Friday, July 18, 2008

Commodore Banter (7/18)

I'm off to New York City in a minute to catch up with some friends and take in the Yankees game Saturday afternoon, but here's a few links to click through over the weekend.

David Price is creating a buzz at Double-A Montgomery and there's word that he may be called up the big leagues this season, even if he gave up the first three homers of his career last night.

"I'm human. I'm not superhuman," Price said. "I'm just like everybody else on the field. I'm sure I'm going to give up a lot more home runs in my career. If I don't, it probably means I don't have a long career."

Definitely check out Brett Hait's story about Vanderbilt's talented secondary, which includes cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton and nickelback Darlron Spead.

“I think they can play anywhere and be stars anywhere,” Johnson said of Moore and Lewis.

Spead also had high compliments for his teammates.

“In the SEC and in the country, he’s the best, I believe,” Spead said of Moore. “This guy has raw athletic ability. He’s just one of those athletes who doesn’t come around very often. He knows what’s expected of him this year, and you can tell in the weight room and when we’re running.”

“When you get a lot of interceptions, you get all the glory, but you look at Myron’s stats and he had a lot of tackles and a lot of pass breakups,” Spead said. “Myron is a complete corner just like D.J. is, but D.J. gets a little more hype.”

Meanwhile, it was not a good day for our good friend Brandt Snedeker, who shot a 9-over 79 in the second round of the British Open. Looks like he'll miss the cut.

In NBA news, Shan Foster scored 11 points in his final Las Vegas Summer League game.

Offensive tackle Chris Williams said "holdout" wasn't in his vocabulary, and it looks like he's close to an agreement with the Bears.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Commodore Banter (7/17)

A few links to pass along on this Thursday evening as we count down the days until football season...

Former Commodore Brandt Snedeker is tied for 15th after shooting a 2-over 72 in the first round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Snedeker bogeyed five holes on the front nine, but responded by shooting 3-under on the back nine, including back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18, to keep himself within striking distance.

Fan-favorite Rocco Mediate is tied for the lead at 1-under with Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby, while Greg Norman is one shot back.

Meanwhile, Shan Foster continues to play well in the Las Vegas Summer League. He scored 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting to go along with two rebounds in 20 minutes as Dallas defeated Detroit 79-73. While the league continues through July 20, the Mavs are done. In five games, Foster averaged 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Even more promising is the fact that Foster seemed to outplay some of his teammates who are competing for the same roster spot(s), including Rayshawn Terry and Richie Frahm. Foster shot 49 percent from the field, which was tops among the Mavs' perimeter players. Foster proved what we already know -- that he's a very efficient offensive player -- and also displayed a well-rounded game that had to please Dallas coaches and execs.

Foster's old teammate Derrick Byars has been OK in New Orleans. Byars scored five points (2-for-7 from the field) to go along with three rebounds in 20 minutes in the Hornets' 80-76 victory over the Clippers this afternoon. Through three games, he's averaging 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists, but still can't seem to find his stroke. Byars is shooting just 33 percent from the field.

Another former Commodore Matt Freije is on fire through two games with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 10 points on 64 percent shooting, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range. Freije plays again tonight at 9:30 p.m. CT.

In football news, Bobby Johnson made some additional comments about wide receiver Terence Jeffers in this Nashville City Paper piece. Jeffers transferred from UConn and will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2009.
“He’s a good player,” Johnson said. “He made some big catches for them and played in some big games. When he gets through his sit-out year, we’ll have a guy who’s ready to go.”

Vanderbilt coaches watched tape of Jeffers playing at UConn before choosing to offer him a scholarship. Johnson said the player has the ability to be a deep threat as well as take a pounding underneath.

“He can do it all,” Johnson said. “He’s got a big, strong body. He’s not a thin guy. He’s got plenty of courage to go over the middle and the body to back it up.”'s Chris Low thinks that Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore is the third most underrated player in the SEC. We agree.

Two interesting (or maybe not-so interesting) facts about David Price: he doesn't snore and is obsessed with video games, particularly Halo on XBox 360.

Our friends over at VSL have put up their offensive and defensive previews so be sure to check those out.

