by Braden McPherson and Will Byrum
It’s been a roller coaster couple of weeks for Vanderbilt fans the last couple of weeks. From several Commodore football players being accused of sexual assault to Vanderbilt reportedly abolishing its athletics communications office and absorbing it within the university. This action within the University has caused many wonderful professionals, who are even better people, to lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, while the bad news continues to pour on and on, we have some position battles updates.
Commodore fans will see some fresh faces this upcoming year. Without a single player returning at the QB position, and the graduation of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, there has been a lot of speculation from fans without much confirmation. Normally, based on observing Spring practice and summer workouts, we would at least have an idea of where the depth charts of these positions stand. However, due to unprecedented circumstance, many Commodore fans are in the dark.
We have heard from a close source to the team regarding the aforementioned key positions.
It all starts with the most intriguing battle this offseason, which is obviously the Quarterback situation. From what we have heard from our source close to the team, Danny Clark seems to be the front runner as of now. The shortened Spring camp and limited summer workouts have helped Clark keep the edge due to his short, but vital, experience in college football at Kentucky and at Copiah-Lincoln CC. Don’t blink, because Freshman Ken Seals is coming to battle. The Weatherford, Texas product was an early enrollee and was able to get a few reps with the receivers during a short Spring camp. Who knows, Seals may have the job won by week 2 or 3. Seems like Coach Mason may lean on experience to start out the season though.
The other Freshman Quarterback Mike Wright is also in the mix for the signal calling. The speed and ability to escape the pocket is definitely not the question for Wright. The X-factor will be Wright’s ability to throw the deep ball and be on time with his receivers. If Clark or Seals secure the job early, a redshirt year seems very likely for the speedy Atlanta, Georgia product.
Also worth noting, Junior Quarterbacks Jeremy Moussa and walk-on Jack Bowen are also still in the mix and will be with the other guys to keep an eye on as possibly becoming the backup option. It will be very intriguing to see which guy Coach Mason goes with during the season opener September 5th Vs Mercer.
We move along with the Running backs. Another intriguing question for the Commodore offense is who is going to replace the star Ke’Shawn Vaughn? Well, we know it’s not just going be one guy, that’s for sure.
According to our source, it all starts with the front runner at tailback who seems to be the 5th year senior Jamarui Wakefield. After a season-ending injury Vs Georgia in the season opener last year, Wakefield looks to end his Vanderbilt career with a bang. He now has his chance to be the man at running back for the Commodores after waiting behind stars Ralph Webb and Ke’shawn Vaughn. Wakefield has definitely shown instances of production at times for the Vanderbilt offense, but can he step up and be the guy to lean on? We’ll see.
The next guy likely to push Wakefield for the starting role is the impressive Sophomore Keyon Brooks. He had a very impressive Freshman season backing up Vaughn after Wakefield went down early in the season. Brooks also showed Commodore fans impressive glimpses of his playmaking ability last season. Brooks has breakaway speed and will be very a reliable back for Coach Horton and staff all season long. The biggest knock on Brooks was his size. Hopefully with another year in the weight room he can become a full series back, not just a third-down option. This will hopefully be a very solid 1-2 punch at tailback for Commodores for the 2020 campaign.
After these 2 guys, it’s basically a toss up. We’ve seen Ja’Veon Marlow in a few games in 2018. We’ve heard redshirt Freshman JR Tran-Reno can ball out and will be a key contributor on the rushing attack. Incoming Freshman Rocko Griffin seems to be a very solid back as well. Junior Mitchell Pryor will be in the rotation as well for this deep group of Commodore tailbacks.
Another interesting battle will be with the Wide Receivers. After losing 4-year standout Kalijah Lipscomb, the Commodore receiving corps will need several people to step up and take very important roles. It all starts with the guy who seems to be the most capable in redshirt Sophomore Cam Johnson. The Nashville product will be very reliable as the most likely Number one target for the Commodore offense. After a season-ending injury in 2018, Johnson followed that up with a pretty solid 2019 campaign despite QB troubles.
After him, it will be the X-factor this season and that is Amir-Abdur Rahman. He is definitely capable of being a top target, but the question remains: can Rahman stay healthy all season long? Rahman has an impressive build and soft hands, prevelant with the ridiculous one-handed catch he made against Tennessee in 2018. You can watch the catch at the 1:20 in the video below.
This would be a pretty impressive duo of top targets for the Vanderbilt offense. Next, we look at upperclassmen Chris Pierce and James Bostic. Both are huge targets and will play a big role in being a blocking presence out wide. After that, we look in the direction of graduate transfers Tyrell Alexander from Oklahoma State and Mac Hereford from Alabama. Coach Mason impressively brought these guys in for more depth after losing CJ Bolar to the transfer portal. Expect these guys to see plenty of action as the season progresses.
Outside of those 6 targets, we might only see 1 or 2 more players see much action this season. Redshirt Freshman Devin Boddie and Jayden Harrison may see some time at slot receiver. Seniors Keith Starking and Jackson Winrow will batte for reps. Freshman Logan Kyle and Will Shepard are expected for a redshirt year.
Two positions we haven’t heard much about are the Tight Ends and the Offensive Line. From what we can assume, redshirt Sophomores Ben Bresnahan and Gavin Shoenwald will lead the charge at Tight End. Followed by redhsirt Freshmen Justin Ball and Joel Decoursey. Freshman Diego LaMonica will see time as well.
The only obvious starter so far on the Offensive line is the Michigan graduate-Transfer Stephen Spanellis. He is very versatile and can play all 3 O-Line positions but is listed as a Guard. If Coach Mason had to pick his 5 up front, I’d say Spanellis and Clemens would be the Guards. Jonathan Stewart and Tyler Steen outside at Right and Left tackles. Grant Miller seems to be the man at Center as of now. Whoever shows up with ability to block that’s who’s going to play we can guarantee that.
That’s it for the current position battles as of now on the offensive side of the ball for the Commodores. We will update when we can gain any more insight. As always, Anchor Down!