Townsend deserving of SEC award

Joseph Townsend (VM-Stan Jones)

On Monday Vanderbilt center Joe Townsend was named the SEC's Offensive Lineman of the Week. It was a smart pick by the SEC and a deserving award for the local favorite product.

Jose Townsend, from Hendersonville, wasn't heavily recruited in high school. Other than Vandy, he had offers from the likes of Arkansas State, Buffalo, MTSU, Southern Illinois and Ohio. There was one key attribute that attracted these college recruiters to Townsend and that was his enormous strength. Townsend could bench press an impressive 410 pounds while still playing prep ball. That bull like power is what likely led to the Vanderbilt staff extending an offer in the final days of the 2011 recruiting season. That late decision paid dividends on Saturday.

The 6-foot-4, 305 pound Townsend was a key cog in Vanderbilt's 17-13 win over Auburn. He graded an excellent 88 percent on his blocks and had four blocks that led to either Commodore touchdowns or first downs. The offensive line's solid blocking helped Vanderbilt gain 209 yards on the ground and Zac Stacy became Vandy's all-time leading rushing after gaining 169 yards. Meanwhile, the Tigers weren't able to sack quarterback Jordan Rodgers during the contest.

There was concern during the Florida game when starting center Spencer Pulley limped off the field with an injury. The center position isn't your run of the mill position. It's vitally important that a center can not only block but also snap the ball effectively to the quarterback. Botched snaps and other snafus can be drive killers. However, Townsend- who played mostly on the defensive line in high school- not only held his own against the Gators but was solid again on Saturday.

On Monday Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin beamed with pride as he spoke of Townsend.

"He's a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar kid who is very intelligent," said Franklin. "He's very appreciative and very proud of the opportunity he has at Vanderbilt. Partly, that's how he's been raised, but it's also partly from the community and Hendersonville High School. It's a great program with great coaches. I think it really reflects what we're trying to do: get great kids from great high school programs."

Townsend had just gotten out of the shower on Monday morning when he received a surprise call from Franklin informing him of his SEC honors. However, a consummate team player, Townsend directed the praise towards his fellow linemen.

"It's a great honor, but at the same time it's a unit award. It goes to the whole offensive line and our team. Without everybody working together and playing together, then nobody can get it, so it goes out to everybody."

The center position at times has been a big question mark for Vanderbilt the past few seasons. Now, with the emergence of Townsend along with the reliability of Spencer Pulley, Vanderbilt coaches and fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

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