Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let's just say Buzz Bissinger is a little upset about sports blogs

So the obscene amount of work required for my final in 20th century American novel tomorrow morning seems a little more pressing now, but I would be remiss if I did not at least bring up what happened last night Costas Now.

In what was supposed to be a town hall discussion between sports blogger Will Leitch (of, author and journalist Buzz Bissinger (of Friday Night Lights and Three Nights in August), and Braylon Edwards (who likely still can't figure out why he was there...), things quickly got out of hand. I don't know if any of you have read this surprisingly poignant description of why we like sports, but let's just say Bissinger was "into it".

I won't try and do too much here, because I think Awful Announcing, Deadspin, or my personal favorite, Fire Joe Morgan, can do a much better job of putting this whole thing into perspective than I can. However, as a 21 year old who simply loves reading about sports, why this all has to be such a big deal. More than anything, what I took away from watching that video clip was that Buzz Bissinger looks like a man that is scared he's becoming irrelevant, and reacting against it in a pretty immature way. I don't completely blame him for the way he feels, but I think it's pretty sad that a guy who has shown such an uncanny ability for "getting it" when it comes to power of sports is so painfully unable to do the same when it comes to sports blogs.

2008-09 SEC Basketball Preview

Less than a month has passed since Kansas beat Memphis in the national title game, but I couldn't help but take a look at the 2008-09 season. The deadline has passed for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft (although they have until June 16 to withdraw), which means we have a pretty good idea of who's staying and going.

In previewing the Southeastern Conference, it seems as though the East is once again more talented than the West with Tennessee and Florida as the clear favorites. Vanderbilt and Kentucky lose a lot, but both welcome talented freshman classes that make it that much harder to project how they'll finish.

With that said, here's an early look at the SEC. Disagree with my picks? As always, feel free to leave comments below.

Eastern Division

2007-08 Record: (31-5, 14-2 SEC)

Key losses
Chris Lofton (15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds)
JaJuan Smith (14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds)
Jordan Howell (4.3 points, 2.2 assists)
Tyler Smith (13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists)
J.P. Prince (8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds)
Wayne Chism (9.9 points, 5.8 rebounds)
Duke Crews (5.4 points, 4.0 rebounds)
Ramar Smith (7.4 points, 3.2 assists)
Coming in
Cameron Tatum (Redshirt freshman)
Scotty Hopson, SF (5-Star)
Renaldo Woolridge, SF (4-Star)
Philip Jurick, C (4-Star)

Season Outlook: The Vols got great news when Tyler Smith decided to return for his junior season. All-American Scotty Hopson is going to make people forget about Chris Lofton. UT also welcomes back Cameron Tatum, the big signee from '07, who was injured last season. In addition, the entire roster is finally full of Bruce Pearl's recruits, which means they should be bigger and more athletic. A Final Four is not out of reach for this squad, although the point guard position is once again in question.

2007-08 Record: (24-12, 8-8 SEC)

Key losses
Jonathan Mitchell (Transfer)
Nick Calathes, Fr. G/F (15.3 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds)
Walter Hodge, Jr. G (10.4 points, 2.9 assists)
Jai Lucas, Fr. G (8.5 points, 2.3 assists)
Dan Werner, So. F (9.1 points, 6.4 rebounds)
Chandler Parsons, Fr. F (8.1 points, 4 rebounds)
Alex Tyus, Fr. F (4.3 points, 2.6 rebounds)
Marresse Speights, So. F (14.5 points, 8.1 rebounds)
Coming in
Kenny Kadji, C (5-Star)
Ray Shipman, SF (4-Star)
Allan Chaney, PF (4-Star)
Eloy Vargas, PF (4-Star)
Erving Walker, PG (3-Star)

Season Outlook: The Gators were extremely young in 2007 and still won 24 games (advancing to the NIT Final Four). Speights has declared for the NBA Draft, but has not hired an agent. If he returns, the Gators will challenge the Vols for the SEC East crown. Without him, Billy Donovan's squad still very well could as they bring virtually everyone else back. Calathes is a SEC Player of the Year candidate and UF welcomes three talented big men in Kadji, Vargas and Chaney. While Noah, Brewer and Horford aren't walking through that door, a Sweet 16 run is likely for the Gators.

2007-08 Record: (26-8, 10-6 SEC)
Key losses
Shan Foster (20.3 points, 4.9 rebounds)
Alex Gordon (10.8 points, 3.1 assists)
Ross Neltner (8.3 points, 5.6 rebounds)
Alan Metcalfe (5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds)
Jermaine Beal (7.6 points, 4.6 assists)
A.J. Ogilvy (17 points, 6.7 rebounds)
Andre Walker (2.4 points, 2.0 rebounds)
Darshawn McClellan (2.7 points, 3.0 rebounds)
Jamie Graham (Football player/defensive specialist)
Brad Tinsley
Coming in
Festus Ezeli, C (Redshirt)
Charles Hinkle, SG (Redshirt)
Lance Goulbourne, F (4-Star)
Steve Tchiengang, F (4-Star)
Jeff Taylor, SF (4-Star)
Jordan Smart, SG (Preferred walk-on)

Season Outlook: The Commodores are one of the toughest teams to project. They're losing a lot, most notably SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster, but return Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy and welcome what is perhaps the best recruiting class in Kevin Stallings' tenure. Adding Jeff Taylor last week was huge and they could still sign Brad Tinsley, who is deciding between VU and Wake Forest. You also can't forget about the raw, but extremely athletic center Festus Ezeli, who redshirted this season. Ultimately, there are too many unknowns to place any expectations on the Commodores. I would imagine that they struggle somewhat early, but get much better as the year goes on and have a chance to qualify for the Big Dance. With no seniors on the roster, however, watch out for Vandy in 09-10.

2007-08 Record: (18-13, 12-4 SEC)

Key losses
Ramel Bradley, G (15.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists)
Joe Crawford, G (17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds)
Jodie Meeks, So. F (8.8 points, 2.6 rebounds)
Patrick Patterson, Fr. F (16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds)
Perry Stevenson (5.9 points, 5.1 rebounds)
Ramon Harris, (4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds)
Derrick Jasper, So. G
Coming in
DeAndre Liggins, SF (5-Star)
Darius Miller, SF (4-Star)
Kevin Galloway, SF (4-Star, JUCO)

Season Outlook: Billy Gillespie said he expects to be "a much more fast-paced team" next season. Whether that means better is yet to be determined. While their relationship was rocky at first, Gillespie grew to love Bradley and Crawford, who averaged 34 points between them. It's not going to be easy to replace their production, which is why the Wildcats will need oft-injured Jodie Meeks to return to his freshman-year form. Kentucky also has a lot of unknowns. Jasper is homesick and considering transferring to a school on the West Coast, while Patterson (stress fracture in his left ankle) will be out four to six months. Like Vandy, the Wildcats will be asking a lot of their talented freshman class, which includes Kentucky's "Mr. Basketball" and the next Scottie Pippen. If Patterson is healthy, expect the Wildcats to be in the Big Dance once again.

