Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vandy adds late edition to 2008 football class

Vanderbilt received another commitment last week from Akeem Cunningham, a 5'10 185 lbs defensive back prospect out of New Jersey who runs a 4.49 forty yard dash. Cunningham joins Akeem Dunham as the second Akeem in Vandy's 2008 recruiting class. What are the odds? To learn more about the commitment check out the Nashville City Paper as well as VandyMania.

Q & A with A.J. Ogilvy

After finishing his freshman campaign at Vanderbilt, center A.J. Ogilvy returned home to Australia, where he kindly answered some questions from the Sports VU about a number of topics, including his summer plans, Festus Ezeli and the weirdest thing about Americans.

SV: Some Websites say that you could have been a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. What factors led to you to come back for your sophomore season?
To tell you the truth it wasn't even really a decision I made, I didn't even think about leaving Vanderbilt. So I will definitely be back next year!

SV: What are your plans for the summer in terms of basketball? Excited to go back home? I'm sure it's been tough at times being so far away.
Coming back home was amazing, it was awesome to see my family and friends again. Basketball-wise im working out with the Australian National team and trialing for a spot on the Olympic team, so thats really exciting. (Read more about this in his Q & A with The Nashville City Paper.)

SV: How would you evaluate your first SEC season? What do you think were your strengths and weaknesses?
Obviously I wasn't as consistent as I would have liked to have been through the SEC season but I thought I had some good games. My strength is definitely my ability to play off the dribble and take bigger post guys outside and work them, weakness at the moment my post defence it's something that I really need to work on.

SV: Who was the toughest player to guard? What was the toughest place to play? What was the season highlight?
Toughest player to guard was probably Patrick Patterson, he is a great player. Rupp Arena was the hardest place to play in and the one thing from the season that stands out to me in Shan dropping 42 on Senior Night. Pick any of his shots from that game and you have a season highlight

SV: What areas of your game are you working on most this off-season?
Im really working on my jump shot and trying to extend my range, also working a lot on my fitness.

SV: I know that you and Keegan are really close. What was your reaction when he told you he was transferring?
Yeah me and Keegan were really close. I was disappointed when I found out but not surprised. Obviously it has been announced now that he is going to UTC and I wish him all the best.

SV: How would you rate your first-year at Vanderbilt -- the classes, the city, the fans, parties, etc.? What's the biggest difference between here and Australia? What's the weirdest thing about the U.S.?
I had a great first fear, it was amazing fun... the people, the games, teammates, fans, parties, all of it i just loved it. I can't wait for next year. The biggest difference is that the legal drinking age in Australia is 18, so that took some adjustment and the weirdest thing about the US is that you guys drive on the wrong side of the road.

SV: Vanderbilt just signed two more recruits in Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley. Did you say anything to convince them to come to Vandy?
AO: They are going to be valuable contributors to our team next year. I told them what everybody already know, we have a great program with great coaches and even better players. We truly are a family and it makes the transition process a lot easier.

SV:Have you gotten to play with them at all on their visits, and if so, what are their games like?
I played with Brad for a little while, he is a sort of do it all point guard. He is a great passer, he is athletic and has good vision. He is also a prolific scorer with a great stroke. I didn't get the chance to play with Jeff though.

SV:You guys already have a couple of great guys coming in in Lance and Steve. How excited are you for them to get here?
I cant wait for the guys to get in and for us to start building towards another great year! Lance and Steve are both excellent players and are gonna improve our team.

SV: Most Vanderbilt fans don't know much about the guy who guarded you in practice every day, Festus. What's he like as a player and how much are you looking forward to seeing him out on the court next year?
Festus was very raw at the beginning of the year but he got better every single day! Vanderbilt fans should be really excited because Festus is long and athletic and is bound to make some highlights on both ends of the floor! I can't wait for Fes to get out there with us, I've seen all the work he put in this year and I can't wait to be there when it begins to pay off.

SV: How much has the way the season ended motivated you to be an even better team next fall?
As a team we havent talked about it much, but i know as individuals we have all thought about it. For me it's what I've been using as motivation when working out since the end of the season, I don't want another great year to end the way last year did so once we get together as a team that will be one of the first things we discuss, how we can make up for last year.

