Vanderbilt recently released their 2012 summer roster, and it featured a few names that Commodore fans may not be familiar with. In between the old standbys like Archibald Barnes and Austin Monahan and the well known recruits like Brian Kimbrow and Caleb Azubike are guys who are looking to make their mark in the hearts and minds of fans and coaches alike. These players include walk-ons who will be given the chance to earn a few snaps of SEC time on the practice field and old faces that we thought had left West End for good.
These players run the gamut from freshmen to redshirt seniors, and some will get more opportunities to contribute than others. Still, they're all Commodores, and once the whistle blows to start things off against South Carolina they will join a sacred fraternity that few will have access to. Here are some of the guys that stood out on the roster to us, ranging from walk-on goalkeepers from New England to former starters that we thought were long gone.
Guys We Overlooked Before:
Manny Amingwa - senior - defensive back: Amingwa walked onto the team this fall and is already the leading candidate for my favorite player on the roster. This kid transferred to Vandy from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and made the team despite not playing high school football. Instead, he was a big time goalkeeper for a high school called Milford, which I can only assume is the prestigious Milford Academy, where children are neither seen nor heard. He's also a transplant from Cameroon. With a soccer background and Cameroonian roots, he combines the qualities of two of the most beloved Vandy basketball players of the past decade. Welcome to the team, Festus Tchiengang!
Luke Colbert - sophomore - quarterback: Another quarterback? BRING HIM IN! Colbert was a two-star recruit who gained interest from Vandy, Louisville, Ole Miss, and Purdue before sitting out most of his senior year due to injury. He's a transfer from SMU (he didn't play there) who could be a real lottery ticket for Franklin's squad.
Andrew East - redshirt sophomore - long snapper: East is in line to be the best Vanderbilt long snapper in school history. Has a very good chance to set the team record for games played. Big time receiver on fake punts.
Conor Hart - redshirt freshman - defensive tackle: A 265 pound monster who also ran the anchor leg of his high school's 4x100m relay. That's terrifyingly awesome.
Marc Rosen - junior - n/a: Rosen is from England, didn't play organized football growing up, and was a soccer and rugby standout back across the pond. He's also the only player on the roster without an assigned position (Update: he's a kicker now). The only thing I know about this guy is that he can probably drink his weight in lager.
Carey Spear - sophomore - kicker: Last seen sacrificing a herd of buffalo to the rain gods to rid himself of the shanks. If his season starts poorly, Rosen will be next.
Guys We Were Surprised to See:
Darien Bryant - redshirt freshman - defensive end: Bryant was reported to have left the team in the winter but apparently worked his way back into Coach Franklin's good graces to return to the team's official roster. That's great news for the Commodores, because he was a standout tight end and defensive end in high school who has four years of NCAA eligibility remaining. He was listed as a tight end as a recruit and as a hybrid two-way player early in his career, but it appears that he's back solely in a defensive role this season. There's no word on the reason behind his return or whether his positional assignment played a part in his brief departure, but he'll be a boost for Vandy in 2012.
John Cole - redshirt senior - wide receiver: Cole has been a mainstay of the Commodore offense for the past three years, but fell to the wayside thanks to the emergence of players like Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Though he had one year of eligibility remaining at Vandy thanks to a redshirt year, many assumed that the Kentucky native would leave the team after four years in Nashville and little room for him on a crowded depth chart.
Fortunately for the 'Dores, Cole will return in 2012 to provide veteran leadership to a young team. The diminutive possession receiver will likely face a steep curve when it comes to regaining his starting position, but his hard work and ability to play through pain will make him a valuable contributor on special teams and in practice until he can work his way back into James Franklin's rotation. If Cole can stay healthy, he'll add experience and depth to a team that is dominated by underclassmen.