2007-08 Record: (24-12, 8-8 SEC)

Key losses
Sundiata Gaines, G (14.8 points, 6 rebounds, 4.2 assists)
Dave Bliss, C (7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds)
Billy Humphrey, Jr. G (12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds)
Terrance Woodbury, Jr. G/F (11 points, 4.1 rebounds)
Jeremy Price, Fr. F (8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds)
Albert Jackson, So. F/C (3.7 points, 4.3 rebounds)
Coming in
Trey Thompkins, PF (4-Star)
Travis Leslie, SF (4-Star)
Drazen Zlovaroc, SF (3-Star)
Dustin Ware, PG (3-Star)
Ebuka Anyaorah, SG

Season Outlook: The Bulldogs may have won the SEC Tournament, thus earning a trip to the Big Dance, but don't let that Cinderella finish fool you. They are a decent team that's losing its best player in Sundiata Gaines. While the recruiting class is strong, it's going to be a long time before the Bulldogs "can literally dominate the nation and win championships with just Georgia players," no matter what disillusioned coach Dennis Felton likes to believe.

2007-08 Record: (14-18, 5-11 SEC)

Key losses
Dwayne Day (5.1 points, 3.7 rebounds)
Devan Downey, So. G (18.4 points, 5.4 assists)
Zam Fredrick, Jr. G (14.8 points, 3.2 assists)
Dominique Archie, So. F (10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds)
Evaldas Baniulus, So. F (5.4 points, 2.2 rebounds)
Mike Holmes, Fr. F/C (8.5 points, 5.7 rebounds)
Coming in
Darius Morrow, C (3-Star)

Season Outlook: No much to say here, other than I think that new coach Darrin Horn should hire Ty Rodgers as an assistant, or at least give him a portion of the five-year contract worth $800,000 annually that he just signed. Had Rodgers not hit the shot of the lifetime to lift Western Kentucky past Drake, Horn wouldn't have gone anywhere, which shows how much stock (foolishly?) teams place on NCAA Tournament results. As for the team Horn takes over? They don't lose or gain much, which means they should be just as bad (OK, maybe a couple of wins better).

SEC Western Division

2007-08 Record: (24-11, 7-9 SEC)

Key losses
Dwayne Curtis (14.9 points, 9.6 rebounds)
Kenny Williams (8.5 points, 6.6 rebounds)
Chris Warren, Fr. G (15.8 points, 4.5 assists)
Eniel Polynice, So. G (10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds)
David Huertas, So. G (10.7 points, 3.7 rebounds)
Trevor Gaskins, Jr. G (5.9 points, 1.5 rebounds)
Zach Graham, Fr. G (5.9 points, 2.7 rebounds)
Coming in
DeAundre Cranston, F (JUCO)
Murphy Holloway, SF (4-Star)
Terrance Henry, PF (4-Star)
Three 3-star recruits

Season Outlook: Andy Kennedy, the SEC's most underrated coach, has to like his squad's chances. Point guard Chris Warren is only going to get better, and the same could be said for the Rebels' supporting cast, which includes Polynice and Huertas. Ole Miss will be thin in the frontcourt without Curtis, Williams and Jermey Parnell, although Cranston, Henry, a top-100 recruit, and the super-talented Holloway should help. Kennedy's teams always seem to be better than the sum of their parts and I expect next year to be no different.

2007-08 Record: (17-16, 5-11 SEC)

Key losses
Mykal Riley, F (14.9 points, 5.2 rebounds)
Rico Pickett, Fr. G (Transfer)
Alonzo Gee, Jr. G (14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds)
Brandon Hollinger, Jr. G (6.3 points, 3.2 assists)
Demetrius Jemison, So. F (5.6 points, 5.3 rebounds)
Richard Hendrix, F (17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds)
Ronald Steele, PG (Injured)
Coming in
Anthony Brock, PG (JC All-American)
JaMychal Green, F (5-Star)
Andrew Steele, PG (4-Star)
Tony Mitchell, SF (4-Star)

Season Outlook: I'm high on the Crimson Tide as long as it Hendrix and Steele realize they're not first-round picks and return for their senior seasons. JUCO point guard Anthony Brock is a nice addition and McDonald's All-American JaMychal Green should be an absolute stud. I know that Alabama has underachieved in the past, but in the wide-open West where every team has question marks, the talented Tide have as good a shot as any.

3. LSU
2007-08 Record: (13-18, 6-10 SEC)

Key losses
Anthony Randolph (15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds)
Marcus Thornton, Jr. G (19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds)
Tasmin Mitchell, Jr. F (Injured)
Garrett Temple, Jr. G (6.4 points, 4.2 rebounds)
Chris Johnson, Jr. C (11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds)
Terry Martin, Jr. G (8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds)
Coming in
J'Mison Morgan, C (4-Star)
Delwan Graham, PF (4-Star)
Storm Warren, PF (3-Star)

Season Outlook: Randolph is off to the NBA and for good reason (he's a projected lottery pick), but had he stayed, the Tigers would have been a team to watch out for. New coach Trent Johnson (a great hire for LSU) will rely heavily on leading scorer Marcus Thornton and center Chris Johnson. The Tigers also expect Tasmin Mitchell, a 2007 preseason second-team All-SEC selection, to return to form after missing all but three games with an ankle injury.

2007-08 Record: (23-11, 12-4 SEC)

Key losses
Charles Rhodes (17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds)
Ben Hansbrough (10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds)
Jarvis Varnado, So. C (7.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 blocks)
Barry Stewart, So. G (11.5 points, 4.6 rebounds)
Jamont Gordon, Jr. G/F (17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds)
Coming in
Romero Osby, PF (4-Star)
Dee Bost, SG (4-Star)
Twany Beckham, SG (3-Star)

Season Outlook: I've got the Bulldogs here under the assumption that Jamont Gordon does not return for his senior season. Judging from this story, I think that's a fair assumption. Mississippi State was not a very deep team to begin with, and without Gordon, Rhodes and Hansbrough (who transferred to Notre Dame), it returns just two starters in Stewart and Vernado, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. While Bost and Osby are both 4-star recruits, it will be tough for the Bulldogs to get back to the NCAA Tournament without Gordon.

2007-08 Record: (23-12, 9-7 SEC)

Key losses
Gary Ervin, G (9.5 points, 3.8 assists)
Sonny Weems, G/F (15 points, 4.5 rebounds)
Darian Townes, F (12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds)
Charles Thomas, F (9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds)
Steven Hill, C (4.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks)
Patrick Beverley, So. G (12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds)
Stefan Welsh, So. G (5.3 points, 1.9 assists)
Michael Washington, So. F (4.3 points, 3.9 rebounds)
Coming in
Rotnei Clarke, PG (4-Star)
Jason Henry, SF (4-Star)
Four 3-star recruits

Season Outlook: For the past two seasons, the Razorbacks failed to live up to their potential. Now, they're losing five talented seniors, most notably the high-flying Sonny Weems. Beverley is fun to watch, but there's going to be too much riding on his shoulders. While John Pelphrey's first recruiting class includes two 4-star recruits, expect the Razorbacks to take a step backward this season.

