Vandy sustains another season-ending loss, this one to its starting LT

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Exactly eight days ago today, Vanderbilt announced that C.J. Duncan sustained a lower-leg injury that was serious enough to cost the wide receiver the entire 2015 season.  Unfortunately, a similar announcement was in the offing for that side of the ball.

Vandy announced Thursday that Andrew Jelks sustained a non-specified knee injury during an 11-on-11 practice session Wednesday night.  As a result, the offensive lineman will all of the upcoming season.

“I’m really disappointed for Andrew because he’s such a fine young man,” head coach Derek Mason said in a statement. “Andrew was having an excellent camp and was looking forward to having a big year. He’s a tremendous talent who commands respect throughout the locker room. Andrew’s a dedicated, hard worker and I know he will come back even stronger.

“It’s time for others to step up and claim a more substantial role in the success of our offense. We definitely have players on our roster that can fill the void left by Andrew’s departure.”

Jelks has started 22 games the past two seasons. He started 10 during his first on-field season with the Commodores, Jelks started 10 games in earning Freshman All-America honors. He followed that up by starting at 12 games at left tackle in 2014.

Prior to the injury, he was again expected to anchor the left side of Vandy’s line.

Ex-Vandy, LSU QB Stephen Rivers transfers to Northwestern… State


After giving a pair of FBS programs that old college try, the brother of Philip Rivers has decided to drop down a rung on the Div. I ladder.

Northwestern State head coach Jay Thomas confirmed late last week that Stephen Rivers has transferred into his football program. Because the Demons play at the FCS level, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

This season will mark Rivers’ final year of eligibility.

“We’re excited to add a quarterback with the maturity and ability that Stephen brings to Demon football. We are going to have a very lively competition for playing time at that position, to say the least,” Thomas said in a statement released by the school. “There’s a few different skill sets in the mix that we can take advantage of with our multiple offense.”

Rivers was originally a three-star member of LSU’s 2011 recruiting class. It was announced in February of 2014 that Rivers would be leaving the Tigers after playing in just four games in three years, ultimately ending up at Vanderbilt as a graduate transfer.

After playing in four games for the Commodores in 2014, Vandy announced in January of this year that if had given Rivers a release from his scholarship.

Rivers will immediately enter into the mix for a starting job as NSU is looking to replace record-breaking senior starter Zach Adkins.

“In searching for a school to finish my academic and football career, I put a bug in some teams’ ears that I thought might have interest in a transfer veteran quarterback. Northwestern State responded to my interest with interest of their own,” said Rivers in his own statement. “I was looking for a school with a sport administration master’s program, and NSU has that. On my visit to Northwestern State, I really enjoyed seeing the historic city, and the football venue in Natchitoches.

“The coaching staff and players at Northwestern State seem to have something special brewing. I watched film with the coaches and I feel that I am a good fit for the system they run,” said Rivers. “I am excited to get started this summer and meet my new teammates. I look forward to applying all I have learned in my four years in the SEC and doing whatever I can to help Northwestern State win a conference championship.”

Likely starter at QB for Vandy chooses medical school over football


Somewhat abruptly and unexpectedly, the dynamic of Vanderbilt’s quarterback competition has has undergone a dramatic shift.

Friday, Vandy issued a press release announcing that Patton Robinette has decided to retire from the game of football.  A history of injuries, including a concussion last September, influenced the quarterback’s decision to some degree.

The school stated that Robinette spoke frequently with his parents, close acquaintances, Vanderbilt physicians and athletic trainers, and Commodore coaches before walking away from the sport in a fashion similar to the recent retirements of Chris Borland and Jack Miller.

“This has been a very difficult decision to make,” Robinette said in a statement sent out by the school. “This team means the world to me and I love playing football more than anything. It’s been tough coming to a decision that is right for my family and I, and protects my health and future.

“I’ve been very deliberate in coming to this decision. It’s difficult but I’m really excited to move forward to the next chapter of my life and really to see what the field of medicine has in store for me.”

Exiting the spring game this past Saturday, Robinette was widely viewed as the favorite to land the starting job. Less than a week ago, Robinette was stating that he was “going to have to go out this offseason and camp and compete to maintain my position at the top,” adding, “I am going to work hard and do [just] that.”

Six days later, Robinette will now be preparing for medical school instead of summer camp.

