Talented WR's jostle for positions, playing time

There's a spirited battle raging in Vanderbilt's fall camp, as a mix of talented but inexperienced receivers compete with established starters Marlon White (pictured) and Erik Davis for playing time. Receivers coach Charlie Fisher, giddy over his corps' unprecedented depth, provides this scouting report on several of his young wideouts, and fills VandyMania readers in on who's winning the battle for the Nos. 3 and 4 receiver spots.

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VandyMania: Coach Fisher, I am super-impressed with this group of four true freshman wide receivers you have brought in. It looks as though every one of them might eventually contribute. Could you run down that list of four and tell me what stands out in your mind about each one of them?

Justin Wheeler
Assistant Coach Charlie Fisher: Well, right off the bat you've got Earl Bennett (5-11, 195), a highly recruited player, an outstanding prospect. He's doing a great job picking up the offense. Earl combines explosive speed with the fact that he's really strong. He's really physically developed for his age.

Alex Washington (5-10, 180) has great quickness, and plays a lot bigger than he is. He's been outstanding too, has got good, soft hands. Larry Simmons (5-10, 160) is the small one of the group-- we brought Larry here knowing that he was smaller, but with exceptional quickness. We knew we could build his strength and size up as he got older. His quickness has been exactly what we thought.

Justin Wheeler (6-2, 190), I mean, here's a guy who's played basketball most of his career. We saw enough of him on tape to make us think that he's going to be pretty good... and we didn't miss! He's got great hands, and a nice knack for playing receiver. He's only going to get better.

VM: So you would say so far they've all lived up to expectations?

Fisher: Oh, yeah. At this point. I mean, they're still young players, so you don't want to jump the gun and get ahead of this thing. But they are all showing me things in camp that make me think we were right about what we thought we were getting, and they're all going to be good.

VM: At what point do you make the decision that certain guys are going to play, and some of these others are going to redshirt?

Fisher: We're just now starting to sort that out. Again, you've got to remember that besides those four freshmen, we've got a lot of veteran leadership and experience. In terms of the guys who have been around the program, of course we know that Marlon White (6-4, 205) and Erik Davis (6-2, 192) are the two that have played the most. But we've got other guys besides them that have been around a while. George Smith (6-3, 195) is in his third year here. He's been around, so he knows what's going on. We've got great competition battling for Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6.

George Smith
VM: You mentioned George... would you say he's all the way back up to where he was when he got sick about 18 months ago?

Fisher: Oh yeah, absolutely. George is probably even further ahead of that. When he got sick, he was having an outstanding spring. But George has done a remarkable job working hard to get back. His strength is great, and I think he's even better now than he was then. I think everybody's excited about the chance to see George play, and he deserves it, as hard as he's worked.

VM: Jason Burns (6-0, 178), a walk-on, played a lot last year, and kept you from having to burn a redshirt for some of those true freshmen last year.

Fisher: Right. J.B. is one of those classy guys who gets the most out of what he's got. He's unselfish. He does what you ask him to do. A very smart player, and plays the game the way it ought to be played-- full-speed. He's an outstanding blocker too, a team guy.

VM: Sean Walker (5-11, 185) is a guy we haven't seen yet, but we hear he's got outstanding speed.

Fisher: Yep. Sean has been hampered a little bit here in preseason with his knee. He hurt his knee over the summer, but he can run, and he's also a young guy who's developing. So we feel really good about him too.

But Then you've got a guy like Chris Reinert (5-9, 180 walk-on, Santa Ana, Calif.) who's from a prep school, which is really like having an extra year of high school. Bryant Anderson (6-3, 202) has had just an outstanding camp this fall. He's come such a long way since spring ball. He's got great hands. So this is as deep a group as I've coached yet. The competition is there, and they know that. They all come out here ready to work every day. It's exciting.

Earl Bennett
VM: If you had to line up today and play three or four wide receivers, who would be that No. 3 and No. 4?

Fisher: Well, right now, as we're lining up... you'd have Marlon and Erik and George. All three would be in our first 11. After that, Earl Bennett has put the pressure on everyone. We're not going to be able to keep him off the field for very long, because he's so explosive, and he's just done a tremendous job of picking things up. And I feel comfortable with a bunch of other guys we've got. Between Jason Burns... Jason Caldwell (6-1, 200), who's now back from an injury... Bryant Anderson and some others... we've just got a lot of competition. It's kind of sorting its way out, but we've got two weeks of camp yet, so anything can happen. They all know that.

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Photos by Brent Wiseman and Whitney D., copyright 2005 for VandyMania.com.


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