 and maybe even start.

DeAndre Jones (photo at right by Stan Jones) is a player that has the potential to put together a fine season for the Commodores. He was slowed with an injury early in the 2010 season but came on strong later in the season and had five tackles against Florida. Jones has seen action in 19 games during his career. Look for him to serve as Marve's backup in 2011. Jones, who played his prep ball at Memphis University School, has 17 tackles including two for losses, during his Commodore career. Jones was fairly heavily recruited in high school and picked Vandy over the likes of Michigan State, Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Stanford. During the Black & Gold game he had two tackles and a sack.

Injured for much of the 2009 season, Tristan Strong (photo at left by Stan Jones) saw action in 12 games during the 2010 season, tallying six tackles. With good speed and size, he's a decent candidate to see increased playing time or possibly start in 2011. As a senior at Grayson High School in Georgia, Strong was selected to the 5A first team All-State team. Strong, like Jones, had options coming out of high school. He picked Vanderbilt over an offer from Auburn. During the Black & Gold game he had five tackles including four solos.

Blake Gowder was redshirted during the 2010 season. Gowder, who played wide receiver in high school, has put on about 25 pounds of weight since coming to Nashville. Gowder caught a combined 225 passes during his prep career at Union County High School in Georgia. Gowder, who is still learning the linebacker position, had a tackle for loss and forced a fumble during the spring game.

Andrew East was the final signee of the 2010 recruiting class. East, who also serves as a long snapper, has a great frame and is a tenacious tackler. He played well in the spring game, picking up four tackles, a sack and another tackle for loss. Redshirted during the 2010 season, East played his prep ball at North Central High School in Indianapolis earning All-MIC honors while playing defensive end.

Al Owens (photo at right by Stan Jones) was considered one of the top safety prospects in Texas when he signed with Vanderbilt back in 2008. He turned down Missouri, Purdue and Colorado in order to play for Vandy. Owens saw action in one game last year and has played in 13 games during his career. He was moved to linebacker in the spring in order to shore up that position. Owens had four tackles during the Black & Gold scrimmage and could see playing time in the fall if he picks things up quickly.

True freshmen Jimmy Stewart and Darien Bryant could also get a look at linebacker. Walk-ons Bobby Jewell and Patrick Sutton will help provide depth.

Other Vanderbilt Position Previews

Defensive Ends
Defensive Tackles
Tight Ends
Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Running Back
Offensive Line
Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties


Discuss Vanderbilt football in the VandyMania.com FOOTBALL FORUM.

VandyMania.com Top Stories