Defensive tackle depth becoming real concern for Vanderbilt

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James Franklin and Vanderbilt were relying on their most experienced defensive tackle in Jared Morse. But yesterday Franklin informed the media that Morse is no longer on the team at this time. Franklin did leave the door open for Morse’s return next fall, but the rising senior will not be with the team this spring due to violating an unspecified team rule.

“Jared broke a team rule and is not here this spring,” Franklin said yesterday in his press conference. “We’re hoping that Jared will have a chance to come back. We’ll see. It’s out of our hands and we’ll see how those things play out. But as of right now, we’re going on. We’re moving on as if he’s not here.”

The one position Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop could not afford to lose any depth is at defensive tackle. With seniors Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter graduated, Morse’s experience and leadership were of utmost importance, not to mention he’s the most seasoned veteran returning along the teeth of the defense.

Morse recorded nine tackles for loss and started six games in 2012.

With the loss of Morse, the Commodores are in a deep hole at tackle, prompting Franklin to move 6-3, 300-pound freshman Adam Butler to tackle to help cope with the lack of depth.

“That gives us another 6-3 plus, 300-pound guy inside,” Franklin said yesterday in his press conference. “The game of football, and in the SEC, is played up front. We’re starting to finally see some legitimate SEC depth along the offensive line, and this will give us the ability to provide more SEC depth on the defensive line.”

In addition, backups Vince Taylor and Torey Agee will be counted on this spring, too. Returning junior Barron Dixon won’t be participating in contact drills this spring, but he will be a go for the fall.

For all the good Franklin has accomplished at Vanderbilt, the one criticism of he and his staff has been their inability to sign defensive tackles. The Commodores’ staff has signed just three true tackles in three recruiting cycles. If Franklin and Vandy are going to make a legitimate run at an SEC East crown, tackle depth must be addressed immediately in 2014’s recruiting class.

Incoming freshman Jay Woods will be counted on to play immediately.

Photo credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

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