2007-08 Record: (14-16, 4-12 SEC)

Key losses
Frank Tolbert, G (13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds)
Quan Prowell, F (15 points, 6.3 rebounds)
Rasheem Barrett, Jr. G (13.6 points, 4 rebounds)
Quantez Robertson, Jr. G (7.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4.1 assists)
Korvotney Barber, Jr. F (13.8 points, 6.9 rebounds)
DeWayne Reed, So. G (8.9 points, 3.7 assists)
Lucas Hargrove, So. F (7.8 points, 4.4 rebounds)
Coming in
Four 3-star recruits

Season Outlook: The Tigers lose two key contributors from a squad that wasn't very good to begin with. Couple that with the fact that they've signed a mediocre recruiting class and you've got a team that doesn't have much to look forward to.

Video of the Day: Scott Van Pelt does a field sobriety test

Thanks to Awful Announcing for this one, featuring Scott Van Pelt of Sportscenter while reporting the No. 1 play of the day from a minor league baseball game between Long Island and Quinnipiac. The catch the Quinnipiac outfielder made is impressive enough, but Scott Van Pelt has a hilarious comment about his friends who came over to congratulate him.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Commodore Banter (4/29)

Check out this must-read story about the Chicago Bears' first-round draft pick, Chris Williams. We've said it before, but you don't get much better than Williams, on or off the field.

Williams and wide receiver Earl Bennett are excited to be teammates once again.

The men's and women's tennis teams will learn their postseason plans today. Check back for an update.

Harold Huggins of the City Paper wrote a nice piece on Ryan Preston whose phenomenal tennis career is coming to a close.

UTC seems pretty happy to get Keegan Bell, a "great young man," who is a "high-major talent..."

Joe Loftus, a Vandy baseball committ, is drawing plenty of interest from pro scouts.

In case you missed our...
Q&A's with Keegan Bell, Jamont Gordon, Caleb Cotham, Curt Casali, Merideth Marsh,Jonathan White, Christina Wirth, Shea Robin, Vijay Paul, Ryan Preston,Keegan Bell, Nick Cromydas, Derek Johnson, Nick Christiani, Tim Corbin,David Macias, Lance Goulbourne

NFL Draft Coverage
NBA Draft Coverage

Three Dores sign as free agents

While every player dreams of getting drafted, it actually benefits them to go undrafted as opposed to getting picked in the sixth or seventh round. Now, they'll get to sign as free agents with teams that they may actually have a chance to stick around with.

So far three Dores have found new homes and others, including Gabe Hall, Brian Stamper and Josh Eames, are currently in discussions with teams.
  • Defensive tackle Theo Horrocks signed with the Jacksonvile Jaguars.
  • Curtis Gatewood signed with the Washington Redskins, where he will play outside linebacker.
  • Outside linebacker Marcus Buggs was picked up by the Buffalo Bills.

Check out Brett Hait's story in The Nashville City Paper about Buggs and Gatewood. Both players deserve a shot in the NFL and we wouldn't be surprised to see either of them stick around with their respective teams.

SEC continues NFL Draft dominance

In total, 35 Southeastern Conference players were taken in the 2008 NFL Draft, including four of the first 10 picks. Vanderbilt saw three players drafted, which was more than Alabama, Florida, Miss. State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, and as many as Tennessee.

While this shows that the Commodores are clearly more talented than they have been in the past and that they have a coaching staff that knows how to develop players, it also leads us to ask the question: how have they not gone to a bowl game in any of the past three seasons?

But, that's a question for another day...As far as the SEC goes, it once again led all conferences in drafted players with 35. The Pac-10 was second with 34, the ACC had 33, Big 10 28 and Big 12 27.

Here's the SEC breakdown:

Alabama: 0

Arkansas: 6
Darren McFadden, RB (Round 1, Oakland)
Felix Jones, RB (Round 1, Dallas)
Marcus Harrison, DT (Round 3, Chicago)
Marcus Monk, WR (Round 7, Chicago)
Peyton Hills, FB (Round 7, Denver)
Nate Garner, OT (Round 7, NY Jets)

Auburn: 5
Quentin Groves, DE (Round 2, Jacksonville)
Patrick Lee, CB (Round 2, Green Bay)
Pat Sims, DT (Round 3, Cincinnati)
Jonathan Wilhite, CB (Round 4, New England)
King Dunlap, OT (Round 7, Philadelphia)

Florida: 2
Derrick Harvery, DE (Round 1, Jacksonville)
Andre Caldwell, WR (Round 3, Cincinnati)

Georgia: 4
Marcus Howard, OLB (Round 5, Indianapolis)
Thomas Brown, RB (Round 6, Atlanta)
Chester Adams, OG (Round 7, Chicago)
Brandon Coutu, K (Round 7, Seattle)

Kentucky: 4
Jacob Tamme, TE (Round 4, Indianapolis)
Keenan Burton, WR (Round 4, St. Louis)
Andre' Woodson, QB (Round 6, NY Giants)
Steve Johnson, WR (Round 7, Buffalo)

LSU: 7
Glenn Dorsey, DT (Round 1, Kansas City)
Chevis Jackson, CB (Round 3, Atlanta)
Jacob Hester, FB (Round 3, San Diego)
Early Doucet, WR (Round 3, Arizona)
Craig Steltz, S (Round 4, Chicago)
Matt Flynn, QB (Round 7, Green Bay)
Keith Zinger, TE (Round 7, Atlanta)

Mississippi State: 0

Ole Miss: 0

South Carolina:1
Cory Boyd, RB (Round 7, Tampa Bay)

Tennessee: 3
Jerod Mayo, LB (Round 1, New England)
Brad Cottam, TE (Round 3, Kansas City)
Erik Ainge, QB (Round 5, NY Jets)

Vanderbilt: 3
Chris Williams, OT (Round 1, Chicago)
Earl Bennett, WR (Round 3, Chicago)
Jonathan Goff, LB (Round 5, NY Giants)

UPDATE: NBA Draft Countdown: Who's In/Who's Out

With the NBA Draft coming up in June, here's a look at the underclassmen who declared by the April 27 deadline. Now, players who have not hired an agent have until June 16 to withdraw.

A few thoughts:
  • With the NBA age requirement, there are now even more talented underclassmen, which makes it harder for seniors (like Shan Foster) to get drafted.
  • Unless they're a lock for the first round, it'd be wise for underclassmen to consider sticking around for another year. A lot of the players you see on the "In for now" list will end up coming back.
  • For those of you think it would be wise for players to stay in school, read this column and this one. I bet you'll think differently afterwards.
  • ESPN's Chad Ford talks to scouts and executives to get a read on where prospects may land in the draft. You can check it out here.
In for good (15)
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona (FR)
Michael Beasley, Kansas State (FR)
Chase Budinger, Arizona (SO)
Derrick Caracter, Louisville (SO)
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis (JR)
Eric Gordon, Indiana (FR)
Brook Lopez, Stanford (SO)
Robin Lopez, Stanford (SO)
Kevin Love, UCLA (FR)
O.J. Mayo, USC (FR)
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA (JR)
JaVale McGee, Nevada (SO)
Anthony Randolph, LSU (FR)
Derrick Rose, Memphis (FR)
Brandon Rush, Kansas (JR)

