When I first looked over the black and gold rosters, I was a little disappointed to be quite frank.
The Black team is loaded up on both sides of the ball, the Gold team team is loaded with walk-ons and underclassmen. It turns out that the roster is actually almost exactly upperclassmen vs. underclassmen with a couple of key exceptions, but there is no question whatsoever that the talent level at Vandy is on the rise.
The two teams after the jump:
First the offenses:
- QB: Jordan Rodgers and John Townsley.
- RB: Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate
- WR: Chris Boyd, Jordan Matthews, Jonathan Krause and Josh Grady
- TE: Austin Monahan
- FB/H-Back: Kris Kentera and Fitz Lassing
- QB: Austyn Carta-Samuels, Patton Robinette and Luke Colbert
- RB: Hasan Clayton and Tyler Anders
- WR: Trent Pruitt, Jacquese Kirk, Steve Monk, Daniel Hagaman and Trey Wilkins
- TE: Steven Scheu and Dillon van der Wal
- FB/H-Back: Hunter Bowman
The Black team is superior in almost every way offensively. They have the starters at literally every position including at QB. Jordan Rodgers has been the clear leader of the offense throughout the spring (and was named the offensive captain for spring). His experience and confidence have given him an edge over Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette all spring. However, it should be really exciting to see Carta-Samuels and Robinette for the first time, though it would be more exciting if they had more targets.
One question that sort of hangs about the roster is why Josh Grady and Kris Kentera, both RS freshmen, were included on the Black team which is essentially starters and upperclassmen when they are neither? Clearly, the coaches want to give these two a chance to shine in their new positions by playing with the first team offense, but if we are going upperclass vs. underclass, at least let the underclass have all their pieces.
It seems that with the Black team the coaches want to demonstrate the power of our fully operational offense. So look for the Black team to score points. This might be a response to the fact that the defense had an edge for most of the spring, and the coaches want the game to be exciting and score some points.
The Gold team may struggle to run with no scholarship RB or FB at all. The RB position is pretty thin due to injuries holding out Warren Norman, LaFonte Thourogood and Jerron Seymore. But I feel like they could have let one of Stacy or Tate play for Gold just to give them an equal chance to run the ball.
Jacquese Kirk may be the best target on the Gold team, but also look for walk-on Trey Wilkins, who may not look like a walk-on out there. Wilkins is expected by many to have a shot to contribute to some extent come fall.
It is impressive to think though, that if the Gold team was truly a team of underclassmen (and if the RBs were healthy) it would feature Robinette at QB, Thourogood and Seymour at RB, Grady and Kirk at WR (not to mention the starter Chris Boyd is just a RS-sophomore), van der Wal and Scheu at TE and Kentera at H-back. A little sad to think about how much more interesting this game itself might have been, but impressive to see that amount of young talent before most of the new recruits are even on campus.
You'd think if one team had a stacked offense, the other would have the stacked defense. You'd be wrong.
- DE: Walker May, Johnell Thomas and Thad McHaney
- DT: Colt Nichter and Jared Morse
- LB: Archibald Barnes, Andrew East, Chase Garnham and Patrick Sutton
- Star: Karl Butler
- CB: Steven Clarke, Andre Hal
- S: Kenny Ladler, Eric Samuels, Josh Gregory
- DE: Kyle Woestmann and Jimmy Stewart
- DT: Vince Taylor, Conor Hart and Barron Dixon
- LB: Darreon Herring, Kellen Williams
- Star: Larry Franklin and Robby Barbieri
- CB: Eddie Foster, Derek King and Alex Hysong
- S: Jahmel McIntosh, Andrew Williamson and Scott Aiello
Though the Black team has the established stars, the Gold team could be a very interesting glimpse into the future. While the experience differential between the teams is nearly as great as on the offense, the talent difference is much smaller and and could actually favor the younger side.
As we've come to expect from the Dores, the DB positions will be a strong spot on both teams. Despite missing injured starters Trey Wilson and Javon Marshall, the Black features Kenny Ladler at safety as well as Andre Hal, whose coverage technique has drawn rave reviews in practice.
The Gold features a several big prospects taking the field for the first time. S Jahmel McIntosh and CB Derek King have were big gets for coach Franklin's first recruiting class, while S Andrew Williamson, also a RS-freshman, has been touted by as a potential breakout candidate.
One interesting aspect of the roster is the "star" position, a hybrid safety-linebacker position utilizing our strength at DB to offset our thinness at LB. Karl Butler will play the role for the Black while Larry Franklin, another of the prizes of Franklin's first class will play the role for the Gold.
Both linebacker corps are very thin. The Black team hold the two healthy experience starters Archibald Barnes and Chase Garnham, (our third returner Tristan Strong is injured), while the Gold features a hoss of a true-freshman, early enrollee Darreon Herring who is expected to play significant minutes immediately this fall.
On the D-lines the likes of senior DT Colt Nichter, and junior DE Walker May (voted Spring captain along with Jordan Rodgers) highlight the big experience disparity, but the Gold team features a lot of talent, particularly the sophomore team of troublemakers in the middle Vince Taylor and Barron Dixon who played significant minutes last year as freshmen. Notably missing will be senior DT Rob Lohr who is injured.
Though it may not be pretty on offense for the Gold team, the young Gold defense will certainly be trying to prove something against the 1st team offense of the Black team.
Like last year, the offensive line will play both ways, as only eight are healthy at the moment. However, adding in a healthy Ryan Seymour and Chase White in the summer will significantly fill out that line, not to mention the six talented true freshmen showing up this summer as well.
That brings up the one very noticeable difference between this season's spring game and last season's. Where last season the talent seemed thin and everyone was just waiting on the recruits to show up, this season there are more established veterans who we've seen play at SEC levels, as well as many young guys we are finally seeing suit up for the very first time. Even without the new recruits, this team has plenty of truly exciting players, young and old.
Early-enrollees Robinette and Herring may whet our appetites for the talent coming in, but today's game ought to serve as a reminder of how much better we already are with the talent on the field than we were at this point last year.