Vanderbilt's offensive line made a name for themselves in 2011 by playing hard despite losing key players. They'll have to do the same in 2012, as starting center Logan Stewart and running back Mitchell Hester were dismissed from the team today for violations of team rules.
Stewart started six games for the Commodores in 2011 after fighting off mononucleosis early in the season. He performed well at the position before having his season ended by a knee injury. He also missed time for his involvement in the James Franklin/Todd Grantham incident at the end of the Vanderbilt/Georgia game. Wesley Johnson took over his position in the interim, and it's unknown whether or not Johnson will be handling snapping duties in 2012.
Hester redshirted his freshman year and didn't see any playing time for Vanderbilt. The 5'8", 175 pound tailback was rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and chose Nashville over South Florida, Virginia, Maryland, and Iowa State.
No details were given as to the nature of the rules that each player broke. Stewart's infraction took place a "couple of weeks ago," while Hester's issues arose over a month ago. Franklin and his staff put in work to ensure that these dismissals didn't break before the Liberty Bowl and give the team a cause of distraction.
Both players will be missed, but the impact of Stewart's dismissal will likely have the biggest effect. Vanderbilt showed that they could play well without him in 2011, but offensive line will remain one of the team's most shallow positions in 2012, even with recruits like Adam Butler and Andrew Jelks headed to Dudley Field next year. Hester, on the other hand, was a part of a deep running back stable that will only lose graduating junior Micah Powell. He would have had to put together quite an offseason to challenge for carries in a backfield that will include All-SEC players Zac Stacy and Warren Norman, along with Jerron Seymour and uber-recruit Brian Kimbrow.
It's sad news for the Commodores, but it's also encouraging to see that Franklin and his staff are sending a message regarding disciplinary action. The control to keep these issues out of the media until after the bowl game in order to keep the team on point is also impressive. While we don't know what Stewart or Hester did, their dismissals send a message to both Vanderbilt players and the SEC as to what the culture of Vandy football is expected to be like.