The only class in Vanderbilt history to enjoy two bowl trips will be playing their final game exactly three weeks from now.I figured it was only right that I record what these players have meant to this program. I am really going to miss players like Marve, Fugger, and of course Hayward. Here is what I will remember them by (along with what they do in the final game as well):
Brandon Barden – Started nearly every game since his redshirt freshman season, due to a lack of depth and multiple injuries at the tight end position. Has been a top target in that time as well due to lack of production from the wide receivers. His numbers actually fell off a bit this season, but his 73-yard touchdown in the final game of the season was easily the most spectacular play all season long for the Commodores. He led all freshman tight ends in the nation in 2008 and was a part of the ALL-SEC freshman team. His best season was his redshirt junior year when he registered team-leading numbers as a receiver and was a second team All-SEC player. He was limited in our last bowl though when he only registered one catch for four yards.
Kyle Fisher – Has started many games in his career, playing basically every spot on the offensive line over his career. Has set up the majority of our big plays all season, and his effort is clear simply from watching a Zac Stacy highlight reel. He, along with Wesley Johnson, is the difference maker on the offensive line. All in all, he is one of the big reasons for our success throughout the season. He has really improved with the assistance of offensive line coach Herb Hand. He started on the offensive line as a redshirt freshman.
Tim Fugger – Really came alive in his redshirt sophomore season and has been a standout player since. His best efforts have come this season though, as he became a second team All-SEC player while disrupting every passing game we faced. An expert at getting to the quarterback, bringing him down, and forcing fumbles. Along with the all-conference honors he received from the coaches, he also has been recognized as a pro prospect who can take his game to the next level. Also a big fan favorite. Although he did not play too much his freshman season, he did get a tackle in the Music City Bowl. Overall, he is one of the most fun to watch players I have ever seen on the defensive line. His style of play is simply a sight to see.
Casey Hayward – One of the most interesting stories of all the seniors. He came up in the shadow of much-recognized corners DJ Moore and Myron Lewis. Since those two have moved on to the next level of play, the once overshadowed corner has found himself surpassing his former teammates in multiple categories. While I would not say he is as electrifying as Moore, his abilities to defend the pass are really the best any Commodore has had in my short lifetime. He racks up interceptions as well as anyone and his number of pass deflections is really outstanding even when compared to the best players in the nation. He is also the first player since DJ Moore to be recognized as an All-American. He also earned a spot on the All-SEC second team, an honor he achieved last season as well. Although he was not nearly this recognized in his true freshman season, injuries did cause him to see a good bit of minutes in the Music City Bowl.
T.J. Greenstone – It feels like he has been here forever, but his number of starts is somewhat skewed because of the number of snaps he got as a reserve defensive lineman. In fact, he received our Most Valuable Defensive Lineman reward after only one true start in his redshirt sophomore year. He had had his production somewhat hurt by injuries. Had a great game in the Music City Bowl as a redshirt freshman with four tackles, including one for a loss.
Chris Marve – Has started all but one game this team has played since their much-recognized middle linebacker was a redshirt freshman. He has always been productive despite playing in pain for a good bit of his career. No stats can match what he means for this team, not only on the defense but for the whole squad as well. Among the top tacklers in school history. Was a part of the 2008 All-American freshman team, 2009 All-SEC second team, and 2010 All-SEC second team. He received that same honor this season. His pro potential is somewhat hurt by his size but you can bet that he has eyes on him. He is an excellent student in the classroom, and the Memphis native will be returning home for the final game in a Commodore jersey. One of my favorite players all time, and probably one of yours as well. As for his last bowl game, he of course started and achieved ten tackles in the Music City Bowl.
Sean Richardson – Has started nearly every game at safety since Reshard Langford graduated. However, the biggest play of his career actually came his true freshman season as a special teams player who recovered a Boston College muffed punt in the endzone for the only Commodore touchdown of the 2008 Music City Bowl. Since then, he has joined Chris Marve and Casey Hayward as the faces of the defense. He has always been known as a big time tackler at great safety net, but he did get his first interception this season. He occasionally goes unmentioned, but I have been a huge fan of his since watching that epic Music City Bowl in person.
Larry Smith – Got his first start in the Music City Bowl as a redshirt freshman. While he will not be starting this time around, he still carries a legacy that we will remember. Smith looked excellent in his first start and has shown strides since that day, including winning the first three games of this season. He may not have produced the way he seemed to be foreshadowing as a freshman, but his popularity has lived through which can be seen though the respect he has received from fans since losing his starting job. It should also be noticed that he has been a major team player on the sidelines since that day.
Udom Umoh – He received the majority of his starts as a redshirt sophomore and junior. However, he has found himself his own role in the punt coverage unit and established himself as a big factor in that part of the game. While he has disappointed at times, he seems to have settled in his new play quite well since Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd have taken over his former position. It is often forgot though that he record a team-high three receptions for 29 yards in the Music City Bowl. He also had a solid four stops in the punt coverage unit. His speed is evident, and it has been good to see him find a good niche.