Mr. SEC's Ace Reporter Jimmy Hyams takes a look at which SEC teams will better and which will be worse this season. Here's quick overview of his column:

Ole Miss
South Carolina

Mississippi State

On the Commodores, Hyams says:

I like Bobby Johnson as a coach, but I don’t see how the Commodores can lose the SEC’s all-time leading receiver and all five offensive line starters and improve. Remember, a year ago, Vandy lost to Georgia and Tennessee – teams that combined to win 21 games – by a field goal in going 5-7. The record won’t be much different, but I don’t see Vandy pushing to the limit some of the SEC’s better teams.

Prediction: 4-8.

My quick take: I don't think the offensive line is going to be as awful or inexperienced as Hyams and most media members suggest. And, of course it won't be easy to replace Earl Bennett, but if the Commodores receive more consistent quarterback play and are more creative in their play-calling, especially with athletes D.J. Moore and Jamie Graham expected to contribute, the offense could actually be better.

The running game (with Jared Hawkins, a leaner and stronger Jeff Jennings and an elusive Gaston Miller, and without Cassen Jackson-Garrison) should improve. I'm also excited about the group of tight ends, which includes Brandon Barden, Justin Green, Austin Monahan and Jake Bradford.

With that said, it's hard to argue with the 4-8 prediction. Hopefully the Dores learn to finish games and prove us wrong...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Snedeker's on the brink

Vanderbilt graduate Brandt Snedeker has become a PGA favorite with his perennial smile and happy-go-lucky attitude, and the fact that his name is cool helps too.

He's also distinguished himself by playing some pretty good golf in the last two majors, finishing third in the Masters and tying for ninth at the U.S. Open.

The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale starts tomorrow, and as this Canadian Press article tells, a gaggle of players in their 20s have a golden opportunity to win a major without big, bad Tiger Woods looming on the scoreboard. Woods, after his dramatic U.S. Open victory, is sidelined with a torn ACL and stress fractures. According to ESPN, Woods has won two of the last three British Opens, and each of the last two PGA championships, so it's pretty obvious that his absence is a weight off everyone's mind. Phil Mickelson wouldn't even mention Tiger's name in an interview.

"No matter what everyone says, beating Tiger is a mental hurdle because nobody is doing it," Snedeker said.

If you need any more reasons to root for Snedeker, by all means read this great feature from Golf Digest, which reveals, among other things, there exists a mentor-pupil relationship between Snedeker and 8-time major winner Tom Watson.

Watson, who has won the British Open five times, became impressed with Snedeker when they played together at the Masters.

"He's a terrific young man," Watson said. "He gets what it takes to not only play professional golf, but he also knows how to handle himself the right way. I really admire that about him."

Watson called Snedeker after the Masters this year, where the young player had a memorable display of emotion after a grueling four days at Augusta that culminated in a final round of 77 and a third-place finish. Snedeker felt he had let down his fans with his poor final round after being in contention for the victory, but Watson had some words of wisdom.

"(Watson) said 'Brandt, there's nothing I can say that's going to make you feel any better. I shot 79 in the last round when I led my first major [the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot]. How you deal with it and move on is what's going to define you as a player. I believe you're going to learn from it and be better for it.'"

One more good sign: Snedeker also said Watson loves Royal Birkdale and the old pro thought that Snedeker would like it too.

"I know he won his last British Open there (1983), and it's going to be my first," Snedeker said. "I can't wait."

For the first time, I can't wait for a golf tournament either.

Weathers to compete in 2008 Olympics

Athletes dream of being able to represent their country in the Olympics. For former Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers, it's become a reality.

Weathers was one of 23 players named to the United States Olympic team today by USA Baseball. In 2007, Weathers went 12-2 with a 2.37 ERA and recorded 75 strikeouts in 49.1 innings en route to earning unanimous first-team All-American honors.

"We are excited for Casey and look forward to seeing him pitch for the USA next month in Beijing," said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin. "He has worked hard and is certainly deserving of the honor of getting to pitch for the USA."

Weathers was the eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Colorado Rockies and is currently playing for Double-A Tulsa, where he is 2-0 with a 2.23 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 20 walks in 36.1 innings.

The manager of the USA squad is former major leaguer and New York Mets skipper Davey Johnson. The Americans will compete in Beijing from August 13-23.

"We are proud of the ball club we have assembled," said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler. "The team is strong from top to bottom, and we are confident it will succeed in Beijing. We applaud our coaching staff and selection committee for their tireless work in putting together an excellent team."

Congrats, Casey. You deserve it.

Football welcomes talented wide receiver

The Vanderbilt football program received good news today as it announced that former UConn wide receiver Terence Jeffers will join the Commodores this fall.

