Here are some notes from last season’s Vanderbilt-Northwestern game. This post will largely focus on Vanderbilt’s prospects that I took a look at, and Part II will focus on the Northwestern prospects plus a sleeper prospect from a very small conference (hint, he is a wide receiver). Enjoy and look out for Part II later this week after I watch the rest of the film for Northwestern’s prospects!

Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt– Heyward seems to be a very fundamentally sound player. He has a smooth backpedal as far as I can tell, he changes directions fluidly and has good footwork when chopping feet to close on plays in front of him. He locates the ball well in the air and has good ball skills. He has good speed and fluid hips to turn and run with receivers and he has good size to match up with receivers on the outside. He also closes well on plays in front of him and seems to have a good burst. He is a good tackler when he wants to be, but he does not support the run aggressively and overwhelmingly prefers to avoid blocks rather than attack and shed them. He does not set the edge very well but he is a reliable last line of defense and actually flashes some pop as a hitter. I am hoping to see more aggressiveness in run support as a senior, but overall he is a good cover corner who is fundamentally sound even if he isn’t flashy. He is going to move up boards if he has another good year this year I can tell you that much.

Chris Marve, ILB, Vanderbilt- I’m a big fan of Marve but he doesn’t shed blocks well and doesn’t have elite athleticism either. However, he is a very good tackler, has impressive instincts and flows to the ball very well. He also demonstrates some ability in coverage. He is always near the ball and shows demonstrates good instincts. He has an impressive feel for the game that makes up for his lack of elite athleticism. He flashes some pop as a hitter but is a very fundamentally sound tackler who rarely arm tackles based on the film that I watched of him. He isn’t great in coverage because of his lack of ideal straight line speed, but he gets reasonably good depth in his drops and looks comfortable in space. He also shows some burst to close as a blitzer and seems to time his rushes well, and clearly understands his assignments when blitzing (whether to make sure to contain the QB or go for the sack, etc.). He is also assignment conscious as a run and pass defender. I’m not sure what kind of intangibles he possesses, but being such a reliable starter at a young age indicates some level of intangibles. Whether he is a team leader or captain or not I am not sure. I would be a bit surprised if he wasn’t a captain this upcoming season. Plus he will only be a junior in 2011 so he definitely has upside. He will be a NFL linebacker, I guarantee it.

Eddie Foster, CB, Vanderbilt- Foster is only going to be a junior in 2011 so he definitely has some upside. I want to see him improve his tackling and his transitions (chopping his feet when he makes a break on the ball or flipping his hips to turn and run with a receiver) could use a bit of work. He’s only 5’10”, 175 pounds so he is pretty small, but depending on his speed he could definitely be a NFL corner. He is relatively unknown at this point and was targeted relatively frequently because he is playing opposite Casey Hayward. He demonstrated some intriguing ball skills and is more aggressive in run defense than Hayward is despite his lack of ideal size. He also works harder to attack and shed blocks which I like to see. He looks pretty fast to me which is critical to his potential as a NFL corner because at his size (listed at 5’10”, potentially 5’9”) he will need to have athleticism on his side to make it to the next level. I look forward to seeing how he progresses next season as a junior.

Sean Richardson, Safety, Vanderbilt- Richardson will be a junior safety in 2011 but he is not on the same level as guys like Casey Hayward or Eddie Foster, fellow teammates in Vandy’s secondary. Richardson is a good tackler and he supports the run well, showing good closing speed and recognition in this part of the game. However, he is a huge liability in coverage, either man or zone, and gave up two touchdowns on his own (one in zone, one in man) against Northwestern. He just doesn’t have the same instincts or ability in coverage that he does versus the run. Because he is such a liability his NFL ceiling is a back-up and special teams player, I can’t really fathom him being a starter given his issues in coverage.

Brandon Barden, TE, Vanderbilt- I think Barden is a huge sleeper this year because he was a popular target for anyone playing quarterback at Vanderbilt last year and clearly has upside as a receiver thanks to his good combination of size, athletic ability and impressive hands. I had no idea who he was until I watched Vanderbilt play and saw him make some tough catches, and I think he will really rise over the course of his senior year in 2011. I can’t wait to see if he starts to move up draft boards this season.

Thanks for reading my notes on Vanderbilt’s prospects! Northwestern’s prospects will soon follow along with my surprise small school prospect to watch out for! Keep an eye out!

–Tom