Vanderbilt Sports

Tough one for the team, but we can still get this done

Matt Fisher Davis was en fuego last night in Starkvegas
Matt Fisher Davis was en fuego last night in Starkvegas

It was a blow when Quinndary Weatherspoon's trifecta went through the net last night at the buzzer as State came back from a 17 point deficit and defeated us, 75-74 in Starkville last night. It was crushing actually. I felt like I got punched in the stomach when that shot went through the net. We had a shot at the rebound on the first miss by State, but couldn't corral it and Weatherspoon, who played a phenomenal game for them with 24 points on four-ofsix from trifecta and some terrific defense on MFD in the second half, sank the deep three from the left corner.

We played really hard, but just couldn't finish the game. But we've still got five regular season games left starting this Saturday against Georgia @ home, 11 AM CT/ Noon ET on ESPN2. Then we go to Florida next Tuesday night, Feb 23rd, for a 6 PM CT/7 PM ET tipoff on the SEC Network. We play UK at home, Saturday, Feb. 27th, at 3 PM CT/4 PM ET on CBS, then UT @ home, Tuesday, March 1st, @ 6 PM CT/7 PM ET on SEC Network, and finish off the season @ A&M Saturday, March 5th, with an 11 AM CT/Noon ET tipoff on ESPN2.

The SEC Tournament is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville March 9th-13th, a Wednesday through a Sunday. The tournament will be televised by the SEC Network with the championship game Sunday at Noon CT/1 PM ET on ESPN. It would be nice to get a bye on the first day of the tournament.

We are now 15-11 overall and 7-6 in the SEC. It's not over until we finish off the SEC tourney, so there is still time to make the NCAA's.

Still believe in Wade, Dame, MFD, Jeff, Luke, Riley, Nolan, Josh, the whole team. MFD hit six threes last night, but they took him away early in the second half and we couldn't seem to compensate. Wade is an awesome player, a leader on the team, the floor general, and a passionate VU basketball player. I love Wade. Sometimes, I wish he'd play a little more under control and not force things. You never want to take away Wade's aggressiveness and passion to win, so maybe Kevin just keeps letting him loose. He's done a good job taking care of the ball lately. When he does that, we are an outstanding team. Jeff Roberson has been super for us all season. Dame has been on fire lately. He had 20 and 10 last night. He's been awesome. Luke has been very good. He's just a key cog in our arsenal. We HAVE to have Luke on the court in crunch time. MFD is a serious marksman and a great player for us. He's a good rebounder and an underrated, good defender. Riley and Nolan are giving us great hustle even though their threes aren't falling like they usually do. Still believe that'll happen. They give us such great hustle and hard nosed play that we have to have them on the court. We need both of them. They are such great team players.  Josh has given us a lot of good minutes. Still believe Josh can help us down the stretch. Guys like Joe Toye, Cam Justice and Samir Sehic can still help us down the stretch. Carter Josephs can give us some good minutes if needed.

We still have a very good team. Please keep the faith.

Another potential magical year in store as baseball set to start

Bryan Reynolds (above) Will Toffey and Jeren Kendall will be our leaders this season Will Toffeyjeren kendall

Corbs and I discussed the upcoming season and his aspirations for his 2016 team, which opens play Friday with a weekend home series at the Hawk against San Diego with first pitch @ 4 PM CT.

Our team has been predicted by the USA Today Coaches' Poll as the No.3 team in the country in their preseason rankings. D-1 Baseball has us at No.3, and Baseball America has us at No.7. Florida is the unanimous choice at No.1 and Louisville is at No.2. Interestingly enough, we will play Louisville at home, Tuesday, May 10th, @ 6 PM CT, and then go to Florida that weekend, May 13th-15th. A lot of work ahead for this team with some good experienced guys in the field, some experience on the mound and some youth who will play a major role in this team's fortunes this season.

This freshman class was the No.1 rated class in the country according to Perfect Game, and, FYI, our 2016 class, with four Top 100 guys and 16 commits, is No.2 in the country, our 2017 class, with 16 commits and 8 top 100 guys, is No.1, and our 2018 class, with 14 commits and 11 top 100 guys, is also No.1 in the country. Corbs just keeps recruiting better than anybody else in college baseball. We very well may lose some of these recruits to the draft as five of our commits for 2015, this freshman class, signed pro contracts, but we still had the best class in the country, and I expect that to hold true going forward.

It's truly amazing the way Corbs recruits and that should never be taken for granted. He just has a way of connecting with young high school players, getting them to believe in them, and convincing them that Vanderbilt University is the place for them. The proof is in the pudding. We have five guys who are playing in the major league with more to come and it seems like every one of our guys to a man comes back to VU to get ready for their respective pro seasons. Corbs sticks with them in high school at VU and in their lives moving forward. He is truly a father figure to all of his young men who play for him. They love him like a father and he treats them all like they are his sons. Ask David Price, who may be the greatest proponent of Vanderbilt in the history of Vanderbilt athletics. David loves VU and we love him. Can't wait for David's 2016 season with the Sox.

And Corbs' track record as a coach with three college world series appearances, six Super Regionals, a national title in 2014, a runner up finish last year  in a classic series with Virginia which was one hit away from us winning back to back national titles, in his 13 seasons at the helm speaks for itself. His ability to recruit and coach is better than anybody else in the country. I'm partial and loyal to Corbs and VU, but how can you argue with those results? His 14th VU baseball team  looks pretty riveting with the players returning, the arms we have on the mound, with our potential starters, middle guys and closers, and the experience of catchers Karl Ellison and Jason Delay behind the dish.

The other teams in the top 10 are A&M, UVA, Oregon State, Miami, Cal, Oklahoma State and UCLA depending on which poll you are looking at; that's the Baseball America Poll, which has us at 7th. The Coaches' Poll has LSU in at N0.5, A&M at No.4, us at No.3, Mississippi State at No.17, Arkansas at No. 22 and South Carolina at No. 23. D-1 has us at No.3, Florida at No.1, A&M at No.4, LSU at No.7, State at No. 15, South Carolina at No. 17 and Arkansas at No.25.

So we're right there in the mix according to the writers and the coaches.

Our leading returning hitter is junior center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who hit .318 last season with five homers, 49 Ribeyes and 18 doubles. Bryan is awesome. He struggled for a while at the plate last year after having a banner freshman season, but got on a tear late last season and became the Reynolds we've been accustomed to seeing at VU. Bryan also plays terrific center field. In right field, we'll have the phenomenal Jeren Kendall. Jeren hit .281 last season with eight long ones and 40 ribbies, 10 doubles and six triples. Jeren brings power and speed to the plate. I expect a .330 hitting year from Jeren with possible double digit homers and good RBI numbers.  Same for Reynolds, who could very well be the leader on this team along with Ellison and Delay. Bryan was 17-of-19 stealing bases and Jeren was 19-of-23. We have center and right well covered with these two. Jeren can go get it in right. Jeren, if you remember, hit the incredible two-run walk off homer against Cal State Fullerton in the bottom of the ninth in the first game of the CWS last season with us trailing 3-2 and Fullerton's ace left hander facing him. Jeren, a left handed hitter, caught a fast ball and drove it over the right field wall. It was a magical hit by a magical player on what was a magical team that just missed from going back to back on national championships. We just came up a hair short against those guys from another state.

Left field is up for grabs. Ro Coleman has moved out to the outfield, so Ro could be an option. Love Ro's heart and character, his dedication, his speed and I expect his bat to be good too. Tony Kemp-like in many ways. Maybe not as vocal of a leader as Tony, but I'm sure Ro has gained confidence now that he is a junior and he can lead. There are some younger guys that will be competing for the job as well, mainly freshmen. One of the freshmen could win the job, Ro could DH again and we'll have Ro's bat and his super speed on the base paths. Ro hit .295 last year. Two other guys to look at in left are sophomore Drake Parker and junior Nolan Rogers. Drake has amazing speed and great ability. He could be a guy to watch. Nolan could give us good help out there too.

 

****Note: Drake Parker is no longer on the team, but is completing his degree at VU. Good for Drake.****

In the infield we have the awesome Will Toffey at third. Will hit .294 last year with four homers and 49 Ribeyes as a freshman and added 20 doubles. He also played terrifically at the hot corner. Expecting huge things from Will. Tyler Campbell and Penn Murfee will battle it out for second base. Both are good fielders and Penn can really hit. Like both those guys to play a lot. First base and short are a little open right now. Liam Sabino, a sophomore, is a guy to look at at short. At first, we've got the Tyler Green and possibly Kyle Smith. Both are capable. Again, some of our talented freshmen will be in the mix. So we have some good experience and some inexperience, but a lot of talent in our infield and outfield. Reynolds, Kendall, Toffey and of course Ellison and Delay will be our leaders in the field. Ellison hit .215 last year, but I still like him as a hitter and he's brilliant behind the plate with the pitchers. Delay hit .283 and really improved on defense. Feel good about both those guys calling the signals and at the plate. Karl can be a .280 hitter. He's got a pretty good bat.

On the mound, Corbs says there are about seven guys who are in the mix to be weekend rotation guys. Look for Kyle Wright, Collin Snider, John Kilichowski Jordan Sheffield and Ben Bowden to be key players in the weekend rotation mix. One question is the health of freshman sensation pitcher from two years ago, Hayden Stone. Hayden was such an integral part of us winning the national championship two years ago and we really missed him last year. Hayden had Tommy John surgery last spring and he's coming along. It remains to be seen when Hayden will be available. It takes eight to 12 months to recover from that surgery, so it may be early to mid March even April before we see Hayden pitching for us again. Would love to get his talent and leadership back. Love Hayden. We've got talented freshmen, too. Again without seeing them play, I don't know exactly who will emerge as key guys in our pitching rotation either as starters, middle guys or closers out of our freshmen class. Those first several guys I mentioned, the veterans, will be our leaders on the hill this season. The freshmen have a lot of talent and some of them will contribute in a big way this season. Will have to watch the San Diego series and going forward to see who can help us this season.

We lost some great players in Dansby, Carson, Walker, Pfeif, Rhett Wiseman, and Zander, so we have some rebuilding/reloading to do. Dansby is now with the Braves, Carson is with the White Sox, Walker and Pfief are in the Dodgers organization, Rhett is with the Washington Nationals, and Zander is with the Minnesota Twins. I expect Dansby and Carson to be playing in the big leagues pretty soon. The other guys have a shot too in the next couple of years.

DP is going to be the number one guy for the BoSox. Already ordered my BoSox hat and ready to roll with DP at Fenway and competing for his new team. The BoSox are certainly relevant again in the postseason mix.  Sonny is firmly entrenched in Oakland for this season, but another season like last year, and Sonny will be a hot commodity and headed for a huge contract. I'm not sure if Sonny is a free agent or not after this season. Will check into that and get back to you. I know Sonny wants to have a good season this year and get the A's back in the hunt for the postseason. Pedro and Mike Minor have not been picked up by teams, which is really ticking me off. Both are high quality big league players. Some team should pick each of them up. Corbs told me that both guys had babies in the offseason, so he's most proud of Pedro and Mikey for that. Typical Corbs. He's most interested in former players on a personal level moreso  than anything else. That is awesome for Pedro and Mike.

Corbs did say he expected Tony Kemp and Yaz to be in the big leagues soon; Tony with the Astros and Yaz with the Orioles. Ryan Flaherty is still a valuable player for the Orioles. Ready to see Tony and Yaz up there. They were superb players for us. I don't know how there is any way possible that the Astros can keep Tony in the minors. He is lighting it up down there. So is Yaz in the O's organization.

Our baseball team in 2016 will be right there in the mix in the SEC and nationally when all is said and done. We are so well coached, our kids are unreal, and they are highly talented baseball players. If the freshmen can come through some and our veterans,Reynolds, Kendall and Toffey, lead the way, and guys like Wright, Kilo, Sheffield, Bowden and Snider perform well and if we can get Hayden back and in good shape, we will have an outstanding baseball team that has a chance to once again go to Omaha and win it all. Can't wait.

"It's not defending. It's improving and getting better"

Coach Geoff McDonald (above) and his VU women's tennis teams aims to recapture the glory from 2015  

Sydney Campbell (above), Frances Altick, and Astra Sharma will employ their elite talents as VU women's tennis aims to excel

Sydney Campbell (above), Frances Altick (below left), and Astra Sharma (below right), will employ their elite talents as VU women's tennis aims to excel once again

Frances AltickAstra Sharma

Those are the words of the phenomenal Geoff McDonald, who is now fully engaged in his 22nd year as VU women's tennis coach. The team is the defending national champion and returns its top three players from last year's elite national championship group. The 57 year old McDonald has taken VU teams to 11 Sweet 16's, two Elite Eights, two Final Fours, two national championship appearances and last year's crowning jewel, an NCAA championship.

But McDonald and the team are doing the polar opposite of resting on their past laurels. They are 6-2 this season already with wins over International Tennis Association top 10 teams Virginia and Stanford, which has won 17 national titles in their existence, and victories over top 25 teams Duke and Northwestern. We have lost twice to No.6 Ohio State, which McDonald calls "a great indoors team." Maybe we'll see them in an outdoor event in April-May. We are presently ranked fifth in the country by the ITA. Cal is No.1, UNC is No.2, Florida is No.3 and Georgia is No.4. The competition is fierce both in the SEC and nationally, but this Commodores squad is fully equipped to make their mark in 2016.

McDonald's team has the highest GPA of any team in the school at 3.5. They come in at 7 AM in the morning to workout. Our top three players are Frances Altick, Sydney Campbell and Astra Sharma, who was amazing in the national championship match against UCLA last year. Frances is ranked 16th, Sydney is 20th and Astra is 22nd respectively in the country. Geoff says these three girls are very close to being world class players.

Geoff has talked to Corbs about the challenge of repeating and Corbs told him that's not the focus. It's about getting better each day, improving. Geoff carries that mantra to his 2016 team.

McDonald likes his  other players just as much as they will be key contributors to the team's mission to be "peaking in April." Georgina Sellyn was hurt last year, but played No.1 on the team two years ago, and McDonald calls her " a secret weapon." Senior Courtney Colton is a leader and a very fine player. Senior Ellie Yates is another leader. Freshman Fernanda Contreras and Summer Dvorak are highly talented newcomers who can help this team in doubles and in singles in certain key situations. Senior Maggie Leavell and sophomore Payton Robinette bring experience and leadership.

McDonald calls the SEC "the ultimate league" with Florida and Georgia having perennially great team. Geoff calls Mississippi State, Kentucky and LSU as "the best I've seen them.

"You can be 10th in the conference and be ranked 20th in the country," McDonald adds.

Key national teams are Cal, UNC, UVA, Stanford, Ohio State, TCU and Texas A&M is also very good in the conference and nationally.

McDonald uses Stanford as the standard bearer for the ultimate national program. The Cardinal have won 17 national titles and their quarterfinal appearance last year was a down year for them.

"They have great weather and unbelievable academics, it's an incredible place, McDonald says. "If they offer kids, the kids usually want to go there."

But McDonald has elevated our program to that level.

"We've been good for a long time," he says. "We have really good kids who can do the work here and represent the school well. Yeah, I think we are being discussed by the top recruits more and more."