While concern over his health played a role in his decision, a significant one, so did the opportunity to embark on a medical career sooner rather than later.

“People have made a big deal of the concussion thing,” said Robinette during a press conference. “That’s certainly a factor, but more than that I’m looking at moving forward in my medical career and seeing where that takes me.

“Though football is an amazing game and I’ve loved playing the game at Vanderbilt, for myself and my future family, there are more important things than me trying to have one last stand. It was difficult to come to that decision.”

The past two seasons, Robinette started five of the 16 games in which he played.  The pinnacle of Robinette’s playing career very well could’ve come in 2013, with the school writing “[t]o many Commodore fans, Robinette’s greatest contribution came on Nov. 23, 2013 when his 5-yard rushing touchdown proved the winning margin over Tennessee in Knoxville.”

That was the second-straight win for the Commodores over the in-state rival Vols, but just the third in the last 31 years.

With Robinette out of the picture, redshirt sophomore Johnny McCrary will likely enter camp as a slight favorite to win the starting job. Also in the mix will be sophomore Wade Freebeck and redshirt freshman Shawn Stankavage, with incoming freshman and 2015 four-star signee Kyle Shurmur joining the fray this summer.

McCrary and Freebeck were two of the four quarterbacks who started at least one game last year for the ‘Dores.  The other player to start a game under center last year, Stephen Rivers, was granted a release from his Vandy scholarship this past January with the intention of transferring.

Vandy gives QB Stephen Rivers release from scholarship


Vanderbilt has given quarterback Stephen Rivers a full release from his scholarship, allowing Rivers to seek a transfer to another school for the final year of his eligibility in college.

“I have been granted a release from Vanderbilt,” Rivers announced on Twitter. “I am very appreciative of the opportunity they gave me. Wish everyone there the best.”

Because Rivers is a senior, he will be eligible to play at any FBS program in 2015 rather than be forced to sit out a season. This will be the second transfer for Rivers during his college career. Rivers initially started out at LSU before transferring to Vanderbilt a year ago.

“I am looking forward to playing and contributing to the success of another team and finishing my final year of eligibility,” Rivers also said on Twitter.

Rivers appeared in five games in 2014, passing for 334 yards and three interceptions.

Rivers is the younger brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

First-half domination of Mizzou leaves Bama 30 minutes from SEC title


If Alabama’s defense plays in the second half the way it did in the first, you can go ahead and stick a fork in the game; it’s done.

Through two quarters of play in the 2014 SEC championship game, ‘Bama has limited Missouri’s offense to just 108 total yards in taking a 21-3 lead into the halftime locker room.  Mizzou was limited to just three first downs, the first of which didn’t come until late in the first quarter on its third possession, and didn’t cross midfield until there were less than 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

58 of the Tigers’ yards came on a pair pass plays in which quarterback Maty Mauk was flushed out of the pocket.  The running game was nonexistent as the Tide held the Tigers to 21 yards on 10 carries.

The Tide, meanwhile, rolled to 248 yards of offense against a very good Tiger defense.  A one-yard T.J. Yeldon touchdown run on the game’s opening possession put UA up early, a lead that they then extended on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to DeAndrew White early in the second quarter.  Another Yeldon run late in the second quarter, this one from two yards out, pushed the lead to 21-3.

Sims was nearly flawless in the passing game the first 30 minutes, completing 15-of-17 passes 160 yards and the touchdown.  The first-year starter wasn’t perfect, though, as he fumbled twice in  a span of three plays.  Fortunately for all UA parties involved, both of those fumbles were recovered by the Tide.

All-American Amari Cooper caught 10 first-half passes, just two shy of breaking Florida wide receiver Reidel Anthony‘s SEC championship game record of 11 set in 1996.  Those 10 receptions, though, went for just 61 yards as the passes to the receiver essentially served as extended handoffs.  Cooper did set a first-half record: single-season receptions.  The junior now has 113 catches in 2014, breaking the mark of 112 by Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews last season.

Adding further insult to scoreboard injury, Mizzou will be without one of the best defensive ends in the country for the remainder of the game.  With 11:48 remaining in the second quarter, Shane Ray was — correctly, mind you — called for targeting on a hit to Sims’s chin well after he connected with White on the long touchdown pass.  Ray came into the game tied for fourth in the country in sacks (13.5) and tied for third in tackles for loss (20.5).