Fans will have to wait a year to see him on the gridiron, but Jeffers will have two years of eligibility remaining and should be able to make an immediate impact in 2009 with the departure of senior wide receivers George Smith and Sean Walker.

Jeffers, who graduated from Berkmar High School outside of Atlanta, Ga., arrives in Nashville with impressive credentials. He started 21 of 25 games in two years with Huskies, leading the team with 44 catches for 582 yards and five touchdowns in 2007. As a freshman, he caught 17 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vandy is going to look fresh, at least

Win or lose, the Vanderbilt football team is going to do it in style this fall.

We got a glimpse at the fresh-lookinguniforms that coaches, players and football staffers collaborated with Nike uniform experts to design. It features black, gold and white options for both jerseys and pants.

"The result of everybody's efforts and input is an extremely sharp looking uniform," said coach Bobby Johnson, "I think Commodore fans are really going to like this fresh new look."

I think so too. Some of the notable changes:

-The two-color stripe on the pants has been removed and replaced with a Nike swoosh and the team's official two-color "Star V" logo patch stitched on either hip.
-The two-color stripe on jersey sleeves has also been removed, replaced with a one-inch solid black stripe.
-A thin white or black piping extends from the front collar to the lower back of each jersey style.
-There's a color "Star V" logo into a "home plate" design in the front collar, and the same logo also has been added to the back of each jersey above the number, making Vanderbilt one of only a few teams nationally to feature such a design.

"All the guys are super excited about getting to see them," said co-captain Brad Vierling. "I know myself, George (Smith) and Reshard (Langford) were totally blown away when we saw them for the first time. It's subtle and not flashy, but it's sleek and fresh. The guys are going to love them."

Let's hope the new look translates into more victories on the field. You can check out the full gallery on VU Commodores right here.

Foster goes off for 17 in Mavs' win

Shan Foster made the most of his first start in the Las Vegas Summer League, scoring 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting as Dallas defeated Minnesota 88-74 Monday night.

Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer has displayed a well-rounded game early on. Foster only attempted three 3-point field goals, making one, against the Timberwolves and added three rebounds. It also looks like he guarded former Gator Corey Brewer, who scored 11 points but needed 18 shots to do it.

Through three games, Foster is averaging 8.7 points on 53 percent shooting, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. While he hasn't solidified a roster spot quite yet, I'd imagine that the Mavs are pleased with his performance.

David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. has been grading the rookie class and ranks Foster 35th in his top 50. Thorpe said that Foster couldn't have landed in a better situation. "SEC Player of the Year lucked out in Round 2 -- he's on a team that needs young energy guys who can shoot."

Foster returns to action Wednesday night at 5 p.m. CT, while Matt Freije (Milwaukee) plays tonight at 5 p.m. CT and Derrick Byars (New Orleans) will follow at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Photo []

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegas not liking Vandy this year

We will have more than enough preseason football coverage coming up later in the summer, but wanted to direct people over to Vegas Watch for some evidence that it could be a long year for the 2008 football Dores.

Vegas lists the over/under win totals for a number of teams as calculated by sports book The Greek. Out of the 48 Bowl Championship Subdvision (yeah I said it) teams that were listed, Vandy came in last at 3 wins. 3 wins. 3. Wins.

I'm not expecting much this year, but wow, even fellow SEC whipping boys Ole Miss and Mississippi State come in at 5.5 and 7 wins respectively. Take a look at his graphs to see how the juice affects these numbers and for his calculation of true expected wins (Vandy's is 3.1).

Hey at least Vandy got a special shout out, even though it was for its calculated probability of going winless, coming in at an alarmingly high 2.9%.

So let me pose the question to you...OVER or UNDER???

Commodore Banter (7/14)

Before we get into the Vanderbilt-related links, I have some very important news to pass along.

Billy Packer's streak of Final Fours is finally over after 34 years. Man, did it feel good typing that sentence.

Packer will be replaced by studio analyst Clark Kellogg, while Jim Nantz will remain in his Final Four play-by-play role. Packer will leave CBS after 28 years to pursue "other projects in basketball," according to The Miami Herald.

Moving on, the man charged in the 2004 shooting death of Vanderbilt running back Kwane Doster but later saw the charges dropped, has been arrested in Tampa, Fla., on drug trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering charges, The Tampa Tribune reported.

