August 24, 2010

Updated Freshman Tracker

Vanderbilt signed the program's best recruiting class in decades this February, causing an unprecedented level of anticipation for their arrival to the Commodore campus.

Months after National Signing Day and the Commodores voluntary summer conditioning program, the newcomers have finally been able to start preseason practice and compete for playing time for the 2010 football season. has been following the progress of each true freshman during the first weeks of drills, and presents its first edition of the Preseason Freshman Tracker.

Note: This tracker is only based upon's observations and is not a direct analysis from the Vanderbilt coaching staff.

Chris Boyd- Receiver

The rundown: The tall, physical receivers has made a good impression during the Commodores first six practices. Boyd has displayed good speed for his size and sound body control. The former Roswell High standout has also shown reliable hands throughout most of the first week and an ability to separate from defensive backs. Vanderbilt has tried to use Boyd on some specific sideline routes but quarterbacks have not often gotten the ball to him in recent days. His strength and long body should make him a weapon in the red zone as well as on the perimeter. A few more good weeks could solidify a spot in the regular rotation.

Andrew Bridges- Offensive Tackle

The rundown: The tall but undersized tackle prospect showed flashes of his athletic ability during the Commodores first weekend of practices, but has missed the past several days due to mononucleosis. At just 250 pounds, Bridges would figure to be a prime candidate to redshirt this fall, but with the Commodores low numbers along the offensive line, there might be an outside chance that new line coach Herb Hand looks to the Atlanta native. Bridges has played mostly left tackle when he has practiced and showed good range and athletic feet. His frame is not small and his reach is long, he just needs to add more weight.

Karl Butler- Defensive Back

The rundown: The big corner prospect has actually spent most of his time at safety during the first week of practice. Physically impressive, Butler has made a number of impressive plays while trying to learn Defensive Coordinator Jamie Bryant's scheme and philosophy. Butler has knocked down a few passes and made accurate reads against the run. When the Commodores moved to shells and pads, Butler was one of the first to bring a pop or a thud. He may need to sharpen up his tackling if he's going to play safety but that should come with more full contact practices. Butler has also shown he can be a valuable teammate as he stuck up for a fellow defensive back recently during a on field scuffle. The Commodores appear to have good depth in the secondary this year, but Butler still may see action as a reserve safety and special teams player. He's also still versatile enough to play corner or nickel in certain packages.

Steven Clarke- Defensive Back

The rundown: Speedy corner has been impressive in the first week with his closing ability and physical style. Though Clarke was one of the last players to commit to VU in January, the south Florida prospect might be one of the better overall additions to the team. Clarke has been effective in one-on-one situations against some of Vanderbilt's quicker receivers and has shown the ability to bump others off their routes. Though he could still use some polish to his overall techniques, he's making believers out of most that he could play this year as a reserve corner or special teams player. Clarke is also a candidate in the return game and may see time in that role as well this year. Vanderbilt could probably redshirt the Jamaican born player due to the depth at his position, but he may be too good to keep off the field.

Andrew East- Linebacker/Snapper

The rundown: The late addition to the 2010 class made a positive first impression during the first couple of days with his physical appearance. East looks bigger and more filled out than initial expected and should be able to get even bigger with more time in the program. East also looked quicker than expected at linebacker. The Indiana native was also making a good impression as the team's second team long snapper. However, he suffered a leg injury at the end of Monday's practice and has sat out the last couple of practices. His current status is unspecified. If he is able to go by the start of the season, East may see time at long snapper, allowing Stokes to concentrate more of his time at linebacker.

Chase Garnham- Linebacker

The rundown: The fast linebacker prospect has seemed to improve with each practice. Garnham has shown his speed during a few sessions of 11-on-11 drills and when the 'Dores went to full contact on Tuesday, the Alabama native dashed past his blockers to help on a few tackles. Though he still needs to add a few more pounds on his frame, Garnham is already showing signs of a good tackler. He has also shown a adequate ability in coverage. His reaction skills and ability to read appear to be ahead of schedule. Vanderbilt needs more versatility and quickness in its linebacking corps, so if Garnham keeps improving, he may see the field in his first year. If not, a redshirt year to build more overall size could make him a effective starter in future years.

