Linebacker Recruiting: Vandy's backup options

(VM/Stan Jones)

The linebacker position has been one of Vanderbilt's strongest over the years. This recruiting season Vanderbilt is expected to sign at least two linebackers. The Commodore staff has already tendered offers to several linebacking stars but it looks like some of those offers may go unaccepted. Here are some players that might pickup an offer in the event the Vanderbilt staff's ...

...first choices decide to take their services elsewhere.

A glance at the Vanderbilt Eligibility Chart shows that after the 2010 season Patrick Benoist and Brent Trice will be gone. It was recently revealed that Brandon Bryant's career at Vandy is over. In 2010 John Stokes, Nate Campbell and Austin Newton say goodbye. Because of this natural attrition, VandyMania projects the Commodore staff to sign at least two linebackers.

The Commodore coaches have already offered several outstanding linebackers but none have yet committed and several have either eliminated Vandy or decided on another school. Just last week Prince Shimbo, a Scout.com 3-star player from Charlotte, N.C. that Vanderbilt had offered, announced he was heading to Notre Dame.

Right now, Vanderbilt's best hope of getting one of its first choice linebackers is Florida player Vinnie Mauro, who has visited Nashville and spoke highly of both the city and Vanderbilt. He has a great relationship with Vanderbilt linebacking coach Warren Belin. However, Mauro, an excellent student and citizen, is also high on Navy and may very well decide to become a Midshipman instead of a Commodore.

After Mauro, Vanderbilt's best chance at landing a stellar linebacker is Indianapolis product Joe Gilliam but Gilliam recently said Northwestern and Purdue are his favorites slightly over Vanderbilt and others. Another prospect Vandy offered, Justin Parker, hasn't mentioned Vanderbilt in any of his recent updates.

What will Vanderbilt do if no one from their first group of offered linebackers commits? They'll have to either skip recruiting linebackers this season which creates the possibility that with injuries and attrition they might not have enough linebackers in the future. Another option is that Vandy will go to plan B: offer more linebackers. The Commodore staff realizes this could happen as they've kept in contact with several sleeper linebacker prospects that could be players at the next level.

One player the Commodore staff has kept their eyes on is Landmark Christian School (Fairburn, Ga.) linebacker/defensive end Josh Gebhardt. Gebhardt has offers from Air Force and Georgia State. Gebhardt has good speed and at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds has good size. He was recently invited to participate in the Offensive-Defensive All-American Bowl. Gebhardt has worked hard to improve his recruiting standing but expressed frustration to VandyMania that he hasn't gotten more interest, "I don't get it, I ran a 4.60 in the 40 at Duke, A 4.27 in the shuttle at Vandy and I am 6-foot-3, 220. I had 15.5 sacks last year and 26 tackles for losses." Gebhardt's luck might change soon if Mauro falls through for Vandy. He says Vanderbilt is recruiting him as a linebacker and not a defensive end.

Other Vanderbilt options for linebacker:

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Michael Copeland (6-2, 211) Valdosta, Ga
Desmond Kearse (6-2, 185) Fort Myers, Fla.
Nick Crewe (6-3, 215) The Woodlands, Texas
Aaron Gambroah (6-1, 190) Gainesville, Ga.
Taylon Hunter (6-0, 210) Roanoke, Ala.
Kurt Killens (6-2, 205) Austin, Texas
Cory Lee (5-11, 200) Prattville, Ala.
Austin Kirpes(6-2, 210) Rowlett, Texas
Barry Lenon (6-1, 207 Suwanee, Ga.
Tyler Owens (6-1, 195) Lithia Springs, Ga.
Lawrence Peterson (6-2, 225) Memphis, Tenn.
Jeremy Robertson (5-11, 230) Bessemer, Ala.
Lowell Williams (6-1, 205) Missouri City, Texas
Mitchell Osborne (6-3, 205) Southlake, Texas

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

Whit Whitfield (6-3, 225) Birmingham, Ala.
Blake James (6-1, 220) Little Rock, Ark.
Josh Hood (6-0, 215) Jacksonville, Fla.
Josh Harrison (6-1, 220) Huber Heights, Ohio
Matt Farris (6-0, 210) Greensboro, N.C.
Travis Donaldson (6-1, 225) Denmark, S.C.
Michael Carlisle (6-2, 200) Jonesboro, Ga.
Ferlando Bohanna (6-1, 24) Memphis, Tenn.
DeAndre Little (6-1, 231) Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Aaron Armstrong (6-1, 225) Neenah, Wisc.

You can also bet that the Commodore staff won't give up on recruiting linebackers that have already committed to other schools. Verbal commitments are not binding and in the past the Vanderbilt staff has continued to recruit players who have committed to other schools. Earl Bennett (Kentucky) and Greg Billinger (Georgia) are examples of players who have defected to Vanderbilt after first making commits to other schools.

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