NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt football has grown to the point where the unveiling of the depth chart is an anticipated-enough event that it gets its own press conference. On Wednesday, coach James Franklin held this year's to a room packed full of media, though it contained few huge surprises.
As expected, Austyn Carta-Samuels was named the team's starter at quarterback. The Californian is one of 13 seniors starters among the 23 players listed between offense and defense (VU lists 12 offensive starters, with fullback, H-back and tight end each getting their own listings, though all three likely won't be on the field at the same time).
Defensive tackle Jared Morse, who is listed as a co-starter (but the second player in the order), would be the 14th senior starter if he wins a job.
Seven of those starters are on defense, with six of them being on the back seven. Sophomore Darreon Herring is the only underclassman there.
However, Franklin emphasized that much remains unsettled. Three positions -- running back, offensive guard and defensive tackle -- list co-starters.
At defensive tackle, Morse is fighting with the guy who's perhaps the biggest surprise on the roster, redshirt freshman Adam Butler, who switched over from the offensive line in spring ball. Franklin noted that Morse, a six-time starter last season, was hurt in the competition when he missed spring ball with a suspension.
The Commodores listed 10 men on the two-deep at defensive line.
"The defensive line is the big story, the depth there," he said.
The "or" at tailback involves three players, senior Wesley Tate and sophomores Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour. Tate is listed first, but all three had their moments not only in spring practice, but also in August drills. Each should play extensively, and Franklin said each game's starter depends on the formation and play call for the team's first offensive snap that particular day.
The final spot up for grabs is at guard, where junior Chase White is listed as a co-starter with Jake Bernstein, who was hurt in a scrimmage two Saturdays ago and is working his way back.
Butler is one of two potential redshirt freshman starters on the depth chart. The other is punter Colby Cooke, who is in an "or" situation at punter with redshirt sophomore Taylor Hudson.
"They both showed really nice flashes at times but haven't been as consistent as we wanted to this point... we're not comfortable naming a starter," Franklin said.
Franklin noted that within the battles still waiting to be settled, VU might lean towards the more experienced player.
Only two true freshmen -- kicker Tommy Openshaw and receiver Jordan Cunningham -- were listed at all. True freshman receivers Carlos Burse and Latevius Rayford had impressed at times in camp, but neither were listed.
"We're not going to play a (true freshman) on offense or defense unless he can play on special teams," Franklin said, also noting receiver DeAndre Woods could earn a shot at time.
Franklin added that Openshaw "has done some nice things as a punter."
On offense, Franklin noted that each starter had previously started games. The Commodores listed just two wide receivers among the 12 starters, with five receivers listed on the whole depth chart. Suspended junior Chris Boyd, who obviously would have started, was conspicuously absent.
Among notable second-team battles, Franklin had not named a No. 2 quarterback between Josh Grady or Patton Robinette. Neither has thrown a pass, though Grady played extensively as a reserve receiver last year.
Robinette displayed the stronger arm and came on late in camp, but neither had a strong Saturday scrimmage as the second-team offensive line had difficulty protecting each.
Three redshirt freshmen -- Blake Fromang, B>Barrett Gouger and B>Andrew Jelks -- were on the second-team offensive line.
The second-team defense had six redshirt freshmen: nose tackle Ladarius Banks, end Stephen Weatherly, linebackers Jakarri Thomas and Harding Harper, cornerback Paris Head and safety Torren McGaster. Of that bunch, Head may have been the closest to winning a starting job, as Franklin said Saturday that he'd been neck-and-neck with senior Steven Clarke.
Should Morse not win a starting job, he'll be the only senior on the second team defense. Fullback Blake Gowder is the only senior on the second-team offense.