Tolk’s Breakdown: Defensive Line

We transition to the defensive side of the ball as we inch closer to the SEC-only season in 2020, starting with a position that should be a strength for the Commodores with legitimate depth. The defensive line will be anchored by plenty of experience plus the addition of some new faces as Vanderbilt has ramped up it’s recruitment of SEC ready defensive linemen. DL coach Jovan Haye looks to increase the havoc from his corps come September.


Dayo Odeyingbo, #10, Senior: Dayo Odeyingbo has been a consistent threat on the defensive front since his true freshman season in 2017. The 6’6” 280 lb DE recorded 45 tackles (30 solo) with 12.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and 2 QB hurries in 2019. He’ll look to increase his sack numbers (only 6.5 over his Commodore career) and get after the quarterback with more frequency in the fall, solidifying his stats to back up his NFL ready body. He should be a candidate for All-SEC recognition by the time 2020 is finished.

Alex WIlliams, #8, Sophomore: Williams (probably) won’t be able to play this year due to transfer rules as he enters Vanderbilt from Ohio State. He had 8 tackles for the Buckeyes in 2019 and should be an athletic defensive end prospect at 6’6” 270 lbs. moving forward.

Davion Davis, #9, Sophomore: Davis had a strong freshman year in 2019. An anchor of the interior defensive line, Davis played in 11 games, starting in 4, while recording 14 tackles (3 solo) with 1 TFL and 1 QB hurry. He’ll look to increase his disruption this season and fight for more reps on a deep DL unit.

Malik Langham, #35, RS Sophomore: Vanderbilt fans have been waiting to see Langham in action for the black and gold for a while now. The former Florida Gator had to sit out 2019 due to the NCAA’s inconsistent transfer rules that didn’t give Langham a waiver to play. The former Rivals/247 4* prospect should aid Vanderbilt’s pursuit of the quarterback with his athletic SEC size (6’5”, 290 lbs). In his sole season with the Gators, Langham played in 2 games and recorded one tackle. Commodore Nation hopes for big things from Langham this year!

Christian James, #44, RS Freshman: James appeared in 1 game in 2019, recording 1 tackle vs ETSU. The former Christian Brothers (Memphis, TN) prospect will look to crack the rotation for consistent snaps in 2020.

Brandon Maddox, #55, RS Junior*: Maddox had midseason injuries in 2019, but still managed to play in 9 games. He had 5 tackles (2 solo) and 1.0 QB sack on the year. If Maddox can stay healthy, he should provide valuable contributions on the line in 2020.

Cameron Robinson, #66, Senior: Over the course of his Commodore career, Robinson has only seen action in a single game, playing in the ETSU game in 2019. Robinson should continue to provide depth for VU in 2020 and hopefully be able to showcase his musical talent like he did at the 2018 Texas Bowl events.

Cameron Tidd, #90, RS Senior: Tidd has been quite productive over his career on West End, seeing an increase in tackle stats each season he’s played. The rising RS senior looks to continue his consistent rise and build off his impressive numbers from last year 32 tackles (11 solo), 2.5 TFLs, 1.5 QB sacks and 1 QB hurry. He recorded a career high 9 tackles vs Tennessee last year as well, so expect Tidd to play his best ball when Vandy next steps on the field.

Drew Birchmeier, #91, RS Senior: *Switched to OL for 2020* Birchmeier, like Tidd, has been a consistent interior force on the defensive line. The RS senior DT will look to increase his productivity to match his 2018 season rather than last year’s which, although solid, saw a decrease from his 2018 totals. In 2018 Birchmeier had 31 tackles (14 solo), 3.0 TFLs, 4 passes deflected 2 forced fumbles.

Derek Green, #92, RS Freshman: Green, like Langham, sat out last year after transferring into Vandy from Oklahoma. The 6’5” 310 lb lineman was a former 4* prospect by ESPN and adds impressive size to bolster the interior of VU’s d-line. The former Sooner looks to Anchor Down and earn consistent reps on West End moving forward.

Tolu Thomas-Ailara, #93, Sophomore*: Thomas-Ailara hasn’t seen game action as Commodore. Only listed at 220 lbs on his 6’3” frame, hopefully Coach James Dobson’s strength program can add some more muscle for him to see consistent opportunity on gameday.

Rutger Reitmaier, #94, RS Junior: The former Lipscomb Academy (Nashville, TN) prospect (4* by Rivals) has increased his productivity each year he’s played in a Commodore jersey. His 2019 stats include 14 tackles (7 solo), 4.5 TFLs, 0.5 QB sacks, and 1 QB hurry. Fans on West End have buzzed about Reitmaier’s potential since he first arrived on campus and hope for a breakout RS junior season.

Raashaan Wilkins, #95, RS Sophomore: Wilkins will look to contribute in his first year repping the Star-V. He brings solid size as a 6’3” 300 lb lineman and was part of a defense at Monterey Peninsula College that had 48 sacks in 2019. He should add depth and hopefully crack the rotation in 2020.

Nate Clifton, #96, RS Freshman: The former Brentwood Academy high school prospect didn’t see any action his true freshman season and will look to contribute in 2020. He’s another prospect I’m excited to watch develop under Coach Haye.

Lorenza Surgers, #97, RS Sophomore: The rising RS sophomore has only seen action in 2 games during his Commodore career and took a RS season last year despite playing vs Ole Miss and UNLV. Surgers has good size and should continue to develop as a DE prospect for the Commodores in 2020.

*Year unclear

Honestly, I am VERY intrigued by the defensive line and believe it has the potential to be a strength this season. The defense should take leaps and bounds under Ted Roof. Dayo Odeyingbo should solidify his legitimacy as an NFL lineman and the DL should have its best depth in years anchored by Cameron Tidd, Drew Birchmeier, Rutger Reitmaier, Davion Davis, Malik Langham, and Derek Green. Let’s get after the QB in 2020!


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