The defensive line historically has been a problem area for Vanderbilt when competing with the rest of the conference. However, solid coaching along with improved recruiting has helped to narrow the gap.
With the loss of Greg Billinger, Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone from last year's lineup there are some big shoes to fill. Despite these losses an experienced group of returnees including Adam Smotherman, T.J. Greenstone, Tim Fugger, Terriall Brannon and Theron Kadri all appear up to the task.
Despite their youth, this might be the deepest group of defensive ends the Commodores have ever had. Three ends return with starting experience. Teriall Brannon, Tim Fugger and Theron Kadri are all are expected to contribute heavily this fall.
Brannon (photo at right)played in every game last year and totaled 12 tackles and 4 solo tackles. He possesses both the speed and size for the position.
Redshirt junior Tim Fugger (photo at left) started in 8 games last season and accumulated a total of 21 tackles, 11 solo stops, 2 for a loss and a fumble recovery. He has excellent speed and is expected to be one of the cornerstones of the defense.
Senior Theron Kadri (photo at right) is also expected to be a major contributor this fall. He left the team during the middle of last season and missed two games but returned after the Georgia loss and still totaled 24 tackles, 14 solo stops and 4 quarterback sacks.
Along with the three mentioned above, redshirt freshmen Walker May, Thad McHaney and redshirt sophomore Johnell Thomas are also expected to compete for significant playing time.
The interior of the defensive line has always been an area where Vanderbilt has found it difficult to find enough SEC caliber players to sustain them through your typical meat grinder conference schedule, but 2010 appears to be another uptick for the Dores. Team Captains Adam Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone return to anchor the line along with an excellent group of young talent.
Smotherman (photo at left) has been working extremely hard in the off season to recover from a knee injury he sustained during spring drills. He is expected an early season return to action. He started all 12 games last season where he totaled 31 tackles, 18 solo stops and 3 for a loss.
Greenstone, (photo at right) a redshirt junior who might be the hardest worker on the team, returns after playing in every game last season. He always works very hard in the weight room which helped finish last season with 38 tackles, 19 solo stops, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. This tandem experience and leadership should set the tone for the 2010 defensive squad.
Along with Smotherman and Greenstone, redshirt sophomores Josh Jelesky, Taylor Loftley, Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter return to compete for playing time this fall. Jelesky was moved from end during spring drills and showed potential. Loftley has worked hard in the off season and has added much needed weight that he needs to compete in the interior line. Rob Lohr returns and is expected to compete for the starting spot. He will be heavily counted on until Smotherman is able to return. He played significant minutes last year and totaled 14 tackles, 5 solo stops and including one for a loss. Nichter saw limited action last season but is expected to be a major contributor this fall.
Along with the returnees, freshmen James Kittredge, Vince Taylor and Kyle Woestmann are anxious to give it a go for the ‘Dores this fall.
While most experts may rate the overall talent of the Vanderbilt defensive line a little below that of other SEC teams, I believe that it will be one of the team's strengths this season because the quality of the coaching along with the caliber of players that comprise it.
STAN'S PROJECTED STARTERS
DT T.J. Greenstone
DT Adam Smotherman
DE Terriall Brannon
DE Tim Fugger