Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vanderbilt Football Preview: DL Breakdown

The Sports VU's position-by-position football preview continues today with a breakdown of Vanderbilt's defensive line. In case you missed it, here's what we've looked at so far:

QB Breakdown
RB Breakdown
WR Breakdown
TE Breakdown
OL Breakdown

STRENGTHS: Pass rush. Redshirt junior Broderick Stewart is coming off a breakout season in '07 in which he recorded a team-high six sacks along with six QB hurries and 8.5 tackles for loss. With redshirt junior Steven Stone on the opposite side, the Commodores should be able to get into the opponent's backfield often. Stone is as steady as they come, notching 45 tackles, four sacks and eight tackles for loss last season. Meanwhile, sophomore Theron Kadri has a ton of upside after being just one of three true freshman to see time a year ago.

WEAKNESSES: Depth. The Commodores are very thin along the front line, particularly at tackle after losing starters Gabe Hall and Theo Horrocks to graduation. Junior Greg Billinger is poised for a breakout season while the Commodores are counting on a big season from redshirt sophomore Adam Smotherman, who was sidelined for much of '07 with a lower leg injury. Beyond that, however, defensive line coach Rick Logo will look to redshirt junior Derrius Dowell and redshirt freshman T.J. Greenstone for help inside. On the outside, Kadri should rotate in with Stone and Stewart, while redshirt sophomore Terial Brannon and redshirt freshman Tim Fugger add depth.

TOP QUESTIONS: Will this unit be able to withstand any injuries? Are Billinger and Smotherman ready to play full-time at one of the most demanding positions? While the pass rush should be strong, how will the Dores fare at stopping the run? Will any true freshmen earn playing time?

The secondary should be terrific and Vanderbilt always seems to be solid at linebacker, which leaves the defensive line as the biggest question mark. Replacing Curtis Gatewood, who's at camp with the Washington Redskins, shouldn't be too difficult with Stewart, Stone and Kadri returning. Filling the void in the middle left by Hall and Horrocks won't be as easy, but if Billinger fulfills his potential and Smotherman stays healthy, the Dores should be OK. And, at the end of the day, Vandy still has Coach Logo, who has done wonders with the front four over the past two seasons.

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