SEC: Terence Jeffers

More offensive line trouble for Vanderbilt

May, 27, 2010
5/27/10
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For the second straight year, academic shortcomings have sidelined a key offensive player for Vanderbilt.

The university announced on Wednesday that junior offensive tackle James Williams, projected to be the starter on the right side, would not be a part of the football team in 2010 for academic reasons.

A year ago, it was receiver Terence Jeffers who didn’t make it academically after transferring from Connecticut. Jeffers was easily the Commodores’ best receiver in the spring, but didn’t have enough transferable credit hours to be eligible in the fall.

It goes without saying that the Commodores can ill afford to keep losing some of their most talented offensive players.

Last season, they averaged just 8.9 points against SEC opponents and never scored more than 16 points against any league foe. Nationally, they finished 110th in total offense.

Williams was one of the Commodores’ most promising offensive lineman a year ago and opened the season as a starter before breaking his ankle in the second game against LSU. He was unable to go through the spring while still recovering from his surgery, but the plan was for him to return to his right tackle spot.

Vanderbilt’s other projected starting tackle, Ryan Seymour, also missed most of the spring after injuring his shoulder the second practice and undergoing surgery.

Veteran offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell is one of the best in the business, but this may end up being his greatest challenge.

The Commodores struggled mightily up front last season and will have even less experience in 2010.

Depending on how quickly Seymour recovers, sophomore Caleb Welchans and redshirt freshman Wesley Johnson will probably open preseason practice as the starters at tackle.

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson would prefer to leave junior and two-year starter Kyle Fischer at guard, even though he’s started at both positions during his career. The other guard spot is wide open. Senior Joey Bailey steps in to replace Bradley Vierling at center.

Seymour wasn’t the only offensive lineman to get hurt during the spring. Redshirt freshman guard Justin Cabbagestalk injured his knee, although he should be back in time for the preseason.

It’s never ideal for true freshmen to have to play on the offensive line, but the Commodores may need both Grant Ramsay and Logan Stewart to come in and be contributors right away.

Obviously, this preseason will be critical as Caldwell tries to mix and match and get his best combination on the field.

Jeffers watch will continue through the summer

April, 3, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt wrapped up its spring with a final practice on Thursday, and one of the keys to the Commodores' 2009 season will be receiver Terence Jeffers' progress in the classroom.

The transfer from Connecticut is a big-time receiver who's built more like a tailback. He's physical, strong and has the speed to get deep.

He still has to pass enough credit hours, though, to be eligible after sitting out last season.

"He's doing what he needs to do," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "It's just a matter of meeting NCAA requirements, and you can never depend on what's going to transfer from another school. We're looking at hours right now as being the biggest obstacle.

"He's trying and working hard. I'm somewhat confident that he'll make it."

The Commodores certainly need him to make it. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Jeffers impressed everybody this spring. You're talking about a guy who bench-presses more than 400 pounds and routinely made plays down the field, something Vanderbilt lacked a year ago.

Senior center Bradley Vierling said Jeffers is bigger and stronger than former Vanderbilt star Earl Bennett, the SEC's all-time leader with 236 catches.

"Terence's weight room statistics are unbelievable," Vierling said. "He weighs 225 pounds, and it's all muscle. He looks like David Boston out there without the steroids. He's got a tremendous amount of speed, too."

Vanderbilt's offense takes off after slow start

March, 28, 2009
3/28/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt's offense rebounded from a slow start to hit several big plays in the Commodores' Black & Gold Scrimmage on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Following three scoreless possessions, receiver Alex Washington livened things up for the offense with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jared Funk. On the very next possession, Washington took a reverse 39 yards on first down, setting up a short touchdown run by Ryan van Rensburg.

Seeing Washington get untracked this spring has been comforting news for Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, who was looking for more production from his receivers. Washington, a senior, injured his knee last spring and only played in seven games a year ago. It's obvious that he's much healthier this spring and has a lot more confdence in his knee.

Terence Jeffers, a transfer from Connecticut, also scored when he took a short toss from Larry Smith and raced 36 yards for a touchdown.

The Commodores were able to open up their running game by hitting some plays in the passing game, something they did very little of last season. They ranked 112th nationally in passing offense in 2008.

