Andrew Jelks missed last season with an injury and the offense missed him very much. There was excitement in Andy Ludwig's voice when he discussed the return of Jelks for the 2016 season. However, Jelks, who earned All-America and All-SEC freshman honors in 2013, will not play this season. That's a big loss for the team but as always is the case with injuries, it does open the door for another player to gain playing time and experience and that should pay off down the road. Jelks will serve as a mentor and supporter to his teammates. His future with Vandy after 2016 is uncertain.
Barrett Gouger was a mainstay on the offensive line last season with 10 starts. He has 11 career starts, mostly at guard and center, and has appeared in 35 contests during his Vandy tenure. He's gotten a lot of work at center in fall camp and appears to be the front-runner at that position.
Will Holden has the most experience of any Commodore offensive linemen who will play in 2016. With 33 career starts, mostly at offensive tackle, he'll be a leader for the line. At 6-foot-7, 313 pounds, he has the size and frame to provide protection for the quarterback's blind side. Holden, who has 59 career pancake blocks, will likely be one of the starting tackles but with a new offensive line coach, you never know for sure.
Delando Crooks was injured much of last season and saw action in just five games, with one start. He's got the quickness and size to play tackle if he can stay healthy, and could be a starter. Offered by such schools as Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech-- Crooks was rated the 28th best offensive tackle prospect nationally for the 2013 class.
Egidio DellaRipa transferred to Vanderbilt after a freshman season at College of the Canyons Junior College in California. Last season was his first at Vandy and he didn't see game action. At Canyons College DellaRipa earned Earned All-Southern
California Football Association Northern League.
Bruno Reagan has been a pleasant surprise for Vandy. He was a very late commit/signee in Derek Mason's first recruiting class, switching a commit to South Florida to Vanderbilt at the last minute. A state wrestling champion in high school with a 57-0 record, Reagan has used his knowledge of leverage gained by wrestling to get an edge as a lineman. After not seeing action his first two seasons, Reagan saw action in 10 games last season and started the Texas A&M and Tennessee contests. He is a good candidate to start at guard this season.
Bailey Granier was one of those commits to James Franklin back in 2013 who stuck with his commit to Vanderbilt after Franklin went to Penn State. Granier, like Reagan, didn't see action in his first couple of seasons at VU. That changed 2015 when Granier netted four starts and also saw action two other games. A huge player at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Granier had a long list of power conference offers in high school including Florida State, Alabama, Arizona and Mississippi State. He has a good shot at winning one of the starting tackle spots and, if not, should see extensive playing time.
Cole Hardin is a guard/center lineman who has seen action in one game since coming to Vandy. He played backup at center last season and might be an option there to replace Spencer Pulley or be a backup. More than likely he'll end up at guard since the center position appears to be a battle between Barrett Gouger and Ean Pfeifer.
Justin Skule hit the ground running as a freshman last season seeing action in seven games and even starting against Austin Peay and Ole Miss. He was hurt at Houston though and missed several games late in the season. He's a tough, hard-nosed player who could be the replacement for Jelks at tackle. Listening to him speak, he comes off as a kid who has leadership potential which the line has been missing since the departure of Wesley Johnson.
Ean Pfeifer is in a heated battle with veteran Barrett Gouger for the starting center position. If this battle is a draw, look for Pfeifer to start since that will provide a long time solution at center. Pfeifer, who earned All-State honors in high school, did not see action during his freshman season.
Jared Southers is another second-year Commodore offensive lineman. Last year he was redshirted but look for him to get some playing time this season, likely at tackle where he has been getting some first-team reps in the preseason. Southers wasn't heavily recruited in high school. Rutgers, UConn and Temple were his top offers other than Vandy. However, he has the toughness and athleticism to play in the SEC and could be a player at one of the tackle positions.
Sean Auwae-McMoore was one of Vanderbilt's top signees back in February. He was originally committed to UCLA but flipped to Vandy. Auwae received rave reviews during Semper Fi Bowl workouts back in December. Watching his film, he has really quick footwork for a guy that is 308 pounds. He will probably play guard this season unless there is a complete breakdown at center.
Braden Kopp was an under-the-radar 2016 prospect because he was focused on basketball and played football only late in his high school career. Interest in him grew late in the recruiting year with offers coming from Army, ULL, Tulane before Vandy offered. Florida even expressed interest in him late in the recruiting year. Kopp has the frame and size to be a good lineman. He'll likely take this season to learn more about playing the line and get stronger. He does have the demeanor to be a good lineman with the crazy haircut he exhibited during practice. He's a pretty lean guy with good footwork and projects as a tackle.
Devin Cochran was a heavily recruited lineman out of Atlanta. He had offers from Miami (Fla.), South Carolina, Tennessee, and in-state Georgia in addition to Vandy. He's a very tall and lean player who has the length and footwork to play well on the offensive line. He could easily add another 15 or 20 pounds of muscle. He's also a very well spoken young man, like Skule, and may eventually develop into a leader on the line. Cochran could see action as a freshman, likely at tackle.
David Floyd is an invited walk-on from David Lipscomb high school. Floyd, who had interest from MTSU and Western Kentucky in addition to Vandy, earned All-Region 6-4A honors following his senior season at Lipscomb. He has the size to help provide good depth for the Commodores on the offensive line.
Zach Aguirre is another walk-on lineman. He played high school ball with Mater Dei in Southern California. Aguirre may be the shortest player on the offensive line, daily going against players much larger than him, but he has a big heart and loves being part of the Commodore team. With his size, he could eventually be looked at for the center position.
Overall, I think the offensive line should be better this season, even with the loss of Jelks. Ranking the tackles, I would go with Holden, Skule, Crooks, Granier. For guards, it would be Reagan, Hardin, Southers. Center: Gouger, Pfeifer, Sean Auwae-McMoore. Of course, there could be a lot of flip-flopping on the line between now and South Carolina. Injuries on the line often lead to that kind of thing. First-year Vandy offensive line coach Cameron Norcross could also see things differently than his predecessor; hopefully he will. Auwae-McMoore and Cochran are freshmen that could work their way onto the field in 2016.