In for now (32)
AJ Abrams, Texas (JR)
Antonio Anderson, Memphis (JR)
D.J. Augustin, Texas (SO)
Joe Alexander, West Virginia (JR)
Ryan Anderson, California (SO)
Darrell Arthur, Kansas (SO)
Josh Carter, Texas A&M (JR)
DeMarre Carroll, Missouri (JR)
Robert Dozier, Memphis (JR)
Mario Chalmers, Kansas (JR)
Wayne Ellington, UNC (SO)
Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State (JR)
Danny Green, UNC (JR)
Donte Green, Syracuse (FR)
Richard Hendrix, Alabama (JR)
J.J. Hickson, N.C. State (FR)
Lester Hudson, UT-Martin (JR)
Shawn James, Duquesne (JR)
Davon Jefferson, USC (FR)
DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M (FR)
Kosta Koufus, Ohio State (FR)
Ty Lawson, UNC (SO)
Jerel McNeal, Marquette (JR)
Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga (JR)
Trent Plaisted, BYU (JR)
Josh Shipp, UCLA (JR)
Marresse Speights, Florida (SO)
Ronald Steele, Alabama (JR)
Robert Vaden, UAB (JR)
Lorenzo Wade, SDSU (JR)
Bill Walker, Kansas State (FR)
Russell Westbrook, UCLA (SO)

Back for another year (Notables)
Earl Clark, Louisville (SO)
Darren Collison, ULCA (SO)
Steph Curry, Davidson (SO)
Taj Gibson, USC (SO)
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma (FR)
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC (JR)
James Harden, Arizona State (FR)
Eric Maynor, VCU (JR)
AJ Ogilvy, Vanderbilt (FR)
Jeff Pendergraph, ASU (JR)
Tyresse Rice, Boston College (JR)
Tyler Smith, Tennessee (SO)
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut (SO)
Terrence Williams, Louisville (JR)
Sam Young, Pittsburgh (JR)
Note: I should have a 2008-09 SEC Preview up later this week.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Keegan Bell transfers to UTC

Freshman point guard Keegan Bell, who surprised the Vanderbilt community a month ago by announcing he would be transferring after the semester was over, has decided to play at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga of the Southern Conference. Bell will be eligible to play again in the 2009-2010 season.

According to the Nashville City Paper, Bell also considered Butler, Oregon State, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

This isn't the first time UTC has claimed a Southeastern Conference guard. Stephen McDowell, who played in a limited backup role at South Carolina his first two seasons, transferred to UTC two years ago and led the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game this season in his first year of play in the Southern Conference.

The starting five for the Mocs consisted of all juniors and seniors this past season, meaning Bell could play a major role on this team in just his second year of eligibility once the 09-10 season rolls around with everyone graduating. In the meantime, Bell stated he wants to work on all aspects of his game, including becoming a more well-rounded scorer rather than just a 3-point shooter.

Bell averaged 2.7 points, 2.8 assists and 1.2 rebounds in his freshman year at Vanderbilt, playing in every game in a backup role to Jermaine Beal. His reasons for leaving mainly concerned philosophical differences with coach Kevin Stallings about his role on the team.

To read his interview about his decision to leave Vanderbilt, click here.

We wish Keegan the best of luck and congratulate him on his new school.

A look back at the 2008 NFL Draft

All in all, it was a successful weekend for the Vanderbilt football progam as three former Commodores were drafted, the most in seven years. Offensive tackle Chris Williams (No. 14 overall) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (No. 70) find themselves in great situations in Chicago, while the New York Giants got a steal in the fifth round when they drafted linebacker Jonathan Goff.

Note that coaches and GMs could not say enough about the character and intellgience of all three of these guys, which is a credit to Bobby Johnson and the rest of the VU coaching staff.

In addition, The Nashville City Paper reports that defensive tackle Theo Horrocks has signed a free-agent contract with the Jackonsville, while outside linebackers Marcus Buggs and Curtis Gatewood, offensive linemen Brian Stamper and Josh Eames are also expected to get picked up this week. Gatewood would be an interesting addition for the New England Patriots, who play a 3-4 defense, as draft expert Tom Casale speculates.

With that said, here's the latest surrounding Vanderbilt's most recent NFL Draft picks:


In need of left tackle, Bears pick Williams (Tennessean)
-Williams was the third of seven offensive tackles drafted in the first round and comes to Chicago expecting to start right away
"I don't know much about their roster, but I'm assuming they needed a left tackle and that's why they drafted me," Williams said. "I think I'm going into a great situation, a complete team for the most part. I'm going to go in and fill a need for them, hope to get in and win a lot of games."

-Chicago coach Lovie Smith visited Williams in Nashville and said he was impressed with his talent and character.
"He's played at a high level in the SEC for a long time at the left tackle position, which he'll play for us," Smith said. "That was a need we had going into the draft, and I'll just say that I didn't go out to a lot of places, but I went out to Vanderbilt hoping that he could fill that spot for us some day.
"He's a serious player. He's a newlywed. … He comes from a great family where education has been stressed. Chris is pretty driven to be one of the better players to play the position. He has high expectations for the type of play that we'll get from him, and I think we'll get that. What I saw was just a solid player who had direction and knew where he wanted to go."

Bears snare VU's Williams (Nashville City Paper)
-Williams said the Denver Broncos will regret not taking him with the 12th pick.
"They'll know why they should have taken me down the road," he said. "I'll enjoy beating the Broncos every time we play them."

-The talkative Williams was at a loss for words afterwards.
"I can't even describe it. I'm about speechless," Williams said. "And you know me, I don't get speechless too often. I'm just extremely ecstatic. It's like a dream come true."

Bears fill No. 1 need (
-Chicago GM Jerry Angelo loves Williams as not only an athlete, but a person.
“All the things you want to hear about a player intangibly, Chris has,” he said.
“We feel like we know him as well as you can know a player,” Angelo added. “Everybody … felt very good about him and what he brings to our football team. You’re going to find he’s very gregarious in terms of his personality, very intelligent and very passionate about football.”

Dedication pays for late bloomer (Sun Times)
-Williams is 70 pounds heavier than he was when arrived at Vanderbilt, a testiment to just how hard he has worked.
''The kid is just a great story,'' said Williams' high school coach, Dale Weiner. ''He just got better and better and better.''

Williams was best possible pick (Sun Times)
-"Here is a guy who can be the cornerstone of the Bears' line for the next eight seasons," writes Matt Bowman. "A good offensive tackle is hard to come by in this league. If you can find one who can stick around for a while, go about his business, and make your running game better, why not draft him?"

Grading the Bears 2008 Draft (Bleacher Report)
Williams' grade: A
Earl Bennett's grade: A-


Gamble pays off for Bennett (Nashville City Paper)
-Brett Hait is exactly right. Bennett's decision to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season was definitely the right move. His lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is now a reality.
“Everything worked out good,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets with anything I did.”

-Bennett said he had nothing left to prove. And he didn't.
“Any time you come back, you have to face double teams, and there’s the quarterback situation at Vanderbilt,” he said. “I didn’t feel I had anything left to showcase.”

