On an Island: Vandy Secondary 2014

The area of the 2014 Vanderbilt Football team that has to develop the fastest for head coach Derek Mason will be in the defensive secondary. While there are no returning starters from last year’s team, the DB’s may be one of the deepest talent pools on this year’s squad. Mason’s defensive schemes will be implemented by defensive coordinator David Kotulski and defensive back coach Brett Maxie.

Kotulski joins the staff from Stanford where he and Mason have worked together very closely while building the stellar defense for the Cardinal. Maxie is very familiar to local football fans where he crosses town from the Titans staff over to West End.

With the loss of strong safety Kenny Ladler and free safety Javon Marshall the shoes to fill appear to be set for returning junior Andrew Williamson (6’-1”, 208). Williamson was a strong contributor last season in relief compiling two interceptions as well as two fumble recoveries. His experience will prove to be crucial as he will be expected to be a major leader in the defensive backfield. While Williamson is expected to project as the starter at strong safety, the competition for the free safety slot is wide open.

Junior Jahmel McIntosh (6’-1”, 205) and red-shirt freshmen Oren Burks (6’-3”, 212) appear to be the leaders for the open slot at free safety with red shirt freshmen Jalen Banks (5’-11”, 190) and Ryan White (5’-9”, 188) pushing for playing time as well. All four are highly touted players from high school that showed promise during the spring. While actual game experience is only garnered by McIntosh, the rest of the group have the talents to be strong performers for the Commodores. Along with the returners from last year’s squad the new staff brought in three strong freshmen. Hoping to make their presence known early in Emmanuel Smith (6’-2”, 205), Khari Blasingame (6’-1”, 205) and Tre Tarpley (6’-0”, 195). All three possess the talent to contribute this fall.

New defensive back coach Brett Maxie will also have a full plate replacing the two cornerback slots left vacant, but has three sophomores in the fold with experience to start with in Paris Head (6’-0”, 185), Toren McGaster (6’0”, 190) and speedster Darrius Sims (5’-9”, 182). All three contributed last season and appear poised to take over at cornerback. Along with the sophomores, a tandem of talented red shirt freshmen in Tre Bell (5’-11”, 172) and Taurean Ferguson (5’-9, 185) looked sharp during the spring and hope to work into the rotation at cornerback. The staff will also have three highly touted freshmen to evaluate early as well in Tre Herndon (6’-1”, 172), Bryce Lewis (6’-0”, 175) and Ladarius Wiley (6’-1”, 192). The freshmen may lack the experience of playing experience entering the fall, but all three possess the size and talents to work into playing time this fall.

While the level of starting experience in then defensive backfield might be lacking entering the new season, there is plenty of talent for the new staff to choose from when implementing the new defensive schemes this fall. The staff will have to hope the group gels very quickly in developing a chemistry for working together, but the apparent talent should leave the Dores with not near as much of a drop off in performance than most experts are projecting with such a talented young group to work with. Hard hitting and close coverage should be a common result with this group of young defensive backs.


Redshirt freshman Taurean Ferguson is one of several young Commodores vying for playing time in the Vandy secondary.

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