2011 Record: 6-7 (2-6 in SEC)
Head Coach: James Franklin
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Liberty Bowl: lost to Cincinnati 31-24
Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 7)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Jordan Rodgers (9 TD, 10 INT), RB Zac Stacy (1193 yards rush, 14 TD), WR Jordan Matthews (41 rec, 5 TD), WR Chris Boyd (31 rec, 8 TD)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Archibald Barnes (58 tackles), S Kenny Ladler (53 tackles), LB Chase Garnham (51 tackles), CB Trey Wilson (3 INT), DT Rob Lohr (4.5 sacks)
Top Recruits: RB Brian Kimbrow (Scout.com’s #27 RB), MLBHarding Harper (#32 MLB), QB Patton Robinette (#38 QB), OT Andrew Jelks (#43 OT)
For the first time since the Jay Cutler era, Vandy has some offensive firepower. The offense became much better when Jordan Rodgers took over at quarterback midway through the season in 2011. His efficiency wasn’t the best last season, but it is expected to improve as a full-time starter.
“I thought (Rodgers) did a lot of things last year, made a lot of plays with his feet,” Franklin said. “Frim the time the season ended ‘til now, it’s night and day. You guys have all been following the game long enough. You know the difference between a quarterback’s first and second year, it’s not even close.”
The Commodores have one of the best receiving duos in the SEC, which will greatly help Rodgers. Jordan Mathews finished with 41 catches for 778 yards and 5 touchdowns. He should be the team’s No. 1 target. Chris Boyd also should contribute. He was very effective last year, especially in the red zone (scored 8 TDs).
Running back Zac Stacy is back for his senior season. He rushed for 1,267 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Bob Shoop’s unit held its own in the SEC ranking 7th in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. Several playmakers are gone, including Casey Hayward who had 62 tackles and 7 interceptions.
The question is, can the defense replace the irreplaceable parts? Tim Fugger, the team’s top pass rusher is gone. Chris Marve, who is the team’s leading tackler and leader of the nation’s 18th ranked defense is gone. Defensive back Sean Richardson is gone as well. Chase Garnham will be called upon to fill in for Marve, but he needs to show he’s ready to lead the defense. Trey Wilson has the potential to be the No. 1 corner. Kenny Ladler, Eric Samuels and Javon Marshall all show promise, but they’re going to face a tough schedule that includes more decent passing teams.
Schedule: 2012 Vanderbilt Commodores
2012 Prediction: 9-3
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