Interview: Coach Robbie Caldwell

Vanderbilt's 2006 offensive line is poised to be one of the best in modern Commodore football history. A key component of that line will be a group of talented redshirt freshmen. VandyMania spoke with offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell and got an update on each of these lineman.

General comments:

"I try to teach every young man here two positions. One reason is to help them get on the field quicker. The second reason is it helps them learn the system better. Knowing what everybody does or having a general idea at least you can usually think about what that other person does and it helps you know what you do. Also the fact that we've had so few numbers here. We've had a couple of guys that we've taken in the offensive line slots that were athletes that we had to play at tight end they've done well there and are staying there right now. So our numbers are slowly building up. This was the first spring we had 10 people for most of the way. We ended up the last half with nine but that is still more than we've had. We've got a couple of injured guys and if they return healthy, even though are upper guys are all juniors, we've got two seniors and all juniors; some of them true juniors and some of them redshirt juniors and then behind them we have all redshirt freshmen. This is the first time we've been able to redshirt everybody; we haven't had to play a freshman. That just put them further ahead. I had more fun this spring than I've had in quite a while because the older guys knew what to do as a matter of continuing to polish and improve techniques and the younger guys got to watch them before they go and it helped me in the teaching process. You know, that's the way it's supposed to be. We are slowly getting there and that's the fun part of it."

Bradley Vierling (6-3, 285):

"He's one of those that comes to practice just like he comes to play on Saturday. He's got a smile on his face, he's excited and he's ready to go; particularly when it's live. He works every drill hard, goes hard, he's gotten stronger. He had a little bit of pulled muscle in his back and slowed him up a little in his lower body but Coach Sisk has done a great job with him there in working around that and keeping his strength and developing his flexibility. He's one of those that you love to see come around every day; always got a smile on his face. Never says a word, never complains, just "yes sir," whatever you want."

"He is one of those guys that will fight a chain-saw and it running. He's just a tough, tough, guy who loves to play; the rougher it gets the better he likes it. That's the thing I've been most impressed with. He's learned the techniques; he's really gotten better in that regard. Of course, I told him going into the spring that I was going to be very hard on him, pushing him and putting a lot of pressure on him because he's got to play next year."

Ryan Custer (6-4, 295):

"Ryan Custer did a great job. He's playing guard. The light really came on with him and it's a little unfair when I say that. He never played offense until a little bit his senior year. He was primarily a defensive lineman. The fall here was his first time doing it and it was culture shock for him. Quite a bit of difference, a lot more learning, a lot more positioning and technique than he was used to. It was a little discouraging for him but it came into play this spring. He did real well. He really, really understood better what we are trying to do and he just became a good, solid backup for us in there who with a little more time will be nipping at somebody's heals for a job. He's about 290 pounds and runs well."

Eric Hensley (6-7, 290):

"Eric Hensley is a guy who really improved. He didn't have a really good background coming out of high school because he had different coaches. He finally got a guy settled in there. He's always been the biggest kid on the block and he's pretty athletic; never really been pushed. It's quite a task for him now that people are better than he. So he had to turn his game up and he's learning. His concepts about football were way behind but they are slowly coming along but he has the size and ability to really be a good player. He did a good job this spring improving."

Ryan Vance (6-3, 280):

"Ryan Vance is another young man who played primarily at guard. He's going to end up being a center for us. He has good feet and good balance and he's just undersized right now. He's got to get in the weight room and work hard. He benches more than he squats and that's not good. That's got to reverse. He is athletic and he is a tough young man. Right now he's having a hard time turning loose because he is just behind knowledge wise. But he will be a player for us eventually with hard work. He's doing really good in school and I'm very proud of that."

Drew Gardner (6-5, 305):

"Drew Gardner was making good progress but he missed most of the spring because of an illness."

Which of the group is most likely to see action?

"Custer, Vierling and Hensley would be the ones that right now you'd anticipate seeing the field first."


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