After going to Baylor this Saturday, where McDonald says, "We have good memories" as the team won the national title in Waco last year, we play Kentucky at home Sunday, March 6th, at 1 PM CT  to open conference play. Then we go to South Carolina (Wednesday, March 9th) and Florida (Saturday, March 12th). We then have home matches vs A&M, Thursday, March, 17th at 4 PM CT, LSU, Saturday, March, 19th, Noon CT, Tennessee, Thursday,March 24th @ 4 PM CT, and Georgia, Saturday, March 26th at Noon CT. Then we have four straight on the road @ State, Thursday, March 31st, Ole Miss, Saturday, April 2nd, Missouri, Friday April 8th, and  Arkansas, Sunday, April 10th, before coming home to complete the regular season against Auburn, Friday, April 15th at 4 PM CT, and Alabama, Sunday April 17th at 1 PM CT.

The SEC Tournament will be held in Baton Rouge, LA, starting Wednesday, April 20th. The NCAA Regionals will begin May 13th, a Friday, at a site to be determined. The Sweet 16 is Thursday, May 19th at Tulsa, OK. And the singles and doubles championships will be Wednesday, May 25th in Tulsa.

So a lot of work to do. The team has worked extremely hard with Strength and Conditioning Coach Emil Iankov, whom McDonald calls, "the best in the country.

"We were the fittest team in the country last year and we will be again this year. He brings an old school approach. He works our girls hard and intelligently."

So the pieces are in place for another stellar year for the VU women's tennis team. Can we repeat? Yes. Will we repeat? We've got a shot. With the work ethic of the girls, their unquestionable talent and our outstanding coaching by Geoff,  Associate Head coach Aleke Tsoubanos and Volunteer Assistant Kieran Burke, we've got all the tools in place to win a national championship.

As Corbs and our baseball team know, it's an incredible grind to repeat. Geoff understands that too, but believes it can certainly be a special season for his team.

It'll be thrilling to watch the girls matriculate in 2016. The blog will be on top of the girls' progress. They deserve it. Geoff deserves it. He has built a program that is second to none nationally. They are a gem in Vanderbilt Athletics and deserve all the accolades that come their way this season.

It will be an electric 2016 season. Let's enjoy the journey along with Geoff and his girls.

Charged up about the 2016 class

Joejuan (top), the Deuce (middle) and Sean (bottom) are three of the top guys in the stellar 2016 class  

Deuce WallaceSean Awuae

Coach Derek Mason and the staff brought in a terrific group of players into the fold in this year's signing class. Fourteen of the signees were All-State players, and eight of them helped lead their respective teams to the state championship in their respective states. This class reminds me of the classes that Bobby Johnson signed in 2009 and 2010 that featured players like Wesley Johnson, Zac Stacy, JMatt, Andre Hal and Kenny Ladler, players that led us to  three straight bowl games from 2011-2013. I get the same feel for this year's signing class along with last year's signing class. Coach Mason is establishing a presence throughout the country with the Vanderbilt brand and we've gotten some key in-state Tennessee guys led this year by four star cornerback Joejuan Williams and high three-star quarterback Deuce Wallace. We got an excellent four-star lineman out of Hawaii, a top flight running back out of Florida, three talented receivers, two other excellent, big offensive linemen, three very solid players on the defensive line, two diamond in the rough linebackers, and great help in the secondary to go along with Williams. We also landed one of the top punters in the country. The film on each player looks superb. Here's a look at each 2016 signee:

 1. Joejuan Williams

Four-star cornerback, 6'3", 195, Father Ryan, Hendersonville, TN.

Joejuan did not play his senior year at Hendersonville because his appeal to transfer and play was denied. As a junior at Father Ryan High School in 2014, Joejuan registered 48 tackles, two interceptions and 11 pass breakups. Joejuan was highly recruited by Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, MS. State and Michigan State. All of those schools offered him. Joejuan had decided on his official visit to VU that he was going to LSU until a Monday morning heart to heart with Coach Mason changed his mind. He signed with us and enrolled early in January. Joejuan will be competing in spring drills, which start Monday, February 22nd. The spring game will take place Friday, March 25th at 6:30 PM I'm pretty sure. Great things are expected out of Joejuan. We're really going to like him. Terrific young man, too. He will be in the mix with Torren McGaster, Tre Herndon, Taurean Ferguson, Emmanuel Smith and Donovan Sheffield for the starting cornerback position. We'll have excellent talent at that position. Emmanuel plays nickel back, but can also play corner. With the addition of Joejuan and our other cornerback signee, Elijah Hamilton, we will be loaded at that position. Joejuan will be a difference-maker/ game changer in our secondary.

 

2. "The Deuce"

Deuce Wallace is an 88, three-star quarterback by 247 Sports, Deuce is 6'2", 205 pounds and is  out of Sevier County High School, in Sevierville, Tennessee. He was a multi-year captain and two year starting quarterback for the East Tennessee power. As a senior, Deuce passed for 3,505 yards and 37 TDs leading his Smoky Bears team to the 5A state title game. He was named two-time All-State by the Tennessee sportswriters. Deuce passed for 2,783 yards and 25 TDs his junior year. He started as a freshman and sophomore at Riverside Academy near New Orleans throwing for 4,508 yards and 35 TDs over a two year period. Deuce is already enrolled and will compete in the spring with Kyle Shurmur, Wade Freebeck, and Shawn Stankavage for the quarterback position. Deuce was a huge Vanderbilt proponent after he committed and lured some other key targets into the fold. He's a Vanderbilt man through and through. Deuce selected VU over offers from LSU, Northwestern, Maryland, Wake and Central Florida among others. LSU came in really hard at the end, but Deuce stuck with us. We're going to love the future at quarterback with Kyle, Wade, Stank and now Deuce. Like Kyle to be our guy next year if he stays healthy through the spring and summer, but really like Deuce to be the quarterback of the future once Kyle moves on to the next level. It may happen sooner than that depending on drills in the next two years. Deuce is accurate, as he completed 68% of his passes his senior year and threw only seven ints. Like what we're getting here from the Deuce.

3. Zaire Jones

Zaire is an 87 three-star safety from Meridian, Mississippi. Zaire was a huge get for the program. He is 6 feet, 195, and is already enrolled and ready to attack spring drills with our other safeties already on the team led by studs Oren Burks and Ryan White. Zaire was captain of his team his senior year. As a senior, Jones helped Meridian to an 8-6 record and a semifinal appearance in the Class 6A Mississippi playoffs. He posted 92 tackles, three interceptions and had one fumble recovery. He was a 6A All-State selection and played in the heralded Alabama-Mississippi All Star Classic in a game Mississippi won for the first time in a while. As a junior at Meridian, Zaire had 63 tackles and one int. And as a sophomore, Zaireposted three interceptions and 49 tackles. He's a high academic achiever as well like the rest of the class. Zaire selected VU over offers from Miss. State, Missouri, Cal, UVA and Indiana among others. Getting a really fine safety here in Zaire. He could be in line for some playing time this fall.

 

4. Sean Auwae

Sean is a four-star, 6'4", 295 pound offensive lineman who is highly versatile, meaning he can play center, guard or tackle. Sean is from Kapolei, Hawaii, as Coach Mason has asserted his presence in Hawaii and with Polynesian players particularly, as we already have high four-star Nifae Lealeo on the team at defensive tackle. Nifae will be a junior next year. Josiah Sa'o, another Poly player, is in this 2016 class and I will talk about Josiah in a minute.

Sean was a two year captain for his Kapolei High School team. Kapolei is just west of Honolulu. He was a three year starter and as a starting center and offensive tackle his senior year, he recorded 33 pancake blocks, the second highest total in school history. He earned first team All-State honors his senior season and played in the Semper Fi All-American game, a highly acclaimed national high school all-star game in Carson, California sponsored by the Marine Corps, which features some of the top high school seniors in the country. Sean benches 405 pounds already and starts out his warmup to the tune of 225 pounds, 28 times. I believe he'll be able to hold his own in the SEC. I watched Sean's film and he absolutely destroys defensive linemen. Linebackers and secondary guys have no chance against him. Superb football player. We're going to love Sean on the o line at Vanderbilt University. We've got good talent coming back on the line led by left tackle Andrew Jelks, who will be returning from a knee injury, but Sean could make his way onto the two deep this fall. Sean selected VU over offers from Mississippi State, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, Utah, Louisville, BYU and Texas Tech among others.

 

5. Josiah Sa'o

A solid three star, 6'2", 290 pound defensive linemen, Josiah is from San Diego California, Kearney High School. Josiah was a late addition to the class and a big pickup for first year defensive line coach C.J. Ah You. Josiah was a two year captain for his team and started on both the offensive and defensive lines. As a senior defensive tackle, he recorded 102 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His team won the Central League title and reached the second round of the California Independent Football Division IV playoffs. There are so many football teams and classifications in California, that it's hard for to say how that quantifies, but I watched film on Josiah and loved it. He can really get people down. He's very strong. I almost liked him better on the offensive side of the ball as he absolutely buried defensive linemen and linebackers and looked like he loved doing it. But he's got great stats on the defensive side of the ball so if that's where Coach Mason wants Josiah, he'll excel there. Excellent player from San Diego in Josiah Sa'o. Josiah chose VU over offers from Arizona, Ole Miss, Hawaii, UNLV and Navy among others.

 

6. Drew Birchmeier

The solid three-star from Midlothian, Virginia is a 6'4", 280 pound defensive lineman. He was senior captain for Cosby High School and a four year starter for the public school just south of Richmond. Played defensive tackle and offensive tackle for Cosby, which started 0-3 this season, but finished the season with eight wins and a 6A state quarterfinal appearance. Drew is a strong, dominant kind of player on both sides of the ball. He's another guy like Josiah, who could play on either offense or defense, but I think Coach Mason likes Drew on defense. He's an honors student and his dad, Mark, played collegiately at Michigan State. Drew chose VU over offers from Virginia, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Temple, Harvard, Yale and Army among others.

 

7. Jackson Winrow

The three-star, 6'2", 180 pound wide receiver from Shawnee, Oklahoma was a three-year starter and senior captain for the 5A school located east of Oklahoma City. As a senior, Jackson hauled in 52 passes for 1,052 yards and 12 touchdowns in a nine game season. He was named Class 5A All-State by the state coaches association. As a junior, Jackson had 720 yards receiving and six TDs. As a sophomore, Jackson had 26 receptions for 500 yards. He was a multi-year standout in basketball, too. He is a National Honor Society member. I watched film on Jackson and loved it. He's a house call waiting to happen as his senior statistics for TDs would indicate. Jackson can catch the short ball and turn it into big yards, he has good hands for the intermediate pass, 15-20 yards, and is stellar catching the long ball. Jackson was a great late addition to this class. We are really going to like him. We have Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott, Latevius Rayford and C.J. Duncan, who is returning from an Achilles injury, along with Ronald Monroe, who could be a stellar deep threat, and the awesome DeAndre Woods at tight end, who will be returning this season from injury after starting out the year in 2o15 on a tear. And Jackson will be an excellent player for us. He chose us over offers from Purdue and Tulsa. Love this pickup.

 

8. Elijah Hamilton

The three-star, 6'2", 190 pound cornerback from Blessed Trinity Catholic in Roswell, Georgia was a multi-year captain for the powerful north Atlanta private school. As a senior db, he helped lead Blessed Trinity to a 13-1 record and the Class AAA state title game. Elijah posted 81 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups and two fumble recoveries earning honorable mention All-State honors. His dad, Ruffin, had a six year career in the NFL playing for the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. Elijah is an Honors student. Loved his film. Elijah is a ball hawk and made some beautiful interceptions on film. He's also an excellent tackler in the open field. Elijah chose VU over Air Force, Navy, Army and others.

 

9. Braden Kopp

The three-star, 6'5", 290 pound offensive tackle out of Houston Christian High School in Houston, TX, brings size and power to the VU offensive line. As a senior, Braden helped Houston Christian to a 6-4 overall mark and the Southwest Preparatory Conference playoffs. Braden was also a stellar basketball player before taking up football. He was the school's all time leading rebounder.He was relatively new to football this season, but I watched his film and with some work with Strength Coach James Dobson and new offensive line coach Cameron Norcross, Braden can develop into an elite lineman for Vanderbilt football. Braden chose VU over Central Florida, Tulane, Rice, Army and Harvard. Florida came in late. Braden is an honors student.

10. Kalija Lipscomb

The three-star, 6'1", 185 pound wide receiver our of Jesuit High School in N'awlins was a three-year starter for one of New Orleans' private school powers. As a senior, Kalija caught 56 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 TDs helping lead Jesuit to the 5A playoffs. As a junior, Kalija caught 64 passes for 989 yards and 14 TDs helping the Blue Jays to a 14-3 record and a 5A state title, the first by the team since 1960. Kalija registered both of Jesuit's TD catches in the championship game. He accumulated 130 receptions and 2,300 receiving yards in his three year career. I watched Kalija's film and he's another game changing player, who can make a house call and get massive yards after the catch. Another excellent receiving weapon for Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig and the offensive staff. Kalija picked VU over Nebraska, Arkansas, Northwestern and Louisiana Tech among others.

 

11. Donaven Tennyson

A three-star, 5'10", 170 pound wide receiver out of Benedictine College Prep in Richmond, VA., Donaven is another game breaker like Jackson and Kalija and was our first receiver commit and one of our first commits for the 2016 class. He was a two year starter and helped Benedictine to back to back state championships. As a senior, Donaven hauled in 38 passes for 698 yards and 11 TDs. As a junior, he posted 41 receptions for 836 yards and eight TDs. He also returned three kicks for TDs as a junior and will make an excellent kick and punt returner at VU. Donaven can really motor. He WILL be making house calls at Vanderbilt University. Donaven chose us over Tennessee, Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia among others. Really like these three guys in our receiving class.

 

12.  Devin Cochran

The high three-star, 6'7", 310 pound offensive tackle from Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross, Georgia brings more brute strength and power to our offensive line. As a senior, Devin registered more than 50 pancake blocks, leading GAC to the Class AA state semifinals. He did not allow a single sack for a team that threw it 288 times. He was selected first team All-State by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and state sportswriters. Helped GAC to a 14-1 mark and an AA state championship his junior year. He's a high academic achiever as well. Devin blasted opposing defensive players on film and enjoyed every second of it. He chose VU over Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Miami (FL) and Duke among others. Devin rounds out a stellar o line group of three joining Sean and Braden.

 

13. Austin Quillen

Our first commit of 2016, Austin is a 5'11", 188 pound three-star safety from Oklahoma powerhouse Jenks High School. He won four varsity letters and was a three year starter for a program that captured four straight Class 6A state titles while Austin played there. As a senior linebacker-safety, Austin contributed seven quarterback sacks, five tackles for loss, and 93 tackles for the 11-1 Trojans. He missed some time due to injury his senior season, but was back for the state championship run at the end of the season. He was second team All-State his senior year. His junior year, on another state title team that went 11-2, he posted 103 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. As a sophomore, he helped Jenks to a 14-0 campaign registering 21 tackles and an interception. Austin selected VU over Iowa, Tulsa, Northwestern, Arizona, Texas Tech and Army among others. Stellar, tough safety added to the fold by Coach Mason, who loves his defensive backs.

 

14. Frank Coppet

 

Frank is a 5'11", 180 pound three star safety out of perennial Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale. Frank was the starting cornerback for the powerful South Florida school that won the 2015 Class 7A state championship in Florida. As a senior, Frank posted 96 total tackles and four interceptions taking one of those ints back to the house. Aquinas finished the season 13-1. He was named to the Class 7A first team All-State team. He was also an important player on the 2014 state championship team. Aquinas is not only a Florida powerhouse, it is a national powerhouse. Frank knows how to win. Frank is projected to be a safety at VU. His older brother, Fred Jr. was a standout running back at Bowling Green University, who just finished his Bowling Green career this past season. Frank selected VU over Illinois, Syracuse and Central Florida. Loved Frank's film. He's aggressive and a ball hawk. Excellent tackler as well.