Blake Gowder- H Back

The rundown: The Georgia two-way athlete has participated in the Commodore offense as a H-back tight end so far this preseason. Standing at 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, Gowder brings good speed to the position and has shown a knack for catching passes out of the backfield or on flex routes. He brings a pair of reliable hands and good athleticism to the offense and seems to have a good grasp of Jimmy Kiser's playbook. Gowder isn't the biggest player in the tight end rotation, but he does possess a strong upper body and seems to be able to take a hit. He was signed by VU as a possible tight end or linebacker but it appears as though he's making a home on the offense right now. Vanderbilt has a trio of experienced tight ends, so Gowder might not need to play in 2010. Still, with the Commodores looking for more weapons, Gowder could be an option should he continue to develop in the coming weeks.

Andre Hal- Defensive Back

The rundown: Like Clarke, Hal has impressive during the early days of camp. The fleet-footed New Orleans area product has shown good speed and instincts while knocking down a few passes. Hal has also impressed with his physicality and hands. That said, the freshman is still trying to learn Bryant's system and preferred technique. He is also trying to improve as a tackler. Hal is versatile enough to play in the boundary or line up in man. He could also be an effective dime back. With five upperclassmen ahead of him, Vanderbilt could probably afford to redshirt Hal but there's a good chance that he plays in 2010. In addition to his play at corner, Hal could also contribute on special teams or as a returner. He could also be used for offensive plays within Vanderbilt's spread system as well.

James Kittredge- Offensive Guard

The rundown: Kittredge came to Vanderbilt in the summer with the thought he'd play on the defensive line, but numbers at offensive line caused the Commodore staff to approach him with the chance to play at guard. Now he may be one of the camps most impressive overall performers. The New Jersey native stands at 6-foot-4, 275-pounds and appears to be as strong as any player on the team. He has shown an ability to lock out a defender and react to both inside or outside techniques. A two-way player in high school, the former Under Armour All-American has skilled hands and technique. He also has shown the ability to shift his hips and maximize leverage. Kittredge has earned early praise from most who have been able to observe the practice and it appears as though he'll be a fixture in Vanderbilt's guard rotation this year. The Commodores have thin numbers on the line but it looks as though Kitt would likely play regardless.

Jonathan Krause- Receiver

The rundown: The quick Georgia receiver has surprised many this week. Despite being one of three three-star rated receivers signees in February, some felt that Krause had the most to grow due to his overall size. However, Krause came into camp with decent weight and has blown some away with his pass catching ability from the flanker spot. Krause has legit 4.3 level speed and can shift in and out of breaks very well. His hands also seem sure and strong, dispelling the belief that he might be floppy as a young, small receiver. Krause has also shown an ability to make plays after he catches the ball and has the presence to make plenty of grabs against the sidelines. Though he could improve a bit in his route running and blocking, Krause looks like a reliable target that can generate yards after the catch on a regular basis. Once he gains even more strength, he could become a consider big-play threat. If he continues to progress in camp, he should be in the Commodores receiver rotation this fall.

Kenny Ladler- Safety

The rundown: Ladler was the first true freshman to enroll at Vanderbilt in the spring in over eight years and the Georgia safety impressed many during spring practice. Ladler has continued to progress so far this preseason while serving as a reserve free safety. Now weighting at 200 pounds, Ladler looks like a veteran on the field both mentally and physically. Ladler has shown better recognition and instincts than in the spring, allowing for him to play faster and more confident. A solid athlete, Ladler has also improved on his tackling. He hasn't gotten his hands on a lot of balls so far but that should change with more reps as well. Ladler is expected to play as one of VU's top reserve safeties this fall.

Fitz Lassing- H Back

The rundown: Fitz Lassing may have become a Commodore just a day before national signing day, but the 6-foot-2, 223-pound athlete is impressive on the football field. Instead of playing linebacker, Lassing has spent the first week alongside other Vanderbilt tight ends, making plays in the passing game. Lassing brings good athleticism to the position and very reliable hands. The Nashville native has been effective in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, showing the ability to catch the ball and get up the field quickly. Lassing has also blocked rather effectively. He possesses a good frame that should fill out even more in the coming years. Like with Gowder, Lassing plays at a relatively deep position and should be able to redshirt this fall. However, his versatility and winner's attitude could get him onto the field this season if Vanderbilt feels they need it.

