Tolk’s Breakdown: Linebackers

The team here at the Dore Report wishes the best to those in the Vanderbilt football program who tested positive for COVID-19. We wish them a speedy and safe recovery with no lingering issues.

Now, let’s talk about the Commodore linebacking corps. 

With some changes to defensive scheme and rumblings of a 4-2-5 formation, we could see some who’ve been classified as linebackers with their hands in the grass, rushing from the edge of the DL (Andre Mintze, Elijah McCallister, etc). For this article, we’ve included them in the linebacking groups. With Dimitri Moore opting back in for the season today, this should be a strong and deep unit when the Dores kick off vs Texas A&M on Sep. 26. Let’s take a look:

Vanderbilt Football | Dimitri Moore named to 2020 Butkus Award ...
Dimitri Moore is back. Courtesy of vucommodores.

Dimitri Moore #7: The RS junior/academic senior is looking to build off of what’s been a solid career in the black and gold, announcing today he’s decided to play for Vanderbilt in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He recorded 99 tackles last year (48 solo), leading the team and among the top-10 tacklers in the SEC. There have been mock drafts projecting he goes in the first round of next year’s NFL draft, and he is regarded as one of the top ILBs in 2020. He will wreak havoc in opponent backfields this fall.

Brayden Devault-Smith #12: The Nashville native played at Pearl-Cohn and will look to build upon a 2019 season where he recorded 14 tackles (3 solo) on the season. He has 22 tackles (7 solo) for the Dores and has provided valuable depth. Commodore Nation hopes to see Devault-Smith take big steps in 2020!

Feleti Afemui #17: *Opting out of 2020 season* The RS junior/academic senior from Hawaii will be a beast in 2020. He started in all 10 appearances in 2019 (sat out 2 due to injury) and registered 46 tackles (13 solo), 1.5 TFLs and 1 FF. Afemui took huge steps last season and should greatly benefit from more playing time and experience in 2020. He should be an anchor of the Commodore LBs.

Colin Anderson #18: *Entered the transfer portal on Sep. 22*Anderson, another RS junior/academic senior linebacker, has been hampered by injuries during his time in Nashville, but has flashed potential when he’s seen action. He didn’t play in 2017 or 2019, but in 2018 he played 8 games and even recorded a QB sack. Let’s hope Colin is healthy in 2020.

Kenny Hebert #21: The New Orleans, La. native has been productive over the course of his career. In 2019, Kenny had 34 tackles (19 solo), 7.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 quarterback sacks and 2 quarterback hurries. He is listed as an academic senior for his 2019 season, but I’m assuming he’s still got eligibility left for 2020 as he’s still listed on the roster online and didn’t play during his true freshman season. In this crazy 2020, his experience and numbers will benefit the Commodore defense big time.

Alston Orji #24: It’s difficult to believe that Alston is an academic jr. as we enter the 2020 season (although this season should be a gimme for everyone’s eligibility, and he only played in 4 games last year). The former consensus 4* recruit looks to make leaps and bounds this year, as his career 6 tackles haven’t lived up to his high school projections. The Commodore staff and fans are expecting big things this year and I’d expect Orji to make a jump under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s tutelage this fall.

Jack Barton #29: In what should be a wild 2020, Jack should provide depth as a true freshman LB. He put up an impressive 131 tackles as a senior for Jesuit High School in Dallas, TX last year.

Elijah McCallister #41: When reflecting upon McCallister’s RS freshman season in 2019, one word comes to mind: potential. Elijah flashed that potential weekly with 26 tackles (15 solo), 2.5 quarterback sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, and 3 quarterback hurries. Personally, I can’t wait to watch him suit up this fall. The RS sophomore/academic junior will be a force to reckon with and I wouldn’t want to be blocking his 6’6” 245 lb frame. He’s one to watch Commodore fans, I think we could see him on All-SEC teams soon.

Tre Brown #43: Brown didn’t see action as a freshman last year and the Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.) product will look to contribute on special teams and defense in 2020.

Griffin Lampton #45: Lampton is a former 3* recruit as he enters his freshman year for the Commodores. The 6’3” 226 linebacker will look to contribute in year 1 and coming from St. Thomas Aquinas, he should be ready to see some action this season. Welcome to the SEC, Griffin!

Michael Spencer #46: Spencer is a 6’4” 249 lb. prospect out of The Taft School (Union, Ky). He’ll look to channel his Erickson League leading sacks (11.5) and TFLs (18) on West End moving forward.

Andre Mintze #48: Andre Mintze should be an All-SEC honors recipient preseason and postseason, recently receiving All-SEC Second Team honors from PFF. The fifth-year senior has been a rock for the Dore backers. In 2019, among his 9 starts and action in all 12 games, Mintze caused havoc with 40 tackles (23 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 quarterback sacks, 2 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. A true Vanderbilt Man, Mintze also coordinates the ‘Dancing Dores’ drive which has raised over $40,000 for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital on campus. He also posts vlogs during the season (and year round), with his gameday videos called #First48. Expect Andre to be a large part of the heart and soul of this Vanderbilt defense. Read more about Andre here.

Alex Brown #52: The academic jr. will enter this season with 1 game of experience coming from last year’s win over ETSU. Again, due to the COVID developments this season and a 10 game SEC schedule, expect to see Brown see more meaningful snaps in 2020.

Tommy Eckels #53: The son of former Commodore football player David Eckels, Tommy will enter his true freshman season looking for experience this year. He recorded over 300 tackles during the course of his high school career at Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo). 

Michael Owusu #88: The RS junior/academic senior will look to have a breakout year in 2020. The former 3* prospect has played in 20 games over the course of his time on West End and that experience (12 total tackles) including his 3 TFLs in 2019 will propel him into a role of higher demand. At 6’5” 240 lbs., Owusu has similar physical attributes to rising star Elijah McCallister and I think we see solid improvement in 2020.

In 2020, the linebacker room will be solid for the Dores. If the Commodores switch to a base 4-2-5 package, competition for time on the field among LBs will be fierce. This group has too much talent not to make significant impacts this year and Commodore fans will hear a lot from Dimitri Moore, Mintze, McCallister, Hebert, Orji, and Devault-Smith. I think we’ll see Owusu and Orji take giant leaps in 2020 and Moore, Mintze, and McCallister should receive All-SEC consideration. Let the boys eat!

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