Thanks so much for your time, A.J. Best of luck in your Olympic Trials and we'll see you back here in the fall.

Video of the Day: How's that for overrated?

All-American third baseman Pedro Alvarez showed Memphis fans what happens when you start chanting "over-rated!" Watch as the junior hits an absolute bomb over the scoreboard in right field that traveled an estimated 430 feet.


That's got to be one of the sweetest swings I've ever seen. Thanks to the Barca Blog for the find.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Commodore Banter (5/9)

I'm finally unpacked here at home in Boston, which means the posts should once again become daily. There are a bunch of good Vanderbilt-related stories to pass along so make sure to check them out.

Vanderbilt and league-leading Georgia begin their crucial three-game series tonight at Hawkins Field (6 p.m. CT). With a sweep, the Commodores would take over first place in the SEC East. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has an in-depth preview of the matchup.

While the Commodores are looking to win the SEC title for the second straight year, coach Tim Corbin knows his squad is also playing for a chance to host another NCAA Regional.

"You want to be on top at the end,'' said All-American third baseman Pedro Alvarez in this feature story. Is he talking about being the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft or winning the national title? Probably both.

Alvarez has a shot to be the top choice in the draft, but there's no clear-cut No. 1 like there was last year with David Price, according to

While Alvarez and junior Ryan Flaherty are the stars, imagine Vanderbilt without its four everyday seniors -- Dominic de la Osa, Shea Robin, David Macias and Alex Feinberg. You can't say enough about what they've meant to this program.

The New York Giants are already raving about their new linebacker Jonathan Goff, who is graduating from Vanderbilt today.

A.J. Ogilvy could have a new nickname soon: "The Olympian." The sophomore center is one of 35 players competing for 12 spots on the Australian Olympian basketball team this summer. Read all about in his Q & A with Brett Hait of The Nashville City Paper.

Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler is trying to raise his profile, as well as money, writes James Paton of the Rocky Mountain News.

Wide receiver Earl Bennett had a case of the jitters at his first practice with the Chicago Bears.

Vanderbilt senior Shan Foster is going to leave behind a whole lot more than shattered records.
Make sure to read this terrifc feature on one of the greatest student-athletes this school will ever see.

Would Foster be a good fit with the Denver Nuggets? At least one person thinks so.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and congratulations to all the Vanderbilt seniors. We wish you the best of luck in the future.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vandy in elite company

When the NCAA released its most recent Academic Progress Rates yesterday, many schools were nervous, hoping that their teams finished above the 925 threshold to avoid possible penalties. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, had nothing to worry about.

The Commodores' men's basketball team finished an impressive fourth among BCS Conference schools with an APR Score of 985, behind only UNC, Villanova and Illinois (see chart below). Every Division I sports team calculates its APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete.

Note that Tennessee and South Carolina, among others, lost one scholarship each for poor academic performance.

The reason Vanderbilt scores so well is twofold. Of course, Vanderbilt's admissions standards for athletes are different than, say, Tennessee's, but I don't think that's the main reason. I think that the high grade is more of a reflection on the commitment that the university as a whole, and the respective teams in particular, make to their student-athletes both on the court and in the classroom.

From the coaching staffs to the academic advisers, there are resources available to ensure that Vanderbilt's student-athletes are successful. They want their players to graduate and do everything they can to help them do so.

Here's another chart that proves what we already suspected: the Southeastern Conference isn't very committed to athletes. It is fifth among the BCS Conferences in Average APR Score, ahead of only the Big 12. The SEC also has seven teams under the 925 mark.

Thanks to Rush the Court for the data.

'Academic reform is here to stay'

The NCAA hit more than 200 college sports teams with scholarship reductions and other sanctions because of academic shortcomings, the USA Today reported Tuesday.

Some of the programs included Tennessee and five others that were in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and two Bowl Championship Series entrants, Kansas and Hawaii, in football.

"Academic reform is here to stay. ... It's been in place now for four years," NCAA President Myles Brand said. "Everyone — coaches, ADs, presidents and student-athletes — should understand that's the order of the day."