Jordan Matthews- Receiver

The rundown: The Alabama receiver has impressed everyone during the first week and figures to have an immediate effect on the receiving corps. Matthews drew comparisons to Marvin Harrison during his days at Madison Academy and that has seemed to carry over since arriving at Vanderbilt. It's been rare this first week to see Matthews not come up with a pass or fail to make a tough catch against a defender. Matthews possesses nice size hands, even better body control and a quick burst off the ball. He also knows how to shield the ball away from defenders and uses his leaping ability and long arms to pull down some passes that most on the team can't catch. He can be a long strider but his speed is good enough to get separation from defensive backs. He also brings some physical toughness to the position and isn't afraid to go into traffic. Most believe Matthews will play a major role in the receiving corps this fall.

Jared Morse- Defensive Tackle

The rundown: The Alabama defender has held his own during the first week and shown signs of the kind of play that helped him register a amazing 31 tackles for loss and seven sacks during his senior year. Morse has rotated with sophomores Rob Lohr and Taylor Loftley during the first week and shown not only an aggressive nature, but a powerful set of moves to get to the ball carrier. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, Morse looks ready to play right now and has some quickness that's rare for his size. Morse also comes at offensive linemen with a nasty, hard-hitting attitude. His performance so far this summer might be one of the better ones of any freshman. Morse has been near dominant in one-on-ones and has filled gaps adequately during Vanderbilt's 11-on-11 play. Despite the Commodores depth at defensive tackle, Morse could see action as a true freshman.

Trent Pruitt- Receiver

The rundown: The Georgia slot receiver has made a positive first impression during the preseason. Though Pruitt hasn't had as many big catches as Matthews or Krause, the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder has caught nearly everything thrown to him. Quick and knowledgeable, Pruitt has had no trouble getting open and providing a target for Vanderbilt passers. The quarterbacks might not always find Pruitt, but the son of a Florida high school coaching legend knows how to get free on third downs. Pruitt's low the ground running style has also led him to make a few nice yard gains following a catch. Despite the short frame, Pruitt has also shown good strength and a ability to block. Pruitt is improving as a inside route runner and is also becoming more involved in VU's short passing game. He's may have a smallish frame but he's actually quite strong and has shown the ability to fight off press coverage so far in camp. Vanderbilt will likely play all four of its young receivers this year and Pruitt could make his mark as a reserve slot behind John Cole.

Grant Ramsay- Offensive Guard

The rundown: The Georgia offensive guard has come into the program with solid size and good athletic ability. Playing mainly reserve right guard during the first week, Ramsay's shown his ability to pull but is still learning how to use his technique against inside rushers. He has good length and athletic feet, and has become one of the players that new offensive line coach Herb Hand has focused his attention on. Ramsay has enough versatility to move outside and give the Commodores some time at right tackle, but his value at right guard behind Kyle Fischer should keep him on the inside for most of the preseason. Vanderbilt's numbers along the line are low and Ramsay should provide immediate depth this season. It seems highly unlikely that he redshirts.

Thomas Ryan- Defensive End

The rundown: Ryan has shown the kind of speed and athleticism during the first week of camp that made him a Top 100 player in the state of Florida. Quick off the ball, Ryan has been a tough defender to stop on the inside get-off and has made a number of plays while seeing time with the "B" team units. He possesses a good overall frame for a pass rusher and a strong upper body. His lower body may be a little less developed, and that should be something that the strength staff addresses as he career progresses. Ryan has good hand technique, though he's still learning defensive end coach Mike Pelton's philosophy. He hasn't mastered an outside move just yet but that appears to be well within his ability. Due to the depth at the defensive end spot, Ryan should be able to redshirt and gain a bit more size but if he continues to progress under Pelton's system over the next weeks, he could challenge for playing time this fall.