 

15. Jamauri Wakefield

Jamauri is a 6'1", 215 pound three-star out of Providence High School in Jacksonville, Florida who is built like an M-4 Sherman Tank. He is a super hoss. Jamauri was a two time team captain for Providence and three year starting running back. He was a two time Class 3A All-State selection. He accumulated 5,112 yards and 67 total touchdowns as a three year starter. His senior year, Jamauri rushed for 1,885 yards and 23 TDs. As a junior, he rushed for 2,537 yards and 37 TDs, including a record setting 469 yard effort in a regular season game. He rain for 690 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore. His style is powerful and he has take it to the house speed. I saw quite a few of his power runs and house calls on film. He's outstanding. Jamauri is also a National Honor Society member. Jamauri selected us over Louisville, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Wake Forest and Pitt among others. We're going to love Jamauri, who will work well with Ralph Webb, Dallas Rivers and Josh Crawford. We'll have quite a foursome in the backfield in 2016.

 

16. Cameron Tidd

Cameron is a 6'3", 270 pound three-star defensive tackle from Greenwood, Indiana, Center Grove High School. He was a senior captain and four year starter at defensive tackle for the Indiana powerhouse school that went 14-0 and won the Class 6A state title in 2015. Cameron posted eight quarterback sacks, 19 tackles for loss and 66 total tackles. He earned first team All-State honors. He also blocked four field goals. As a junior, Cameron registered six tackles for loss and 45 tackles on a 9-4 Trojans squad that made the state semifinals. As a junior, Cameron captured the state individual title in the discus throw with a winning toss of 190'4". Don't know my discus distances that well, but that's gotta be stellar. Cameron chose VU over Navy, Air Force and Bowling Green among others. Loved his film. Major disruptor on the defensive line. Coach Dobson will get a hold of Cameron in the weight room and get him built up for Coach Ah You to hone his power on the defensive front for years to come.

 

17. Turner Cockrell

Turner, a 6'5", 215 pound three-star tight end out of Acworth, Georgia, Allatoona High School, was a two year starter and lead blocker for a run oriented attack. As a senior, Turner helped lead Allatoona to a 14-1 mark and a Class 5A state championship. Turner caught 13 passes and averaged 25.3 yards per reception along with three TDs. He set a school record with a 93 yard TD reception in the state semifinals. As a senior, Turner was first team All-State as selected by the Georgia Sportswriters. As a junior, he played a big role on a 14-1 team that lost in the 5A state championship game. Excellent receiver and maybe even a better blocker. Outstanding toughness. His father, Randy, who is a federal criminal investigator, was a four year linebacker at Virginia Tech. Turner selected VU over Pittsburgh, East Carolina and Air Force. His film is impressive with his blocking and his excellent pass catching skills though he didn't get a ton of opportunities to catch the ball. But when he did, he made the most of those opportunities. Coach Ludwig will find a way to get him involved in the offense when he's indoctrinated into the system. Part of a state championship team, and that tells you we got another winner.

 

18. Kenny Hebert

 

Kenny is a 6'3", 21o pound linebacker out of New Orleans, Holy Cross High School. He's rated as a two star, but he's totally undervalued. Like Kenny's length, his athletic ability, his motor and his toughness. As a senior linebacker, Kenny posted 47 solo tackles, five quarterback sacks, 13 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles for a team that advanced to the private school Division 1 quarterfinals. Kenny earned All Metro, All-District, and honorable mention All-State honors as a senior. He was a hurdler-sprinter on the track and field team. He's a super athlete. Another young man Coach Dobson will get in the weight room and strengthen and new linebackers coach Chris Marve and Coach Mason will develop into a big time player for us. Kenny chose us over Memphis and Tulane. Kenny's last name is pronounced A-bear. He is an Honors student.

 

19. Andre Mintze

Andre is a 6'3", 225 pound linebacker out of Philly, PA, Imhotep Institute. Andre is another two-star, diamond in the rough. Sometimes these recruiting people don't watch film because Andre is a game changing, violent football player, who can win games for you. Another winner in the fold. As a senior linebacker/defensive end, Andre helped lead the Panthers to a 15-0 mark and the Pennsylvania private school Class 3A state championship. He posted 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss among his 53 tackles. Andre earned 3A All-State honors. I watched Dre's film and he's a beast, who plays with great passion and relentlessness. He has a turbo motor, and he's extremely tough and will knock ball carriers or quarterbacks to the ground and enjoy every second of it. Andre is stellar in the classroom as well as he is a National Honor Society member. Dre chose VU over Pittsburgh, Duke and UConn among others.

 

20. Sam Loy

Sam is a 6'1", 185 pound three-star punter out of San Clemente, California, Santa Margarita Catholic High School. A kicking service, Komblue Kicking Service, rated Sam a five star. He averaged 42 yards per punt as a senior and landed 15 of 35 attempts inside the opponent's 20 yard line. I watched Sam's film. Excellent hang time and distance. He boomed punts of 69 and 75 yards as a senior. He allowed just one kick return in 51 kickoffs, so he can kickoff  as well. We struggled with our punting and kicking in 2015, so Sam could win the job in August. Like this leg. He is another high academic achiever according to his bio. He hopes to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. Wow. Sam chose Vanderbilt over Michigan, California, Army, Navy and Air Force. Jim Harbaugh came on strong after Sam late in the recruiting process, but Sam stuck with us.

Final note

 

We already have a commit for 2017 in solid three-star running back Lamont Atkins out of Lake Braddock High School in Burke, Virginia, just south of DC. I watched film on Lamont and loved it. He's super fast, tough, a winner. He's 5'11", 190 pounds.

We have a 2018 commitment as well in four-star athlete Alontae Taylor out of Coffee Country Central in Manchester, Tennessee. Alonte is a 95 four-star and will be fighting people off for his services in the next two years.

 

Love both of these guys in our future classes. Should be an exciting recruiting time in the next several years. Now it's time to get ready for spring ball and keep recruiting.

 

 

 

 

Brandt victorious, 19th commit, Geoff McDonald-tennis, Corbs-baseball, bball

Brandt setting himself up for huge 2016 with victory at Farmers  

 

19th football commitment, linebacker Kenny Hebert

Brandt captured his eighth PGA tour title with a victory today at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Club in San Diego. Brandt has now won four times on California soil with victories in 2012 at the Farmers at Torrey Pines, at Pebble Beach in 2013 and last year, 2015, and today’s victory. He also has victories at the 2007 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC, the 2011 Heritage at Hilton Head, the 2012 Tour Championship at East Lake GC outside Atlanta, the year he won the Fed Ex Cup, and the RBC Canadian Open in 2013 in Ontario, Canada. Quite a resume Brandt has built.

Brandt shot 69 yesterday in what could almost be described as a mild typhoon with rain pelting the players and winds in the 40-50 MPH range. It was an amazing round by the man. He finished and had to sweat it out today as he was a shot back of Jimmy Walker starting the day. Walker was -7 and Brandt was -6. K.J. Choi was also at -6 entering the day as both Walker and Choi started on the 11th. Conditions were extremely difficult today too with winds gusting at 25-30 though it was clear. It was cold with temperatures in the low 50's and high 40's and it seemed like the gusting wind was mostly in the players’ faces. Awesome stuff from Brandt. He said he didn’t sleep a lick last night. Brandt’s wife, Mandy, four year old daughter Lily, and three year old son Austin were at Torrey to share in the victory today. Means so much to Brandt after a heartbreaking playoff loss to Fabian Gomez two weeks ago at the Sony Open in Honolulu.
Brandt will be playing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week. So back in action. Jon Curran will also play in the Waste Management tournament. It’s an electric tournament, with Super Bowl weekend, the Par 3 16th, the Stadium Hole, being the most exhilarating hole on tour. There will be 30,000 boisterous fans in the stadium setting on the 16th. And Brandt will be ready to go in two weeks at Pebble Beach to defend his title there. Love where Brandt’s game is right now.
Tripp Isenhour of Golf Channel said on Golf Central after the tournament today that Brandt and Coach Butch Harmon are gearing up everything for Augusta National in April. This could very well be the year. In the meantime, Brandt is going to try and make some more hay on the California swing with tournaments at Pebble and then the Northern Trust Open at Riviera CC in LA the week after that. I believe Brandt will play at Riviera. He may take that week off to prepare for the Florida swing though. I would bet so. Then it’s the Florida swing, the Shell Houston Open and time to really hone the game even more for the Masters, April 7th-10th, Brandt pretty homed in right now. This season looks potentially spectacular for Brandt.
We got a commitment from  6'3", 215 pound New Orleans outside linebacker Kenny Hebert over the weekend. Kenny is our 19th commit to the 2016 class. In the 2015 season for Holy Cross High School in N'awlins, Kenny recorded 70 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and two forced fumbles. He helped lead his Holy Cross team recover from a 5-6 season in 2014 to a 7-5 season in 2015 and reach the second round of the playoffs. Kenny received honorable mention all-state honors after the season. Kenny is the first linebacker in the class and joins present studs Zach Cunningham, Nigel Bowden, Josh Smith and many others at a stacked linebacker position on our 2016 team. Watched film on Kenny. Loved it. Knocks the common sense out of quarterbacks and running backs. With Kenny and last week's commit, defensive end Andrew Mintze from Philly, we got some excellent pass rushers and players period. Both are rated high two stars, but look like solid three star players to me. Certainly diamonds in the rough who can help this football team in the future.
Looks like Kelvin Lucky committed to Troy University near his hometown of Elmore, Alabama over the weekend. We’ve got a good shot with California three-star defensive lineman Josiah Sa’o, who visited over the weekend. Josiah is a 6’2” 1/2, 285 defensive tackle from Kearny High School in San Diego. Would be a great pickup for the staff. Sa’o loved Vanderbilt during his visit, and we’ve got a really good shot with Josiah. It’s between us and Arizona now. Will be on pins and needles on Wednesday,  signing day. We may have some surprises.
Will have more on Wednesday and Thursday with signing day and articles on the defending national champion women’s tennis team that just defeated No.10 Stanford over the weekend. Stanford has been the standard bearer in women’s and men’s college tennis over the last 30 years with both teams having won 17 national titles apiece. That was a huge victory for Geoff McDonald's team. Will have more on Geoff and the team’s prospects heading into the rest of this 2016 season.
Also, a preview with Corbs on his 2016 VU baseball team that will compete for SEC and national honors once again this season. Both of those stories will be coming up Wednesday or Thursday.
Bball with a tough loss @ Texas on Saturday, 72-58. The good news is that last year on this day we were 11-9, and finished out the regular season 8-2 to complete a 19-11 season. We are now 12-9, and an 8-2 finish would put us at 20-11 with a top 30 strength of schedule. The committee likes to look at the last 10, so let’s get ’em all and not leave any mystery to a tournament bid. One at a time. Texas A&M this Thursday at 6 PM CT/7 PM ET on ESPN2.

Bball gets much needed victory over Gators; Football stuff, PGA players

The Big Fella with a big night Tuesday in the W over Florida Wade Baldwin IV had 24 and Damian Jones added 20 and 12 boards as the Dores hung on to defeat Florida Tuesday Night, 60-59, at Memorial to move to 12-8 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.

It was a much needed victory for the team after a tough loss at Kentucky last Saturday afternoon, 76-57. Wade and Dame were terrific against Florida. Wade was 7-of-13 from the field, 1-of-1 from three, and 9-of-14 from the stripe. Don't love that free throw number; he's a lot better than that from the stripe. Damian was six-of-14 from the field and 8-of-11 from the line. As a team, we were 21-of-33 from the line for the game, 63%. That needs to improve going forward. Jeff Roberson had six points and six boards and Luke Kornet had four points and nine boards. We shot 41% from the field, 18-of-44, and 33% from trifecta, 3-of-9. We played good defense though until the end of the game, holding Florida to 33% from the field, 23-of-70, and 32% from three, 7-of-22. The Gators were 18-of-25 from the stripe, 60%. They out rebounded us 43-41, but that was pretty much a wash. Our defense was excellent for most of the game, though in the final six minutes of the second half it was pretty shaky. Florida dropped to 5-3 in the SEC and 13-7 overall.

We have a huge game this Saturday @Texas in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge at 11 AM CT/Noon ET on ESPN2. Would be tremendous to get a W in Austin. Shaka Smart has a good team this year in Austin. Texas is 13-7 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12. They have a home victory over No.1 North Carolina, 84-82, back in December. They defeated top 15 team Iowa State at home, 94-91, on Jan.12th, and they also defeated top 20 team West Virginia on the road, Jan. 20th, 56-49. The Longhorns are 10-1 at home, with their only loss coming to UConn on Dec. 29th, 71-66. They are coming off a loss at Kansas last Saturday, 76-67, and a W on Tuesday Night over TCU, 71-54.

This is important. We'll need the Big Fella and WB4 to play well again, but Jeff and Luke will have to give us more on the offensive end, and Riley and MFD will HAVE to shoot it well. Riley is too good of a shooter to be struggling the way he has. I expect him to get it together on Saturday and going forward. He's too good of a player not to. He's still helping us with his hustle, his defense and his passing. MFD hit two trifectas Tuesday Night, but we need to get more of that from him. If he gets an open look, he's usually automatic from three. We'll need that Saturday. Our guys off the bench, Camron Justice, Joe Toye, Josh Henderson, Nolan Cressler and Carter Josephs, will have to give us some valuable minutes.

After Texas, we have A&M next Thursday at home, 6 PM CT/7PM ET on ESPN or the Deuce. A&M lost last night at Arkansas. Huge game next Thursday, too. The Kentucky loss wasn't the way team our team should play. We just had a really off game. Kentucky played extremely well, too. They look like they really have it together now. After beating Arkansas, 80-66, at Arkansas last Thursday, they beat us soundly, and then crushed Missouri last night, 88-54. They are clicking right now, and look like a Final Four team and even a national championship team. But we've got the guys to stick with them when they come to Memorial, Feb. 27th, for a 3 PM CT/4 PM ET tipoff on CBS. A lot of basketball for us to play before that though, starting Saturday. It's gotta be a game at a time for our team right now with every game counting the same and massively important. Texas will be a huge challenge and would also be a huge lift for our team if we come out of Austin with a victory. We can get this done. We just need to play up to our standards.

Football

We got a really good commit on Tuesday from Andrew Mintze, an outside linebacker/defensive end from Philadelphia, PA. Andrew is a 79 two star, but I watched his film and he is a guy who plays with reckless abandon. Andrew is 6'3", 220, and has a super high motor and is a violent tackler, and I mean that in a totally positive way. He makes sure the ball carrier goes down without any gray area. Andrew had 23 tackles for loss and 14 sacks this past season and was a first team All-State selection for the Class 3A state champs Imhotep High football team. Really like this pickup for Coach Mason and the staff. We haven't heard from three-star defensive end Kelvin Lucky yet, but he's still on the radar. We have three good prospects coming in this weekend. Will let you know if any or all of them pull the trigger. '

I was reading about one of our offensive line commits, Devin Cochran. The high three star offensive tackle is 6'7", 315 pounds and buries people. Devin visited last weekend. Devin played at Greater Atlanta Christian, a team that went 12-2 this season and made the semifinals of the Georgia Class AA playoffs. Really good player here. We have three offensive linemen in this class, with two tackles and a center. Braden Kopp, a 6'6", 285 pound solid three-star tackle, and four-star center Sean Auwae, 6"4", 285, are our other line commits. Excellent group and we could add another one before signing day.

