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Thread: Vanderbilt

  1. #1
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    Derek Mason addressed his first team going 3-9 one year after a nine-win season.

    “I know it's disappointing, the season we had a year ago, but that's a comma,” he said. “It's a comma, not a period.”

    Offensive lineman Spencer Pulley said it with a glass half full.

    “We're a different team this year,” he said. “(Last year) we didn't have that attitude of relentlessness.”

    Mason said the Vandy fan base should be fired up because his team returns 22 starters.

    “I know the publications say 18, but it's really 22,” he said. “This is a young, talented team.”


    Coach: Derek Mason, second season (3-9 overall).

    Last season: 3-9 overall, 0-8 in the SEC (7th in the East).

    Fans' expectations: With 22 starters returning, the Commodores have a chance to get things turned back in the right direction after a stunning and disappointing first season under Derek Mason. The offense should be much improved, led by tailback Ralph Webb, and the defense has enough proven players returning to be much more competitive than a year ago.

    Realistic expectations: The Commodores were 0-8 in the SEC last season, and there's a real possibility they will go down that path again in 2015. The East is stronger than it's been in recent years and the Commodores just don't have enough talent on either side of the ball to have a realistic shot to climb out of the cellar.

    Quotable: “Last year I assumed because we were in the SEC we would play like an SEC team. We didn't."

  2. #2
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    Why Vanderbilt will -- or won't -- make a bowl game

    After three years of arguably the best football Vanderbilt's program has ever seen, the Commodores fell flat in Derek Mason's first season as head coach in 2014.

    Three straight bowl trips were followed by a disastrous 3-9 season in which the Commodores were 0-8 in conference play. There was no confidence, little leadership and Vandy rarely found itself in any of its SEC games. This team even started the year with a 37-7 loss to Temple at home.

    So can Vandy turn it around in 2015?

    Why Vanderbilt will make a bowl game:

    Young, hungry defense: While the offensive side of the ball is a major work in progress, the Commodores like the makeup of their young but feisty defense. Vandy returns nine starters on this side of the ball and that defensive line could be an issue for opponents at times. Adam Butler has been solid in the middle since moving over from the offensive line, while Caleb Azubike might be the team's best athlete and he's moving back to the defensive end spot. At noseguard, you have potential rising stars in Jay Woods and Nifae Lealao. The star of this side might be sophomore linebacker Nigel Bowden, who led the team with 78 tackles last year and will play alongside seniors Stephen Weatherly and Darreon Herring. Sophomore safety Oren Burks is one to watch in Vandy's secondary, along with junior Torren McGaster at corner. Mason is also taking over as the defensive coordinator so he can be more hands-on with that side.

    Unity: Let's face it, this team was done before it even stepped on the field against Temple. After having a completely different mindset under the incredibly successful James Franklin, the Commodores didn't find much of a rhythm with Mason before the season. As the season progressed, guys developed more chemistry with Mason. Now, things are completely different inside the locker room. Unity is growing and guys are buying into Mason's philosophy. He also changed his offseason program to better accommodate his players both mentally and physically. Talent goes a long way, but so does chemistry, and the Commodores believe they have more chemistry than they've had since Mason arrived.

    Why Vanderbilt won't make a bowl game:

    Lack of offensive playmakers: Running back Ralph Webb was one of the top statistical SEC backs last season, but he can't do it all himself. Getting close to 1,000 yards was great, but he needs help both at running back and receiver. There just isn't much depth behind him. Dallas Rivers was thrown into the fire as a freshman last season and had a decent spring, but he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and didn't have a run longer than 12 yards. After that, there's not much at running back. As far as receiver, Vandy doesn't have a legit SEC receiver right now. C.J. Duncan averaged 15.8 yards per catch and led all wide receivers with four touchdowns last year, but he might have to play more running back this fall. Tight end Steven Scheu led the team with 39 catches and 525 yards last year, but he left spring early with a leg injury and his status to start the year is unknown. If Vandy's offense is going to test opponents, it has to get a lot more out of its very unproven receivers. Vandy returns just three players with double-digit catches from 2014.

    Quarterback issues: New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has his hands full here. Stephen Rivers transferred after a less-than-impressive year and Patton Robinette retired due to health reasons. That leaves sophomore Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck to immediately compete for the starting job this fall. Freshman Kyle Shurmur could be the future at quarterback, but Mason would like to redshirt him. The Commodores had four different starters under center last season and McCrary was the best statistically, but he didn't mount any sort of lead over Freebeck during the spring. Freebeck could take this job as more of a pro-style passer. But what happens if neither takes the torch? Maybe Shurmur has to play. What does Vandy stand to lose by starting someone who might have the most talent, even if he is incredibly green?

    Unfriendly road trips: After starting the season with three straight home games, Vandy must go on the road to Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee and South Carolina. After that, two of the Commodores' next three games are on the road (Houston and Florida). The season ends with a trip to Knoxville to face rival Tennessee. It's bad enough that the conference road games are tough but having to play two of those incredibly important nonconference games away from Nashville is brutal for a team looking to recover from last year's nightmare.

  3. #3
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    Vandy 1st opponent.

