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Today's official practice report ended on a somewhat disconcerting note: two redshirt freshmen are no longer with the team.
Offensive lineman Jose Valedon and tight end Darien Bryant have left the Commodores, according to Wednesday's story. No official reason was given for why they are no longer with the team. Since head coach James Franklin and his staff have not been shy about past references to the dismissal of players for rule violations, it would appear that the split was initiated by the players.
These departures will leave the 'Dores a bit thinner at positions of need in 2012. Valedon is the team's third offensive lineman to be removed from the roster this year. Redshirt sophomore Mylon Brown was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules in March, while starting center Logan Stewart was sent packing back in January for similar offenses. While Valedon wasn't likely to make much of an impact in the coming season, he was a valuable member of an offensive line that lacked depth in 2011 and will rely heavily on freshman contributors to fill out its ranks in 2012. Currently, the team only has 10 offensive linemen on the roster, leaving them thin during spring practices.
Bryant's void will leave less competition in the race to fill Brandon Barden's starting tight end slot. The first-year player was slated to compete against oft-injured Austin Monahan, part-time fullback Fitz Lassing, and recruiting classmates Steven Scheu and Dillon van der Wal for snaps on offense. Converted quarterback-turned-H-back Kris Kentera could also see some time as a modified tight end.
Bryant, a talented defensive end in high school, was also often mentioned as a candidate to fill in on the other side of the ball as well after taking snaps there in his freshman year.
These two losses mark a turning point in the James Franklin era at Vanderbilt. While Valedon was recruited during Robbie Caldwell's tenure, Bryant made his verbal commitment in February of 2011 after Franklin had taken over. He is the coach's first recruit to leave the team after becoming a Commodore.
These departures will open up a pair of scholarships for the 'Dores, which could be used to lure a high profile transfer to Nashville. While Vanderbilt missed out on high profile quarterback Danny O'Brien, the team could still be in the hunt for O'Brien's former teammate Max Garcia. Garcia, an offensive lineman who played under Franklin in Maryland, is considering several SEC schools including Georgia and Ole Miss and hasn't expressly shown a high level of interest in coming to Vandy. However, there's still a chance that he comes to Dudley Field to reunite with his former coordinator.