We did lose defensive tackle Brandon Adams. He decided to de-commit and go to Georgia Tech. Sorry to hear that, but we should add another d lineman before it's over. There is a defensive linemen from California visiting us this weekend, so hopefully we can get a commit out of him. He's got great size and power. Three star Josiah Sa'0. His film is really impressive. I almost like him better on the offensive line than the defensive line. He is just a dominator on the offensive side of the ball. Josiah will be in with a couple of other prospects  this weekend.

Signing Day is next Wednesday, Feb. 3rd. Should be an exciting day. Kind of like a holiday really. Sorry to lose Brandon to Tech, but like the pickup of Andrew and the prospects for some more guys this weekend.

Cornerbacks coach Brett Maxie has left the program to go to Tampa Bay and coach the secondary for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Coach Maxie's heart was in the NFL. I met him one time when I was interviewing Coach Mason and he just seemed like an NFL coach. Coach Mason will most likely hire a cornerbacks coach after signing day. I really believe our cornerbacks can get even better. Torren McGaster, Taurean Ferguson, Donaven Sheffield and Tre Herndon are highly talented along with our depth there, and they can even get better coaching. Coach Mason will of course be heavily involved in coaching the secondary, so that will help along with safeties coach Marc Mattioli.

 

Luke List finished tied for sixth last weekend at the Career Builders Challenge in California. Excellent showing by Luke, who shot 68,68, 66,66 to finish -20 and get some good priority points with that showing. Jason Dufner won the tournament in a playoff over David Lingmerth.

Luke and Brandt are competing this weekend at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open. Brandt is even par through seven and Luke is +2 through 10. Brandt is coming off consecutive top three finishes in Hawaii at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui and the Sony Open in Honolulu. Brandt actually lost in a playoff to Fabian Gomez at the Sony, so he's playing well. Brandt didn't play at the Career Builders last week.

There is a five way tie for the lead @ -4 at the Farmers. K.J. Choi, Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama, Bud Cauley and Rob Oppenheim are leading. Pretty jammed up leaderboard. Should be an exciting weekend with a marquee field at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

 

Will have my conversation with Coach Geoff McDonald of VU Women's Tennis next Monday. The team are the defending national champions and Geoff firmly believes this team can do some great things this season because of their efforts in the preseason and their passion for the game. It's tough to repeat. Geoff and I talked about that. But it's certainly doable with the talent we have on this team and their extraordinary attitudes and competitiveness. Will have more on that and the rest of our conversation on Monday.

Tuesday, I will have my conversation with the man, Corbs, on his 2016 Vanderbilt baseball team. The prospects are exciting. Corbs and I talked about a lot of stuff and will have that up Tuesday at the latest.

In the meantime, we have a huge basketball Saturday and football recruiting in the forefront this weekend. Will keep you up to date on both of those sports and anything else that comes up.

 

 

MFD, WB4 and Camron go off as VU blasts UT at Thompson-Boling

Matt (above) Wade (middle) and Cam (bottom) were en fuego last night in Knoxville Wade Baldwin IVCamron justice

Matthew Fisher-Davis finished 6-of-11 from trifecta for 18 points and pulled down 8 boards, Wade Baldwin IV had a super night on the hardwood  with 25 points, which included 3-of-6 from triple country, and 12-of-13 from the line, and freshman Camron Justice made his presence known going four-of-seven from distance and finishing with 12 points as the Vanderbilt Commodores dropped the hammer on Tennessee in Knoxville, 88-74, to move to 3-3 on the season in the SEC, and 11-7 overall. UT dropped to 2-4 in conference and 9-9 overall.

After a huge victory on the road, the guys move on to Lexington to play the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday @ 3 PM CT/4 PM ET on ESPN. The Wildcats play at Arkansas tonight at 6 PM CT/7 PM ET on ESPN.

This was a huge boost toward getting another SEC victory in Rupp on Saturday.

Our three-point shooting was phenomenal. It was mainly in the first half in which we were 10-of-22. MFD was draining shots from every spot on the court, Camron was going off, and WB4 was doing it all. We cooled down in the second half from trifecta, going 3-of-11, but the damage had been done. Jeff Roberson had another hard hat-lunch pale night for us with 11 points and 10 boards. Jeff is so reliable every time out. He's giving us tremendous minutes and he's an underrated gem on this team. Jeff brings it every night. He's so valuable to this team's success night in and night out.

Luke also had a double-double to go along with Jeff, finishing with 10 points and 14 boards. Luke is an enforcer in the paint. Damian only had six points, but he pulled down 7 boards. He fouled out after playing just 19 minutes, but they were 19 exceptional minutes. The Big Fella is going to figure out this fouling stuff. Joe Dean Jr, who was the color commentator for the SEC Network broadcast, said that the NCAA should look at raising the number of fouls to 6 for fouling out. With the tightly officiated games we have right now in college basketball, I agree with Joe; the NCAA should do this. The officials are kind of over-doing their tighter calling of games. I know the league told the officials to call it closer this year, so that basketball would be  more of a skills game than a physical game, which I agree with, but we need to cut the players some slack, let 'em play a little more, and give them more opportunities to stay in the game by raising the foul limit to 6. The game has improved this year with the new 30 second clock and the officials calling it tighter, but as a VU guy, I want to see the Big Fella in there. Hopefully, Dame can get this figured out and stay in the game for 28 to 30 minutes or more, which we'll need him to  for the rest of the season.

We shot 40% for the game from the field, 22-0f-57, 39% from three, 13-of-33, and 74% from the line, 29-of-39. Like that number from the charity stripe. Kevin said after Saturday's game we would work on free throws this week and it paid off. I looked at Wade's numbers going in and he was an 80% free throw shooter going into last night's game, but he seemed to have been struggling a little bit recently. He certainly rectified that last night. Wade is now shooting 82% from the line. We need WB4 to be good from the line. He goes there a lot, the way he penetrates and takes it to the cylinder. Riley didn't have his best shooting night as he finished with only two points, but he had five assists and always gives his team a great floor game, even when his shot is not falling, which doesn't happen much. Have to have Riley out there as much as possible. Just a stellar player for us.

Finally, Wade's defense on UT's key scorer Kevin Punter was spectacular. Punter finished with 26 points, but many of them were after the game had been decided. Punter came in averaging 22 points per game, and Wade held him in check most of the night. Punter finished 9-of-20 from the field and 3-of-5 from trifecta, but they were late buckets when the game was secured. Wade, Luke and Jeff are exceptional defenders. Damian a good defender and MFD is an underrated defender and an excellent rebounder. UT shot 10-of-33  in the first half, 30%, and 0-for-5 from three. They were 4-of-15 from three in the second half. We out-rebounded them 50-43. Just an overall terrific effort by the guys.

So, it's now on to Kentucky. Another huge game for our surging basketball team that has always possessed outstanding talent, and is now starting to put it all together. I know our guys can handle the intensity of Rupp. They are battle-tested the last two years and they're clutch. No doubt it's a challenge. But it's one we can prevail in. Firmly believe that.

 

RTI

Relentless, Tough, Intelligent

That's Coach Mason's mantra for his football program, and we're adding guys to the mix in 2016 that fit that billing to go along with the guys on our roster. Love the Jackson Winrow and Kalija Lipscomb commits last Sunday. Two excellent wide receivers to go along with solid three-star wide out Donaven Tennyson. A great pickup this weekend would be high three-star defensive end Kelvin Lucky from Elmore Alabama, Edgewood Academy School. Watched film on Kelvin. He's 6'5", 230, he can motor, he's an exceptional athlete, he is very aggressive and physical and he's an exceptional tackler. Would love to get Kelvin this weekend when he visits with a lot of our commits and some other recruits. Will keep you posted on Kelvin or anybody else who pulls the trigger.

One more thing:

Our four-star offensive lineman commit, Sean Auwae, warms up for the bench by doing a little lifting to the tune of 225 pounds, 28 times. Sean can bench 405, and by the time Coach James Dobson, our strength coach gets ahold of him, Sean will be throwing up 500 in the fall. His high school coach says Sean's a leader, one of the best guys you'll meet off the field, and one of the toughest competitors you'll meet on it. This is a super class Coach Mason and the coaches are putting together. Would love to see Kelvin join the Select 16 this weekend.

 

Next Week:

Will have a story on our defending national champions women's tennis team. I talked to our superb coach, Geoff McDonald, and got Geoff's thoughts on the season. Geoff is a great guy, a terrific coach and very interesting . You'll enjoy it.

Also, will have my interview with Corbs up next week probably middle of the week as Corbs' 2016 version of VU baseball approaches. Should be a another stellar year for baseball.

Any recruits who pull the trigger and all basketball news will be on the blog. Stay tuned.

Roberson, LaChance lead Commodores over Alabama, 71-63, football, Brandt, baseball, tennis

Jeff (above) played his usual hard-nosed exceptional game. Riley (below) got that tremendous shooting stroke back Riley LaChance

Jeff Roberson posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards, and Riley LaChance, fighting through what could be tonsillitis, powered through it to finish 5-of-6 from trifecta, and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe to finish with 18 points and lead VU to the 71-63 home victory over Alabama in another must win game for the team.

We moved to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. After dropping our first three games in the conference, we defeated Auburn at home Tuesday Night and Alabama Saturday, to get the ship righted as we head into Knoxville this Wednesday Night for an 8 PM CT/9 PM ET tip on the SEC Network against the Tennessee Vols.

Jeff was terrific as he has been lately, going four of seven from the field, three-of-four from three, and pulling down 9 boards on the defensive glass and two on the offensive boards. Riley played like the Riley we've been used to seeing. He's just such a tough, dedicated kid and played through a sickness to help life the team over a tough Alabama team.

Damian Jones was saddled with foul trouble again as he was called for four, a couple of which, as WB4 would say, were "bogus." Damian got in for 23 minutes and picked it up in the second half finishing with 13 points, but only pulled down two boards. Need more from Damian on the glass, but we'll get it from his. He's just got to stay out of foul trouble. Kevin has talked to the SEC head of officiating about some of these calls and hopefully the officials will not be so overly aggressive in calling fouls on Damian that are questionable at best. We HAVE to have him in games for 28 minutes or so. Luke is giving us good play down low  as is Josh Henderson off the bench. Luke finished with eight points and six boards, and Josh played 13 minutes and got four points and three rebounds. We'll need him to spell Damian and Luke the rest of this season. Wade Baldwin IV finished with eight points, five boards and five assists, and played extremely well on the defensive end. He played defense like he usually does, which is at a high level. Alabama shot 56% from the field in the first half, but we made adjustments and held them to 40% shooting from the field  in the second half and did a good job guarding the three until Arthur Edwards hit four in the final three minutes of the game. Matthew Fisher-Davis got back in the lineup for 16 minutes and did sink a trifecta. Matt still getting back to 100% from his foot injury. Hopefully, against UT, he'll be pretty much be a  full go. We were 9-of-16 from triple and that was the difference as we held them to 6-of-19 from three. They out-rebounded us 39 to 29, but they were 7-of-20 from the stripe, 35%, while we were 22-of-36 from the line, 61%. Their number was terrible, but ours wasn't too swift either, so we need to get a lot better from the line. Would like to see Wade start shooting free throws like he's capable of. He's usually an 82% free throw shooter and he's just not shooting them right now like he usually does. Need him to get back to that 82-85% rate that Wade normally shoots at. Kevin said Saturday that we will be working on free throws today in practice. We really took care of the basketball well only committing seven turnovers to their 12. That's a great number for us and one you can win a lot of games with. Our defense, our three-point shooting and our taking care of the ball were the three keys to the victory against a solid, tough Alabama team that worried me and I know worried Coach Stallings heading into the game. They had crushed South Carolina Wednesday Night, 73-50, and had top 25 wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame earlier in the season. Avery Johnson has done a really good job with their team, so that was big boost to get that victory. We had to have those wins at home as we now head to Tennessee and Kentucky. Kentucky is this Saturday at 3 PM CT/4 PM ET at Rupp on ESPN.

UT is 9-8 overall and 2-3 in the SEC, but they are 8-1 at home, with their only loss coming to a very good Texas A&M team, 92-88, on January 9th. They lost to Auburn on the road to open the season, 83-77, beat Florida at home, 83-69, lost to A&M at home, lost to Georgia on the road, 81-72, and defeated State on the road, 80-75, this past Saturday. They have four guys who are averaging double digits in scoring led by Kevin Punter, who is averaging a sizzling 22.4 points per game. Punter is a 6'2", 190 guard. Six-foot-four, 217 pound small forward Armani Moore is averaging 12.4 points per game, and 7.9 rebounds per game. They are averaging 38.8 rebounds per game to their opponents 40.3. They shoot 44% from the field, 35% from the three and 72% from the line. They don't have great size as their tallest player is a freshman at 6'9'', but they have great athletic ability and quicknessv and they can get after you on defense and shoot it well at home. It will be a major challenge in Thompson-Bowling Arena on Wednesday Night. We'll have to really defend, shoot well from three, and get Damian and Luke going underneath. We'll need that hard hat, lunch pale game we've been getting from Jeff, and excellent play from Wade and Riley. Hopefully, Matt and Riley will be in good shape physically for the game. We need some solid contributions from our bench. If Nolan Cressler, Josh, Camron Justice, Joe Toye, and Samir Sehic can give us good minutes that would be huge. We need to be a lot better from the stripe as well. I'm sure that will be heavily addressed by Kevin and the coaches these next two days leading up to the game.

Great victory for the team on Saturday, but plenty of work ahead of us. Would be huge to get one at Tennessee.

Football

I wrote on an email blast last night about our two new latest wide receiver commits which was huge news. Solid three-star Kalija Lipscomb, 6'0", 180, and unranked but outstanding Jackson Winrow, committed to us last night. Coach Cortez Hankton did an awesome job recruiting these two young players, who look to have very bright futures as Commodores. Kalija, from Jesuit High School in New Orleans, caught 65 passes for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Jackson, a 6'2", 185 pound receiver from Shawnee High School in Oklahoma, had 52 receptions for 1,015 yards and 13 TDs. Both are exceptional pickups by Coach Mason and the staff, and could very well be impact players in the fall to go along with our third wide receiver commitment, Donaven Tennyson, from Richmond, Virginia. Donaven is an 84, three star and stands 5'10, 170. The coaches are high on all three of these guys. They'll add to our solid receiving corps led by Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott, tight end DeAndre Woods, hopefully recovered stud C.J. Duncan, Ronald Monroe, and our young guys like Sam Dobbs, who I watched in practice last August and was very impressed with.

The return of DeAndre and C.J. would be huge as they are both big time players in our passing game. The offense should be much stronger in Coach Ludwig's second year with Kyle Shurmur having a year under his belt after playing a lot in the SEC in 2015. Kyle showed signs of greatness in 2015, and he's going to be superb in my opinion. The line will be re-energized with a new offensive line coach, Cameron Norcross, whom I'm really pumped about. Cameron will instill some more toughness in our group and we've got a pretty good nucleus returning, with Andrew Jelks returning from a knee injury at left tackle, which will be huge. Andrew will be the leader of the line. Will need to get a center in place to replace graduated Spencer Pulley, who had a very good career and has pro prospects, but Barrett Gouger and others will be competing for the job. Spring practice, which starts February 25th, will be very interesting. Early enrollees, four-star cornerback Joejuan Williams, high three star safety Zaire Jones, and high three-star quarterback Deuce Wallace, will be competing in spring ball. I'm almost positive the spring game is Friday, March 25th, at 6 PM CT/7 PM ET, but will work on that to confirm. Should be a very interesting spring. Running back looks solid with Ralph Webb, Dallas Rivers, Josh Crawford, Darrius Sims, if Darrius stays at running back, and Jair George, if he stays at rb as well. We'll have excellent three-star incoming freshman Jamauri Wakefield coming in August to compete along with the returning backs. Looking for Ralph, Dallas and Josh to really have good years next season.

