2001 Football Preview- Tight Ends

This is the third installment of a multi-part series analyzing every facet of the 2001 Vanderbilt Commodores. The series analyzes the personnel, coaching, and intangibles from each functional unit of the team, and will culminate in an overall analysis and prediction.

Tight Ends

No.NameHeightWeightClassHometown
45Dustin Dunning6-5210Fr.Hoover, AL
81Nick Getter6-4243R-So.Round Rock, TX
83Zeke Brandon6-2230So.Copperas Cove, TX
84Tom Simone6-5236R-Jr.Pittsburgh, PA
87Curtis Brancheau6-4234R-Fr.Greenville, TX
94Dan Murphy*6-3212 So.Shaker Heights, OH
* walk-on
The Breakdown

  • 5 scholarship players
  • 1 upperclassmen
  • 4 underclassmen
  • 2 have seen game action at this position
  • Average size is only 6-4 230
Analysis

The tight end is a definite weapon in Steve Crosby's offense, and we had a very effective one in 6-5 250 pound Elliot Carson over the past few years. Carson matured into an excellent pass catcher during his last three seasons, and was an underrated blocker during his senior campaign. When he was not catching passes, he was protecting Zolman or providing another receiver who the defense must respect. His backup, Tom Simone, returns after having a solid sophomore season. He is the team's fifth leading returning receiver, after nabbing 12 catches and a touchdown in backup duty. Simone, though not as large or physically gifted as Carson, can step in and be effective. The problems lie further down in the depth chart.

Beyond Simone there is a lack of experienced depth and simply depth. Getter has seen some mop-up duty, and is the largest of the TE's on the roster. But, he has yet to prove he can be relied upon. Brancheau has looked good catching the ball, but his size raises the question about his ability in pass protection. Brandon lacks your prototypical TE size and he may be best suited as a FB or HB. However, he is physical and a good blocker, which when combined with our depth problem will likely keep him at TE. Dunning will need to bulk up significantly, despite his accolades, and looks to be a redshirt.

Outlook

TE is definitely a weakness for this squad. Overall, we do not have the size or skill to which we have become accustomed. Simone has shown he can catch the ball in reserve work, but one has to wonder if, at his size, he can being a starter and recipient of significant playing time. Production from this position will almost certainly go down, but pass protection might from the TE might be an even larger concern. This is actually a critical year for blocking from the TE, as we will lost a starting OT, and we could have a serious weakness to the outside pass rush.

Overall

Analysis

The passing game will pace the offense. With the majority of production and experience returning from our 2000 passing game, the VU pass attack should finish solidly in the top half of the SEC. Of course, that depends heavily on getting solid protection from an offensive line, which lost a couple of quite valuable contributors in Brian Gruber and Mike Saltsman. The line also lost Elliott Carson, who drastically improved his blocking last fall over his first three seasons. Assuming there will be decent pass protection, we should see an increase in big play capability. This will be in part due to a more heavy reliance on WR's and the slot receiver, as there is expected weakness at TE and the H-back will be less a part of the playbook. Also, as we will primarily continue to run out of the single back set, the RB will continue to be only a small part of the passing mix (RB's only accounted for 26.2 ypg in 2000).

Predictions

  • Vanderbilt will open up the passing game even further working out of multiple spread sets
  • The touchdown to interception ratio will finish at +5
  • Stricker comes up just shy of a second 1,000 yard receiving season, and sees a slight drop in production
  • Anthony Jones receives for over 600 yards
  • VU's passing yards per game will be very close to 250
  • One of the incoming 5 freshmen will make an impact, with my guess being Holt

Comments on this column? Contact me at goldenhammer@vandynation.com


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