According to the article, the programs "posted subpar academic progress rates (APRs), which have been computed by the NCAA for the last four years and hinge on retaining players, keeping them academically eligible and ultimately graduating them. Twenty-six teams — including 20 in the longtime problem sports of men's basketball, football and baseball — were flagged as chronic underperformers and handed stiffer penalties, including reductions in practice time."

Still, more than a third of the 329 Division I schools had at least one team penalized.

Two major-college football programs, Alabama at Birmingham and San Jose State, were docked nine scholarships each. Washington State and Idaho each lost eight.

Men's basketball, in particular, "remains a serious problem," Brand said.

53 programs were sanctioned, including 39 that drew scholarship cuts or practice restrictions. Tennessee lost one scholarship, as did Purdue, Kansas State and South Alabama, while Southern California lost two.

They were hit with the NCAA's first phase of penalties, given annually to programs with APRs below 925 (on a scale to 1000) and preventing them from replacing scholarship athletes who've left while academically ineligible.

The NCAA compiles APRs for every one of the 6,272 men's and women's sports teams in Division I. Points are awarded, player by player, and the association has determined that teams should hit 92.5% of their possible total — an APR of 925. That roughly projects a 60% graduation rate.

At the same time, there were 507 teams that posted APRs below 925 but didn't draw sanctions because they had no athletes who left school while academically ineligible or their schools sought and received waivers — granted by the NCAA when there are mitigating circumstances and the institution has an acceptable academic improvement plan.

Among those who received exceptions were LSU and Florida (men's basketball) and South Carolina (football).

"That raises the question: How can so many schools avoid sanctions?" said Nathan Tublitz, a neuroscience professor at Oregon who co-chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates at Division I universities. "One can understand a few exceptions. One can understand that some schools have good reasons. But for so many schools to have so many good reasons raises the question of whether there's really any bite to this academic performance package and the sanctions that are supposed to be issued."

Tublitz is a "very strong supporter" of the overall package, he said. "It's just that if you're going to set up a program that has a cutoff score, you have to stick to that cutoff score and not continue to give schools a free ride. If they don't make it after four years, what's going to happen after five? What's going to happen after six? How many times does a school get an exception?"

I couldn't agree more with Tublitz's assessment. I like the fact that the NCAA is making a commitment to academics, but if it's not going to follow through on its penalties, then it looks like its efforts are just for show.

Vanderbilt Baseball Notebook

Just about a month ago, it would have been easy for the Vanderbilt baseball team to hit the panic button. The Commodores were 20-10 overall and 5-6 in the Southeastern Conference, having just been swept by Ole Miss.

Yet, coach Tim Corbin and his players remained optimistic, insisting that their baseball was ahead of them. Looks like they were right.

The Commodores (35-13, 14-9 SEC) have gone 15-3 since, and find themselves alone in second place in the SEC East, three games back of division-leading Georgia, who comes to Nashville for a 3-game series this weekend.

Last night, sophomore Drew Hayes tossed a gem and Pedro Alvarez went deep twice to lead Vandy to an 8-0 victory over Memphis.

Hayes gave up two hits and issued just one walk while striking out a career-high 12 in seven innings of work.

"It was pretty dominating for him," Corbin said. "I was really happy to see it. I thought his pace was really good. He threw a lot of strikes. He was working both sides of the plate and throwing his breaking ball for strikes. It just shows how far he's come this past year. We got a great outing out of him."

Alvarez, meanwhile, seems to be finding his groove after missing the first half of the season with a broken bone in his hand. He hit a two-run, opposite-field homer in the third, and a solo shot to right field that traveled an estimated 430 feet in the fifth.

"I just think it's a matter of time for him," Corbin said. "What we were seeing is 75 percent of the hitter he really is. We just need to give him time. Sooner or later, he's going to break out. This was one of the nights were he hit the ball well. I thought his swings on Sunday were pretty good against Tennessee. I think that kind of led in to what happened tonight."

Dominic de la Osa hit his seventh homer of the year in the seventh. The outfielder became the school's all-time leader in hits over the weekend and Brett Hait's got a nice piece on de la Osa'a decision to return for his senior season in The Nashville City Paper.