The defense returns a lot of good players led by first team All-SEC linebacker Zach Cunningham, defensive lineman Adam Butler, cornerback Torren McGaster and safety Oren Burks. Inside linebacker Nigel Bowden will return and Nigel is a stud if he can stay healthy and will be an excellent leader on our defense. Stephen Weatherly will be moving on as he tries to make it in the NFL, but Stephen is also very smart and he'll pursue business if the NFL doesn't work out. The future is bright for Stephen whatever he does, but he's a really good football player, so I can see him making an NFL roster. We'll have some good guys in place though at defensive end led by Nehemiah Mitchell and Landon Stokes, and I look for Nifae Lealao to have a big season for us at defensive tackle in 2016. Really expect good things from Adam at defensive tackle, really inside or outside at defensive end. We have a lot of outstanding players on defense.

Should be another step in Coach Mason getting this program to an elite level in the SEC. He's ready to do that now, this season. We'll have a lot of talent to take it to the next level in 2016.

 

Brandt

Brandt played excellent golf this weekend at the Sony Open in Honolulu, but came up just a little short in a playoff to Fabian Gomez, who made the clutch shots and putts when he had to. Brandt shot a 66 yesterday, and Gomez shot 62. Gomez sank a 25 footer for birdie on the par five 18th in regulation which forced Brandt to make a birdie himself to get in a playoff. Brandt converted a birdie putt from 5 feet. He was 51-of-51 from five feet and in, but after the round, he said he never felt comfortable with the Bermuda greens, and he didn't really putt his best from outside five feet. He had a 12 footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, No.18, to win it, but just missed it to the right. Then he drove it in the sand on his second playoff hole, No.18 again, a par 5, and Gomez hit one right down the middle, and hit his second shot on the fringe of the green in two, while Brandt had to lay up.  Brandt hit it from 60 yards to 10 feet above the hole. Gomez two putted for birdie, which forced Brandt to have to convert his birdie putt to take the playoff to a third hole. Brandt didn't sink the putt and you could tell in the post round interview how disappointed he was. Gomez played some clutch golf though. He deserves a lot of credit Brandt did some awesome ball striking during the tournament, and his chipping, which he has really worked hard on and has become a real strength of his game, was superb. His putter just wasn't at its best. I like where B is though. See him winning on the California swing, which starts this weekend with the Career Builder tournament in Palm Springs. Brandt is not playing this weekend at the William Jefferson and Hillary Rodham Clinton event, but he'll be in action next weekend at Torrey Pines playing the Farmers Insurance Open, where he won in a playoff over Kyle Stanley in 2012. Brandt won at Pebble Beach last year and that'll be coming up February 11-14th, so he has a good shot there, too. He really likes both courses. He's won at Pebble twice, in 2013, and last year. Brandt has won seven times on the tour. There could be a major win this season, too. Brandt is so close to getting one. I know he loves Augusta National so it could happen there. The U.S. Open is at Oakmont Country Club, a classic in Pennsylvania, near Philly, that has hosted many majors. The Open Championship is at Royal Troon in Scotland, and the PGA Championship is at Baltusrol Golf Club, another classic course in Springfield, New Jersey, just outside the City. I like Brandt's chances this season to get certainly a win or two in the regular events and to nab a major this year. He's playing so well right now.

Luke List and Jon Curran will be in the Career Builder tournament this weekend, so that'll be good to see if Luke and JC can do some damage.

MLB getting closer to  cranking up with pitchers and catchers reporting first in early February. Pedro Alvarez and Mike Minor are still trying to find a team. Pedro and Mike are high quality players, teams are definitely interested, and would be crazy not to take them. David set at the BoSox, gotta get a Bosox hat from Amazon, Sonny set in Oakland, and Curt Casali good to go at Tampa Bay. Will be fun to see how Tony Kemp matriculates because Tony to me is a major league player. He's such a great athlete and can play centerfield or second base. The Houston Astros are very good, but they need to get Tony on the 25 man roster. Will also be fun to see Carson Fulmer, who is in the Chicago White Sox  organization, Dansby, who is now with the Braves, Adam Ravanelle, who is with the Detroit Tigers, and Rhett Wiseman, who is with the Washington Nationals, move up the ranks for their receptive major league teams. Plenty of other guys for us in big league organizations. Will keep you posted on their developments and keep a sharp eye on Pedro and Mike this week and next as they should be starters on a team in the major leagues. The media give Pedro a hard time about his fielding, but Pedro did a great job at first for the Pirates at the end of the season. Believe in him. Clint Hurdle didn't give him a chance in Pittsburgh. He didn't get treated well by them. Pedro's bat will crank both for power and average this season. Mike has battled shoulder problems and an elbow problem but he's high quality also.

Will have a women's tennis preview and a preview of our baseball team coming up this week. The women's tennis team is trying to win back to back national championships, and our baseball team is trying to win their second national title in three years after winning it two years ago and finishing runner-up last year. Both teams' prospects look very bright for this 2016 season. Will have basketball write ups on our games with UT and UK, and any football recruits that pull the trigger. High three-star Alabama defensive end Kelvin Lucky is visiting this weekend along with most all of our present commitments, so he could be a guy to watch. We'll have some other key visitors in to visit this weekend as well.

 

Three new coaches now on the staff

Genyk (above), Ah You (middle), and Norcross (bottom) join Coach Mason's staff  

C.J. Ah You

Cameron Norcross

Coach Mason hired Jeff Genyk as special teams coach and C.J. Ah You as defensive line coach to replace special teams and running backs coach Charles Bankins who was let go by Coach Mason after the season, and Coach Frank Maile, who left the program to take over as defensive coordinator at Utah State. Maile is from that area. They join new offensive line coach Cameron Norcross on the staff.

Genyk, who is 55 years old,  is a coaching veteran of 25 years and comes to the program after coaching special teams at Northwestern, Cal and most recently Wisconsin, where he worked with VU offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Genyk was at Wisconsin two years (2013-14) and the Badgers went 19-7 over those two years. Genyk served at Cal prior to that and at Northwestern under Gary Barnett in the mid 90's and under Randy Walker in the late '90's and early 2000's seasons in which Northwestern had good success including going to the Rose Bowl in 1995. Genyk was part of back-to-back Big Ten championships at Northwestern as he coached special teams, running backs and other positions. He became Northwestern’s recruiting coordinator in 1998. He was also a head coach at Eastern Michigan, and had some success there. Genyk could very well coach running backs, too.
Ah You comes to VU after spending a couple of years at Oklahoma as a special teams and defensive assistant. The 33 year old played five seasons in the NFL as defensive end for the St. Louis Rams. The California native was All-Big 12 first team as a defensive end at OU in 2006.
Genyk and Ah You join 37 year old  offensive line coach Norcross as our newest coaches. Norcross is coming to Vanderbilt after serving four successful seasons as Fresno State's offensive line coach, and prior to that at Nevada. He has been a part of some prolific offenses at both stops.
With Genyk, Ah You, and Norcross, we add some major recruiting energy and expertise, and valuable coaching experience to the staff. Along with 29 year old safeties coach Mark Matioli and 36 year old wide receivers coach Corez Hankton, both entering their second years, we really have some added some energy to our coaching staff.
Also, cornerbacks coach Brett Maxie is interviewing with the Indianapolis Colts for the same job there. We’ll see how that develops and what Coach Mason does in case Maxie takes the Colts’ job. We got good play from our cornerbacks, but a new coach might add some fresh ideas.

Luke, WB4, team exceptional last night

Luke Kornet with a huge night for the team Luke Kornet looked pretty nervous at the free throw line last night with 44 seconds left against Auburn. He was trying to drain one from the stripe to complete a triple double for the game. Luke, a 74% free throw shooter before last night, had struggled a little bit from the stripe.  Coach Stallings said he employed a new offense in the last two minutes against Auburn, "Nobody shoot but Luke." Kevin said that mostly jokingly, but he was aware Luke was very close to completing only the second triple-double in Vanderbilt basketball history. Brad Tinsley had done it on November 12, 2010, with 11 points, 10 boards and 10 assists.

Luke had already tallied 11 rebounds and 11 blocks. He was a machine on defense guarding the glass with Damian Jones saddled on the bench with four fouls. Luke missed the first of two, and then put up the second to try and reach 10 points, but it bounced off the rim. However, Nolan Cressler made the most unselfish, team- oriented play, when he tipped it back out to Luke off the miss, and Luke sank a semi lay-up in the middle of the lane, a tough shot, to get to 11 points and finish off an incredible night, as he, Wade Baldwin IV and the rest of the team had a stellar night in a much needed 75-57 SEC victory over Auburn before 10,414 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

Luke's effort was terrific and in his interview he seemed embarrassed that the team was trying so hard to get him the triple-double. That's the kind of guy he is. He's humble, a total team player. He's an incredible positive force for the team according to Kevin. It was a huge victory for our basketball team. I thought we had played two pretty good games on the road last week at Arkansas and South Carolina, but just came up short, 90-85, in overtime against an Arkansas team under Mike Anderson that is always good and rarely ever loses at Bud Walton Arena. In the last four years, Anderson is 74-9 at Bud Walton. We played them a heckuva game with Luke making a super pass to Damian and Damian slamming the ball home as time expired to send the game into overtime. We came up a little short there, then gave South Carolina, one of two only unbeaten teams in the country along with SMU, everything they wanted, losing 69-65 at Columbia. After dropping our SEC opener to LSU, 90-82, we were 0-3 in the conference and in a must win situation against an Auburn team that has been depleted by injuries this season, particularly in their backcourt. But we still had to get the job done and there was pressure on us to win last night. We played well and are now 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the conference with some key games coming up. They're all key now.

Luke came through, Wade played superb going for 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Riley was three-of-four from trifecta and played an excellent game, finishing the night with 13 points and five boards. Jeff Roberson played a heckuva game posting 14 points and eight boards. Damian saw limited action playing only 13 minutes because of foul trouble. He played very well when he was in finishing 4-of-5 from the field and one of two from the stripe for nine points and pulling down four rebounds, but these SEC refs are really giving him a hard time with fouls. I've seen about five or six fouls called on Damian that have been jokes; not even close to being fouls. I know it's frustrating for him. We've just got to figure out a way to keep him from getting calls going against him. It's really bothersome. He's playing some of his best basketball right now, and it's like the refs in the SEC are targeting him. It's really bad. Hopefully, we can get that worked out and get Dame can get in the flow of the game because he's really playing well right now.

Josh Henderson gave us some good minutes with Damian out. Josh finished with five points and four boards. Josh is a very good option for us. He's a good offensive scorer and bangs well with the big guys in the conference. He's going to help us a lot in January and February. Such a class young guy too, as he came back for his sixth year to play on this team. He really helps his basketball team and the team really likes him.

Matt Fisher Davis is out right now with a sore foot, but we might get him back sooner than later. Maybe Saturday against Alabama, maybe next Wednesday on the road against Tennessee. The MRI on his foot was negative, so we should get him back soon. Luke and Camron Justice came back a couple of weeks earlier than expected, so I bet MFD does the same. We need him back as soon as possible, but can't rush him back too soon, as we need his foot to heal for the rest of the season. Need Matt's shooting and his skills on the court. He's a good defender and pretty good rebounder, too.

Our young guys got opportunities to play; Joe Toye, Camron and Samir Sehic. Samir had a really nice tip in off a missed shot, and Camron and Joe are hustling out there and getting it figured out. All three guys have very good potential and can help us this year.

One more guy I want to mention is Nolan Cressler. Nolan is coming off the bench and giving us some really good hustle minutes. His tip back to Luke for Luke's final basket was a beautiful hustle play. Nolan may not be shooting up to his standards yet, but he will, and he's a good rebounder. Nolan sank both free throws he shot and pulled down three boards in nine minutes. I kind of equate Nolan's first year to Derrick Byars' first year when he came to us from Virginia. Derrick struggled some in his first year, but really got it together at the end of his junior season and had an awesome senior year helping lead the 2006-07 team to the Sweet 16 and almost the Elite Eight and even better. I see the same progressing with Nolan. He's going to be an excellent player for us. He was an outstanding shooter at Cornell and was one of our top players in practice last year. I see that happening sooner than later for Nolan. His hustle is big for us though even if he's not making the shots right now. I do expect him to start making shots though. That will also help our team.

We'll need Nolan and all the guys off the bench including Carter Josephs to get this team playing really good basketball in February and March, and most importantly, right now.

We have Alabama at home on Saturday at 5 PM CT/6 PM ET on the SEC Network. Gotta get the job done again on Saturday. A week from today, Wednesday, Jan.2oth, we play at Tennessee for an 8 PM CT/9 PM ET tip on the SEC Network.

Brandt, Luke List  and Jon Curran are all playing in the Sony Open this week in Honolulu. That's exciting. Brandt has a real shot to win, and Luke shot -7 in the Monday qualifier to get in the field. All three guys have a  good shot. Brandt played very well at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last week in Maui as he shot -21 for the three days and finished in a tie for third with Brooks Koepka, an event Jordan Spieth won and Patrick Reed finished second in.

Had an awesome talk with Vanderbilt women's tennis coach Geoff McDonald. Great guy, terrific coach. Will have a write up on Geoff and the team early next week. His team is cranking up the season as they head to Miami tomorrow for a tourney and get ready to try to defend their national title from last year. Geoff says he and his team don't talk about that though. He's just like Corbs. Geoff wants to get better every day. He's got some terrific players on the team this season as Frances Altick is ranked 15th in the country, Sydney Campbell is 24th and Astra Sharma is 33rd. We have some serious talent which I'll elaborate on next week.

Will get something going with Corbs as well. Baseball is ranked third in the D-1 Baseball preseason poll. Florida is first and Louisville is second.

Good stuff for the basketball team. They're all big from now on but we really need to win on Saturday against a talented Alabama team, that is 9-5 on the season and 0-2 in conference. They lost to Ole Miss on the road last Thursday and to UK at home on Saturday. But they did beat Wichita State and Notre Dame on consecutive nights in the Advocare Invitiational in late November.

Derek and company on the road recruiting and hosting some key recruits this weekend and next with key visitors in town. Will have any commitment news as soon as it pops up. Defensive end Kelvin Lucky, a solid three-star from Edgewood Academy in Elmore Alabama in south central Alabama near the state capital of Montgomery, is close to maybe pulling the trigger. Kelvin's former teammate, Josh Crawford, is a rising sophomore running back on our team. Kelvin is an 87 three-star by 247 sports. Some other good guys in the mix. Will keep you posted. high three star quarterback Deuce Wallace, four-star cornerback Joejuan Williams and high three-star safety Zaire Jones, all highly recruited players by us and other SEC schools, are early enrollees and will be participating in spring practice, which starts towards the end of  February. Good to have those three aboard. They're going to be major impact players for us in the future. Possibly next year as freshmen.