Bennett compares to Hines Ward -- sort of (Chicago Tribune)
-Chicago had him rated high on their board, ahead of many of the receivers who went in the second round
''We see him as having starter talent,'' college scouting director Greg Gabriel said. ''Whether he becomes a starter as a rookie, that remains to be seen.''

-Bennett can relate to the Bears' quarterback struggles
"He's done it without having a strong quarterback the last two years,'' Gabriel said.

Bears get Bennett in third round (Chicago Sun-Times)
-Bennett has no problem being labeled as a slot receiver
"I played out wide, too," he said. "But being labeled as a slot receiver, I like playing the slot. My coach always said you've got to be tough to play in the slot, because there are a lot of physical men in there, especially in that linebacker position."

Well-received pick for Bears (Daily Herald)
-Bennett received high praise from Gabriel
"If you watch the tape, he comes up big every game," Gabriel said. "He was their go-to guy. Everybody knew that was who they were going to throw to, yet he still came up with big catches."

Bears start Day 2 with wide receiver (Chicago Tribune)
-Bennett impressed Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner
"I like Earl a lot," Turner said. "He has great quickness. He's a really good route runner. ... He's good right after the catch [and] he will go up and catch the ball and battle for it and catch it in a crowd."

-Bennett was praised for his character and intelligence
"We will give him an opportunity, obviously, to come in and compete right away," Turner said. "He's a very intelligent young man, so he shouldn't have any trouble picking things up."

Hey Bears, meet your competition (Chicago Tribune)
-Bennett will force Brandon Lloyd to stand out in training camp considering wide receivers Marty Booker, Mark Bradley, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are already locks to make the roster.

Chicago Bears press release


NFL Draft: Who Won and Who Lost (Bleacher Report)
-This site says the Giants were the biggest winners in the 2008 draft, citing their fifth-round selection as a reason why.
"One of the more underrated picks by Jerry Reese in 2008 had to be Vandy's Jonathan Goff, With Kawika Mitchell's departure, New York had become very thin at inside linebacker. Goff is very tough, strong, and hard working.
He should be the starter from Day One next season if he can beat out former backup Gerris Wilkinson for the job. Goff may not be an every-down starter, but he and Wilkinson will fill the void left by Mitchell on the interior of the Giants' defense."

Reese's take on Giants' draft (
-GM Jerry Reese expects Goff to contribute on special teams early on
"We think he is a middle linebacker; very productive; very smart," he said. "He can play on all of the special teams. That is a common theme with us - - got to play on all of the special teams; a young kid to bring into the fold, start developing some as a backup middle linebacker. He is smart."

Giants go for IQ with fifth-round pick (NY Daily News)
-Goff joins NY linebackers Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Zak DeOssie, and Gerris Wilkinson.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Goff goes to Giants in fifth round

The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants got a steal in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, taking former Vanderbilt linebacker Jonathan Goff.

Goff was the third Vanderbilt player to be drafted, joining offensive tackle Chris Williams (No. 14 overall) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (No. 70). It marks the first time in seven years that at least three Commodores have been selected in a draft.

The two-time captain and All-SEC performer finished his career with 307 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He also became the eighth Commodore linebacker selected in the NFL Draft since 1988.

"Jonathan embodies what a Vanderbilt student-athlete should be, how he should play and how he should conduct himself," said coach Bobby Johnson in a statement. "Jonathan's teammates know about his work ethic, they know he leads by example.

"Jonathan is a physical, tough-nosed player who works hard to improve every time he takes the field. He's a tremendously productive player on the field. Off the field, Jonathan is just a model student-athlete, a guy that has as just as much pride in his academic achievement. He's a wonderful young man."

Read the full Vanderbilt press release here.

Congratulations, Jonathan.

Bennett goes No. 70 to Chicago

Vanderbilt fans now have even more reason to root for the Bears. Junior wide receiver Earl Bennett just joined fellow Commodore Chris Williams in Chicago as he was selected in the third round (70th overall) of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.

Bennett became the first Commodore receiver selected in the NFL draft since 1988 when Carl Parker was picked by Cincinnati in the 12th round.

"Earl's production on the field was amazing," said coach Bobby Johnson in a statement. "Every team we faced focused on slowing Earl and he still produced at a remarkable level. From the minute he stepped on the field as a true freshman, Earl impacted our team.

"Earl is a class act off the field, a guy that I'm really proud to have coached. He's more talkative these days, but for a long time, I thought the only words he knew was 'yes sir.' He's just a very solid citizen, a young man that brings great credit to the university, our team and his hometown."

The Bears said they had Bennett rated higher than many of the wide receivers drafted in the second round and think the Birmingham native has a chance to be a starter in the NFL.

“We see him as having starter talent,” said Greg Gabriel, the Bears’ director of college scouting. “Whether he becomes a starter as a rookie, that remains to be seen. But we see him as a guy who has starter talent. We graded him as such.”

Bennett has been compared to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

“He’s a great route runner,” Gabriel said. “He’s got excellent hands and he’s very good after the catch. On top of that, his character is impeccable.”

Read the full Bears press release here, as well as Vanderbilt's press release here.

Congratulations, Earl. The Chicago Bears now have thousands of new fans.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

NFL Draft Day 1 thoughts...

Well, it was an eventful and interesting day for the NFL draft. The first few picks started off pretty much as predicted as Miami took Jake Long, St. Louis took Chris Long, Atlanta took Chris Ryan (aka Matty Ice), Oakland took Darren McFadden, Kansas City took Glenn Dorsey, and the N.Y. Jets took Vernon Gholston. However, after those first six picks, there were eight trades in the first round as teams traded up and back in the draft order to get their men. The Saints traded up with the Patriots to get Sedrick Ellis, but the Patriots sacrificed their ability to draft Ellis' teammate Keith Rivers, the best linebacker in the class, as the Bengals drafted Ellis right before the Patriots. The Patriots drafted Jerod Mayo from Tennessee instead which was a huge stretch in my opinion even though they needed linebackers. It seems like they could have traded back again and still got Mayo.

Perhaps, nothing was more perplexing about the first round then the fact that no wide-receivers were taken even though Devin Thomas was predicted by many to be drafted 11th by the Buffalo Bills. While the first round was eventful, the second round was equally strange when wide-receivers finally did get picked. Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma and Limas Sweed from Texas , who were two of the top three rated wide-receivers by many experts, were the 8th and 9th drafted wide-receivers respectively. Also, Mario Manningham, Early Doucet, and Andre Caldwell are all still undrafted although many thought they would go in the second round.

Some additional thoughts about the first day:

1) What were my Titans thinking? Devin Thomas is sitting there, and you don't take him? Don't get me wrong I LOVE Chris Johnson's 4.24 forty speed especially since I think LenDale White has no work ethic and is fat, but wide-receiver is a huge need. The Titans have not signed anyone who is a number one receiver. Justin McCareins and Justin Gage are not the answer. Alge Crumpler is a great signing, but having another wide-receiver to compliment Roydell Williams and Crumpler would have been nice for Young. Hey, if Earl is still around when the Titans pick in the third round, I would be shocked/disappointed if they pass him up because he could be a good possession receiver for Young to dump the ball off to.

