Vanderbilt has several newcomers on the roster this year thanks to a true freshman class of 23, several new walk-ons and a few transfers from other major college programs.
One newcomer that may be somewhat under the radar to Commodore fans but is quickly making a name for himself on the football field this summer is redshirt freshman Chandler Dorrell.
A transfer out of Stanford, Dorrell has made a quick impression during preseason camp as a receiver, becoming a regular contributor during the Commodores drills and turning heads with not only his route running, but also his knack for making tough catches and his general feel of the game. With Vanderbilt's relative inexperience at receiver, Dorrell could be a factor within the rotation at the slot or flanker positions.
The 6-foot, 190-pound prospect has also flashed enough athleticism in the open field to compete for a role on special teams as well.
Unlike virtually every other player on Vanderbilt's roster, first-year head coach Derek Mason has worked with Dorrell before as he was his position coach last fall at Stanford when Dorrell arrived on campus as an invited walk-on at defensive back.
"You know, Chandler is a different student athlete. I think, obviously, he went to Stanford, and came in as a receiver and had never played DB, but he wound up being a really good defensive back," said Mason on Sunday. "And I think a part of it just has to do with the fact that he's a coach's son. When you live around football, you start to learn football, you know the communication part of it, you understand what it takes behind the scenes to be better and how to work at it to achieve that, and that's what he's done."
The son of new Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell, Chandler was not just a role player for the Cardinal his first year. Though he didn't play in his debut season, he was named Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week on two occasions and was considered one of the team's best practice players overall.
Dorrell later cemented himself as one of the better young players for the Cardinal this spring as he excelled during Stanford's spring camp and was recognized as one of the top performers during Stanford's Red and White spring game, racking up a number of tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown.
As a standout at Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, Dorrell played both receiver and punt returner as a two-year starter, posting 37 passes for 417 yards and six touchdowns. Dorrell was recruited by Air Force, Eastern Illinois and New Mexico State before choosing the Cardinal's invitation to walk-on. He also passed up opportunities to attend Penn and Princeton from the Ivy League.
Though Dorrell performed well in his one year at defensive back last fall, Mason believes the move to receiver is beneficial to him and the Commodore offense. He also feels Dorrell is an example of what Vanderbilt is trying to do right now in terms of recruit players like true freshmen Trent Sherfield, Ronald Monroe and LaDarius Wiley, with versatile skill sets as two-way players.
"He's now really back to a position at he played coming out of high school and it shows. You see him out there, he can run routes, he can catch the ball, and really, it just speaks to me about what you're always trying to recruit," said Mason.
"You're trying to recruit dual position athletes because you never know where they are going to land, it's all based on need, and I think at the end of the day, that's where we have to structure our depth. You've got to find those guys. Maybe one week they are playing wideout, maybe the next week, they could be playing DB. You get smart football players with a high IQ, good two-way players, and it just makes your depth that much stronger."
Dorrell was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA upon his transfer to Vanderbilt, so he can play this fall. The NCAA also granted eligibility to Cardinal graduate transfer Davis Dudchock this summer. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Alabama native is making an impact this preseason at tight end.