Smith finished 9-of-14 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Mackenzi Adams was 4-of-9 for 39 yards. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Udom Umoh, but was also intercepted by Micah Powell on a third-and-long play. Funk finished 6-of-9 for 111 yards.

The Vanderbilt defense opened the scrimmage by holding the offense without a first down on the first three possessions.

Defensive end Steven Stone, defensive tackle Greg Billinger, linebackers Brent Trice and Chris Marve and cornerbacks Jamie Graham and Casey Hayward all had big scrimmages.

Jeffers impressive, but still has work to do in classroom

March, 18, 2009
3/18/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Anybody who watched Vanderbilt practice last season knew Terence Jeffers could play.

He's a bigger target at receiver who catches the ball well and has the ability to get deep.

In other words, he's exactly what the Commodores need to help pump life into a passing game that ranked 112th nationally last season out of 119 teams.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jeffers, who led Connecticut in receiving two years ago, has done nothing to temper the enthusiasm this spring on the practice field. He caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in Sunday's scrimmage and has consistently made plays.

But if you'll notice, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson is choosing his words carefully any time Jeffers' name comes up.

For one, Johnson has never been one to rave about a player before he's played a game for him.

But more importantly, Jeffers still has a daunting academic challenge ahead of him. He has a sizeable amount of credit hours he still needs to pass to be eligible in the fall. Apparently, not as many of his hours transferred from Connecticut as first thought.

So now Jeffers is in a position where not only does he have to pass a bunch of hours, but he's close to the limit of how many hours he could even take that would count toward his eligibility.

"He's got a ways to go academically before we know if we're going to be able to have him in the fall," Johnson said.

Saying the Commodores need him is an understatement, especially with Justin Wheeler out for the season with a knee injury he suffered last week. Wheeler was the only returning wide receiver who'd caught a touchdown pass for the Commodores.

Senior Alex Washington, sophomore Udom Umoh and redshirt freshman John Cole all need big springs, and the Commodores also hope Minnesota transfer Tray Herndon can provide a spark. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Herndon started in seven games for the Golden Gophers during the 2007 season and caught 22 passes, including a touchdown.

Smith eyes Commodores' starting job

March, 16, 2009
3/16/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt staged its first major scrimmage of the spring Sunday, and it was a productive start for sophomore quarterback Larry Smith in his quest to lock down the starting job.

Smith's ability to throw the ball is going to make him hard to beat, especially with the Commodores trying to beef up their passing game. He threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Jeffers on a deep route in the end zone Sunday.

Smith also helped set up the offense's final touchdown with a 17-yard pass to Alex Washington. Sophomore tailback Ryan van Rensburg then carried four straight times, including a 2-yard touchdown run.

The third touchdown of the scrimmage came on Jared Funk's 8-yard pass to Turner Wimberly.

"It's our first full-go practice of the spring, but I thought we were fairly physical," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "I saw some hitting going on, and I thought we practiced with energy. We'll go back and look at the film to see what we did right and what we have to work on. Overall, we improved as a team today."

Some of the other scrimmage highlights included:

  • A pair of senior defensive standouts, end Steven Stone and tackle Greg Billinger, made big plays on the initial possession, with Billinger's quarterback sack on third down stopping the drive.
  • Junior tailback Kennard Reeves rushed for 28 yards after breaking an open-field tackle, then took a Funk pass 12 yards for another first down before a deep possession stalled inside the red zone.
  • After Smith hit sophomore Udom Umoh for 17 yards, sophomore defensive end Tim Fugger made a pair of stops, and junior linebacker Nate Campbell deflected a Smith pass on third down to halt a drive.
  • Linebacker Brent Trice made three straight impressive plays -- including a sack and tackle for loss -- to end an offensive threat.
  • Senior safety Joel Caldwell ended a deep offensive threat by deflecting a deep pass by Funk at the goal line on third down.

Vanderbilt's Wheeler out with knee injury

March, 16, 2009
3/16/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the Commodores have suffered the first major blow of the spring on the injury front.

