SEC: Andrew Jelks

SEC All-Freshman team

December, 12, 2013
Every SEC team has representation on the SEC All-Freshman team, which was released on Thursday.

The team was selected by the league's coaches, and coaches could not vote for players on their own team. Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina led the way with four players each on the squad. Here it is in its entirety:

Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Andrew Jelks, Vanderbilt
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
C: Jon Toth, Kentucky
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
WR: Marquez North, Tennessee
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas
RB: Kelvin Taylor, Florida
AP: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Darius Philon, Arkansas
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Skai Moore, South Carolina
DB: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
DB: Tony Conner, Ole Miss
DB: Tre'Davious White, LSU
DB: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

Special teams:
Elliott Fry, South Carolina
P: Johnny Townsend, Florida
RS: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Opening spring camp: Vanderbilt

March, 15, 2013
Schedule: The Commodores open spring practice on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET and will conclude the spring April 13 with their Black & Gold spring game at 2 p.m. ET at Vanderbilt Stadium. Two Saturday practices, on March 23 and March 30, will be open to the public.

What’s new: Vanderbilt’s coaching staff returns intact. Head coach James Franklin, who fielded his own inquiries this offseason, said members of his staff received anywhere from seven to nine major offers to go elsewhere, but turned them all down. Brent Pry, Vanderbilt’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, has added the title of assistant head coach to his duties.

On the mend: Junior defensive tackle Barron Dixon (shoulder) will miss the spring. Senior defensive tackle Jared Morse, meanwhile, is not in school this semester after a violation of university rules. The Commodores are hopeful that both players will be back in the fall.

On the move: Sophomore Josh Grady is moving back to quarterback after playing receiver last season. He came to Vanderbilt as a quarterback. Sophomore Derek King will move to running back from cornerback, while sophomore Jacquese Kirk will move to cornerback from receiver. Three redshirt freshmen are also switching positions. Torey Agee is moving to defensive tackle from defensive end. Cory Batey is moving to strong safety from receiver and Adam Butler will work at defensive tackle this spring after spending his first year on campus as an offensive lineman.

New faces: The Commodores have two early enrollees who will go through spring practice as true freshmen -- quarterback Johnny McCrary and offensive tackle Sean Dowling. Several redshirt freshmen could work their way into the rotation on the offensive line. Among them: Barrett Gouger, Andrew Jelks, Kevin McCoy, Blake Fromang and Will Holden. Agee and Butler, two more redshirt freshmen, will get a lot of work at defensive tackle this spring.

Key battle: Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels and redshirt freshman Patton Robinette are the top candidates to replace Jordan Rodgers as the Commodores’ starting quarterback. Carta-Samuels, a starter at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt, played in a backup role last season to Rodgers and started and played the whole way against Presbyterian. Grady will also re-join the quarterback battle this spring.

Breaking out: Zac Stacy was the heart and soul of Vanderbilt’s running game the last two seasons. Now that he’s gone, senior Wesley Tate is next in line. At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Tate has the size and speed to give the Commodores a 1,000-yard rusher for the third consecutive season. If he gets it rolling early, he could be one of the top breakout players in the SEC. On defense, keep an eye on junior defensive end Kyle Woestmann. He had all five of his sacks last season during Vanderbilt's season-ending seven-game winning streak and was a terror in the Commodores' 38-24 victory over North Carolina State in the bowl game. He's one of the hardest workers on the team.

Don’t forget about: The Commodores finally have some real depth (and size) in the offensive line, and it’s a group led by senior left tackle Wesley Johnson. One of the SEC’s more underrated players, Johnson has made 38 career starts. The only position on the offensive line that he hasn’t started at is right guard. He’s played 2,462 snaps in his career at Vanderbilt and has never been flagged for a holding penalty.

All eyes on: Receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd return in 2013 after establishing themselves as the SEC’s most productive receiving duo last season. They combined to average 161.3 receiving yards per game. Matthews set a school record with 1,323 receiving yards. They combined to catch 13 touchdown passes.
Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand has no time to ease his group of wide-eyed freshmen into the mix this fall.

He wants to chuck anything and everything at the six true freshmen in order to give them every single opportunity to show him that they aren’t ready to play this fall.

“We want to throw them right in the mix,” Hand said.

“I want to throw everything at them; not just give them the easy stuff to do.

“We have thrown the kitchen sink at them. A lot of those guys probably feel like they’re drinking out of a fire hose right now.”

Add in the big screen TV and the dining room table and Hand has the recipe for finding out which guys won’t be able to cut it this fall. The ones who withstand the pounding earn the opportunity to play.

Knowing there would be depth issues in 2012, coach James Franklin and his staff made the offensive line a priority in the 2012 class. Six was a good number for the Commodores because bodies were needed.

Vandy’s staff spent most of the spring trying to keep the offensive line together with tape, as injuries and procedures sidelined some of the big guys throughout spring practice. At one point this spring, Franklin and Hand could only use seven offensive linemen during practices because so many injuries piled up. It also didn’t help that center Logan Stewart and Mylon Brown were both dismissed, after combining for 14 starts in 2011.

What was one of the most improved groups in the SEC last year now enters the fall with questions surrounding it. The good news for Hand is he feels very confident in eight core players, including projected starters Wesley Johnson, Ryan Seymour, Spencer Pulley, Josh Jelesky and Andrew Bridges, who, outside of Pulley, all have starting experience.

Redshirt freshman Jake Bernstein and sophomore Joe Townsend will also get their shots at playing time this fall, Hand said.

To Johnson, who is Vandy’s most talented and versatile lineman, getting the freshmen acclimated quickly was a priority during summer workouts. He and the other vets made sure they hit the playbook with the youngsters as much as possible in order to pound the plays and schemes into their brains before real practices began.

Though there have been plenty of hiccups and setbacks from the newbies, Johnson said he’s confident a few will end up stepping up and contributing this fall in order to make this line as strong as it was last year.

“We pretty much know we can get it done,” Johnson said.

Hand still isn’t ready to say which freshmen he can count on yet, but Adam Butler and Andrew Jelks have made the most progress in his eyes. Both were highly regarded coming out of high school. Hand is also happy that each of his new linemen were blessed with ideal genetics, as he considers each one “long” when it comes to their arms and legs and heavy enough to hold up in this league.

“We don’t have the 250-pound guy that you’re trying to build up,” he said. “Not that we wouldn’t take a guy like that, but with this particular class we feel like we’ve got some length and we’ve got some girth.”

He added that each is pretty athletic on their feet, which helps as they adapt to the speed of the college game.

Hand won’t know where his freshmen stand until after 15 fall practices, which essentially equates to them going through spring. After that, he’ll have a much better understanding of where his line stands.

Fortunately for Vanderbilt, the vets are getting healthier and are much more comfortable with the offense, which is something Johnson said will help as they continue to prep the youngsters.

“Now, we pretty much have most of the playbook in, as opposed to last year where we were still learning plays and trying to figure everything out,” he said. “There’s a much better understanding of what we have to do.”