2010 Vanderbilt Preview: Secondary

As the start of the Vanderbilt football practice approaches and the Robbie Caldwell era begins, VandyMania.com will do a positional preview each day until the start of fall practice. Coming off a disappointing 2-10 record in 2009, one of the bright spots of the 2010 squad will be the defensive secondary.

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With the departure of long time starters Myron Lewis and Ryan Hamilton to the NFL, there remains a strong group of defensive backs to compete for the Commodores this fall. The defensive backfield, while under the guidance of assistant coach Jamie Bryant, has been one of the strongest areas of play for the Commodores over the last four years. We fully expect for that trend to continue in 2010.

The secondary will be led by three returning starters consisting of cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Sean Richardson and nickel back Eddie Foster. While this threesome is expected to be big contributors this fall, there are plenty of other talented players on the squad who will push for playing time.

SAFETY

Last season Sean Richardson (photo at right) emerged into one of the SEC's toughest safeties with 84 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in just ten starts. His team leadership became evident after the loss of Ryan Hamilton to a season ending injury, which thrust him into that role. His experience and understanding of the defensive system will be invaluable in assisting whoever ends up beside him at free safety this fall. Jay Fullam, Kenny Ladler, Al Owens and Micah Powell will all compete for playing time this fall at the safety position. With only Owens and Powell returning with playing experience the position is wide open.

Powell (photo at left) contributed last season as a back-up safety and on kick coverage where he had 12 total tackles, including eight unassisted stops. Owens played mainly on kick coverage teams last season where played in every game and totaled three tackles. While Powell might be the most experienced, he worked at linebacker during spring practice with the emergence of redshirt freshman Jay Fullam and freshman Kenny Ladler. Both players appear to have the tools to step into a starting role this fall. Expect a tough battle for playing time between these two for the other starting nod. Freshman Andre Simmons will look to make his presence known as well in hopes of pushing for playing time. Additionally, walk-ons Duane Vaughn and Elvio Tropeano will work at the position with the goal of contributing on the field this season.

CORNERBACK

Cornerback might be one of the deepest positions on the 2010 squad despite the loss of Myron Lewis. The position will be anchored by the threesome of Casey Hayward, Jamie Graham (photo at right) and Eddie Foster.

In Casey Hayward's first-year as a starter he set single-season career highs with 58 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 9 defended passes and had 2 picks.

Jamie Graham (photo at right) has been one of the team's most dynamic players, contributing on offense, defense and special teams over the past two seasons. Graham only saw limited action last season at cornerback, but still contributed an impressive 27 tackles and 2 interceptions.

During Eddie Foster's (photo at left) first year as a nickel back as a true freshman he was quite exceptional. He played in every game last season including four starts and totaled 17 tackles (11 solo stops), 2 interceptions and a quarterback sack.

Along with the first three, expectations are very high for returnees Trey Wilson, Eric Samuels and Javon Marshall who are all expected to push for playing time this fall.

Wilson (photo at right) played in every game last season where he contributed in the secondary and on special teams finishing the season with 10 tackles.

Samuels (photo at left) contributed as well last season despite fighting through a couple of injuries. Along with the returnees, it is possible that newcomers Karl Butler, Steven Clarke and Andre Hal could push for playing time.

The overall depth in the secondary and the incoming young talent leaves the Commodores with high expectations for another good season from the defensive backfield. Coach Robbie Caldwell will be counting on these guys to help him to success in his first season at the helm.

STAN'S PROJECTED STARTERS

CB Casey Hayward
CB Jamie Graham
SS Sean Richardson
FS Jay Fullam

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