5 Commodores get Preseason All-SEC Honors

BIRMINGHAM-- Five Commodores – junior wide receiver Earl Bennett, senior offensive tackles Chris Williams and Brian Stamper, senior linebacker Jonathan Goff and junior quarterback Chris Nickson – were named to the Southeastern Conference football coaches' Preseason All-SEC Team Thursday.

Bennett, Williams and Goff – were named first team All-SEC by the coaches. Stamper was selected second team all-league for the second consecutive year. Nickson earned third team All-SEC by the coaches.

The Commodores are expected to open preseason camp on August 6, pointing toward the 2007 season opener against Richmond on Sept. 1. The Richmond game, featuring a kickoff at 6:00 p.m., is the first of four straight to be played in Vanderbilt Stadium.

Commodore Head Coach Bobby Johnson said the five Commodores were very deserving all-conference recipients on a team that has several other would-be prospects.

"I'm very happy for all five of our guys. To be considered among the best at your position by the coaches, especially in a league as strong as the SEC, is quite an honor," Johnson said. "Vanderbilt fans can take a great deal of pride in the accomplishments and character of these young men."

"While I'm happy for the guys that were selected, I believe there's a number of other players on this team that deserve this consideration. t's a conference full of tremendous players, but guys like Theo (Horrocks), Curtis (Gatewood) and Reshard (Langford) are very productive. We also should have other guys who will deserve consideration if we are successful this fall," Johnson said.

The SEC coaches' fourth preseason squad was announced one week before league officials conduct stage the well-attended SEC Media Days in Birmingham. Johnson, Bennett and Goff will represent Vanderbilt at Media Days activities next Thursday. More than 650 media representatives are expected to attend.

Bennett, named to numerous preseason All-America teams and virtually every All-SEC squad, enters his junior season within reach of several league career receiving marks. He needs 48 receptions to surpass the all-time conference mark and less than 1,100 yards to become the career leader in receiving yardage.

Bennett was one of 14 SEC offensive players recently named to the Maxwell watchlist. He also has been named to the Biletnikoff Award watchlist for the nation's top receiver. In 2006, Bennett became Vanderbilt's first All-America in seven years after catching 82 passes for 1,146 yards and six touchdowns. The receptions total topped the SEC and ranked among the top 10 nationally, and allowed Bennett to become the first receiver in conference history to amass at least 75 receptions in each of his first two seasons. He set a SEC freshman mark in 2005 with 79 receptions.

In recent weeks, Goff has been named to watchlists for the Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik awards, given annually to top defensive players in the nation. The three-year starter and second-year captain is listed among the nation's top senior inside linebackers. Last year, Goff ranked among SEC leaders in several defensive categories, concluding the campaign with a second team All-SEC selection by the coaches. He enters the season ranked third among active SEC defenders with 141 career total tackles and has started 28 consecutive games, the most of any current Commodore.

Recently named to the Outland Trophy watchlist, Williams is the third Commodore named to the coaches' first unit. An agile 6-6, 320-pounder, Williams started every game as a junior at left tackle after playing guard and tackle in previous years. The coaches recognized Williams' play as a junior with second team All-SEC accolades after he refused to allow a quarterback sack in the final 10 games of the 2006 season. He also will serve as a Commodore co-captain this season.

A three-year starter, Stamper returns for his final year with plenty to prove. An All-SEC performer in 2005, Stamper missed much of the 2006 season with a back injury that eventually required corrective surgery. Prior to the injury, he was regarded as one of the SEC's most versatile offensive lineman. Stamper, a captain in 2006, has formerly been named to prestigious preseason watchlists, including for Outland Trophy consideration.

Nickson, a former Alabama Prep Player of the Year, stepped into the limelight last year, replacing former SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jay Cutler at quarterback. The junior put together one of the finest seasons ever by Commodore signal caller, using his dual ability to amass more than 2,700 yards of total offense. He topped SEC quarterbacks and the Commodores with 694 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and threw for 2,085 yards and 15 touchdowns.

After the opener against Richmond, the Commodores start their SEC schedule by hosting Alabama and Ole Miss on Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, respectively. After a week off, Vanderbilt hosts Eastern Michigan on Sep. 29 before making its first road trip of the year to Auburn on Oct. 6.

Vanderbilt will host eight games on campus this year for the first time in more than a century. Season ticket plans for the Commodores' home schedule, the least expensive in the SEC, start at $99, and are available online at www.vucommodores.com, via the phone at (877) 44-VANDY and at the athletic box office on-campus in McGugin Center.

In the second half of the upcoming season, Vanderbilt also hosts Georgia on Oct. 13, Miami (Ohio) on Oct. 27, Kentucky on Nov. 10, and Wake Forest in the finale on Nov. 24.

The team's official fan day activity, Dore Jam, is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 12, starting at 4 p.m., at the squad's practice facilities.

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