    Western Kentucky @ Vanderbilt
    current line Vanderbilt -2 -110

    Conventional powerhouse programs are casually uprooting, formats are being rearranged like kitchen tile, and dual-threat quarterbacks act as a quintessential for the modern era.

    It goes without saying that college football has nonchalantly flipped the switch, and the latest rendition of alchemy comes with the preview of Western Kentucky, a Conference USA bunch that catapulted its way up to 4th in the nation with 536.9 total yards per game in 2014.

    Can the ‘Toppers build off last season and be even better this year?

    2014 Record: 7-5

    Key Wins: at Navy, at Marshall, Bowling Green

    Players to Watch: QB Brandon Doughty, WR Taywan Taylor, WR Kylen Towner, DB Wonderful Terry

    The Offense

    Quarterback Brandon Doughty wasted little time in making his presence felt for the Hilltoppers, and this wasn’t a guy who just caught fire down the stretch; a triumphant 569 passing yards and six scores in week 1, and wallah, he’s thrown into the mix as a breakout candidate.

    I’m not sure anyone could foresee the rebirth of the Hilltopper offense, however.

    I joked with a close companion of mine in Bowling Green defensive tackle Zach Colvin, as he experienced the efficiency of Western Kentucky first-hand.

    “WKU played with great tempo on offense,” he said. “They have some guys who can make you miss on the perimeter which can be tough to match up with.”

    And on the subject of perimeter, nobody mingled the sidelines quite like wide receiver Jared Dangerfield, the JUCO transfer–and blessing for the offense–acting as a security blanket for Doughty especially when third-down situations came about.

    A superlative push in his initial season in the FBS, Dangerfield topped all receivers 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. And the fun doesn’t halt there.

    The Hilltoppers’ receiving corps eerily remind me of the traditional magic trick where the magician constantly pulls string from a hat that never ends. For Doughty, that’s how his targets dispensed in 2014.

    Seven receivers caught 20+ balls for 350+ yards and multiple scores. That’s seemingly ridiculous.

    So while a few will be missing from 2014’s star-studded crew in Willie McNeal and Mitchell Henry, Taywan Taylor returns following a monstrous year as Doughty’s all-everything guy, and I fully expect the development of WR/KR Kylen Towner to assist the offense in 2015.

    For the lowlights of the preview, standout running back Leon Allen has dealt with a few accounts of off-field issues, so with the possibility of disciplinary action, Western Kentucky may be short-handed at tailback, and if that’s the case, the question of how long that procedure elasticizes remains.

    What doesn’t necessarily concern me is the offensive line, especially given the system that Western Kentucky runs. With Doughty’s ability to fire the ball in the primary three and five-step drops, the assembly won’t need as much time as the prototypical offense would. Forrest Lamp, Max Halpin and Matt Nord will be common faces up front for a team that provided a solid balance in 2014.

    The Defense

    I’d have to devise a specific schedule, but I do not believe I’ve covered a complete team this offseason. For every run-and-gun offense comes a defense susceptible to letting their opponent hang 40 on them every weekend.

    For WKU, the trend holds true once more as you’re getting a taste of countless 120-type ranks in terms of defense. While the secondary looks improved with some key returners, a fruitful 2014 saw defensive back Wonderful Terry supply a handful of dazzling plays, including two game-sealing pick-sixes versus Navy and UTEP.

    I guess when your offense crosses the plane in under two minutes half the game, you tend to gasp for air and release the foot off the pedal, but I’d be surprised to see this unit as dismantled as they were a season ago as they carry some experience on both the defensive line and secondary.

    The Schedule

    Here’s my issue and the sole reason I’m not hanging up WKU banners atop my dorm room entryway.

    The Hilltoppers will open the season with a 3-9 Vanderbilt team from 2014, so while most perceive this a true ‘battle,’ let’s revisit some statistics courtesy of yours truly.

    Since 2013, current Conference USA clubs are a dismal 1-13 when paired with the SEC, giving up nearly 44 points per contest, while mustering less than two scores themselves.

    Vanderbilt may not be competing for SEC titles anytime soon, but the Commodores still encompass the physicality–and experience (upwards of 19 returning starters)–of the habitual down-south conference.

    The Hilltoppers then get tossed into a conference matinée with La Tech, a prime contender to overtake the C-USA, then take on another Power-Five foe in Indiana.

    I’m content on giving teams the benefit of the doubt, but Western Kentucky could very well open the season at 0-3; it’ll all be about the response if its bested early in the schedule. So with that come various cakewalks amidst the C-USA before a late-season rematch with Marshall, a team they ousted on their own turf in 2014, 67-66.

    Possible Outcome

    Like Marshall, I believe the offense can be just as good in 2015 with the amount of guys at wide receiver that piled up action last year in the rejuvenated scheme. The defense can only go up, so while the meat of the schedule winds up in the early month of the season, I believe WKU can seek a groove and coast through the middle of the order.

    It should be an exciting and presentable team once more to view on Saturdays, and with that I’ll mark down Western Kentucky as an 8-4 club and very well in the mix to snag a title in 2015.

  4. #4
    Registered User #cruncher's Avatar
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    Jul 1999
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    Thanks IE.
    "You are the world and the world is you"

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  5. #5
    Hail State! Corley1011's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    Madison, MS
    Vandy will lose to WKU in Week 1.
    "Happy Festivus"

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