 

Tremendous effort by the team despite the 90-85 OT loss at Bud Walton; George McIntyre passes away, Coach Mason, Geoff McDonald, Corbs, Brandt

Damian was awesome last night  

True heart and soul player Carter Josephs was exceptional as well

 

The VU family lost a good man in former football coach George McIntyre

Mike Anderson was 73-9 at Bud Walton Arena in his six years as head basketball coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks heading into last night's game against us. After Damian's thunderous throw down as time expired in regulation, I thought Anderson was fixing to be 73-10.

While our guys lost the game, 90-85, in overtime, I thought the effort was superb. Damian played like a first round NBA pick with a 24 point, 15 rebound effort. He was awesome. All the guys played really well. Just came up a little short at the end. Coach Stallings and the coaches coached their tails off in this one. They did an outstanding job of putting the guys in the best position to win. Twenty six turnovers did us in last night. That happens against the Razorbacks at Bud Walton. It's a high turnover gym for many visiting teams. They are aggressive on defense and very good at stealing the ball. Wade, Riley, MFD, Luke, who amazingly came back into the lineup with an accelerated recovery from his leg injury, and Jeff played really well. Again, too many turnovers, but we shot 50% from the field, 26-of-52, 50% from trifecta, 10-of-20, and 72% from the line, 23-of-32. I thought our defense got really good in the last 10 minutes of the second half. We out rebounded them 41-36. Luke played with all kinds of heart and played very well, scoring 11 points on two-of-three from trifecta, which was great to see Luke shooting the triple well again, and he pulled down eight boards. Matt Fisher-Davis finished with 20 and was 4-of-8 from trifecta, and 4-of-4 from the line. Riley was 2-of-5 from three, which was awesome. It was great to see Riley shooting the ball better. We need him to. Riley finished with 10. Wade finished with 13 and four assists and made a hugely clutch and difficult lay-up very late in regulation to put us up by a point with 13 seconds left. Arkansas came back down and converted a three. Anderson called timeout with 2.2 seconds left to set his defense, and then Luke and Damian made the plays of the game.

Coach Stallings called for Luke to find the open man on the opposite end of the floor and let them create for a basket whether it would be a three or a two. Luke heaved the ball like Tom Brady down the length of the court intended for Damian. Damian made a Julio Jones-like catch in the left corner of the court, dribbled with a sprint to the goal and thundered the ball down right before the buzzer went off, maybe with a tenth of a second left. The bench went wild. It was awesome.

While we couldn't get over the hump in overtime, I was so proud of the effort and heart of our basketball team last night. It's a loss, I know, but we can build on it and get this thing turned in the right direction. Last year, with a team of true freshmen and sophomores, we won nine in a row in February. We need to do this in January. It starts this Saturday @ South Carolina at 2 PM CT/3 PM ET on ESPNU.

One last note: senior Carter Josephs played an awesome game last night. Carter, who is a 4.0 student in the classroom, just keeps working hard in practice, supports his team during the game, and got a chance to play significant minutes as Wade got in foul trouble. And he really sparked our team in the second half. With Wade in foul trouble, Coach Stallings called on Carter and he responded big time. Carter had four assists and a couple of beautiful back door dimes to Luke and MFD for slams. He was awesome. Carter can be an important player for us going forward. We still need guys like junior Nolan Cressler, freshman Camron Justice, who is trying to get back into the flow of the game after a concussion sidelined him for a while, and frosh Joe Toye, who shows a ton of promise and is figuring out the college game, to help us right now.  Josh Henderson can still help us, too. Josh is an awesome guy, has paid his dues as a sixth year senior, and can help Luke, Damian and Jeff down low. Josh is a good offensive player and good at setting picks and banging with the big guys in the SEC. All of these guys can really help us along with the starters, Roberson, Fisher-Davis, LaChance, Baldwin 4, Damian and of course, Luke, who didn't start last night but will probably start Saturday.

So there's a lot to be positive about with our team. We've got a great group that wants to do well. We will start getting W's and string several in a row very soon. Truly believe that.

On a regrettable  note, former Vanderbilt football coach George McIntyre passed away yesterday at 76. Coach McIntyre was our coach from 1979-84 and had some good teams. His 1982 team, led by stud quarterback Whit Taylor, finished 8-3, beat Tennessee, and went to the then Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, where we fell to Air Force. But we had good teams in those years. I was a student from 1980-84, and saw us knock off Florida at home in 1983 and have some other good victories under Coach Mac. He defeated Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1984, 30-21. Very good football coach. He was a first class man as well. He was a true man of character and integrity; a great Vanderbilt man. His son, Mike, who is first class as well, is the head coach at Colorado and is doing a solid job in Boulder. Mike's a good football coach. Coach McIntyre will be missed by the Vanderbilt family. Really fine man.

Will have any recruiting news that pops up. Coach Mason and the coaches are out doing work and putting together an excellent class with some more quality players getting close to committing. Will talk to Geoff McDonald, our defending national championship women's tennis coach, to preview the season. I'll talk to Geoff next week and have a piece on our tennis team, which looks to go back to back, Thursday of next week. Will also get a conversation in with Corbs in the next two weeks if he's good with that.

Brandt in action starting tomorrow at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui. The first PGA tournament of 2016 features all the winners on tour last year. Brandt won the AT&T Classic at Pebble Beach with an awesome four rounds of golf and he and Jason Dufner won the Franklin Templeton Shootout last month in Naples, FL., so that's good stuff for B entering this star studded tournament. Will keep you posted on Brandt's progress. THE PGA season is underway and Brandt, Jon Curran and Luke List will be competing for titles.

Basketball will get it going. Saturday would be a huge boost if we could go to Columbia and defeat an undefeated and 22nd ranked South Carolina team, that is 14-0. We'll have our work cut out for us. We can surely get this done though. Believe in the guys and the coaches.

Jay, JMatt, Pedro, Mike, Dave, Sonny, Basketball

Jay Cutler finished the season for the Chicago Bears completing 294-of-460 passes, 64%, for 3,414 yards, 19 TDs and eight ints. Jay’s quarterback rating was the highest for his career at 92.8, which is a solid number. The Bears finished 5-9, but were in so many close games. Jay was without top wideout Alshon Jeffrey for at least six games, and top draft pick and super stud wide receiver Kevin White from West Virginia didn’t play at all this season because of injury. Jay's other top target, Eddie Royal, was out for most of the season as well. His two top tight ends, Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller, were out this past Sunday against the Lions, in a Bears loss. Bennett was injured quite a bit this  season as well. Jay found a really good target in Miller.  The future is bright for that QB-tight end combo.
So Jay was working with an inexperienced receiving corps for most of the season. I thought he had a great year for the most part. He really hit it off with offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who has been rumored to be in line for the Miami Dolphins head coaching  job. If Gase gets a head job, Bears head coach John Fox is a master at getting top assistants and will hire another good offensive coordinator. Jay should be in Chicago next year, and with his receivers back and a much improved defense, the Bears should be right in the mix for the playoffs with a chance to go some distance.
Jordan Matthews had another solid year for the Eagles, though the Eagles were a little dysfunctional under Chip Kelly this season. JMatt caught 78 passes for 943 yards and six TDs, after posting 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight TDs in his rookie season last year, 2014. His future is so bright. Hopefully  Philly can get a really good coach who can maximize the talent on this highly talented roster. Not sure why it didn’t work with Kelly. He’s a good coach overall. Just couldn’t get through to this team. JMatt should thrive in the future though.
Pedro Alvarez was non-tendered by the Pirates and is a free agent now. I’ve heard the Milwaukee Brewers are very interested. Mike Minor is on the market as well as the Braves let Mike go. Hopeful both will land on their feet and get good spots for this season. Dave Price is set with the Red Sox and Sonny Gray is firm in Oakland for now. Sonny has a year or two left on his rookie contract then he can go for really good money as a free agent if he can stay healthy.
Huge game for basketball tonight against the Razorbacks of Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena. Really need this one to get our season kickstarted again.  8 PM CT/ 9 PM ET SEC Network.
Will have a report tomorrow.

Nigel Bowden, basketball, baseball

Nigel Bowden along with Andrew Jelks, DeAndre Woods and C.J. Duncan, will be back for 2016 Nigel Bowden, our stud inside linebacker who suffered a severe concussion early in the season and was lost for the year, is coming back for 2016. That’s huge news as Nigel and Zach Cunningham could form the top inside linebacking corps in the SEC and one of the best in the country. Usually, if you’re one of the best in this conference, you’re one of the best nationally. Really excited about the Nigel news. He’s an outstanding linebacker and a leader for this defense along with Zach. We’ll also get back stud tight end DeAndre Woods and super left tackle Andrew Jelks for 2016. Both suffered season ending injuries this season; Andrew before the season and DeAndre early in the season. DeAndre was off to an awesome start before he got hurt. Not totally sure about stud wideout C.J. Duncan. Pretty sure C.J. will be back, but he suffered an Achilles injury and those take longer to recover from. Hopeful all three and Nigel will be locked and loaded for 2016. Really excited about this 2016 Coach Mason team.

Four-star cornerback Joejuan Williams, high three-star quarterback Deuce Wallace, and high three-star safety Zaire Jones will be enrolling early and be ready to go for spring practice. That’s awesome news. All three of these guys will be major impact players for our football team, maybe even next year, at least Joejuan and Zaire may be. Not sure what Coach Ludwig wants to do with Deuce, but he’s high quality. We have Kyle Shurmur coming back, who everybody is excited about, Johnny Mac will be back along with Stank and Wade Freebeck. It’ll be interesting to see what we decide on the Deuce. Should be good competition at QB in the spring and in fall practice. Love the class Coach Mason is putting together. About five or six other guys could pull the trigger for us before it’s over. We have 16 commits now.
Spring game is March 25th, a Friday, at 6 PM, according to a report I’ve gotten. We might have a running backs and special teams coach by the end of the week. Auburn tight ends/special teams coordinator Scott Fountain is a name that has surfaced. Will keep you posted on that. Auburn has good special teams play, and their running backs are outstanding. I know Fountain is not directly responsible for the running backs, but he sounds like a good coach and he’s supposed to be an outstanding recruiter.
Basketball struggled against LSU, but it’s just the first game of the SEC slate. Plenty more left. We’re at Arkansas tomorrow night, Tuesday, at 8 PM CT/9 PM ET on the SEC Network. Arkansas is tough at Bud Walton, so we’ll have our hands full. They lost to A&M on Saturday at A&M, but they’ll keep improving under Coach Mike Anderson. I expect us to play well tomorrow night though.
Baseball getting closer, too. I looked at our team roster yesterday and we have some studs coming back in center fielder Bryan Reynolds, right fielder Jeren Kendall, infielder Penn Murfee, third baseman Will Toffey and outfielder Ro Coleman. We have some good arms as well. Excellent freshman class. Perfect Game ranked it the best in the country, so they should step in immediately. Both catchers, Karl Ellison and Jason Delay, will be back, so we’re in good hands behind the dish. We’ve got a good mix of right handers and southpaws on the hill. Will try to get the man, Corbs, on the horn in the next couple of weeks and preview our squad.
Will be in touch.

Basketball, Coach Mason with a new hire

New OL Coach Cameron Norcross Our basketball team defeated Wofford Saturday Night at Memorial, 80-56. Damian finished with 21 points and seven boards, Jeff Roberson went for 13 points and seven boards, and Wade and MFD both had 10. Matt Fisher Davis also pulled down 11 boards, which is huge. If we can get contributions on the boards from guys like MFD, Jeff, Wade and freshman Joseph Toye, who looks to be quite a player, that will really help Damian with Luke out till the end of January. MFD was three-of-four from trifecta, and Wade and Riley were both 2-of-2. Wade had five assists and Carter Josephs got some playing time at point guard and had four assists. Carter can help us. I really believe that. He could really take the pressure off of Riley by playing some solid point, so Riley can concentrate on being a shooter and distributor at shooting guard where he is far more comfortable. We were 10-of-17 from three and 25-of-50 from the field. We were also 20-of-27 from the line, 74%, good number. We held them to 34% shooting from the field and eight of 21 from trifecta (38%). We out rebounded the Terriers 43-30.

Now we have our work cut out for us with a game @ No.9/8 Purdue (AP, Coaches Poll rankings respectively) @7 PM CT/8 PM ET on the Big Ten Network (Channel 610 on DirecTV and 821 on Charter). Purdue is 11-1 after having lost to Butler on Saturday, 74-68 in Indianapolis. Purdue has two seven footers and a good outside game. They have a good overall team. We will be tested once again in what’s been a brutal non-conference schedule. It’ll only make us better though. We’re 7-3 overall now. Would be awesome to steal one on the road at West Lafayette.
***Purdue dropped dropped to #14 in the AP Poll and #13 in the Coaches Poll after its loss to Butler. Butler moved to #9 in AP and #12 in Coaches after their victory.
We are not ranked in the new AP poll and #25 in the new Coaches Poll
Coach Mason has hired Fresno State offensive line coach Cameron Norcross to be our offensive line coach for 2016. At Fresno State, Norcross coached two All Americans who are now in the NFL; Austin Wentworth of the Minnesota Vikings and Cody Wichmann of the St. Louis Rams. He spent four years at Fresno State. In 2012 and 2013, Fresno State won the Mountain West conference championship and appeared in three bowls during Norcross's his tenure. Prior to Fresno State, Norcross spent 11 years at Nevada, where he was the tight ends and offensive line coach from 2003-’11. He coached under Coach Chris Ault at Nevada, who was known for his explosive, pistol, spread it out offenses. Nevada had three 1,000 yard rushers in 2009. With Norcross on the offensive line, Colin Kaepernick became a household name gaining over 1,000 yards rushing for three straight seasons.
Eight Nevada offensive linemen earned first team WAC All-Conference honors under Norcross, and the 2010 team went 13-1 and finished in 11th in the final AP top 25 poll.  Norcross played on the offensive line at Nevada in the late 90’s and earned All Big West honors in 1998. He has a heavy background in the spread offense and that looks like the direction Coach Andy Ludwig is taking the offense. Cameron was born in Ely, Nevada and is 37 years old. He’s married to Jennifer Norcross and has two daughters and a son.
Norcross looks  like an awesome addition to the staff. Jesse Johnson of Vandy 247 is reporting that Coach Mason is possibly looking at Georgia Tech special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski as a potential replacement at special teams coach. There is no word on whether Rychleski would coach running backs or not. Will keep you posted on that.

Commit alert; Joejuan Williams

Awesome stuff from Joejuan

 

Sean could very well be coming our way very soon

 

Wade and the team ready to right the ship

Sean Auwae, a 6’4”, 285 pound four-star center, is on our commitment watch. Jesse Johnson of Vandy247 sports, says to be on the lookout because an Auwae commitment could happen at any time. Barton Simmons, who like Jesse is a recruiting analyst who I and a lot of people really trust and is the national recruiting coordinator for 247, has crystal balled Sean to VU as of yesterday at noon. So that’s a really good sign. This could be a huge get for us.

