#SECPreviews- East: #7 Vanderbilt Commodores
I cannot begin to explain how painful it has been to research and write this one. Let’s get through it quickly so we can move back to the ‘intriguing teams’ category.
What Happened Last Year?
James Franklin proved, by moving on to Penn State, that he had done about as much good at Vanderbilt as possible. His replacement, Derek Mason, oversaw a 30-point home loss to Temple in the first game of his career, and was quoted at Media Days two weeks ago with the following statement:
I assumed we’d play like an SEC team…but we didn’t.
Not exactly confidence-inspiring stuff from the head man. The one SEC team they did play like? Historical Vanderbilt, but maybe a little worse. Their three wins came against UMass, Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion…by a combined 18 points. They saw four QB’s get starts and significant game action. They were outgained by 380 yards early against Ole Miss, 245 by Kentucky in the middle of the season, and 274 late against Mississippi State.
There is nothing to indicate that things will be any better this year, as 18 returning starters to a crap team makes a crap team just slightly better.
Three Key Games
When you’re this bad, they’re all important.
Sept. 5, Western Kentucky: Yeah, I’m serious. This, Austin Peay (Sept. 19), and at Middle Tennessee (Oct. 3) are the only truly winnable games for Vandy, and I’m including a trip to Houston and home dates with Kentucky and Missouri in the ‘sure loss’ category.
Oct. 17, at South Carolina: Hey, maybe they can get lucky and grease the wheels on Steve Spurrier’s departure.
Nov. 28, at Tennessee: Prediction is that this’ll be Mason’s last game before being canned.
Five Players to Watch
You know that scene in Breaking Bad where Lydia meets Mike at the diner and they don’t have any of her usual drinks? This is the Vanderbilt roster.
Enjoy your hot water, Lydia.
Ralph Webb, RB: The sophomore is the team leader, according to linebacker Nigel Bowden. Can’t tell you if that’s a good thing or not.
Johnny McCrary, QB: Something I notice in looking at this roster: there are 7 true sophomores listed in bold and caps, meaning they’re returning starters from last year. So…Mason took something that worked, recruits that were GREAT for Vanderbilt…and started his own guys instead? 31 of them? Yeah, 3-9 is starting to make more sense.
Nigel Bowden, LB: The sophomore (yeah, Mason brought two to media days) led the team in tackles with 78 in 2014.
Colby Cooke, P: Hall and I accurately predicted that Cooke would win the Vanderbilt punter battle on last year’s preview podcast, and his efforts made absolutely no discernible difference.
Stephen Scheu, TE: He’s a name I recognize, as the senior was the Commodores’ leading receiver last year, as well as– get this– a 2nd-team All-SEC performer! How about it?
In closing, I’m done. Yuck.