Chris Johnson's speed (25-45 seconds into this video. What a second gear!!!):

2) The new time limit limiting teams from 15 min to 10 min in the first round is possibly one of the best decisions ever made. The teams don't need that long. Don't make the fans wait. Thanks Commissioner Goddell.

3) Congrats to Chris Williams!!! Make us proud up there in Chicago protecting Sexy Rexy. Check out vucommodores for great interviews and videos of Williams' big day

4) I think Earl will be drafted some time in the 3rd round, but i would be surprised to see Goff go there with only four linebackers drafted so far. However, has him as the 11th best available player, so hopefully Goff will be drafted in the third, and the Commodores will make history with three players drafted in the first three round for the first time in school history. If Goff slips into the fourth or even fifth round, he will be a huge steal.

5) What was Steve Young talking about saying there won't be any franchise quarterbacks in next year's draft so the Falcons definitely should take Matty Ice? First, I am not convinced that Matt Ryan will be a franchise quarterback. Second, the name Tim Tebow ring a bell?? Sure Tebow is a junior next year, but everyone knows he is coming out and will be the first quarterback taken not to mention he just won a Heisman, so I would think that he will probably be just as good of a NFL quarterback as Matt Ryan, who's main weakness is his arm strength.

6) Kansas City, Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, and Pittsburgh all had great first days.

Worst first day: It is hard to go with someone other than the Titans because although they addressed a need at DE with Jason Jones, he is no Antwan Odom, who the Titans lost to free agency. Also, passing up a wide receiver when you had your pick of all of them to get a running back who many had being drafted in the beginning to middle of the second round hurts. The Titans have two good backs in Chris Henry and LenDale White. They had more pressing needs then to stretch on a guy like Johnson. Overall though it is hard to find a team that you look at and say "what were they doing". Detroit didn't have an incredible first day either, and many thought they should take a running back; however, they already have Tatum Bell and Kevin Jones, so it seems like giving those two more running room by improving the offensive line makes sense. Overall, everyone seems to have had a pretty solid first two rounds as addressing needs seemed to be the theme for most teams on day one. With that said, some teams had better days then others.

Best first day: I am going to have to say it is a tie between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers don't have many needs, so they basically had two luxury picks. They used them as such taking the best player available at both picks. In the first round, they picked Reshard Mendenhall, who many thought was the best back in the draft after McFadden. In the second round, they drafted Limas Sweed, who was rated the best receiver in the draft by some. Isn't it funny the difference one spot makes. Pittsburgh was one spot ahead of the Titans in both rounds, and as a Titans fan, I would take their two guys over the two the Titans drafted any day especially if the Titans were going to pick a running back in the first round.

The Chiefs also had an outstanding day with Glenn Dorsey, who was Mel Kiper's number one rated prospect in the draft, falling into their laps, and then they moved up in the first round by trading with Detroit to get Branden Albert, who many had going at the number five pick to them. Albert was also considered the second best offensive lineman in the draft after Jake Long.

The Titans may not have had the best first day, but for any fan out there who is disappointed with their team's first day moves, the good news is that the real draft begins on day two. There are still five more rounds, and there are always first round busts and late round steals as great players like Tom Brady have been drafted late as ESPN loves to remind us.

(Photo courtesy of

Williams goes No. 14 to Chicago

With the 14th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected Chris Williams, senior offensive tackle from Vanderbilt University.

Mel Kiper Jr. and the rest of the clowns at ESPN seemed to approve of the pick, saying that Williams is a "natural pass-blocking left tackle."

Williams became the first Vanderbilt offensive lineman in more than 20 years to be selected in the first round. He is also the second Commodore in the last three years selected in the NFL Draft first round, joining former quarterback Jay Cutler, who went to the Denver Broncos with the 11th pick in 2006. Offensive tackle Will Wolford was selected by Buffalo in 1986 with the 20th overall pick.

"I'm extremely pleased for Chris. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving person," said coach Bobby Johnson. "Chris is the total package. He's talented beyond belief, he's a tremendous teammate and he's just a great person. Chris is an outstanding representative of this university and our football program."

"I've never had one quite like Chris Williams. He's that special," said offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. "Chris has tremendous athletic ability, but he's even more blessed with intelligence and a desire to be the best he can be. He loves every aspect of the game. Chris has just been a real pleasure to coach."

Congratulations, Chris.

Check out the full story on here.

No WRs Taken

This is unbelievable... the guys on ESPN said 1990 is the only year no receiver was taken in the first round. And the Dolphins started off the 2nd round with DE Phillip Merling, so it looks like it could be a long day for Earl. At least he will have a lot of company with other receivers who are falling down the draft board.

(5:45 PM UPDATE: The Rams have taken WR Donnie Avery from Houston with the 2nd pick in the 2nd round, which is a shock given who else is still on the board at that position. And the Redskins followed with WR Devin Thomas from Michigan State, who was supposed to be one of the first receivers drafted. Maybe the receiver binge is underway...)

Commodore Banter (4/26)

Pedro Alvarez's RBI double in the bottom of the eighth propelled the Commodores a 3-2 victory over Kentucky Friday night at Hawkins Field, writes Maurice Patton.

Freshmen relievers Chase Reid and Russell Brewer are fearless, writes Jarred Amato.

Basketball recruit Lance Goulbourne is a pretty good tennis player, but decided he wanted to more like Lebron James than James Blake, writes SI's Kevin Armstrong.

In less than an hour, the NFL Draft will get underway, which means no more projections and mock drafts and Mel Kiper Jr. (OK, maybe he'll still be on TV, but at least he wil be talking about players after they have been drafted).

Curtis Gatewood is uniquely calm, writes Ron Higgins.

"I've refrained from watching the NFL Network and ESPN and kept my focus on politics and other things," Gatewood said. "The stuff on TV will drive you crazy. I remember one time I glanced at ESPN, and they started talking about first-round picks and different team needs. I got a little woozy. I thought, 'If I feel like this now, there's no telling how I'll feel on actual draft day.'"

Another former Commodore Marcus Buggs feels he deserves to be drafted, and we couldn't agree more. The guys at The Sports VU wish Curtis and Marcus, along with Chris Williams, Jonathan Goff and Earl Bennett the best of luck this weekend. They have all made Vanderbilt extremely proud.

NFL Draft Primer... Where Will the Dores Go?

I used to have an annual tradition of making a mock draft each year, but they were always so bad I put less and less effort into them and eventually gave up on predicting the draft altogether. Maybe it was a couple years ago when the Bills reached for Donte Whitner (ended up being a great pick) and then John McCargo (who they could have had a round later at the same spot) and ruined my entire mock that I decided to hang up my cleats. But just for the fun of it, I'm going to try to predict where this year's Commodore draft class will be going and who might take them...

Chris Williams- Unfortunately he got stuck in a very good class of offensive tackles, but there are a lot of teams in the middle of the first round who desperately need a long-term offensive lineman. If former Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler has anything to say about it, he could be the third one drafted. Likely destinations: Denver (12), Chicago (14), Houston (18).

