clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vanderbilt Football 2023 Position Preview: Guard/Center

Hey, all three starters are back!

Vanderbilt v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

When I wrote about the offensive tackles the other day, I noted the improvement Vanderbilt’s offensive line has shown in two seasons under A.J. Blazek.

Really, the interior of the line is even better. Between the two guard spots and center, Vanderbilt returns all three starters from 2022. Granted, those three only accounted for 24 starts due to injuries — but assuming good health, this should be a solid group. Now, the depth behind those three is a bit concerning, or at least inexperienced — but as we saw last year, Vanderbilt could simply move some of the backups at tackle inside if needed. Gunnar Hansen is probably Vanderbilt’s starting left tackle this season, but he filled in at left guard late in the season.

Julian Hernandez, redshirt senior: After breaking into Vanderbilt’s starting lineup at left guard in 2020, Hernandez moved to center a couple of games into the 2021 season and hasn’t let go, starting 20 games over the last two seasons (and missing two games last year to injury.) You can pretty much write him in ink pen as the Commodores’ starting center this season; a position that was a problem in 2019 and 2020 has not been one since.

Delfin Xavier Castillo, junior: The 6’5”, 361-pound Castillo moved into Vanderbilt’s starting lineup as a true freshman, an impressive feat. Last season, he was limited to six games due to injuries, starting two games at center in Hernandez’s absence and also three games at left guard. I would pencil him in as the team’s starting left guard.

Bradley Ashmore, senior: It’s a sign of Vanderbilt’s improvement on the line that Ashmore, a two-year starter at right tackle, moved to right guard last season and started nine games before being lost for the season. Ashmore did not allow a sack all season, and even played well while injured before undergoing surgery.

Jake Ketschek, redshirt sophomore: And here’s where the problems start. Ketschek — who filled in for Ashmore for the final three games of last season — is going to be on the shelf for a while, possibly the entire season, after tearing his ACL. Having another guy with starting experience would be nice.

Kevo Wesley, redshirt junior: Wesley was recruited by Derek Mason to shore up the center position long-term; instead, he moved to the defensive line last season after playing in one game in his first two seasons at Vanderbilt. It’s hard to tell if the move back to the offensive line is a reflection of the lack of depth inside or the fact that Vanderbilt doesn’t really need him on the defensive line.

Grayson Morgan, redshirt freshman: A highly-touted local recruit, Morgan is still listed at 280, which isn’t going to play in the SEC. He’s still a good bet to play down the road if he can add bulk.

Levi Harber, redshirt freshman: Likewise, Harber is still listed at 283. There’s a pretty clear strategy from the coaching staff on the offensive line to find guys with upside who need to add weight to play in the SEC, but one side effect of that is that they won’t be ready to play early.

Cooper Starks, freshman: Starks, on the other hand, comes in at 6’5” and 329 pounds. I never expect offensive linemen to play as true freshmen, but he already has the size, at least.

Anthony Miles, freshman: Miles could end up at tackle, but if he does play in 2023, it’s more likely to be inside. At 6’5” and 318 pounds, he has the size to play right away and was well-regarded as a recruit.