He's only been on campus for a year, but for most Vandy fans it seems like much longer. That's because Josh Grady has become Vanderbilt's most fervent supporter on the internet. Now, he'll get the chance to support his team on the gridiron as well as on the Twitterverse.
After a redshirt year, a position change, and about 30,000 tweets, the freshman will get the chance to show why he has been touted as one of the Commodores' brightest prospects since Signing Day in 2011. The former quarterback is likely to earn snaps at wideout, in the backfield, and as a wildcat QB while coach James Franklin figures out what to do with his waterbug athlete. While we haven't yet seen what Grady can bring to the table in a NCAA contest, last April's spring game gave us an idea of what we can expect out of the youngster.
Grady earned reps with the starters on the Black team, getting snaps as a wildcat quarterback/wideout and contributing two touchdowns in a 33-0 rout. He made his presence felt on just his team's second possession of the scrimmage, ripping off a 14-yard rush from behind center. He added an eight-yard touchdown run before connecting with Jordan Matthews for a 54-yard passing TD to cap off a stunning debut in his first Black and Gold Game.
Grady finished his day with 58 passing yards to go along with three carries and 35 yards on the ground. He also had a deep completion from Jordan Rodgers called back when it was ruled that Grady landed out of bounds with the ball. In all, it was an extremely promising performance from one of the best athletes on the roster.
However, it would be difficult to expect this to translate onto the field immediately in 2012. Grady is a player without a true position right now. While he's shown potential at every skill spot on the offense, he's still a raw commodity. On the Vanderbilt teams of the past, he'd be pressed into action whereever he was needed like Jamie Graham and D.J. Moore before him. Unfortunately for Grady, this year's Commodore squad is equipped with a loaded depth chart; snaps may be hard to come by for the redshirt freshman.
Vanderbilt's spring game showed that the coaching staff is willing to get creative in order to find ways to put Grady on the field. He has the chops to lineup at any position on the field where blocking isn't a primary concern. He's also shown that he's a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands. That's something that a team like the Commodores, who could use a big offense after losing several key players on defense, will need in the SEC's arms race.
What will this ultimately mean for the Commodores? Hopefully, it will translate to fewer tailback passes from Zac Stacy and 6-8 wildcat snaps per contest for Grady. The redshirt freshman will have to prove that he can keep opposing SEC defenses honest with his feet if the team plans to use him as their Ronnie Brown, but his performance this spring sprung hope that he'll be the kind of player that can evade tacklers while keeping an eye downfield for receivers.
Grady will have to be able to make plays on the ground to keep opponents guessing when he drops back behind center. That will be his best bet for playing time on a roster that includes established receivers like Matthews, Chris Boyd, Wesley Tate, and Jonathan Krause. While there's a chance that Grady cracks that rotation as the season wears on, he's more likely going to be called on to be the team's volatile element in a midst of a more traditional offense.
That will bring unpredictability to a lineup that had traditionally been...less than exciting since the days of Jay Cutler. Josh Grady's role on the 2012 offense isn't yet defined, and he may end up existing in a category that blurs the lines of a traditional SEC offense. One thing is certain - any time Grady is on the field would be the bad time for a bathroom trip.