Though most of the talk this season was focused on the huge and talented senior class that we're going to be saying goodbye to in a few weeks in Birmingham, we're kicking off our Season in Review Awards with a look into the future.
The second biggest story of the 2013 season has been the emergence of Coach James Franklin's first full recruiting class, now true sophomores and redshirt freshmen. After a summer that saw three members of the 2012 recruiting class cast an immense shadow on the university, this season we were reminded of just how exciting the future may be.
While the voting was open to true freshmen–and we saw a few make a mark this year, including kick return dynamo and personal favorite Darrius Sims–the redshirts led the way.
Several were deserving of recognition, including CB Torren McGaster and our only SEC All-Freshman OT Andrew Jelks, but our voters all agreed on a top three. CB Paris Head, with two INTs and 21 tackles (including 15 solo) snagged every third place vote, and DT Adam Butler and QB Patton Robinette split the 1st and 2nd place votes to earn our Co-Freshman of the Year awards.
While I remember finding out on a concourse walking into the Liberty Bowl that Patton Robinette had walked out of UNC orientation to come to Vandy, I couldn't tell you where I was when I heard that Adam Butler was coming to Vandy.
Butler was one of six offensive linemen in a class that set the foundation for the future of Herb Hand's offensive lines, while defensive tackle continued to be a position of need. Though the position has added some big recruits in the last two cycles, Butler moved to defense this spring with little notice to help fill an immediate shortage.
The uninitiated (myself included) may have assumed Butler a stop gap, but he took to the role so quickly he earned a starting spot for the season opener, and ended up starting five games.
Butler grabbed our attention in with 6 tackles in both the South Carolina and UMass games and earned Player of the Game honors against Kentucky when he a blocked a Wildcat PAT and stuffed a fake field goal in the same half. In the end over 10 games amassed 25 total tackles (16 solo), 6 tackles for loss, 2 blocked kicks, 2 tipped passes, a forced fumble and a QB hurry.
Heading into next season, rather than having DT as a position of uncertain promise (like every other position but DE), Butler has morphed DT into an area of strength that should continue to get stronger. On top of all of that the kid is fun to root for, showing his charisma in post game press conferences and in reVealed videos.
Though Robinette had some incredible highs, looks like Spartacus, and his low-key celebrations were my favorite thing all season, Adam Butler, for his full season of work at a relatively new position that doesn't take kindly to freshmen, was my (co)Freshman of the Year.
- The Goche
Did Butler ultimately have a greater impact than Patton Robinette? His quick rise through the defensive depth chart put him on the field for significantly more snaps than his classmate QB, and he may have heard his name called by Joe Fisher more than Robinette did despite playing one of the more anonymous positions on the Vanderbilt defense.
However, in terms of bang-for-your-buck, Patton is my guy.
Robinette was the lynchpin behind a come-from-behind, upset win over Georgia. He was the catalyst behind one of the most memorable plays in Commodore history when he up-faked a Tennessee defender and ran into the Volunteer end zone for a season-defining win in Knoxville. Vanderbilt went 7-1 in games in which he saw the field.
His stats may not bear it out, but Robinette played with all the promise of a Brand New Vandy as a redshirt freshman. He showed off an accurate arm but may have made greater strides as a runner, showing off the kind of game that James Franklin utilized for Jordan Rodgers before him. There were plenty of growing pains in 2013, but the Maryville native has the tools to be the next great Commodore quarterback. Without him, this team doesn't win eight games.
- Christian D'Andrea
The Process: The award was based on a council vote between the four most active authors, managers, and moderators of Anchor of Gold. This included Christian D'Andrea, KingJamesIV, The Goche, and VandyImport. Voters were asked to list their top three candidates for each award. A first-place vote was worth three points, a second-place vote worth two, and so forth. The results of that vote are below.