Where are they now: Signing class of 2001

The members of Vanderbilt's football signing class of 2001 are preparing for their fourth year on campus. In retrospect, the class shapes up as one of the school's best recruiting classes ever, and should go a long way in determining how successful the 2004 Commodores can be. Here's a retrospective look at the class, including those who left and those who have stayed.


Interesting notes on Vanderbilt's recruiting class of 2001:

- Only 3 of the 26 signees ended up playing as true freshmen: Eric Byrum, Brandon Smith and Jason Mathenia. Vanderbilt (2-9) could have used some extra help in 2001, but head coach Woody Widenhofer preserved the redshirt status of all but those three. (Dominique Morris played in two games, but wound up with a medical redshirt.)

- At least 10 members of the signing class project as starters for the team in 2004: Jay Cutler (quarterback), Matthew Tant (fullback), Dustin Dunning (tight end), Brandon Smith (receiver), Jovan Haye (defensive end), Ralph McKenzie (defensive tackle), Moses Osemwegie (linebacker), Otis Washington (linebacker), Dominique Morris (cornerback), and Kelechi Ohanaja (free safety). Another player who graduated high school in 2001, junior college transfer Bill Alford, is a likely starter at cornerback.

- Five of Vanderbilt's 26 signees were from Texas, more than any other state. Three years later, only one of the five Texans remains on the squad (Kelechi Ohanaja).

- Probably the two most highly touted members of the signing class of 2001 were fullback Matthew Tant and quarterback David Koral. By contrast Jay Cutler and Jovan Haye, today perhaps the most visible members of the class, were somewhere in the middle of the pack.


Note: Players no longer on the roster are listed in red.

Eric Byrum, LB, Grove City, Ohio

Played some as a true freshman on Woody Widenhofer's last team. His start vs. Georgia Tech in 2002 is the only start of his career. Will back up Herdley Harrison at strongside linebacker this season, but a number of talented newcomers may put a squeeze on his playing time.

Jason Caldwell, WR, Hoover, Ala.

Redshirted in 2001. One of the team's fastest receivers, Caldwell has seen little playing time to date, but injuries have been part of the reason. His career-long reception (23 yards) came last year vs. South Carolina.

Jay Cutler, QB, Santa Claus, Ind.

Redshirted in 2001. Won the quarterback spot in fall camp, 2002, and has started every game but one since then. 2004 will be his second straight year as a team captain. Widely considered to be the SEC's second-best returning quarterback, behind Georgia's David Greene.

Dustin Dunning, TE, Hoover, Ala.

Redshirted in 2001. Played in every game as special teams member and reserve tight end in 2002. Earned a starting job midway through the 2003 season, and finished the season as the team's top pass-catching tight end. Caught 6 passes in a road loss to South Carolina, one for a touchdown.

Lance Garner, K, Copperas Cove, Tex.

Redshirted in 2001, and left school after the coaching change. Currently he's on the roster at Sam Houston State, where he'll be a senior this fall.

Jovan Haye, DL, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Redshirted in 2001. Grabbed a starting position in 2002 and almost immediately seemed to develop into the team's best defensive lineman. 2004 will be his second straight year to serve as a team captain. Probably Vanderbilt's leading candidate for All-SEC honors.

Jerrin Holt, WR, Grand Prairie, Tex.

Did not play in the 2001 season at Vanderbilt. Transferred to Middle Tennessee State, where he should play this fall for the Blue Raiders as a junior. Was third on the team in receptions with 26 catches for 296 yards and two touchdowns in 2003.

Trey Holloway, DL, Edmond, Okla.

Redshirted in 2001. Saw limited action in 2002. Was a valuable member of the defensive tackle rotation in 2003, and earned three starts.

Tommy Johnstone, LB, Lubbock, Tex.

Left Vanderbilt after the first day of fall camp in 2001. Current whereabouts unknown.

Ryan King, OT, Cincinnati

Redshirted in 2001. Has seen only very limited action the last two years, but relieved injured Justin Geisinger in Vandy's home win over Kentucky.

Ben Koger, Safety, Brentwood, Tenn.

Entered school in spring semester of 2002, and redshirted in 2002. He is the only member of the signing class of 2001 who retains sophomore eligibility status. Played in every game in 2003 as a backup safety and special teams contributor.