Earl Bennett- This year's receiving class lack's an elite prospect, but has a lot of guys (maybe 12) who could go between the mid-first and early third round. Earl lacks the physical gifts of speedsters like DeSean Jackson, or big guys like Limas Sweed and Malcolm Kelley, so the first round is out of the question at this point. He looks like the ideal target for a late second round or early third round pick from a team that addressed a more pressing need before digging into the deep WR class for a #2 or more likely a slot option. Potential destinations: New York (63), St. Louis (65), Kansas City (66)

Jonathan Goff- Despite being one of the highest rated middle/inside linebackers in the draft class with intelligence, good speed, and great reliability as a tackler, he still doesn't project to be anything higher than a low third round pick at best. If he falls to the fifth round or later, some team will be getting a big steal. Potential destinations: It's not even worth predicting this late in the draft, but he's the type of guy a team would have listed as a value pick and trade up to grab late in the fourth or in the fifth round.

Curtis Gatewood/Marcus Buggs- After Goff these outside linebackers are the only guys with a legitimate chance at getting drafted. Buggs is undersized and might have problems shedding blockers at the next level, but he's a great late round pick for a team looking for special teams help due to his great athleticism. Gatewood is big and athletic, but is definitely a raw prospect that a team may decide late in the draft could make a good project. If either of these guys don't get drafted, they will be very attractive free agent signings and should get a shot at the pros.

BASEBALL: Vandy 3 Kentucky 2

The atmosphere at Hawkins Field was electric Friday night as Vanderbilt (31-11, 11-7 SEC) defeated Kentucky (31-11, 9-10 SEC) 3-2 in a well-played ball game that coach Tim Corbin compared to a "boxing match." Make sure to check out my column below about the emergence of freshmen Chase Reid and Russell Brewer. Here are a few other observations:

-We saw two great pitching performances. Vanderbilt's Mike Minor was absolutely terrific for six innings before running out of a gas in the seventh. He gave up one unearned run of five hits while striking out nine and walking two in six-plus innings. Minor threw 106 pitches, 64 for strikes.

"He went right after the hitters," Corbin said of Minor. "We knew that Kentucky was one of those teams that would take early and try to make you throw a lot of pitches and I think that worked to his advantage if he was throwing strikes. I thought he commanded his pitches well – the changeup, the curveball – and got ahead of hitters early, which was typical of him early in the year."

Catcher Shea Robin said it was Minor's best start in three or four weeks.

"He got ahead of all their hitters, kept them off balance," Robin said. "He was throwing his changeup for strikes, which he hadn’t done in his last couple of outings so that was very good to see."

-Perhaps even more impressive was Kentucky's Chris Rusin, who tormented the Commodores with his curveball.

"He just absolutely had that breaking ball going the first five innings to the point where you’re kind of shaking your head, saying can he lose it for just a little bit of time?" Corbin said. "He had 80-command of the breaking ball and it was pretty devastating."

"This was definitely a pitcher’s night," Robin added. "The hitters on both sides kind of looked very bad. That guy kept us off balance with the curveball and then came in when we weren’t expecting it."

-The turning point of the game came in the seventh. With the bases loaded, nobody out and the scored tied at one, freshman Chase Reid came up clutch once again. He got the first batter he faced to strike out before enducing an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

"You can’t ask for much more with Chase," Robin said. "He’s done that so many times this year, getting us out of key situations."

-Russell Brewer, who recorded the final five outs to pick up the victory, seems to have the perfect mindset for a closer.

"It’s the same mindset that Casey (Weathers) had last year," Robin said. "Granted they’re completely different pitchers. Casey throws 100 miles per hour and not everyone can do that, but the biggest thing is the mindset. Russ believes that he can get it done."

-Corbin had high praise for Brewer and Reid, both of whom have thrived in key roles this season.

"They’re pretty good," he said. "It’s a lot like (Jensen) Lewis and (Matt) Buschmann my first year here where we just threw them out there so much so that you forgot really that they’re freshmen."

-Offensively, the Commodores came up with a couple of key two-out hits, which is the sign of a good team. Robin's RBI double in the seventh gave the Dores a 2-1 lead and Pedro Alvarez put the team ahead for good with his RBI double of the right-centerfield wall in the eighth.

-See you all tomorrow at 2 p.m. CT when Caleb Cotham gets the nod.

Freshmen show no fear with game on the line

Watching freshmen Chase Reid and Russell Brewer thrive in the late innings of Friday night’s 3-2 victory over Kentucky reminded Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin of two of his formers players.

“It’s a lot like (Jensen) Lewis and (Matt) Buschmann my first year here,” Corbin said, “where we just threw them out there so much so that you forgot really that they’re freshmen.”

While that’s quite the compliment considering the fact Lewis is currently a middle reliever for the Cleveland Indians and Buschmann is pitching well for San Diego’s Double-A affiliate, the two have certainly proved worthy of the comparison.

Read the rest of my column about the fearless freshmen on right here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Commodore Banter (4/25)

Tennis phenom Ryan Lipman has been spotted at the Curry Tennis Center, look for him to be a 2009-2010 signee.  

Tyler Smith, the runner up to Shan Foster in the SEC Player of the Year voting, will be returning to the Vols for his junior season. 

Chris Williams is entrenched in the top 15 in this mock draft and this one as well.  This blog cites ESPN's scouting report and goes through player comparisons and other sites that discuss the offensive tackle.  

As Williams prepares for the draft, he's been keeping his cool relative to his Vanderbilt classmates who have been stressing over exams.  Golf and figuring out a place to have dinner with his wife of 19 days have weighed on Williams' mind instead as the going has been good.  

If Bennett and Goff join Chris Williams in the top 3 rounds, I suggest you check out this piece to put this sort of thing into perspective for the seemingly lowly Vanderbilt Commodores.  

It is never too early to start discussing the baseball draft.  It is too bad Evan Longoria has made such a splash in Tampa Bay, but it gives the Pirates a nice consolation prize in Pedro Alvarez...

If you have questions about the new bleacher seats and about tickets, this Q&A is a great start. 

Here's a nice little piece on Jamont Gordon's decision process in declaring for the NBA draft.  We wish him well, it was a treat to watch his all-around game flourish in SEC play.  

In case you missed our Q&A's with...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Video of the Day: Charles Barkley can't get enough of Damon Jones

This video is from the 2006 NBA Slam-Dunk Contest where the incomparable Charles Barkley was commentating. At this point in his life, Charles Barkley has reached a status that he can basically say whatever he wants when he's on TV. While the rest of the announcing team talks about Andre Iguadola's flashy dunk, Barkley can't shut up about Damon Jones' ridiculous red jacket.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jeff Taylor commits to Vandy

Jeff Taylor, a 6'7" 198-pound swingman from New Mexico, committed to Vanderbilt Monday, The Tennessean reported. Taylor chose the Commodores over the Texas Longhorn, and also had interest from the likes of UCLA and Gonzaga.

Taylor is only listed as a three-star recruit by, but his offers seem to suggest that he is better than that. Like A.J. Ogilvy, Taylor also has international experience as he played for the Swedish National team.