Doster was killed in Tampa on Dec. 26, 2004, while home for Christmas break. Roman was arrested days after the shooting, but prosecutors dropped the first-degree murder charges against him in 2006, citing "adverse evidentiary developments."

In NBA summer league news, Derrick Byars has latched on with the New Orleans Hornets and had six points and two rebounds in 15 minutes in Sunday's 77-75 victory over Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Shan Foster had two points, four rebounds and four assists in nearly 20 minutes in the Mavs' 95-86 loss to Golden State. Foster missed his lone field-goal attempt, but hit both free throws and clearly contributed in other areas, which is an encouraging sign. Dallas returns to action tonight against Minnesota at 9 p.m. CT.

Within this Denver Post mailbag, it seems like Casey Weathers will be called up to the Rockies in late August or early September.
When do you think the Rockies will give Dexter Fowler and Casey Weathers a chance?

Dexter Fowler and Casey Weathers figure to be with the Rockies in either late August or early September. Fowler played in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium and represents the future at center field. His athleticism intrigues me. He can run, and is growing into his power. Casey Weathers, surprisingly, has not been used as a minor-league closer this season. But he continues to show great power in his right arm. His September audition could determine whether he begins next season as a setup man.

In football recruiting news, linebacker Blake Southerland of Greater Atlanta Christian School verbally committed to Vanderbilt last week. He is the younger brother of Brannan Southerland, currently the starting fullback at Georgia.

Southerland is Vanderbilt’s fifth known commitment for the 2009 class, joining safety Jay Fullam, offensive lineman Justin Cabbagestalk, athlete Eric Samuels and defensive tackle Darrius McMullin. college baseball editor Kendall Rogers took a look back at the 2008 season and gave the Commodores a "D." Given their expectations, can't say I disagree.

In SEC news, The Birmingham News notes that football ticket prices are soaring, while Mark Bradley of the AJC gives 10 reasons why Georgia will win the national title.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Minor leads Team USA to gold

Vanderbilt's Mike Minor and the rest of the United States national team made history Sunday, defeating Cuba in the championship game of the 24th Haarlem Baseball Week at Pim Mullier Stadium in the Netherlands.

It marked the first that time an American national team had defeated a Cuba Olympic in a tournament title game. The same Cuban squad that Minor handcuffed twice will compete in Beijing next month.

“What this team has accomplished is amazing,” said USA Baseball National Team coach Rob Walton. “These players may not realize the significance of this victory right now, but this was a big win. To beat a team with the history of success that Cuba has is something of which these guys should be proud.”

Minor gave up one unearned run on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts over six innings. He also pitched 6.1 scoreless innings in the Americans' 1-0 victory over Cuba last Sunday.

Team USA improved to 14-0 on the 2008 tour and finished 7-0 in the Haarlem Baseball Week.

“Winning an international competition and doing it against Cuba’s best team is an historic accomplish,” said USA Baseball National Team general manager Eric Campbell. “It really shows the quality of the college game in America. I’m happy for these players and this coaching staff, and I’m proud to put these men in USA Baseball uniforms.”

Minor has been terrific this summer, serving as Team USA's ace, and looks poised for a dominant junior season with the Commodores.

Photo [CSTV]

Rockies should have patience with Weathers

Pitching the eighth inning of the U.S. Future Games Sunday afternoon, Casey Weathers showed why he will be pitching for the Colorado Rockies in the near future, and perhaps why he's not there yet.

The former Vanderbilt closer displayed electric stuff and struck out the side thanks to a fastball that routinely clocked in at 96-97 mph and a slider that reached 88 mph and sat around 85 mph. However, after striking out the first hitter, Weathers walked two batters and gave up a single before buckling down to fan the next two to escape the inning unscathed.

The outing reaffirmed what we already knew about Weathers. He's a major-league talent with a truly power arm who has no difficulty missing bats. The fact that he could get out of the jam by recording back-to-back strikeouts (almost effortlessly, I might add) is what separates him from most relievers.

Still, Weathers, a converted outfielder, remains somewhat unpolished. While Weathers (2-0, 2.29 ERA) has 40 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, he has also issued 19 walks, too many for a big-league closer. For example, the Red Sox's Jonathan Papelbon has just seven walks in 40.2 innings and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera has just four in 42.1 innings.

