Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commodore Banter: Weekend Edition

After 1,200 miles in the car with my old man (spread over three days, thankfully), I'm finally back in Nashville. Apologies for the slow week on the site, but we should be good to go from here. Anyways, onto the links from the past couple of days...

First, in basketball news, Shan Foster will play in Italy next season. While Foster's dreams of playing in the NBA will be put on hold, it seems like the best business move for him.

Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer signed a one-year deal with JuveCaserta, a first-division club. The Mavs still retain his NBA rights.

"He performed well in summer league but this gives him a chance to improve," said Mavs president Donnie Nelson. "His future is very bright, and we're excited about him rejoining us next summer."

Meanwhile, we've got some unfortunate news to report on two former Commodores. Offensive tackle Chris Williams, a first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, will mis 10-12 weeks after having surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.

In addition, New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff will be out indefinitely after fracturing his transverse process (an injury to the vertebra) in his first preseason game. Hopefully the injury doesn't turn out to be too serious.

As for the current Commodores, here's a look back at some of the top stories from the past few days:

* The Tennessean's Mo Patton breaks down the defensive line. He notes that Steven Stone has bulked up to be able to play both end and tackle, and sophomore end Theron Kadri looks poised to play on a full-time basis. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman T.J. Greenstone and true freshman Rob Lohr have looked good at tackle, and true freshman Josh Jelesky may earn time at end.

* In this notebook, Patton discusses the impressive play of wide receivers Udom Umoh and Justin Wheeler, as well as kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt.

* Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper has a great story about Corey Chavous' recent inspirational speech to the Commodores.
Chavous challenged the Commodores to become the school’s first team to post a winning season and play in a bowl game since 1982. To the surprise of some players, he knew them by name and says he watches Vanderbilt games on television whenever possible.

“This is my school and I love them to death,” he said. “It’s good to come back and let them know people like me are following their every move.

“I’m proud of what they’re doing here. They’re close to being over the hump, and I just want to let them know how close they really are. We’re at the point with this program now that we’ve been trying to get to for years.”

* Hait also has an in-depth feature about Chris Nickson returning to form. While coach Bobby Johnson has yet to name a starter, this comment was particularly telling.

“I think we're going to be much better at quarterback this year because Chris Nickson is confident and healthy again,” Johnson said.

* National observers have great respect for the job Johnson has done with the Commodores. Need proof? Read this story from Patton and another one by Hait.

In addition,'s Stewart Mandel lists Johnson as the nation's most underrated coach. Explanation here:
How can a coach that's gone 20-50 in six seasons be "underrated," you ask? Because record be damned, Vandy is no longer your father's Vandy. The Commodores, for the first time in a quarter-century, are a legitimately competitive SEC team (and this at a time when the conference has never been tougher).

Over the past three years, they've beaten the likes of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina while losing heartbreakers to the Vols and Dawgs last year and Florida in '05. And they've come within a couple plays of reaching bowl games in two of those seasons. Hopefully Johnson will get that reward soon to tangibly reflect the impact he's had on that program.

Well said.

* Patton has a good piece about two fifth-year seniors, Jared Fagan and Josh Allen, who are providing depth at cornerback.

"Those guys are still good players," Johnson said. "We just recruited two pretty outstanding guys (D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis) that moved in front of them. We always say in recruiting, our goal is to get better players than we have right now. That's our goal every year, to get better players."

Have a great weekend, everyone, and we'll be back in full force on Monday. Just 19 days and counting until the season opener...

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