Five Commodores unavailable for Week One due to injuries, opt out, quarantine

BJ Anderson, Brendon Harris, Elijah McAllister, Michael Owusu and Feleti Afemui will not be available against Texas A&M due to three injuries, an opt out and one in quarantine housing.


Brendon Harris (13) celebrates a tackle with Elijah McAllister (41) against LSU in 2019. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Five Commodores will unavailable for Vanderbilt’s 2020 season opener against Texas A&M, head football coach Derek Mason confirmed in Tuesday’s press conference.

Vanderbilt athletics released its 2020 depth chart and four notable players—defensive back BJ Anderson, safety Brendon Harris and linebackers Elijah McAllister, Michael Owusu and Feleti Afemui—were not included on the list.

Anderson appeared in all 12 contests as a redshirt freshman cornerback last season, tallying 25 tackles in nine starts. Harris, also a redshirt freshman in 2019, appeared in 11 games and finished fourth on the team with 51 tackles. They will both be sidelined in Week One, but Mason suggested their availabilities will be reevaluated on a week-to-week basis.

“[Anderson and Harris] won’t be available for game one. Those guys have injuries that they’re battling back from,” he said. “We’re just waiting to see exactly where that takes us.”

McAllister, on the other hand, appears to have a more significant injury. The redshirt sophomore started in 12 contests last season, registering 26 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. After confirming McAllister’s injury, Mason did not give a specific timeline for his return, stating that it “may be midseason.”

Vanderbilt will have to play with a shorthanded linebacking corps on Saturday, with McAllister, Afemui and Owusu rendered unavailable. Owusu, who only played in eight games last season and finished with eight tackles, was recently admitted to quarantine housing and will have to miss Week One.

“He will be available [later this season],” Mason said of Owusu. “Michael actually went into quarantine a little while ago, and we’re still waiting for him to come out the other side. … He won’t be available this game, but as soon as he gets out, he will be available to us.”

Afemui racked up 46 tackles as a redshirt sophomore in 2019, starting at inside linebacker in all ten appearances. He will not be available throughout the 2020 season, as Coach Mason said that Afemui had previously decided to opt out due to concerns regarding COVID-19.

“Feleti opted out for the 2020 season, so we’ll see Feleti back in the spring. Feleti looked at what was going on with him and his family, and I thought he did what made sense for him,” Mason said. “I talk to him frequently and just try to make sure that we can continue to be a resource to him in any way we can.”

By opting out, Afemui joins placekicker Oren Milstein and offensive linemen Stephen Spanellis, Cole Clemens, Jonathan Stewart and Bryce Bailey, bringing Vanderbilt’s reported number of opt outs to six. It remains unclear if there are more than six, as Coach Mason declined to provide a number of opt outs for the third consecutive week.

“You know what? Most of the guys that have opted out—I mean, we’ve only had a couple guys opt out as of lately. Like for me, I haven’t really kept track of the numbers. I haven’t really paid much attention to it to be honest. I’m just so far in the game prep, worrying about the guys available to us. I haven’y really looked at it,” Mason said. “Next time we talk, I’ll pay a little closer attention to it and I’ll give you an exact number.”