Andre Simmons- Safety

The rundown: Simmons came to Vanderbilt as one of the 2010 classes most heralded players and though he hasn't disappointed so far, he has been a little behind other players. Simmons joined the team a little later than his fellow classmates this summer due to his high school's graduation schedule. A smart safety with enough athletic ability to possibly lineup at corner, Simmons has seen a good bit of time at strong safety but could also play free. He has solid instincts and can be explosive. Right now, he is still learning Coach Bryant's system and philosophies. Should his ability start to come to the forefront in the coming weeks, he could make a move onto the two-deep by the start of the season.

Carey Spear- Kicker

The rundown: Spear came to the program as a kicking specialist and though the Commodores have focused on special teams, the staff hasn't necessarily focused on too many kickoffs or long-distance kicks so far in the preseason. That said, Spear has shown a strong leg while kickers exchange reps and practice to the side of the rest of the team. Known for his distance kicking and accuracy, Spear could help the Commodores out as a kickoff specialist. He could also potentially help Vanderbilt as a punter, though at this time only Richard Kent and Ryan Fowler have gone through punting duties. Spear has prototypical form on his approach and strong follow through. He should emerge as the Commodores kicker of the future but will likely redshirt if the staff does not have a job for him this fall.

Logan Stewart- Center

The rundown: The South Carolina lineman has spent a lot of time working out as the team's second team center through the first week. A big and strong prospect, Stewart definitely passes the look test as a immediate contributor and is a solid run blocker. His biggest challenge so far is getting down the snap count and getting the snap sharply to the Commodore quarterbacks. His transition from snap to pass block could also use a little more work. However, Stewart has time to learn the position and is got valuable first team snaps while senior captain Joey Bailey missed some time due to sickness. Stewart was already expected to play this season before he even signed with the Commodores in February and nothing he's done so far has changed that expectation. He can also play either of the guard position, so he should be a strong option to provide depth at either of those spots as well.

Vince Taylor- Defensive Tackle

The rundown: Taylor came into Vanderbilt with a lot of hype and he didn't do anything to slow that down during his first week of practice. In fact, the only thing that has slowed the Mississippi native is a hand injury that he suffered on Tuesday. He is expected to miss some valuable practice time over the next couple of weeks and could potentially miss the Commodores first game against Northwestern. However, the injury is not believed to be serious or something he couldn't play through. While playing, Taylor was perhaps the most overall impressive of the newcomers, constantly getting into the Commodore backfield and proving to be difficult to stop with just one blocker. A tackling machine at Oak Grove, Taylor could be the same at Vandy as his career progresses. The injury could give the VU staff a reason to redshirt the talented defensive tackle but he's expected to be healthy enough to play this season and likely will. His addition had given VU some promising depth on the interior of VU's defensive line.

Chase White- Offensive Tackle

The rundown: The Texas native has worked at tackle for the Commodores through the first week of camp. Bigger than expected, White has impressed with his movement and bend and ability to get out on running plays. He has seen action at both right and left tackle during Coach Hand's first week and has received promising feedback from his new coach. White stands at about 275 pounds right now and has a frame that should top out around 300 pounds with more time in the program. He has more than held his own against some of Vanderbilt's better rush ends, though like all young players, he could use even more reps to refine his technique. He will likely play in 2010 as a reserve tackle and special teams conversion blocker. White has a lot of upside and could prove to be a multi-year starter down the road.

Kyle Woestmann- Defensive End

The rundown: Kyle Woestmann may have been Vanderbilt's most popular signee and the former Georgia high school standout hasn't disappointed. Woestmann has a long, athletic frame with a quick first step and a high motor. The 240-pounder has worked at defensive end during the first week and has done well against tackles in several one-on-one drills. Woestmann has also shown some active hands during 11-on-11 drills. While he may need to add more size to his frame, his energy and current strength are hard to discount. He's also received a lot of feedback on the finer techniques from new defensive end coach Mike Pelton. Due to the emergence of a couple of seniors as well as some redshirt freshmen, Woestmann may be able to use a redshirt year to get a little bigger. However, he could also prove to be a valuable special teams player and someone that could give the team some snaps at end this season. His best football is unquestionably ahead of him.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!