Senior receiver Justin Wheeler suffered an ACL tear during a non-contact drill in practice on Saturday and will likely miss the 2009 season. Wheeler, who's already redshirted, started 10 games for the Commodores last season and was their most experienced returnee at a position that features very little experience. He caught 16 passes, including a touchdown, in 2008.

With Wheeler out, that means transfers Terence Jeffers and Trey Herndon will be more important than ever next season for the Commodores.

Already, Jeffers has made his presence felt. He caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in Sunday's scrimmage and was one of the most talented playmakers on the field last year during practice while sitting out the season following his transfer from Connecticut.

This is also a big spring for John Cole, who played in the first game last season as a true freshman, but was injured. Senior Alex Washington is another receiver the Commodores are counting on. Washington injured his knee about this same time last spring. He returned and tried to play last season, but was never 100 percent.

Five impact newcomers to watch in the SEC

February, 26, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It's always a shot in the dark to try and pick the top impact newcomers in the SEC before spring practice even gets underway.

But I'll give it the old college try, keeping in mind that newcomers would encompass redshirt freshmen, prep school players, junior college transfers and transfers from other four-year schools.

I won't go as far as to label these the top 5 impact newcomers, but they are definitely five players to watch in the fall:

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: The most talented quarterback on Arkansas' roster last season was relegated to the scout team. That didn't keep the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Mallett from showing off his rifle arm on the practice field. After sitting out the year following his transfer from Michigan, Mallett is ready to go, and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is ready to expand his playbook with a guy who has the arm strength and accuracy to make any offense more potent. Petrino's not going to just hand the starting job over to Mallett and will make him earn it during the spring. But make no mistake: Mallett is the guy. He also has experience, having played as a true freshman at Michigan in 2007 while filling in for the injured Chad Henne and going unbeaten in three starts.

South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore: The Gamecocks have three high school players from the 2009 signing class already on campus and set to go through spring practice, and they're counting on all three to play early. The 6-2, 180-pound Gilmore is one of those rare athletes who could play just about anywhere. He'll get his first shot at cornerback, mainly because the Gamecocks lost their three top cornerbacks from a year ago. He also has the size to play safety, and don't be surprised if you see him in there at quarterback some, too. He's an explosive player who led his South Pointe High School team in Rock Hill, S.C., to a state championship as a quarterback. The Gamecocks would like to put his vast talents to use in a special package at quarterback.

Vanderbilt receiver Terence Jeffers: The Commodores needed a go-to receiver in the worst way last season. Their passing game was non-existent. With senior receivers Sean Walker and George Smith gone, they're going to need one even worse next season. Jeffers, a transfer from Connecticut, should help alleviate a lot of their problems. He was Connecticut's leading receiver two years ago, catching 44 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-2, 210-pound Jeffers was also the Huskies' top deep threat and started in 21 of 25 games during his two-year career there. He's built a lot like Vanderbilt's all-time leading receiver, Earl Bennett, maybe even a little bigger, and attacks the football. Whoever wins the Vanderbilt starting quarterback job will look for Jeffers often and early in 2009.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson: Here's the first giveaway: Alabama coach Nick Saban called Richardson a "great player" on national signing day, and Saban doesn't loosely throw around such compliments unless he means it. The 5-11, 220-pound Richardson is a punishing runner inside and also has very good speed. He ran a 10.5 in the 100 meters in high school. Glen Coffee rushed for 1,383 yards last season, and now that he's gone, somebody is going to have to step into his spot. Mark Ingram will remain a big part of the rotation, but Roy Upchurch's injury status makes him iffy. Richardson has 20-plus carries per game written all over him and is a perfect fit for Alabama's offense.

Georgia receiver Marlon Brown: The Bulldogs need a complement to A.J. Green on the other side, and Brown has everything it takes to be that player. He's already 6-5 and 205 pounds with the strength, speed and toughness that will serve him well in the SEC. Rated by Scouts Inc. as the No. 3 receiver prospect in the country, the Memphis product arrives on campus this summer and will be an inviting target for Georgia quarterback Joe Cox right away. For a guy his size, Brown is especially good after the catch. He'll go over the middle, break tackles like a running back and is the kind of receiver who should excel in the red zone. Georgia fans are going to like this guy.

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