Over the weekend, the Commodores swept in-state rival Tennessee in Knoxville, making Corbin 15-5 against the Vols.

The offense scored 27 runs on 42 hits, 19 of which went for extra bases. The Commodores hit .356 and an impressive .392 (20-for-51) with runners in scoring position.

Redshirt freshman Steve Liddle went for 5-for-11 with three doubles and three RBI, Ryan Flaherty went 6-for-14 with a homer, two doubles and five RBI, Shea Robin went 6-for-14 with two homers, a double and four RBI, while David Macias and de la Osa were both 5-for-12.

On Sunday, de la Osa had two doubles to become the school's all-time leader in hits (284) and doubles (62).

Defensively, the Commodores did not record an error in 120 chances. As the Barca Blog points out, it's defense first for Vandy.

On the mound, Mike Minor, Caleb Cotham and Chase Reid picked up victories, while junior Brett Jacobson recorded two saves and has not allowed a run in his last seven appearances (nine innings).

Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee Tech at Hawkins Field tonight before hosting Georgia Friday night (6 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

On Friday, the Commodores will honor seven seniors: Adam Cronk, de la Osa, Alex Feinberg, Brad French, Parker Hanks, Macias and Robin.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

2003 Top 20 Recruiting: A Look Back

With Vandy scoring what is potentially a top 20 recruiting class and probably needing them to play and score a fair amount I thought I’d look back at top classes from the past five years to see what kind of success these players had as freshmen. Although not much detail will be given on most teams, I will highlight specific teams from each year that I think relate most to this years Vanderbilt freshmen class.


1. Florida St.
A top heavy class reliant on two top 20 players in Alex Johnson and Von Wafer, they were the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers respectively as freshmen on an FSU squad that went 19-14 while losing in the 2nd round of the NIT.

2. Oklahoma
This is a very similar situation to the current Commodores as well as a cautionary tale. The 2003 Oklahoma recruiting class was built upon quantity of quality but lacked star power with no 5 star recruits. Drew Lavender and Lawrence McKenzie combined to start 51 of the 60 games they played in and together averaged around 20 ppg, both transferred after their sophomore seasons (that was the year before Sampson left to go to Indiana, so that was not their reason). Also coming off the bench to play in almost every game were highly ranked Brandon Foust and not so highly ranked JUCO Jaison Williams. These two averaged about 35 minutes and 12 points a game between them. Foust also transferred after his sophomore year. This Sooner team featured a very good sophomore big man, Kevin Bookout and a future all A-10 guard while at Charlotte, De’Angelo Alexander. In other words, not too different a team from what we’re expecting out of Vandy this year, the big difference being that they relied on a freshman point guard whereas the Commodores will have Beal. Like FSU they lost in the second round of the NIT.

3. Maryland
This was really a loaded class, five guys including two 4-stars and a 5-star player. Ekene Ibekwe, Mike Jones, DJ Strawberry, and Hassan Fofana all contributed in varying degrees off the bench for the Terps, they made the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament before losing to defending champ Syracuse.

4. LSU
Four of the five saw a lot of action as freshmen, with only future Commodore Ross Neltner riding the pine. This again just goes to show that freshmen struggle to contribute right away. As the #11 player overall Brandon Bass was expected to contribute right away and did, he was the SEC Freshman of the Year, another 5-star recruit Regis Koundjia started 20 games and averaged only 4 ppg and eventually transferred to GWU, 4-star Tack Minor played better while averaging about 7 ppg. Darnell Lazare was the fourth to see action averaging around 12 minutes and 3 ppg. These Tigers lost to the aforementioned Oklahoma Sooners in the NIT’s first round. Over the course of their careers most of these guys disappointed, but as freshmen they were thrown into the fire and could not perform well enough for a talented team that featured all-SEC Jaime Lloreda, future all-SEC Darrell Mitchell, and 1,000 point scorer Antonio Hudson to make the NCAA’s.

5. Arkansas
Not much to be learned here as
this ranking was based on two top 30 players in Olu Famutimi and Ronnie Brewer. Obviously these two had different careers, but at least as freshmen both were useful with Brewer being a little more than that.

