Commodore Preseason Update

This is the time of year in which Vanderbilt fans are both excited about the approaching season but at the same time worried about certain areas of the team. Look inside to see our "worry rating" to see which areas of the team are good-to-go and which positions have fans (and coaches) up all night worrying.

Ratings: 1= Very worried ; 10= Absolutely no worries

Quarterbacks- The signal callers look improved compared to 2009. Larry Smith, who will very likely be the starter, has also shown some improvement but still appears frustrated at times when going against the tough VU defense. It will be interesting to see how he does with a full supporting cast (Warren Norman) against a real opponent who does not know VU's offense inside out. Jared Funk looks like the backup for sure after Jordan Rodgers fell behind after missing several practices with the sore shoulder and back spasms. Rodgers, as expected, struggled at times in Saturday night's scrimmage. Goro started out slow in the preseason but has played better recently and could challenge Rodgers for third string.

Rating: 6.5
Offensive Line- The Commodores lost 4-of-5 starters from the 2009 season. After Robbie Caldwell was promoted to the position of head coach he brought in Herb Hand to coach the O-line and lend a hand at getting the stagnant offense on track. Hand has done a super job with the young offensive line but like Paul Bryant used to say, "you can't judge a pack mule until you load him up." We'll find out soon how the new offensive line does against a real opponent. If they fail it won't be because they didn't get proper instruction. Veteran guard Kyle Fischer and center Joey Bailey will lead this line. Guard Jabo Burrow was moved to the offense in the spring. Tackles Wesley Johnson and Caleb Welchans will likely start. Look for sophomore Ryan Seymour to work his way into the playing rotation. Freshmen Logan Stewart, James Kittredge, Chase White and Grant Ramsay will be ready if needed.

Rating: 6.3
Tight end- Things were looking good with both Austin Monahan and Brandon Barden both coming back. However, with a season ending injury to Monahan and a minor injury to Barden, things aren't looking so rosy. The staff moved true freshman Fitz Lassing to the position and he has done well in practice. Redshirt freshman Mason Johnston also has good ability but neither Lassing nor Johnston is battle tested at the college level. Hopefully Barden will be fully healed soon. Barden was key factor in 2008 when the Commodores made it to their first bowl win in over 50 years.

Rating: 7
Running back- It all started back in February after the tragic murder of one of Vanderbilt's top signees, Rajaan Bennett. Despite the terrible loss, the Commodore still had two solid, speedy, running backs returning in Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. However, Stacy suffered knee strain over a week ago and is expected to be out 3-5 weeks which is a cause for concern. Vandy still has their top back, Norman, healthy. Kennard Reeves is battle tested and has played well at times in practice. While Reeves does not have the breakaway speed of Norman or Stacy he can run you over.

Rating: 7.7
Wide receiver- One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2010 season for Vanderbilt is the wide receiver position. Last year Vanderbilt was one of the worst nationally in passing yardage. John Cole is an exceptional receiver who makes his money with his cutting ability. Udom Umoh caught 20 or so passes last year but needs to improve his game for the Commodores to get more wins. The bright spot here is that Vanderbilt has four solid freshmen receivers who have lived up to their billing in preseason practice. Chris Boyd, Jordan Matthews, Jonathan Krause and Trent Pruitt are all as advertised. They are all solid receivers that will help Vanderbilt in 2010.

Rating: 7.3
Defensive line- The defensive line is in good hands with Rob Lohr and T.J. Greenstone on the inside. Both are strong, quick and aggressive players; when Adam Smotherman comes back they'll be even better. At the ends, Terriall Brannon, Tim Fugger and Theron Kadri are quick and athletic. Josh Jelesky has also played well in the preseason.

Rating: 8.1
Secondary- Yes, they need Jamie Graham back and there have been some minor injuries at this position but things are looking good. The rich get richer, so to speak; freshman Andre Hal, Kenny Ladler, Steven Clarke, and Karl Butler are much better than expected. All four are gritty, quick and hard-hitting players. Combine these new players with Casey Hayward, Javon Marshall, Sean Richardson, Jay Fullam, and Eric Samuels and you have the makings of a very solid unit. Furthermore, put this unit with the tough defensive line and you have the key ingredients needed for an outstanding passing defense. This unit has solid starters and is very deep

Rating: 9.3
Linebackers- Chris Marve and John Stokes both started in the Music City Bowl. It's looking like Archibald Barnes will be the third starter. He has played well in the preseason and has good size, speed, quickness and smarts. Tristian Strong looks like he'll backup Stokes. Although Vandy will have three quality starters, the one concern is depth. Nate Campbell helped to alleviate that concern when he returned to the team after sitting out 2009 but he has been hurt most of the preseason. DeAndre Jones, Dexter Daniels and Blake Southerland are players who will be counted on to provide depth. Southerland came up with a big interception in Saturday night's scrimmage and Jones has had a good preseason.

Rating: 8.6
Kicking- Ryan Fowler is back after finishing up the 2009 season strong. Fowler has been accurate during preseason drills and made 3-of-3 in Saturday scrimmage including one from 47 yards out. Freshman Carey Spear is not quite up to par place kicking but he is one mean kickoff man and has boomed multiple kickoffs into the end zone, something the Commodores need.

Rating: 8.7
Punting- Richard Kent has a great leg with good distance and hang time. One concern in Saturday's scrimmage was that he had some short punts of 30 yards followed by long punts of 50 yards (he'd punt two consecutive times during the scrimmage). He'll only get one chance during real games. Need the longer version there!

Rating: 7.7
Return game- Hard to tell since they don't really go live during returns to avoid injuries. They had a long return Saturday night by freshman Andre Hal for a touchdown. John Cole looks solid returning punts and kickoffs, but again, not live. Of course if Warren Norman returns kickoffs again, no worries there.

Rating: 7.5

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