Also, I listened to a podcast today with Chris Lee of VandySports.com with one of our newest commits, four-star cornerback Joejuan Williams. Joejuan is a super kid who makes all A’s in high school and is going to major in Economics at VU. He’s already studying the stock market and saving money for investments. He’s impressive. And JJW is one heckuva football player from his film. He played at Father Ryan High School in Nashvegas his junior year, and transferred to Hendersonville High School in Tennessee for his senior season, but was not allowed to play by the Tennessee High School Athletic Association. But he says he’s been a workout warrior in this extended offseason.
What’s interesting is that it came down to VU and LSU. JJW was all LSU when he took his official to VU a month ago. He was certain he was going to LSU at the end of his official to VU and was headed to Pancake Pantry on the Monday at the end of his official with us when Coach Mason called him into his office and made a passionate pitch to get him to come our way. JJW was so impressed by Coach Mason that he Anchored Down on the spot. That’s awesome.
JJW will be enrolling in January and will be working out and preparing for spring practice with the rest of the team. While he will be majoring in Economics, his goal like many young, talented players is to excel at VU and hopefully play in the National Football League. He has the talent to do both. If football did not work out professionally, Joejuan has a great backup plan as either a coach or as an investment analyst-salesman.
But JWJ is a high quality football player who can be a major impact player for what will be a stellar defense for years to come under Coach Mason. Believe our offense will be greatly improved next season under Coach Ludwig's and Coach Mason's direction. Really excited about quarterback Kyle Shurmur and the arsenal we have on offense for next season. We'll get offensive tackle Andrew Jelks back next year from injury, which will be huge as Andrew is not only a super player, but also the heart and soul leadership-wise of the offensive line. We'll get DeAndre Woods back at tight end as well from injury and DeAndre was heading for a huge season this year before he got knocked out for the season with a knee injury. Hopefully, we'll get stellar wide receiver C. J. Duncan back as well. C.J. tore his Achilles, so that's tougher to come back from, but we should have C.J. at some point during the season if not by fall drills. He will really help in the passing game with Caleb Scott making a move as a go to guy and I still believe in Latevius Rayford and of course, the emerging Trent Sherfield. We have some other guys out there, too, like Ronald Monroe, who could be vertical threats for us. Offensive line should be loaded with talent next season. I like our RB situation and tight end should be good with some young guys along with DeAndre And Nathan Marcus. It'll be interesting to see what Coach Mason does with the new hires at RB and Special teams and on the O line. Those will be big hires. Maybe we'll know by the end of this year who they will be. Defense ought to be stellar next season.
The Deuce, high three-star quarterback Deuce Wallace, and four-star safety Zaire Jones, will also be enrolling in January and be ready for spring ball. Strength Coach James Dobson will get these guys and our returning players ready for an excellent spring, and then work with the players in the summer for what very well could be an outstanding 2016 season.
This class has really become high quality. Love the Jamauri Wakefield pickup, our three star running back, who committed on Sunday.
Still believe strongly in our basketball team. Kevin's team always improve as the season progresses. Losing Luke was tough and Camron Justice was a loss as he was showing signs of being a stellar player for us. We'll be ready by conference time. We play Wofford this Saturday at 7 PM CT on the SEC Network. Important game for us to get back on track. Will have more on Wofford, Saturday. Then we travel to No.9/8 Purdue (AP, Coaches Polls respectively) for a 7 PM CT/8PM ET tipoff Tuesday Night on the Big Ten Network. That's Channel 610 on DirecTV and channel 821 on Charter. Purdue is 11-0, and is an outstanding team, so we'll have our hands full. Their best victories are against Florida at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut, 85-70, and they also defeated Pittsburgh at Pitt, 72-59, on Dec. 1st. They play No.17 Butler Saturday at 5 PM ET in Indianapolis, so we should know even more about their team. Wofford is 3-6, so we've got to concern ourselves with them first and foremost.
We've got the team to excel both in the conference and nationally. After Purdue, we'll play Western Michigan at 8 PM CT/ 9 PM ET, Wednesday, Dec. 30th, on the SEC Network. Then LSU comes to our place, Memorial, for an 8 PM CT/9 PM ET tipoff Saturday, Jan. 2nd, on ESPN2. LSU has super freshman Ben Simmons and a potentially very good team, so we have our work cut out for us going forward. But believe in WB4, Riley LaChance, Matt Fisher Davis, Damian, Jeff Roberson and the rest of our team to carry the torch and get us going on the winning path before we get Luke and Camron back in late January to really strengthen our team for February and March. I expect Luke and Camron to be out till later in January.
Baseball is not far away with the season starting February 19th for a weekend series against San Diego at home. Excited for what Corbs and the team will get done this year. Will work on getting an interview with Corbs in the middle of January. Going to try to talk to Kevin and Derek in the near future as well; Coach Stalllings more likely by the end of  this month as we head into  SEC  play and Coach Mason in early February, a day or two after the recruiting class is signed.
Our football commitments had exceptional senior years for their respective high school teams. We had four or five guys win state championships. Will have more on those guys on Saturday.
Couple of other things in football. If I haven't written this, linebacker Zach Cunningham was selected All-SEC by the Associated Press. Zach was highly deserving as he was all over the field for us this season and was superb. The great news, too, is that Zach will be back along with some other stellar linebackers and other excellent defensive players around him.
Finally, and this is just as important as everything else, our football program were co-recipients of the 2015 Academic Achievement Award with a perfect graduation success rate. We were chosen by the American Football Coaches Association along with Duke. Super accomplishment for Coach Mason and the Vanderbilt coaching and academic staff along with our fine senior players. That's fantastic stuff.
A lot of incredible stuff going on at West End. Excited to be a part of it as a VU writer and supporter.
Will have more on Saturday on our football commits and our bball team.

Our football team played special and that's what they are; basketball starts out very well, Jay, JMatt, Jon Curran

Oren Burks came to play some football Saturday and was rewarded as SEC defensive player of the week. He's part of a stud VU defense under Coach Mason Football had a tremendous performance on Saturday in Vanderbilt Stadium as the defense and the offense really anchored down to capture the 21-17 SEC victory over the Kentucky Wildcats before over 30,000 vocal Dores' fans. We moved to 4-6 overall on the season and 2-4 in the SEC with games at home Saturday versus A&M (6:30 PM CT/7:30 PM ET SEC Network) and at UT, Saturday, Nov. 28th, @ 3 PM CT/4 PM CT on the SEC Network. If we win both we go to a bowl game which would be an amazing accomplishment for this football program under second year Coach Derek Mason. It's been a successful season so far, and there were all kind of recruits lined up Saturday at the stadium. Four-star cornerback Joejuan Williams, one of our key targets, was at the game among many other key guys. High three star running back Trevor Speights from Texas, will be at our game versus A&M Saturday. We could have a very strong finish to recruiting. Like the 12 guys we have so far.

But back to our present team. True freshman Kyle Shurmur played terrifically in only his second college start. Kyle finished the day going 13-for-26 for 166 yards, two TDs and no ints. Shurms took care of the ball, made some really nice throws and ran the offense superbly. He hooked up with sophomore Caleb Scott for what was the play of the game. With us leading 14-10 late in the second quarter, after a Shurmur to Kyle Anderton four yard TD pass that was created by an excellent strip of the ball carrier by Caleb "Zu" Azubike and an outstanding, diving fumble recovery by Jay Woods, and an Oren Burks int that he took to the house from 30 yards out, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig went deep into his bag of tricks. After a UK timeout with :37 left in the second quarter and the ball at the UK 37 yard line, the offense went back onto the field. But Scott ran onto the field and got inside the numbers of the field, then headed back towards the sideline. The UK defense had no clue that he was still on the field and was inbounds. We snapped the ball to Kyle and he flipped a beautiful pass to Caleb, who caught the ball at the UK 15,  and cruised into the end zone to put us up 21-10 as we went into halftime. It was brilliant.

When I was playing football in my earlier years, which was a pretty good while ago, I was on the sixth grade team for my school, and we were scrimmaging our seventh grade team. We were a pretty decent team, but our seventh grade group was very good and loved knocking us around. They were just bigger than us. So to score, we had to come up with something out of the box. One of our receivers, who is on this blog, stayed on the sideline while the other 10 of us broke the huddle. When we snapped the ball, the defense came charging in and our quarterback threw it to our wide receiver on our "Sleeper" play. It worked. Our guy caught it and took it to the house. The seventh grade quarterback, who was a good player who also played safety, was so angry that we scored on them that he chased our guy down through the end zone about 10 yards passed the end line and tackled him. It was pretty hilarious.

Offensive standouts

1. Kyle: Outstanding leadership and performance. We're going to be pretty happy with Shurms under center for the rest of this year and the next three years. Deuce Wallace is coming in, too, and Johnny McCrary still has good talent. We've also got Wade Freebeck and Shawn Stankavage, so we're in good shape at quarterback the rest of this season and in the future.

2. Caleb Scott: The sophomore from Georgia, whose dad, Chuck, was an awesome tight end for us in the late 80's, is going to be a star. Caleb caught three passes for 87 yards and had that super seven. He made a catch on the sideline of a throw from Kyle that he took another 25 yards down the field, but the refs ruled him out after 12 yards. I thought they missed the call and Caleb had stayed in bounds. Caleb played terrifically. With Caleb, Trent Sherfield, Latevius Rayford, Ronald Monroe and our tight ends, our passing game is going to be cookin this week and next. I expect Coach Ludwig to open the playbook even more this week against A&M and use our wide outs and tight ends more in the passing game.

3. Ralph Webb: Typical hard-nosed Ralph-like game. Thirty three carries 113 yards, and some tough ones at that. Just missed taking it to the house a couple of times. Ralph has plenty of explosive plays left in him the rest of this season and going forward. He's just a sophomore.

4. Spencer Pulley, Jake Bernstein and the rest of the offensive line: The guys played awesome. They were physical on the run and excellent in pass blocking. Kyle didn't hit the turf one time. Zero sacks. I'll mention the other guys too: Barrett Gouger, Will Holden and Bailey Granier. Those guys played some outstanding, physical football. A lot of credit goes to O line coach Kevin Lightner for really developing our guys. Losing Andrew Jelks before the season was a blow, but the guys have made up for it. Andrew will be back next year, which is exciting. We've got good depth on the line, too. The future looks very bright up front. We have two good offensive tackles coming in and we have another, Grayson Stover from Florida, a high three-star, who we are heavily pursuing. Love the way our line has come together.

Defensive standouts

1. Oren Burks: Oren had two ints on the day. His first was a catch of a batted away ball by our stud cornerback Torren McGaster. Oren intercepted Torren's tipped ball in the end zone to keep the Wildcats from scoring. Oren also had the pick six. Just read where Oren was named SEC defensive player of the week. That's awesome for Oren and a testament to how good this defense is under Coach Mason and his coaches. Love what Chris Marve is doing out there. He is an active defensive coach for us. Chris is a defensive graduate assistant, but signals in the calls from Coach Mason. He's such a great guy and a great role model for our players. Defensive line coach Frank Maile, linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson, cornerbacks coach Brett Maxie and safeties coach Mark Mattioli also deserve a lot of credit. Coach Mason runs the show, but we've got a great staff of coaches.

2. "Zu": Caleb Azubike played like the Caleb Azubike we've been used to the last two to three years. Zu has had injury issues this season, but he really made a statement on Saturday with two sacks, a forced fumble, three tackles for loss, and the sack that ended the game. Awesome to have Zu back healthy and playing Caleb Azubike football.

3. Zach Cunningham: Zach just does it every week. Zach finished the day with 10 tackles and was  all over the field. He's incredible. He's the most underrated linebacker in the country, but not for long. Zach is making a name for himself and he's just a sophomore.

4. Torren McGaster: Torren is another guy who is one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC. He's making a name for himself too. Torren finished with six tackles, one for loss and two pass breakups including that key Oren interception in our end zone that Torren made possible by knocking the ball away from the receiver. Torren is a junior.

Our entire defense is swarming to the football and making game changing plays. The awesome Stephen Weatherly and Adam Butler,  Jay Woods, Torey Agee, Nifae Lealao, Darreon Herring, one of our key leaders out there, and Landon Stokes, are all dominating up front. Andrew Williamson, Torren, Tre Herndon and Oren are playing excellent back four football for us too. We've got guys like Ryan White,  Tre Bell, Jahmel McIntosh and Tre Tarpley  who are also excellent players in the secondary. Sophomore Emmanuel Smith and his younger brother, freshman Josh Smith, are emerging at nickel back and outside linebacker respectively, and are going to be excellent players for us. They already are good. Two plays that may have gone unnoticed, but I'm sure the coaches have noticed, was the contain play by Josh on an outside run by Kentucky running back Boom Williams. Williams is an explosive player and had some good runs against us, but Josh made an excellent contain play that led to a tackle for loss by Torren of about 12 yards. The other was Tre Herndon hustling and catching Williams on what looked like a 75 yard TD run. Tre got Williams tackled Williams at the seven. Kentucky took it in from there, but it was terrific hustle by Tre. A play like that can save a football game.

The whole defense was exceptional like we've become accustomed to with this group. It just keeps getting better and better with our defense.

The special teams play of the game was made by freshman safety Andrew Rector, who blocked a Kentucky punt. All these guys who are making plays for us are coming back. But guys like Zu, Darreon and Steven Scheu are seniors and they want to get it done now. The future is here right now, right in front of us, and I know these guys are going to take advantage of it. They're awesome kids, who KNOW they can win every time out now.

Now it's on to A&M. They've got a quarterback in Kyler Murray who can make explosive plays and a guy off the bench if Murray struggles, Kyle Allen, who can throw it all over the field. They have a ton of playmakers and freshman Christian Kirk is one of the most dangerous wide receivers/ punt returners in the SEC, if not the country. So we have our work cut out for us. Tre Carson is a solid running back as well for the Aggies. We'll have to play swarming, aggressive and smart defense against these guys and we HAVE to tackle well, both between the tackles and in space. Offensively, we need to run the football well and have Kyle, the receivers and the tight ends have very good games because we're going to need to put points on the board. Our advantage will be our physicality. A&M is 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference and they're playing for a good bowl game. It's the most important game on the schedule because it's the next one and we're playing for postseason purposes now. Huge one Saturday, but so proud of the tremendous effort by our talented football team on Saturday. Time to get back to work.

 

Basketball

Nice win by our guys Friday night, 80-41, over Austin Peay. Wade Baldwin IV, WB4, led the way with 14. Luke Kornet had 13 points and 13 boards, and Damian Jones finished with 12 and five pulls. We were 32-of-72 from the field, 44%, eight of 19 from three, 42% and 8-of-15 from the line, 53%, which needs to improve and should. We've got too many good shooters to struggle from the line. Luke really played an outstanding game. Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis (MFD) played well also. Freshman Camron Justice was two-for-three from deep. Camron was a prolific shooter in Kentucky the last three years and really brings some outside shooting to go along with the awesome shooting of Riley, Wade, MFD and Luke. Nolan Cressler, our transfer from Cornell, is another guy to get excited about. Nolan only hit one trifecta, but he averaged 16 points two years ago at Cornell and is an outstanding three point marksman. Very excited about freshmen Joseph Toye and Samir Sehic. Both are going to be outstanding players for us, Joseph at the three, and Samir down low. Samir had seven pulls on the night. He's physical. Joe was a perfect three-for-three from the field and sank his only trifecta attempt. Both, along with Camron, are ready to be major contributors to what looks like a very special team. Kevin may be redshirting 6'11" big man Djery Baptiste, but Djery will be a force when he gets his offensive game going and he'll be a sheriff underneath for us in the future. Our defense was really good on Friday night as well. We have the athletes to play outstanding defense. The present looks terrific and the future looks just as terrific with the guys we have now and the youth of this team. We're young age-wise, but we gained so much experience last year. We're ready to make a statement both in the SEC and nationally. Gardner-Webb tonight at 7 PM CT/8 PM ET on the SEC Network+ channel online. The Runnin' Bulldogs have one of the most experienced starting fives in college basketball with four seniors and a junior starting. They lost Friday to Iowa, 74-59, but Iowa is a good team, so we need to be laced up and ready to go tonight.