6. California
All four signees were amongst the top 7 in minutes per game for the Bears and it did not work out well. They went 13-15 and missed the postseason. Leon Powe was going to be a stud and everybody knew it. Marquise Kately offers some hope for Commodore fans, he was pretty highly regarded, #46, and really had a fantastic freshmen year. He averaged 10.5 ppg while shooting over 53% from the field. Ayinde Ubaka and Dominic McGuire both were top 100 recruits, with Ubaka almost cracking the top 50 and while both contributed, neither scored more than 7 ppg. These two got plenty of minutes to show that they could really play, Ubaka played almost 30 mpg, and neither did much to distinguish himself on an extremely disappointing team. Ubaka would go on to be a very good player, but being good as a freshman in a good league is not easy and these two were not up to the task. Also, McGuire would eventually transfer to Fresno St., in what is becoming quite a trend among these highly rated classes.

7. Syracuse
This would be a great comparison for this years Vandy class, but they had the benefit of multiple upperclassmen on the team. Only Demetris Nichols was forced to start games as a freshman. However, to me Nichols seems very similar to Lance Goulbourne. Nichols was a little higher ranked (#30), but was brought in having a reputation as a good shooter with above average athleticism. As a Syracuse fan I remember he was terrible as a freshman and the statistics show it. In 17 mpg he shot 35% from the field including 23.6% from three while averaging 4 points. With the exception of his sophomore year he made great strides every year and as a senior he was one of the best players in the Big East and an honorable mention All-America while averaging almost 19 ppg. There is nothing wrong with this career path and it again shows that really good players can struggle as freshmen. Another transfer as Louie McCroskey transferred to Marist following three extremely disappointing seasons.

8. Kansas
Not much to gain here, this was based on two 5-star recruits, neither of which did anything to help KU. Both David Padgett and JR Giddens transferred.

9. Pittsburgh
Chris Taft had a monster freshmen year, averaging 11 pts and 7.5 rebounds, while none of the other freshmen did anything of note. Taft was a 4-star recruit who had the benefit of all kinds of upperclassmen help. Aaron Gray would eventually become a star, but did absolutely nothing as a freshman.

10. Arizona
Ndudi Ebi declared for the draft, while Mustafa Shakur turned out to be a monumental disappointment.

11. Kansas St.
Yes, KSU played basketball before Michael Beasley. Jeremiah Massey was the key to this class and as a JUCO was more ready to play than most and it showed, he led the team in scoring his first year. Cartier Martin, like Nichols was a top 50 recruit who played significantly and poorly as a freshman only to blossom into a stud by his Junior year. A third freshman, pg Dez Willingham played significant minutes and also struggled.

12. Florida
This team had plenty of upperclassmen, but three freshmen managed to crack the rotation. Lee Humphrey started 11 games and scored a little less than 4 ppg. Chris Richard had a hilarious recruiting picture and was highly ranked (#45), but he too scored a little under 4 ppg, finally, Mohammad Abukar (#40) scored slightly under 3 ppg. Both Abukar and Ryan Appleby would transfer to the west coast.

13. Michigan St.
Not much to say here, two man class and Shannon Brown (#3) was thought of highly enough for this ranking. Drew Naymick was also pretty highly thought of (65), but he barely played as a freshman.

This class would undoubtedly been ranked higher had everyone known Charlie Villanueva would have gotten on-campus. The eventual national champions obviously didn’t rely on freshmen too much, but Josh Boone (ranked #54) had a very promising rookie season while starting every game and averaging a respectable 6 pts and 6 boards and managing not to embarrass himself anywhere except the free throw line. Marcus Williams (#61) did well in the non-conference before getting hurt (I think) and not playing much after. Villanueva was ranked in the top 5 and we shouldn’t expect any of Vandy’s incoming crop to duplicate what he did.

