College Football Preview: The 2014 Vanderbilt Commodores
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: The Vanderbilt Commodores had another solid season with a 9-4 record and a bowl victory for the second straight year. The Commodores ended the year with six wins in their last seven games and proved to the rest of the SEC that the program is here to stay. Vanderbilt had the sixth-best defense in the conference and held four of its 13 opponents to 10 or less points. With James Franklin no longer the head coach, fans can’t help but wonder if the program can continue climbing up the ladder.
Offense: It remains a question as to who is going to replace Austyn Carta-Samuels at the quarterback position. The Vanderbilt coaching staff can choose between Patton Robinette, Johnny McCrary and Stephen Rivers. Robinette has the most experience, but he wasn’t great in limited action last year. McCrary is a redshirt freshman and Rivers is an LSU transfer and the younger brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Whoever wins the starting job won’t have the privilege of throwing to Jordan Matthews or Jonathan Krause, the two receivers who combined for 154 of Vandy’s 243 receptions. About the only good news surrounding Vanderbilt’s offense right now is Wesley Johnson is the only notable offensive lineman the team is missing from a year ago.
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Defense: Vanderbilt also loses a lot of experience on the defensive side, as Kenny Ladler, Javon Marshall and Andre Hal are all no longer on the team. That’s three of Vanderbilt’s top four tackles from last season. The good news for Commodores’ fans is that they’ll still have a solid pass rush with Kyle Woestmann and Caleb Azubike returning after combining for 10 sacks last year. Those two players will switch to outside linebacker in the new 3-4 defense and should thrive in their new roles. Vanderbilt’s secondary is going to look a little different with a lot of guys gone, but Paris Head and Andrew Williamson totaled five interceptions and proved they can make plays when needed. Regardless, this unit will need a lot of tweaking to be as good as it was last season.
Special Teams: Punters Taylor Hudson and Colby Cooke return after splitting duties last season. However, it won’t be easy to replace placekicker Carey Spear, who made nearly 80 percent of his field goal attempts for two straight seasons.
Outlook: Derek Mason is eventually going to become a fine coach for Vanderbilt, but there simply isn’t enough pieces in place for this team to make a run in the SEC East this season. The defense has changed schemes, the offense is retooling and the SEC schedule doesn’t get any easier. This may be the season Vanderbilt falls short of a bowl game for the first time in four years.