Don Yates

Vanderbilt Roster Preview: Defensive Line

In this Vanderbilt defensive position preview, we'll look at the defensive line. With a new coach and three freshmen joining the defensive front, the Commodores are hoping to build on their success from a year ago by putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

With a total of 14 starts at defensive tackle and nine at defensive end, Adam Butler is one of the most experienced players on the entire defense.  His knowledge of Coach Mason's defensive scheme can be a huge asset for the rest of his teammates as he has the ability to move between end and tackle.  Entering his final season as a Commodore, Butler has racked up 78 tackles, including 20½ for a loss and 5½ sacks and will be a key contributor on the Vanderbilt defense.   From Duncanville, Texas, he chose the 'Dores over SMU, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Utah State.

Defensive tackle and defensive end Torey Agee joins Butler as one of two seniors with starting experience who can move between defensive tackle and end.  Though he has started in just two games throughout his career, Agee has shared time rotating on the defensive line in 27 contests with 25 tackles, including three for a loss and two sacks.  In 2015, Agee missed the season opener against Western Kentucky but then played in every contest and got his first start in the win over Kentucky.  Torey is the son of Tommie Agee, who won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and blocked for Bo Jackson and Emmitt Smith.

The redshirt junior from Jackson, Georgia had offers from Clemson, Louisville, Nebraska, Michigan State, USC, California, and nine SEC schools.  Jay Woods split reps with Nifae Lealao last season on the interior line posting 24 tackles, two forced fumbles and has 10 career starts in 24 collegiate contests.  It was reported by coach Mason that the 'Dores would be without Woods for at least the season opener against South Carolina while he recovers from a knee injury.

In 2014, after Nifae Lealao chose Vanderbilt over nearly every Pac-12 school, to help open the Commodore's "Polynesian Pipeline".  He was the only true freshman on the defensive line to see playing time, seeing action in nine games.  Lealao played in every game and started the final four contests last season.  The highlight of his sophomore year was probably blocking a field goal in the game against Ole Miss.  Nifae has been described as everybody's best friend and, like the basketball team's Josh Henderson, is jokingly referred to as “father”.

Josiah Sa'o is one of the friendliest, outgoing members of the 2016 recruiting class.  The Polynesian from San Diego picked the 'Dores over Arizona, Cal Poly, Ole Miss, UNLV, Army, and Navy.  The youngest player of the 2016 class, with his 18th birthday on Sept, 1.  He competed in both the Polynesian All-American Bowl and Spanos Classic All-Star Game after a high school senior season that saw him post 102 tackles, including 10 for a loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Sa'o has the size and ability to be able to contribute at the defensive tackle position.

With the loss of Jay Woods for at least the first game of the season, Darion DeBrossard could split time with Nifae Lealao at nose tackle in Vanderbilt's 3-4 defense.  In 2015 he arrived from Snellville, Georgia weighing 340 pounds and has since dropped to 290 based on the team roster.  After not playing organized football until his third year of high school, he picked Vanderbilt over 17 other schools including Louisville and San Diego State.  DeBrossard played at Shiloh High School, the same school as ex-Vanderbilt player and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly.

Cameron Tidd is one of three true freshmen on the defensive front and the only player on the football roster from Indiana.  He was a four-year starter at Center Grove High School, where as a senior he helped bring the team to a 14-0 record and the 6A state championship.  He blocked four field goals and tallied 19 tackles for a loss and eight sacks.  Cameron also won the state championship in track as a junior and senior in the discus throw.  Tidd is probably a defensive tackle and could contribute but using a year to build strength is more common on either side of the line for a true freshman.

Kade Mayle joined the team as a walk-on prospect and spent time on the scout team as a defensive lineman and a linebacker.  He was four years old when he started kindergarten, then skipped the second grade and could have skipped the fifth grade as well.  Mayle came to Vanderbilt from Malta, Ohio after starting high school at 12 years old, where he played all four seasons of football.    He holds the Morgan High School record in the shot put and discus and will be having his 18th birthday as a sophomore in college in the next week.

Drew Birchmeier is one of three true freshman defensive lineman and comes from Midlothian, Virginia.  After a 0-3 start in his senior season, he asked head coach Pete Mustascio if he could move from tight end to offensive tackle to help the team.  They went on to win eight games and reach the state quarterfinals.  He is definitely a team player and particularly athletic for a defensive lineman.  Birchmeier is also likely to redshirt in his first season on campus but may be able to contribute as a defensive end.  His father, Mark Birchmeier played on the offensive line for Michigan State in the early 90's.  Birchmeier picked the 'Dores over multiple schools including Virginia, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Harvard, and Temple.

Redshirt junior defensive end Jonathan Wynn chose the 'Dores over Clemson, South Carolina, and Wake Forest.  He moved from linebacker to defensive end a season ago and rotated most of the year with Caleb Azubike, earning four starts.  He ended the year with 21 tackles, including three for a loss and a sack.  Wynn is going to start games at defensive end for Vanderbilt and may help keep bodies fresh by rotating in other contests.  He is one of many Commodores to come from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Defensive end Dare Odeyingbo was the only true freshman on the defensive line to see the field in 2015.  He spent time on special teams and finished the season with two tackles, including a tackle for loss that came in the win over Austin Peay.  He played running back, defensive end and linebacker for Cistercian Prep near Irving, Texas where he racked up 5,456 rushing yards and 74 total touchdowns in his high school career.  Odeyingbo is likely going to share time at defensive end.  He picked the 'Dores over multiple schools including Baylor, Duke, Houston, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Indiana.

Coming from Billingsley, Alabama, defensive end Riley Tindol transferred and racked up 69 tackles, eight sacks and 16 tackles for a loss.  He helped Autauga Academy advance to the Alabama private school state quarterfinals.  At Vanderbilt, his weight has fluctuated from 275 as a true freshman, to 262 a season ago and he is now listed at 267 pounds.  Tindol didn't see any action last year and worked on the scout team as a defensive lineman.  He was injured early in preseason practice and his status is uncertain. He picked the 'Dores over offers from Miami and Samford.  Riley has the height and wingspan to play defensive tackle.

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