Vanderbilt has released its Week 4 depth chart ahead of Saturday’s game at Alabama, and an old friend returns:
Yeah, that’s right. I count eight separate “or” designations on the depth chart. It isn’t anywhere near as silly as the Derek Mason era, of course, when Mason frequently would decide that it wasn’t to his team’s advantage to tip off who the second-string long snapper was, but there are at least a few on here.
(Notable in its exclusion from this list: quarterback, where A.J. Swann is now listed as QB1. I think based on what we saw on Saturday, that’s the right move.)
Instead of mocking the overuse of “or” designations, though, let me try to guess what’s going on at each position.
Backup running back: Chase Gillespie or Patrick Smith or Rocko Griffin
This one isn’t difficult. Chase Gillespie has been the team’s de facto second-string running back for a few weeks, with Smith (suspension) and Griffin (unspecified injury) both out. Just based on what I’ve seen, those two clearly should be ahead of Gillespie on current talent, so this is a hedge on Smith staying out of the doghouse for the rest of the week and Griffin being healthy and available to play on Saturday.
Center: Delfin Xavier Castillo or Julian Hernandez
Hernandez was the starting center entering the season with Castillo at right guard; then, Hernandez got hurt and Castillo took over as the starting center for a couple of games; then, Castillo got hurt while Hernandez returned on Saturday and retook the starting spot. I assume this designation is about Castillo’s health status; the mystery to me is why they wouldn’t just go ahead and list Hernandez as the starter, since he’s better than Castillo in this spot.
Backup nose tackle: Devin Lee or Yilanan Outtara or Myles Cecil
Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on here; I assume this is about Lee’s health, as he returned to action on Saturday after missing the first three games of the season. Maybe this is just a notation that Lea intends to rotate these three such that there isn’t a clear “second stringer” behind Christian James.
Star: Michael Owusu or Darren Agu
Linebacker: Ethan Barr or Kane Patterson
Anchor: De’Rickey Wright or C.J. Taylor
These three are all pretty straight forward: Owusu/Agu, Barr/Patterson, and Wright/Taylor are all getting roughly equal amounts of playing time. This is where the “or” designation is truly appropriate; these guys are all going to play, so this is just much more accurate than designating one guy as the starter and the other guy as the backup. And particularly in the case of the “star” (hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker) and “anchor” (hybrid linebacker/safety) positions, these are much more flexible positions that utilize different personnel depending on what the offense is doing. (Oddly, Wright and Taylor are also listed on the depth chart as safety... but there, Wright is listed first and Taylor second.)
Starting cornerback: Jeremy Lucien or BJ Anderson
Both of these guys have their moments, with Anderson starting early in the season before Lucien displaced him last week. This designation really just indicates that neither guy has truly beaten out the other through four games.
Backup safety: Steven Sannieniola or Chase Lloyd
These two are listed behind Max Worship at safety, and with Worship being one of the defense’s best players, it’s probably not worth spending a ton of time thinking about who’s backing him up; but, perhaps, this is a good sign that the staff has no intention of redshirting the true freshman Sannieniola.