Of course, the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez leads the league with 38 saves and has 26 walks in 42 innings, but I'm sure Mike Scioscia wouldn't mind if K-Rod cut down on the number of free passes.'s David Kull suggests that Weathers will be the Rockies' closer in the very near future, but I'm not sure there's a rush.

Colorado is in fourth place in the NL West, eight games behind Arizona, and barring a 2007-like run in the second half, will miss out on the playoffs. As a result, it might make sense to be patient with Weathers and give him more time to develop. If he is called up, Weathers would be best served to pitch the seventh and eighth innings before making the jump to closer next season.

Once he's ready, good luck to the opposing hitters trying to hit that overpowering fastball or killer slider.

Photo [Day Life]

Commodore Banter (7/13)

We've got a bunch of links to pass along on this beautiful Sunday afternoon so take some time and click through them if you're not at the beach or out playing golf...

In just a few minutes, former Vanderbilt closer Casey Weathers will compete in the U.S. Futures Games at Yankee Stadium, which showcases the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations.

Weathers, the No. 8 overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2007, also has a chance to earn a spot on the Olympic squad, which will be officially announced on July 16, the day after the Major League All-Star Game.
Vying for a spot in the Team USA bullpen is another 2007 first-round pick, Vanderbilt product Casey Weathers of the Colorado Rockies. Working in short relief as a setup man, though he profiles as a closer down the road, Weathers sported a 2.29 ERA in 35 games for the Double-A Tulsa Drillers and had fanned 40 in 35 1/3 innings while limiting Texas League batters to a .184 average.

The Sacramento Bee also has a cool feature on Weathers and former Sacramento City College teammate Ryan Mattheus. After a couple of years apart, both Weathers and Mattheus are pitching for Double-A Tulsa and will take the field today as teammates in the Futures Game.

"It's kind of crazy how our worlds have collided," Mattheus said. "We run together every day, we play catch together every day. He's a good friend of mine."

Speaking of old teammates, Weathers' former partner-in-crime David Price picked up another win on Saturday. He allowed one run on six hits, while walking three and fanning four in seven innings to improve to 4-0 since being promoted to Class AA.

Yesterday we took a look at Derrick Byars and Shan Foster's summer league performances, but don't forget about Matt Freije, who scored 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-4 from downtown, in 22 minutes off the bench for the Bucks. The former Commodore also had five fouls so stop hacking, Matt.

Also, in case you hadn't heard, former Vanderbilt forward Ross Neltner is off to Turkey, where he'll play for Bursa. Neltner said that the "money is good," and that he receives a furnished apartment and a car. Should be a blast.

Is one foot back on the 3-point line a step forward for NCAA hoops?'s Andy Katz answers that question and draws some interesting conclusions. Since the women kept their line at 19 feet, 9 inches, there are going to be two 3-point lines on most courts, which could cause problems for players and officials alike.'s Chris Low takes a look at some of the Southeastern Conference freshmen (both true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) who could make the biggest impact this fall and has three Commodores on the list.
Brandon Barden, TE, Vanderbilt: Originally signed with Virginia Tech, but transferred after a semester there. A quarterback in high school, Barden was impressive as a scout team tight end a year ago.

Jamie Graham, WR, Vanderbilt: A redshirt freshman, Graham was a defensive stopper on the Commodores' basketball team last season. He'll move from defensive back to receiver in football and should be one of the most explosive athletes on the team.

Tristan Strong, LB, Vanderbilt: With Marcus Buggs now trying to make an NFL team, there could be a spot at outside linebacker for a freshman. The 220-pound Strong is a leading candidate. analyzes the Vanderbilt-South Carolina match-up in week two and makes the following prediction: Gamecocks 28, Commodores 10.

Chicago Bears coach Darryl Drake said rookie wide receiver Earl Bennett has been impressive (scroll down to the bottom of the interview).

Vanderbilt outfielder Alex Hilliard has some pretty cool parents. The Hilliards recently spent 26 days vacationing in New England, attending every one of Alex's games for the Holyoke Blue Sox in the NECBL.

"Before the Hilliards left for home, they hosted a Louisiana-style dinner for both teams after one of our games. It was a wonderful time. In this business, you get attached to the parents as much as you do to the kids," said Barry Wadsworth, general manager and chief operating officer of the Blue Sox.'s Seth Davis shares some SEC thoughts, including Arkansas' Patrick Beverley's trash-talking with LeBron James.

With football players, commitments come earlier than ever, writes The Tennessean's Maurice Patton.