15. Iowa St.
Will Blalock (#74) and Curtis Stinson (#127) would combine to become the face of the Cyclone program for the next few years. They both were quite good as freshmen with Stinson leading the team in scoring and assists and Blalock also having a big contribution to the teams NIT semi-final run. However these two show what happens when teams rely on freshmen to run the point as Stinson barely had a 1:1 assist to turnover ration and Blalock was also under 2:1. A third freshman, Damion Staple played significant minutes on his way to averaging 4 ppg. Stinson’s year, to’s not included, represents about the best that could be hoped for from a freshman guard in a big conference. He shot almost 48% from the field, while averaging 15 ppg, about 4.5 apg, and 5 rpg, overall a very good freshman year for a guy outside the top 125.

16. Wake Forest
Chris Paul.

17. Virginia
JR Reynolds had an almost perfect career path. He was a top 100 recruit (94) who got his feet wet as a freshman, 9.4 ppg while playing almost 25 mpg, who blossomed as he got older and eventually became one of the best players in the ACC. He’s another example of a guy who became a star, but as a freshman was just a role player. The star of this class was Gary Forbes who transferred to UMASS and became a star. Donte Minter would also transfer and none of the other freshman played much as rookies.

18. Kentucky
Four 3-star recruits, the best of which, Shagari Alleyne, was ranked high based on potential rather than current ability and wound up transferring to Manhattan. Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas barely saw the court as freshmen.

19. Illinois
Richard McBride and Brian Randle were both 4-star guys who came in a saw some playing time, about 10-15 mpg each, but this team was loaded with what would become the 2005 runner-up and the freshmen were not really needed to provide much more than couple ppg they each contributed.

20. Mississippi St.
Jackie Butler was academically ineligible and Travis Outlaw declared for the NBA Draft or this class would have been a contender for #1. Considering this team was a 2-seed, #48 ranked Gary Ervin held his own in averaging 5.5 pts and 2.5 assists, he would transfer to Arkansas after his sophomore season.

Vandy signed one guy in the 2003 class: Dan Cage. He was a 3-star recruit who was mostly being recruited by mid-majors, I’d say he performed slightly better than anticipated. Score one for Vandy players being “special”.

My first thought was that there are less basketball powers on this list than I anticipated. No UCLA, Duke, UNC, Texas, or Indiana. I was also stunned by the amount of transfers, which leads me to believe that at least one of Vandy’s incoming four will be gone within two years and it will have nothing to do with the draft. Finally, overall, there are a ton of guys who become really really good college players who do not come in and play well right away. For every Marquise Kately there’s a Demetrius Nichols. Yea, a few guys play well right away, but many future stars come in and contribute (6-8 pts) as freshman before really stepping up in their games as upperclassmen.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Former Vanderbilt QB diagnosed with diabetes

Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, now starting for the Denver Broncos, was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes on April 16 and confirmed the news to the public last Thursday.

Although not life-threatening, it is the most serious form of diabetes, where the pancreas stops producing insulin which is needed to convert food into energy. As a result, Type I diabetics have to receive daily insulin injections and keep close tabs on their blood sugar levels.

In this article, Cutler, who has no family history of diabetes, explains how his lack of arm strength at the end of last season and major weight loss (35 pounds) should have alerted him to the fact that something was wrong. Now that he's receiving insulin injections, he feels "100 times better ", regained much of his old strength and thinks he'll be even better than he was last year.

Jay Cutler has the chance to be a spokesperson for a disease that affects millions of Americans, writes Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News.

Cutler has had a solid pro career thus far. After being drafted in the first round, 11th overall by Denver in 2006, the former Commodore set an NFL record as the first rookie QB to throw multiple touchdown passes in his first four games. Over his first 21 games, Cutler has thrown for 29 touchdowns against 19 interceptions for a very good 88.2 passer rating.

Cutler seems to be handling the life-changing news very well. Although his daily routine will be forever different, there's no reason Cutler can't become a premier NFL quarterback.

“It’s a big adjustment,” Cutler said. “You’re 25 years old, you’re used to eating whatever you want, doing whatever you want. Now, you’re counting carbs and eating healthier and injecting insulin at the table. You’ve got to have your insulin, your needles, your glucose meter, yeah, it’s a big change. But it’s something you have to deal with. This is a serious, serious disease, and I'm going to have it for the rest of my life. It's not going to change me on the field."