David Koral, QB, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

This highly touted high school QB redshirted and played on the scout team in 2001, but was outshone by Cutler. Transferred after the coaching change to Santa Monica (Calif.) Junior College, where he has played the last two seasons. Signed to play with the UCLA Bruins starting this fall. Still has two eligibility years left.

Jason Mathenia, WR, Copperas Cove, Tex.

Had a fine true freshman season with Vanderbilt in 2001, with 22 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown. Transferred to Sam Houston State after the coaching change, where he had 51 receptions for 730 yards in 2003, but was subsequently dismissed from the team. Current whereabouts unknown.

Ralph McKenzie, DL, Southfield, Mich.

Redshirted in 2001. Has played regularly in the defensive tackle rotation, where tackles go in and play until they tire. Has started 11 of Vandy's last 24 games at tackle, and enters fall camp as one of the position's steadiest performers. Contributed a memorable sack of Georgia's David Greene for a safety in 2003.

Paul Meadows, LB, Birmingham, Ala.

Redshirted in 2001. Saw very limited action in 2002. Moved to fullback for the 2003 season, but saw only spot duty.

Marty Morgan, LB, Canton, Miss.

Redshirted in 2001. Played in 11 of 12 games as redshirt freshman in 2002, started seven games after injuries sidelined Moses Osemwegie, and ended season with 40 tackles and a sack. Was playing well as backup linebacker in 2003 before suffering a serious knee injury in the fourth game. Health of his knee will be a question mark in fall camp.

Dominique Morris, DB, Nashville

Played in two games as true freshman in 2001, but received medical redshirt. Won a starting cornerback position in 2002, but midseason injury kept him out of six games. Had a stellar 2003 season as starter at cornerback, with three interceptions and eight defensed passes.

Kelechi Ohanaja, DB, Arlington, Texas

Entered school in the spring semester of 2002. Played on a variety of special teams units in 2002. Won the starting free safety position in 2003 and started every game. Led the secondary in unassisted tackles (51), total tackles (99), tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (2.5). Enters fall camp firmly entrenched at free safety.

Moses Osemwegie, LB, Nashville

Redshirted in 2001. Managed to make two SEC All-Freshman teams in 2002 despite being hampered by a series of nagging injuries. Emerged in 2003 as one of the SEC's best outside linebackers, with a league-leading 126 total tackles. Should be a strong contender for first-team All-SEC honors in 2004.

Nigel Seaman, OL, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Redshirted in 2001. Has seen only mop-up duty the last two seasons as a reserve guard.

Brandon Smith, WR, New Orleans, La.

Earned playing time as a true freshman and caught three passes for 76 yards in his second college game. Blossomed into a dangerous threat as starting wide receiver in his junior season, pulling down 39 passes for 595 yards. With a good senior season he could get some looks from the NFL.

Ronnie Swoopes, DB, Athens, Ga.

Redshirted in 2001. Saw limited action in 2002, and played special teams and reserve safety in 2003. Enters the fall as the backup to Kelechi Ohanaja at free safety.

Matthew Tant, FB, Pegram, Tenn.

Redshirted in 2001. Has played in every game of his collegiate career thus far, and has 16 starts to his credit. Valuable as a fullback in the two-back or one-back set, and is dangerous as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Was fourth on the team in rushing, sixth in receiving, and third in scoring (5 touchdowns) in 2003. Has bench-pressed 500 pounds.

Cheron Thompson, DB, Atlanta

Redshirted in 2001. Has seen action in 22 of 24 games in 2002 and 2003, but has started only twice. A valuable contributor as a nickel-back in passing situations, and on multiple special teams. Knee injury hampered his effectiveness in 2003, and injuries kept him out of the 2004 spring game.

Otis Washington, LB, Saginaw, Mich.

Redshirted in 2001. Academically ineligible in 2002. Started 11 of 12 games at middle linebacker in 2003, and ended as the team's third leading tackler with 92 total tackles. One of the team's hardest hitters.

Keith Williams, WR Riverdale, Ga.

Redshirted in 2001, saw very little playing time in 2002 and 2003. Is not on the roster as fall practice opens.


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