Preview 2008: Vanderbilt Offensive Line

As part of's continuing preview of the 2008 Vanderbilt football team today we check out the offensive line. The Commodores open their 2008 season on August 28th when they visit Miami (Ohio).

Overview: Gone are five veteran offensive linemen. Luckily, there are an abundance of lettermen returning with game experience who will be drilled into perfection by offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. While putting together a solid starting unit shouldn't be too difficult, finding some capable backups will be more of a challenge.

Starters lost:


Brian Stamper
Chris Williams


Josh Eames
Merritt Kirchoffer


Hamilton Holliday

Returning starters:


Others to watch:


Richard Cagle, (6-4, 272, Fr.)- 3-star prospect needs to bulk up some before competing in the SEC.
Kyle Fischer (6-6, 305, R-Fr.)- Talented redshirt freshman who reminds some of Chris Williams. Listed as Thomas Welch's backup after spring drills. Could make a push for a starting position in the fall.
Eric Hensley (6-6, 310, R-Jr.)- Hensley was listed as the starting right tackle after spring drills. Saw action in four games last season.
Reilly Lauer (6-6, 275, R-So.)- Lauer is a hard worker who wants to get bigger. He has improved greatly during preseason drills and is making a case to be one of the starting tackles.
Thomas Welch (6-6, 300, R-Jr.)- Welch finished spring practice at the starting left tackle. Welch has added 65 pounds since coming to Vandy. He has gained extensive playing experience over the past two years.
Caleb Welchans (6-5, 265, Fr.)- Incoming freshman will likely redshirt.
James Williams (6-6, 305, R-Fr.)- Listed as Eric Hensley's backup at right tackle.


Rob Ashabranner (6-2, 275, R-Fr.)- Moved from the defensive line in the spring. Athletic player who played some quarterback in high school.
Michael Bryant (6-4, 294, Fr.)- Local star has good size and excellent speed.
Ryan Custer (6-4, 295, R-Jr.)- Custer won the starting left guard position in the spring. Played in nine games last season and started three games as a redshirt freshman in 2006.
Nick Forte (6-2, 290, R-Jr.)- Forte, a gifted walk-on, worked his way a second string left guard position in the spring
Drew Gardner (6-5, 305, R-Jr.)- Listed as the starting right guard after spring practice. Saw actin in nine games last sasno.
Ryan Vance (6-3, 285, R-So.)- Saw limited action last season. Listed as Drew Gardner's backup after spring drills.


Chris Aaron (6-3, 290, R-So.)- Walk on transfer from Lehigh who adds quality depth at center.
Joey Bailey (6-3, 275, R-So.)- Bailey is rapidly improving and growing. He has gained over 35 pounds since coming to Vandy. He saw limited action last season. If Vierling is moved to guard you'll likely see Bailey playing center.
Bradley Vierling (6-3, 292, R-Jr.)- Vierling is the heir to Hamilton Holliday at center. He is well known for his tenacity and never-quit attitude. Vierling has extensive playing experience and averaged about 30 plays a game last season. He played some at guard and could end up at that position.

Projected starters:


Thomas Welch (LT)
Reilly Lauer (RT)


Ryan Custer (LG)
Drew Gardner (RG)


Bradley Vierling

Biggest question for 2008: Can the new offensive line get the job done?

Vanderbilt offensive line power rating (1-10): 8.0

Bradley Vierling (VM/Stan Jones)

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