We have now sank 932 three-pointers in a row since the inception of the three point line, trailing only UNLV in the category for most in the history of the line. Princeton, UNLV and us are the only three teams in the country to make at least one three pointer in every game since the inception of the three point line in 1986-87. This team should keep that going throughout this season with the shooters we have without a doubt, and maybe UNLV will stumble. This team has plans to do special things this season.

Jay Cutler

Jay played spectacularly in the Bears 37-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis yesterday. Jay finished the game against a pretty good defense 19-of-24 for 258 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of 151. 158.3 is perfect, so Jay was about as good as you can get under center yesterday. The Bears moved to 4-5 on the season and Green Bay lost, falling to 6-3 on the season. So it's getting interesting for the Midway guys. The Bears host Peyton and the Broncos this Sunday at Soldiuh Field at noon CT/1 PM ET on CBS. Should be a classic. The Broncos got crushed by KC yesterday, and Peyton had a terrible day throwing four interceptions. The Broncos have lost two in a row after having started the season 7-0. The way Jay and the offense is playing and the way the defense is really starting to get it going under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a great one who came over from the 49ers where they had exceptional defenses under him, we have a good shot with the Broncos and getting to 5-5 will clearly put us in the hunt for a playoff spot. We then visit Green Bay Thanksgiving night (7:30 PM CT/8:30 PM ET on NBC, Thursday, Nov. 26th). If we can handle the Broncos, the game at Green Bay will be outrageously huge. Just heard that Peyton has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and will be out and Brock Osweiler will start in his place. Still have to play well. The Broncos have a very good defense and a good running game.

Tight end Zach Miller was tremendous again catching five passes for 107 yards including an 83 yard house call on a short pass from Jay that Zach caught at the Bears 17 and just flew by everybody for the seven. What an athlete. Matt Forte better hurry up and get back because Jeremy Langford, the rooking running back out of Michigan State, is playing tremendous football for Chicago. Jeremy ran for 73 yards and a seven and caught seven passes for 109 yards and a seven as well. He's awesome. Ka' Deem Carey played excellent football as well running for 56 yards on 14 carries. Of course the Bears will welcome Matt back with open arms when he returns from injury, but we've got some pretty good options if he can't make it back soon. Alshon Jeffery only caught three passes for 23 yards, but he's a huge part of this offense and will be heavily involved in the game plan against Denver and Green Bay. Love the way the defense is playing also. LaMarr Houston has found himself under Fangio and is playing outstanding at defensive end/outside linebacker. He's always been a stellar player, but is starting to get back to his old form when he was at Kansas City this season. Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter are playing exceptional football at corner and safety respectively, and Shea McClellan was excellent at linebacker yesterday. This team has it going.

JMatt

Not the best game for the Eagles yesterday as they lost to the Dolphins, 20-19. JMatt had three receptions for 21 yards, but starting quarterback Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game with a concussion and a shoulder injury, so that didn't help. Mark Sanchez couldn't really get the offense going. I do believe in Sanchez going forward if Bradford is out for a while. I think he can get the job done with the weaponry around him. The Eagles dropped to 4-5 on the season and host Tampa Bay Sunday, then play Thanksgiving Day at the Lions on FOX at 11:30 AM CT/12:30 PM ET. That's November 26th as well. The Giants lost to the Patriots in a heartbreaker yesterday, and fell to 5-5, so we're right there. It's time for this team to get hot. I watched the preseason and Sanchez threw it to Jordan a lot, so he should get a lot of opportunities even if Bradford is out a while. Eagles need to start winning.

Fes

Festus Ezeli is still making his mark for the Golden State Warriors and they are the best team in the NBA right now at a perfect 11-0. Fes is getting a lot of time and playing very well. The Warriors' coaches really like his toughness and lunch pale/hard hat mentality. The Warriors play the Toronto Raptors tomorrow night in Oracle Arena, so I'll get some intel on Fes from that game. This is a super team.

Jon Curran, Luke List, Brandt

JC finished in a tie for 29th at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Jon finished -8 for the tournament shooting 68-71-67-70. He played well and picked up a good check. Luke List played but did not make the cut, but Luke, Jon and Brandt are all playing this week at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga. Awesome to have all three guys competing. Graeme McDowell won the OHL yesterday in a playoff. Glad to see Brandt back out there and always love seeing Luke and JC compete, too. I'm just really happy for Luke, as he's worked so hard to make the Tour. JC, too. Brandt is loaded with talent and a major is certainly attainable this year. Brandt's work with superb teacher Butch Harmon has already paid dividends and it will again this season. Brandt always plays well at Augusta and the U.S Open., the Open Championship and the PGA are at three classic courses this year. The U.S. Open is at the venerable Oakmont Country Club where Angel "El Pato" Cabrera won in 2007, and the PGA is at historic Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey, just outside of NYC. It's a classic as well. Phil won the PGA Championship there in 2005, one of his five majors. That's sensational. The Open Championship will be played at the famous Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. Would love for Brandt to get as many majors as possible in his career. This could very well be his year. Would love to see JC and Luke compete at those venues as well. They'll both have to win on tour this season to get in those events prior to them starting.

Final notes

Our women's cross country team has won two Southern meets that are big deals and are going to the NCAA's. I'll find out more, but this team is apparently pretty awesome. Actually we won the NCAA regional at Alabama on Nov.13th, this past Friday, and are running in the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21st, Saturday, at Louisville, Kentucky. Our coach, Steve Keith, is doing an exceptional job. Will have more on the girls after the meet on Saturday. Caroline Pietrzyk, a freshman from Malibu, Cali, finished second at the regionals. Caroline is a talent.

And our women's basketball team started off well with a W over Mississippi Valley State, 89-39. There is good talent on this team and Coach Melanie Balcomb's 2016 recruiting class is in the top 20 in the country with some outstanding players, who just signed up with us. The girls are getting it going. We have a somewhat younger group, but I like the makeup of this group and the future ahead.

Will have a breakdown of tonight's game against Gardner-Webb tomorrow in the AM. Great stuff going on.

Kentucky tomorrow; what we need to do, football-bball recruiting, bball in action, Jay, JMatt, JC, Luke

Stephen Weatherly and the defense will need to duplicate last week's performance and in all likelihood this stellar group will 1. Play Vanderbilt defense. Stop Ky running back Boom Williams and the run, get pressure on Patrick Towles when he passes, and get some sacks and get three or four turnovers like we did against Florida. Play VU-Mason-like  defense.

2. Take care of the football on offense and run it well. Line needs to open holes for Ralph, Darrius, Josh and Dallas and let them churn up some yards, move the chains, and maybe take one or two to the house.
3. Pass the ball well enough. Johnny, if it’s Johnny, which is most likely, will need to connect on some throws to help us get the job done.
VU 17, Kentucky 13
 
We’ll move to 4-6 on the season and 2-4 in the SEC. Need this one. Hopefully we’ll have a great home crowd.
Recruiting
Some awesome recruits visiting this weekend with some of our commits and four-star cornerback recruit Joejuan Williams visiting. Joejuan is a high priority for us. Also, among the star-studded visiting group, is my man from right here in B’ham, Alabama’s Mountain Brook High School Joe Donald. Joe 4 is a very good friend of mine’s son and is a heckuva linebacker. Hard hitter, fast, strong and plays Coach Mason-like VU, Stanford football. Just the kind of player-person Coach Mason wants on his football team. Joe 4 is an outstanding student and an excellent young man. Would love to see J4 get an offer. He would be an outstanding addition to our ’16 class.
 
Bball news
 
Kevin signed two fine young men and basketball players in this signing period for 2016. 89, three star point guard Payton Willis, and 90, four star power forward Clevon Brown are now part of our basketball program. Payton is a 6’4”, point guard from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who averaged 15.9 ppg, 3.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals his junior year for Fayetteville High School.
 
Clevon is a 6’8” 230 pound power forward out of San Antonio, Texas (Churchill High School) who averaged 16.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks his junior season. 
 
These are two excellent additions for the 2016-17 team. Really like Payton and Clevon. We’re going to be loaded again next year. Not sure if Kevin and the staff are totally through yet with recruiting. We may get another guy in the spring. There are other prospects out there who could fit our profile of high character kids who are good student and talented basketball players. 
 
Now we crank up the 2015-16 season with very high hopes. Wade Baldwin IV, Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Damian Jones, Luke Kornet and our talented basketball team gets it started tonight at 7 PM CT/8 PM ET at Memorial Gym against Austin Peay. The game will be on SEC Network + on the computer. 
Fes Ezeli had 10 points, two rebounds and three assists in Golden State's 129-116 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Warriors moved to 10-0 on the season and look better than they did a year ago when they won it all. Fes was five-of-six from the field. Stephen Curry finished with 46 on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, eight-of-13 from trifecta, and eight-of-eight from the line. Curry is outrageously good. Fes is a key player in the Warriors' attempt to achieve back to back NBA titles. Pumped for Fes!
 
Jon Curran, Luke List
 
Jon Curran is at -3 and Luke List is at +4 after the first round in the Mayakoba Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The leaders are Justin Leonard and Aaron Baddeley at -6. JC right there. Luke has some work to do. The cut right now is at -1, so Luke probably needs to shoot six or seven under to make the cut. It’s possible. JC will be a factor. Both tee off around noon CT/ 1 PM ET today. Golf Channel will telecast starting probably around 1 PM CT/ 2 PM ET.
 
Jay, JMatt
 
Jay and the Bears are at the Rams this Sunday at Noon CT/1 PM ET. Jay with an all world game Monday night in a victory over the Chargers at San Diego. 
 
JMatt and the Eagles will host the Miami Dolphins at the Linc on Sunday. JMatt was unreal good Sunday Night against the Cowboys at Jerryville. 
 
Both played spectacularly well. 
 
Will keep up with Zac Stacy and Casey Hayward as well. Casey starts for the Packers and Zac is getting playing time for the Jets. Zac did play a little bit last night as a matter of fact in a 22-17 Jets’ loss to the Bills. He returned one kick back for nine yards. Would like to see Zac get more opportunities. Will keep you posted on Casey. Packers host Detroit on Sunday at Noon CT/ 1 PM ET. 

Extremely proud of our football team, NFL,MLB, PGA, VU basketball, women's tennis, men' golf

Zach Cunningham played his heart out yesterday in our outstanding effort against a school South of us we'll beat next year. “You look at it, we’re just as good as Florida.”

Coach Mason in his post game press conference after our very close loss to the 8-1 and East Division champion Florida Gators.
 I agree with Coach. The defense was exceptional yesterday. Four turnovers (including one on special teams), five sacks; we were awesome on defense. Zach Cunningham is playing like an All-American at inside backer. Just phenomenal job by Coach Mason and our defensive staff of stopping the Gators’ offense, which had only turned the ball over six times in their previous eight games, and was averaging over 30 points per game. Losing 9-7 to the Gators at the Swamp with a chance to win it at the end is something to be very proud of. We are now 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the SEC with some very winnable games coming up at home against Kentucky (next Saturday, 11-14, 3 PM CT/4 PM ET, SEC Network), and then at home vs A&M, before we travel to Tennessee to finish off the season. Win all three and we’re in a bowl game, and I see that as possible, even though it seemed daunting after last week’s loss at Houston. The Kentucky game is very winnable. A&M is too. And UT is not out of the question.
We have a younger, but growing team that is figuring out how to win. And that’s exciting for this year and the future. Just need to lock down these recruits come signing day and add four or five more and we’ll have a very solid ’16 class.
If we get it done next Saturday against the Wildcats, it’ll be a huge boost to the players. They then will know that, going into a game that they can and WILL win for the rest of the season. Kentucky lost at Georgia, 27-3 yesterday, A&M lost at home to Auburn, 26-10 last night, and UT just got by South Carolina, 27-24, at home, and needed a late fumble recovery deep in their own territory to keep from possibly being upset. So all three of these games are attainable.
Believe strongly in what Coach Mason and the coaches are doing on defense, and Coach Ludwig is just trying to find ways to get us over the top on offense. Johnny struggled a little yesterday, but he did take care of the ball, which was huge. We had an unfortunate punt, but as Coach Mason said, that’s football, it’s unpredictable. Johnny needs to keep practicing hard and working to improve under Coach Ludwig. He will. Still believe in him. Ralph had a beautiful 74 yard scamper for a seven. We ran the ball pretty effectively. Ralph and the o line played really hard.
So I remain highly optimistic about the remainder of this season and going forward into the future. We just need to take care of business against Kentucky. We’re favored by 2 1/2.
Will have JMatt report tomorrow. The Eagles play at the Cowboys tonight on Sunday Night Football (7:20 PM CT/8:20 PM ET, NBC), Jay and Bears at Chargers tomorrow night on Monday Night Football (7:30 PM CT/8:30 PM ET, ESPN). Will see about Zac and Casey Hayward as well.
Luke List playing well at the Sanderson Farms tournament on the PGA Tour in Jackson, Ms. Good to see Luke on the tour. He was the 22nd out of the last 25 to make it from the Web.com playoffs. Proud of Luke. He’s worked hard.
Luke at -5, tied for 50th right now. He’s +1 today through 10. They got behind on this tournament because of a ton of rain in Jackson yesterday, so they’re in the third round. They’ll finish up tomorrow. Luke and JC in the PGA tournament next week  in Mexico. It’s the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mejico. Good to see Luke and Jon competing. Brandt will get back after it soon. Fun to have three of our guys out there.
Rumors have it that the Cubs are in the lead in the DP sweepstakes right now. David will be commanding a large contract and he’s earned it, though would like to see him have more postseason success. The Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals and Blue Jays are also involved. Something will happen in December.
Not sure about Pedro, what his situation is in Pittsburgh, but I thought he had a really good finish to the season, both hitting and fielding. Wouldn’t mind seeing him on another team, somebody like the Cubs, where he’d be more appreciated.
Sonny will be back with the A’s. Still got a year left on his rookie contract. Hoping Mike Minor can get back for the Braves. Mike still a great pitcher who battled an injury this season. It may have been a Tommy John injury. Anyway, he’s coming back to Atlanta..
Speaking of baseball, our VU team should be loaded once again. Our freshmen class is the top rated class in the country by Perfect Game. We have good players coming back. Our 2016 class is No.2 in the country by Perfect Game and our 2017 class is No.1 in the country. Corbs is doing his typical terrific job of recruiting. The goal at Vanderbilt is to win SEC and national championships and we will continue to pursue that goal every single season. The 2015-16 season looks very promising with players like Bryan Reynolds, Jeren Kendall, Will Toffey, Penn Murfee and Ro Coleman returning in the lineup, and a rotation which will include John Kilichowski and Kyle Wright, depending on what Corbs wants to do with Kyle. And closer Hayden Stone will return. Will be awesome to get Hayden back from his arm injury that kept him out almost the entire season last year. Will have more with Corbs and the team coming up.
Festus Ezeli is going off for the Golden State Warriors. He was 7-for-7 from the field Thursday night in a win for the Warriors and had 12 points and 11 rebounds last night for Golden State in another victory. Golden State is 7-0 and look better than last year. Fes is a key player for them. John Jenkins has played some for the Dallas Mavericks. He is on the team. Would love to see JJ get a shot.
Our team tips it off next Friday against Austin Peay. Will have more on our team later in the week. Very excited about this group we have this year. We have size, we can really shoot it, and we have great depth. This could be a very special year. If Kevin has time for me, will try to get an interview.
Excited for Coach Geoff McDonald and our defending women's tennis national championship team. Geoff does an amazing job. Also looking forward to our men's golf under super coach Scott Limbaugh.
Will have more tomorrow after Sunday Night Football.