The 2007 football season is rapidly approaching and in less than four days, the Commodores will begin preseason camp in preparation for the season opener against Richmond on September 1st. This years Commodores appear to be one of the more experienced and deepest teams in the program's recent history with their sites set on a winning season.
While some of the most popular players on the team including Earl Bennett, Jonathan Goff, Chris Williams, Theo Horrocks and Chris Nickson return, so do a number of players who are somewhat under the radar. And while these players might not be as talked about as some of the 'Dores top stars, a number of them will have to be very important contributors if the program is to achieve its goals this season.
VandySports.com has identified 10 players that will likely be key contributors this season and provides a countdown of who the site determined were the top 10 unsung players that should contribute this season.
Note: The order of this countdown is not an order of importance or value of any player. The countdown is mostly focused on some of the lesser talked about players.
No.3: Steven Stone- Sophomore- Defensive End
Rundown heading into the year:
Stone heads into the 2007 preseason camp, looking to stake a claim on the weakside defensive end starting spot after a strong performance during Vanderbilt's spring practice period a few months ago. Battling with fellow sophomore Broderick Stewart, Stone showed added strength, mobility and overall maturity during several of the practice sessions. Stone saw action in all 12 of the Commodores games in 2006 and was one of the top reserve ends along the defensive line.
Career at Vanderbilt so far:
Stone redshirted during his true freshman year in 2005, impressing many on the scout team with his athleticism and speed. After gaining some much needed strength during that first year at the school, Stone earned a spot along the defensive line during the 2006 preseason as a second-team end behind senior Chris Booker. Playing in all 12 games for the Commodores, Stone was one of the top tacklers for loss on the team, registering 6.5 tackles that resulted in a loss of 19 total yards. Stone also finished with 24 total tackles, with 22 coming unassisted as well as a half sack. Most of Stone's production came in the second half of the season as his minutes increased.
More on Stone:
Steven Stone signed with Vanderbilt in 2005 as a very under recruited prospect. Known more for his basketball exploits than what he did on Conway High's football field, Stone's only other football offer was from Rice and not much was expected early on by many observers.
However, when Stone first arrived on campus, he showed the drive, motor, and overall athleticism that led to the Commodores offering the Arkansas native in the first place.
Adding strength to his near 6-foot-6 frame, Stone has quickly become not only a fixture on the defensive line but a player that many inside the program believe could be a multi-year starter. His play last season was one of the contributing factors to the defensive line's overall improved play.
Stone and Stewart give the Commodore staff a very nice one-two punch at the weakside spot with their blend of athleticism, length, aggressive styles and ability to cover ground quickly.
Though the actual starting spot is basically innerchangeable between the two, Stone will be a key player for the Commodore defense regardless and his production will be very valuable in the unit's efforts to shut down opposing offenses.
Others in the Countdown so far:
Stay tuned for another Commodore player in the 10 Dores to Watch countdown