Around the SEC: Vanderbilt Rocked by More Sexual Assault Allegations
The Southeastern Conference was already dealing with its fair share of off-field issues, including Commissioner Greg Sankey telling the state of Mississippi it won't host any more championships and Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill saying he won't play unless the flag is changed, when another explosive situation arose over the weekend at Vanderbilt.
Two former, and one current Vanderbilt players were implicated in sexual assault allegations. The three women made them on Twitter.
Per Greg Arias of Commodore Country, they quickly sent a chill through the fanbase, reminding them of another situation where four players were convicted of rape and sentenced to prison for their roles in 2017. One of those implicated over the weekend was on the team at that time,
The allegations brought a quick public response from Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Storey-Lee, who took to the same social media platform with a series of nine tweets:
"I am aware of the reports made about current and former Vanderbilt student-athletes, and I am heartbroken to hear them.
"To any individual who has endured the trauma of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, you have my full support and my assurance that Vanderbilt Athletics does not condone or tolerate such behavior.
"As a former student-athlete myself and someone who has dedicated herself to this university, I have no greater duty than making sure that all of the young people who come through Vanderbilt stay as safe and healthy as possible, and are able to succeed.
"To be clear, we take any and all allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness. As is the case for any Vanderbilt student, these allegations are handled by our Title IX and student accountability offices, and we fully respect their process and the outcomes of their reviews and decisions.
"We are committed to following that process, which is designed to be thorough and fair to all students. We continue to clearly communicate our values and expectations to our student-athletes, educate them, and we take immediate and decisive action if conduct is determined to be inconsistent with our requirements.
"Further, individuals found to have violated Vanderbilt's Sexual Misconduct Policy are held accountable.
"I can say with the utmost confidence that sexual assault and sexual misconduct are not issues we ignore. My commitment and that of our coaches, staff, and student-athletes to addressing these issues is as firm as ever."
Biggest defensive changes
Alabama losing at least six defensive starters from last season doesn't look nearly as bad as most teams in the SEC, especially when factoring in just one change in the coaching staff.
Here's a sampling of what some other defenses will be dealing with when training camps open:
Florida: It's hard to pick the one biggest change on Florida's defense, as cornerstone members of the unit in cornerback CJ Henderson, defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, middle linebacker David Reese II, among others all graduated following the 2019 season. Most big-time contributors found roles with NFL teams, meaning Florida's young defensive talent is tasked with replacing pro-caliber players, which is no easy task. — Zach Goodall, AllGators
LSU: With Dave Aranda out the door as defensive coordinator, obviously the biggest change LSU will undergo is bringing Bo Pelini and his 4-3 scheme back into the fold. Moving back to the 4-3 is something Ed Orgeron has wanted to do since taking over but there was always an extreme level of trust he had in Aranda. The Tigers are arguably the deepest up front, which is the most important element for a 4-3 based defensive scheme. LSU goes at least three and sometimes four deep at all defensive line positions. “We've got speed, we can run, we're blitzing,” Orgeron said in March. “I just think the 4-3 is built on speed and aggressive nature, and I think we have it." — Glen West, LSU Country
Ole Miss: It seems like defensive turnover at Ole Miss came in an all-or-nothing fashion. Ole Miss will be replacing nearly the entire defensive line, but bring back all of a very deep linebacking crew and a young secondary. With a new head coach, there's also a completely new set of faces calling the shots on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest questions from a coaching standpoint is who will be the one calling the shots. When Lane Kiffin took over in the winter, he actually signed two defensive coordinators. Former Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin and former Michigan linebackers and safeties coach Chris Partridge will share duties. To this point, it's unclear as to who exactly will be calling plays and making the in-game decisions if there is some disagreement. From a personnel perspective, the Ole Miss defense will run through a deep and experienced linebacking core of MoMo Sanogo, Jacquez Jones, Lakia Henry and Donta Jones. Two edge guys to keep an eye on will be Sam Williams – probably the most talented player on the defense – and freshman Demon Clowney, the cousin of Jadeveon Clowney. – Nate Gabler, The Grove Report
Mississippi State: The biggest change on defense is unquestionably, well….the whole defense. New head coach Mike Leach hired former San Diego State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, who is ushering in a 3-3-5 style, reminiscent of the late 1990s MSU teams under then-defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn. "I think you could give some B.S. answer and say, ‘We know we have this’, or, ‘We know we have that,’” Arnett told Cowbell Country in an extensive Q&A (Part I and Part II). “We haven’t got to have a single practice with them. How could any coach honestly know what your guys are good at doing, what you’re good at and what maybe you struggle with? It really is a waiting game. We have to get on the field and practice and figure out in a hurry, ‘Alright, these are our best players. This is what we do well. Now, how do we build the package around those skills and those guys – those top 11 guys?” — Joel Coleman, Cowbell Corner
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are having to replace some huge voids, specifically on the defensive line. South Carolina saw Javon Kinlaw, D.J Wonnum and Kobe Smith all make it to the NFL. Identifying their replacements has been a priority. Earlier this year after spring practice, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said he had high expectations for Zacch Pickens and Rick Sandidge. He's also excited to have Keir Thomas back after medically redshirting last season following an infection to his surgically repaired ankle. Kingsley "JJ" Enagbare is another name on that line that should see minutes and hopefully consistent production after showing flashes last year. — Chaunte'l Powell, Gamecock Digest. @chauntelpowell
Tennessee: Replacing familiar faces in Daniel Bituli, Darrell Taylor, and Nigel Warrior is the biggest defensive challenge. The Volunteers have a lot of natural talent at each position, but it still has to come together at a high level. Tennessee should be fine at safety, but replacing the other two will be tricky. If JJ Peterson can emerge this fall, Tennessee could have one of the more complete linebacker corps in the country, otherwise it will have to play by committee to fill the void. Kivon Bennett looks to be the next man up as a pass rusher, and competition will be stiff with coveted four-star prospects Tyler Baron and Morven Joseph battling for playing time. Expect the defensive unit to have some lumps early, but produce at a Jeremy Pruitt-level as the season progresses. — Matthew Ray, Volunteer Country
Vanderbilt: New defensive coordinator Ted Roof brings a long resume, including winning a national championship as Auburn's coordinator in 2010. Because of the stoppage of spring practice, the exact type of defense Roof will employ remains an unknown, but with several returning starters on that side, there is some experience on hand to allow him to hopefully build a better unit this season. — Greg Arias, Commodore Country