Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin sees the talent in defensive end Kyle Woestmann.
Franklin looks at Woestmann as a weapon who possesses the strength and speed to blow by an offensive lineman and get to the opposing quarterback.
Franklin also fears someone is keeping Woestmann from being even better — Kyle Woestmann.
“Kyle is his own worst critic,” Franklin said. “He is too hard on himself. He wants to be perfect. That is the way he trains. That is the way he lifts. That is the way he eats. He needs to come out here and play the game and have fun. He works too hard all offseason not to just come out and let it fly. He is too critical on himself. He has to be perfect every play. It doesn’t have to be.”
That has been Franklin’s message to the redshirt-freshman through the first two and a half weeks of fall preseason practice.
On Monday, Woestmann heeded his coach’s advice.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder impressed in one-on-one drills against the defensive line. Later, he spun around an offensive lineman and knocked running back Micah Powell on his rear end en route to a sack. This caused Franklin to yell, “That was a hell of a play, Kyle.”
“Coach Franklin and I had a talk [Monday] and he got me mentally right,” Woestmann said. “I was overanalyzing everything. I just need to go out and have fun. ... I really just go out there and try to play as physical as I can and just hit everybody I can. That tends to work the best.”
Woestmann, who played on both sides of the line at Walton High School in Marietta, Ga., gained about 20 pounds in the offseason and focused on being the “top guy exploding off the line.” But he came down with the flu a few weeks before preseason practices began and lost about 15 pounds.
“This summer was a lot of hard work. I have been trying to stay healthy,” he said. “I had to gain it all back right before camp. I was kind of messed up going into camp. I am just pulling it together and trying to work hard. ... I am usually a very disciplined player. That is where at camp I have been struggling a little bit with my discipline and doing what I am supposed to do and not doing other people’s jobs. I am trying to get back to that.”
Monday’s productive practice wasn’t new for Woestmann, who enjoyed a successful spring after he sat out the 2010 season. He also hurried the quarterback several times during Saturday’s scrimmage and even sacked two-year starter Larry Smith in the end zone for a safety.
Woestmann played with the first-team defense on Saturday.
There is a good chance he could trot out there with the starters on Sept. 3 against Elon, too. Sophomore Walker May has been sidelined all preseason with an undisclosed injury. Johnell Thomas has been in and out of a red injury jersey and did not participate in position drills on Monday.
“Honestly, the depth chart isn’t set in stone and it doesn’t mean anything,” Woestmann said about a possible starting position. “Coach has just been rotating everybody around, giving everybody different looks. So I am not counting on anything right now. I am just trying to go out and play.”
• Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels watched his future teammates practice on Monday.
Carta-Samuels is a transfer from the University of Wyoming who will sit out the 2011 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Carta-Samuels, who will be a junior, threw for more than 1,700 yards in each of his last two seasons. He also has 758 career rushing yards and was named the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2009.
He would provide Division I experience to a position that is low on it. Two-year starter Larry Smith is a senior this season. Pushing behind him are junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers, walk-on John Townsley, and freshmen Josh Grady, Kris Kentera and Lafonte Thourogood.
• The Commodores are less than two weeks away from their season opener on Sept. 3. But Franklin says he isn’t ready to unleash a two-deep depth chart.
“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you — in terms of posting it,” Franklin said. “I haven’t even thought about that part of it. We have an idea of what we are doing and the direction we are going and so do the players.”
• Sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Krause wore a bandage on his left wrist, along with a red injury jersey and did not practice Monday. Safety Javon Marshall also donned red but he still put on a helmet and practiced. The same was true for offensive lineman Jabo Burrow, who has sat out most of fall camp.
Center Logan Stewart and defensive end Walker May have not practiced since fall preseason camp began nearly three weeks ago. But Franklin isn’t tipping his hand, preferring not to mention the specifics of injuries.
“I expect everybody to be game ready,” Franklin said.