Taylor should add a nice dimension to the Commodores as he is long, athletic and can get to the basket off the dribble just like fellow Commodore commitment Lance Goulbourne. Between the two of them, the Commodores will hopefully add what they so badly needed last season in players that can create off the dribble and get to the basket. Both Goulbourne and Taylor need to add some weight to bang with the wings of the SEC, but Goulbourne said in his interview he realized he needed to add bulk, and I am sure Taylor realizes the same.

Here is a must-hear interview with Russ Gilmore, Jeff Taylor's coach, who talks about Jeff's game.

The Commodores are still waiting on word from point guard Brad Tinsley, their last target in the 2008 class. Tinsley is probably an even more important target because of the departure of Keegan Bell. Tinsley visited two weekends ago and word is that the visit went very well.

If the Commodores can secure Tinsley, the recruiting class will be the best in Stallings tenure at Vanderbilt as he will have beat out the likes of Texas, Arizona, Marquette, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Southern Cal, Oregon and Notre Dame for recruits and have three of the top 100 players in the nation according to ESPN in Taylor (#73), Goulbourne (# 87), and Tinsley (#95).

Regardless of whether Tinsley commits (which I hope/think he will), Stallings has brought this program a long way since he arrived in Nashville and is starting to build a perennial powerhouse at Vanderbilt. There is a lot to look forward to right now if you are a Commodore basketball fan, so enjoy...

Here is some footage of Taylor. The video is not the greatest because it is a game not highlights, but Taylor is number 44.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Q&A with Lance Goulbourne

As his senior spring winds down, Lance Goulbourne kindly emailed us his thoughts on his game, why he chose Vanderbilt, and what he'd tell undecided senior Brad Tinsley. Lance projects as a prototypical small forward with range on his jump shot and an ability to finish down low.

Sports VU: How would you describe your game to someone who has never seen you play?
Lance Goulbourne: I play primarily on the wing. My game is multi-dimensional where I can take advantage of what the defender gives me. If you give me some room then I'll shoot it or if you crowd me then I'll go right by you. I play well in transition because of my athletic ability and like to get up and down the court.

SV: What position do you see yourself playing at Vanderbilt?
LG: I see myself playing the 3 and maybe some 2 later on down the line.

SV: What other schools did you look at? And, what drew you to Vanderbilt?
LG: At the end of my recruitment, the other schools I had interest in were Virginia, Marquette, Notre Dame, and Rutgers. I chose Vanderbilt because I felt comfortable with everything about it. The coaches, players, and overall life in Nashville and on campus made me feel at home.

SV: What were your thoughts when Vandy lost to Siena?
LG: I was a bit confused because I couldn't see them losing, but I definitely couldn't see them losing by twenty. I felt for the seniors because that was a rough way to go out! I think nine times out of them, they would beat Siena and that was just the one time they would lose.

SV: We hear you're quite good at tennis, any chance you'll be a two sport athlete at Vanderbilt? (As a fellow tall tennis player, I can't imagine how hard your serve is...)
LG: I thought about it, but it would be pretty hard for me to play both because both seasons conflict with each other. My focus will be on basketball, but thats not to say I won't get out on the tennis court with some of the players. (And yes, my serve is pretty strong)

SV: Do you know what your major is going to be yet?
LG: I'm not exactly sure, but I think I want to get involved in business. I don't want to rush into anything so early. I have some time to decide.

SV: What sorts of things do you feel you need to work on to take your game to the next level?
LG: My biggest weakness is my ball handling which has gotten better, but there is always room for improvement. Although I am a pretty good shooter now, I want to become better so I will be depended on to make big shots! Also, I need to get stronger because SEC play is physical and adding a couple pounds of muscle would take my game to another level.

SV: Have you interacted with the team at all this year, if so what are your first reactions?
LG: Yes, I have talked to a couple of the players periodically and I always talk to the coaches. I am ready for next year to get to know the guys better on the court and off the court. I'm looking forward to a great couple of years and I feel that these are the right group of guys to help me enjoy my time.

SV: It's possible that Brad Tinsley (point guard from Oregon) might be joining your class. What advice would you give him in making his decision?
LG: Well he previously made a decision to attend Pepperdine, but took it back so I think he knows what he wants in a school. This time around I would just say go where you are most comfortable and where you can play. I think there is a good oppurtunity for a player like him to come in to Vanderbilt and contribute right away.

SV: Anything else you think Dores fans should know about you?
LG: Nothing really except I plan on winning a couple championships while I'm a commodore.

SI's Kevin Armstrong further explores Lance's tennis prowess here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Well, the Eastern Conference is not nearly as exciting as the West because I think that the Celtics are clearly the best team, but there are still reasons to watch these games...

1) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Atlanta Hawks
First game: Sunday 7:30 p.m. CT(TNT)

From worst to first..., the Celtics needed to revive their franchise and did when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen over the off-season. Their three stars: KG, Allen, and Pierce have played very well together as all of them are in search of that elusive NBA title. Rajon Rondo has been a great surprise this year and shown flashes of brilliance while complimenting the trio. The Celts also have some veteran leadership with Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown not that they need it since they have KG, the best leader in the league. Meanwhile, the Hawks are back in the playoffs, breaking the longest active playoff drought of any team in the NBA . The Hawks have a lot of really good young talent in Horford, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith combined with Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby. Unfortunately, the Celts are very experienced and very very good. I see the Celtics sweeping the Hawks.

2) Detroit Pistons vs. 7) Philadelphia 76ers
First game: Sunday 5:00 p.m. CT (TNT)

When I look at this matchup, I ask myself "How are the 76ers even in the playoffs?". They have a decent team with Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala is sick, but after that they don't have much of anything. Meanwhile, the Pistons are always a threat to get to the NBA finals. They have a great core with Billups, Hamilton, Wallace, and Prince and their bench isn't too shabby either. This should be a boring series unless Rasheed Wallace gets into a fight with a Philly fan.
Detroit sweeps the 76ers.

3) Orlando Magic vs. 6) Toronto Raptors
First game: Sunday 11:30 a.m. CT (TNT)

I think this will be the most entertaining series in the East. You have two of the best young big men in the league going up against each other in Dwight Howard vs. Chris Bosh. Dwight Howard has a little more help with Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but the Raptors have T.J. Ford back along with Jose Calderon. I think this series will be determined by which teams star plays better, and I like Dwight Howard because although Bosh is a beast too, Bosh has been injured off and on this season, and I question whether he will be 100%. Not to mention everyone knows that Toronto is a hockey town. I have the Magic in 6.

4) Cleveland Cavs vs. 5) Washington Wizards
First game: Saturday 11:30 a.m. CT (ESPN)

Two words... Lebron James. You shouldn't need any more reason to watch than that, but this should also be a close, entertaining series. The Wizards finally have Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler back after Arenas was injured most of the season, and Butler was injured for about a month. Antawn Jamison has carried the team while Arenas and Butler have been out, but other players like DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels have also played well and gained experience and confidence. The Cavs made a pretty big trade to acquire Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West, but Wallace isn't the player he used to be and the other two are just role players. Big Zydrunas will be a handful for the Wizards because the Wizards don't have great size, but i think that the trio of Arenas, Jamison, and Butler will be better than basically Lebron by himself, and the Wizards will win in 6.

I'm off to Rites...

(Photo courtesy of GettyImages)