Bad news for Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and the Commodores' quarterbacks; left tackle Andrew Jelks won't be protecting anyone's blind side in 2015.
Jelks, a former Freshman All-American, left Wednesday evening's practice with an apparent knee injury. On Thursday, the program broke the news that he'll miss the entire season as a result.
Here's what head coach Derek Mason had to say about the loss:
I’m really disappointed for Andrew because he’s such a fine young man. Andrew was having an excellent camp and was looking forward to having a big year. He’s a tremendous talent who commands respect throughout the locker room. Andrew’s a dedicated, hard worker and I know he will come back even stronger."It’s time for others to step up and claim a more substantial role in the success of our offense. We definitely have players on our roster that can fill the void left by Andrew’s departure.
Losing Jelks is a huge blow for an offensive line that has struggled to find a rhythm in recent years. Jelks, a two-year starter, was part of a returning group of athletes who can bring stability to an otherwise volatile position. At 6'6" and 307 pounds, he brought a stellar combination of size and mobility to the most important role in the trenches. With a trio of right-handed quarterbacks battling for Vandy's starting spot, Jelks was the guy tasked with protecting their blind sides. He'll be a very difficult player to replace.
Sean Dowling was Vanderbilt's backup left tackle for most of 2014, but he's since been moved to tight end. This injury could press him in to action on the line once more (he was always going to be more of a blocker than a receiver at TE), but he'll have to beat out a handful of veterans to earn that spot. Will Holden could always move over from right tackle, and 6'7", 305 Blake Fromang - another player who has shifted between lineman and tight end in his Commodore career - will also compete for snaps. Behind them, first-year players like Bailey Granier and Egidio DellaRipa could move into the team's rotation, while true freshmen Justin Skule and Jared Southers will also have a bigger opportunity to contribute this fall.
Jelks's injury is the second season-ending loss of the season for the Commodore offense. Vanderbilt will be without last year's top receiver C.J. Duncan after he suffered a non-contact lower leg injury a week ago. Duncan and Jelks were two players that Mason and Ludwig were counting on to lead a renaissance at Dudley Field. Now, the 'Dores will have to hope that their roster is deep enough to keep this season from sinking before it can even begin.
UPDATE: Former Commodore standout Joe Townsend weighs in on Twitter:
@JWJohnsonVU247 move will to left, fro to right— Joe Townsend II (@JTownislegend) August 20, 2015