Ryan Hamilton’s season is over but – if Vanderbilt has its way – not his career.
The Commodores’ starting free safety will undergo surgery this week for a torn muscle in his chest sustained early in Saturday’s 23-9 loss at LSU. The injury will cause him to miss the remainder of the season.
Coach Bobby Johnson said Monday that the university would petition the NCAA to grant the senior a medical redshirt. Hamilton already is in his fifth year of eligibility because he was redshirted as a true freshman in 2005.
“There are all kinds of different cases (in which) players have been give (a sixth year of eligibility),” Johnson said. “Usually, I think they like to see, basically, two injuries – not just a redshirt year and an injury on top of it. … But we’ll probably make that petition, and I think we have a good case for bringing Ryan back.
“Hopefully, they’ll look at it the same way we do.”
Hamilton played the entire first half and was credited with five tackles. He watched the second half with his arm in a sling.
“He actually played about a quarter and a half with the muscle torn off his humerus bone, so that tells you how tough he is,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be really tough to deal with that.”
Joel Caldwell, also a fifth-year senior, will take Hamilton’s place in the starting lineup. He has appeared in 37 games (with 11 starts) in his career.
“I think Ryan is an All-SEC caliber safety,” Johnson said. “He had a great year last year and he started off with a great game against Western (Carolina).”
Starting right tackle James Williams also will miss the remainder of the season. He too will undergo surgery this week, in his case for a dislocated ankle.
A third-year sophomore out of Smyrna, he earned a starting role this season despite the fact that seven other offensive linemen came into the season with starting experience. Williams played in just three games – with no starts – as a freshman.
Redshirt-freshman Caleb Welchans replaced Williams against LSU, but Johnson said junior Reilly Lauer and sophomore Kyle Fischer also would be considered as long-term options.
“We’ll look at the whole cast that’s available,” Johnson said. “… We’ll see what our best combination is. Everybody needs to be ready.”
At 1-1, Vanderbilt needs a victory Saturday against Mississippi State to avoid falling below .500 for the first time in nearly two years.
The Commodores opened last season with five straight victories, improved to 6-4 with their triumph at Kentucky and ended the regular season 6-6. Their Music City Bowl victory over Boston College clinched their first winning season since 1982.
The last time the school went at least 15 straight games with a record of .500 or better was when it went 17 in row during the 1974 and 75 seasons.
VU won three of its first four in 1974 on its way to a 7-3-2 mark. It won three of four to start 1975 as well before it fell to 3-4 with three straight defeats.
“We want to get back over .500, back on the winning ways,” senior center Bradley Vierling said. “That’s the first thing this team was talking about in the locker room after the game Saturday … how we’re ready to go, get to the next game and get this next victory.”
Quarterback Larry Smith completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (11 of 24) against LSU, but that does not mean he missed the mark with the majority of his throws.
Commodores’ receivers dropped several throws, one of which turned into an interception.
“I pat them on the back and just say, ‘Catch the ball the next time,’ because I know it’s kind of hard for them once they drop a pass,” Smith said. “It lowers their confidence. So I just try to keep their confidence up.
“It was maybe three or four, but I know the conditions weren’t the best to play in.”
Linebacker Nate Campbell, a redshirt-junior, has been dismissed from the team for a violation of university rules and no longer is enrolled at Vanderbilt.
The Hazen, Ark., native had 16 tackles in 25 career games. He was second on the depth chart following preseason workouts but did not appear in either of the first two games of the season.