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Vanderbilt Football 2022 Position Preview: Guards and Centers

The offensive line was a problem last year, but plenty of starting experience returns.

Vanderbilt v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Vanderbilt’s offensive line has been a problem for the last couple of years, but things may be starting to turn on that front.

For one thing, Vanderbilt returns three players at the guard and center spots who started games last season. They don’t return starting left guard Cole Clemens, but at the very least they have enough starting experience to fill all three spots on the interior offensive line.

For another thing... well, the strength and conditioning program is improving. There are some big boys on the offensive line now in a way that there haven’t been so much in recent years. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Presumptive Starters

Julian Hernandez, redshirt junior: After starting four games at guard in 2020, Hernandez took over as Vanderbilt’s starting center in the third game of the 2021 season and started the last ten games of the season — and only allowed one sack. The 6’4”, 315-pound Hernandez should be penciled in as the team’s starting center.

Delfin Xavier Castillo, sophomore: I usually assume that incoming freshman offensive linemen will redshirt, but sometimes a guy’s just too talented to keep off the field. That was the case with Castillo, who started the last five games of the 2021 season at right guard and didn’t allow a sack. And he’s now listed at 6’5” and 340 pounds. He’ll take one of the guard spots.

The Other Guard Spot

Ben Cox, junior: Cox started the first seven games of the season at right guard last season before giving way to Castillo late in the season. That he’s now started eight games on the offensive line in his career is an indication that he’ll at least be in the mix for the other guard spot; that he already lost his starting job once is a sign that he might not be the winner.

Gage Pitchford, redshirt freshman: Pitchford took a redshirt year, but he did manage to get into the Tennessee game for his first college experience. At 6’6” and 319 pounds, he might still end up at tackle — he has the size for it — but if he’s going to earn a starting job in 2022, it’s probably going to be at guard.

Jake Ketschek, redshirt freshman: Ketschek didn’t play in 2021, but he hit the weight room hard — he’s now listed at 6’4” and 330 pounds. That kind of size is a good indication that he’ll be in the mix for the last starting spot on the line, though as of right now I’d put him behind Cox and Pitchford.

The Freshmen

Grayson Morgan, freshman: The three-star freshman from just down the road at Montgomery Bell Academy comes in listed at 6’5” and 260 pounds. That’s obviously not going to be enough to play on an SEC offensive line, and I’d say a redshirt is a near certainty here.

Levi Harber, freshman: Ditto Harber, who’s listed at 6’4” and 270 pounds. Come see me in a year after you hit the weight room.