#60 Vanderbilt Football 2014 Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores
Overall Rank: #60
#13 SEC
Vanderbilt had some “golden years” recently under James Franklin.  They have been competitive in the SEC, a conference that generally dominated the Commodores.  They have some recent success during bowl season as well, receiving a bowl bid in each of the last three seasons (winning two).  Franklin was plucked away by Penn State after his dazzling success in Nashville.  Enter Derek Mason, the leader of the stifling Stanford defense last few seasons.  He has appointed Karl Dorrell, formerly the head coach of UCLA, as his offensive coordinator.  It will be an interesting look for the Commodores.  Maintaining success at Vanderbilt will not be easy, especially after losing a lot of talent off of last season’s roster. 
2013 Record: 9-4, 4-4
2013 Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Houston (W 41-24)
Coach: Derek Mason (0-0 at Vanderbilt, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Karl Dorrell
Defensive Coordinator: David Kotulski
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jerron Seymour, RB, 716 yards
Passing: Patton Robinette, QB, 642 yards
Receiving: Jerron Seymour, RB, 126 yards
Tackles: Darreon Herring, LB, 84
Sacks: Kyle Woestmann, LB, 6.0
Interceptions: Paris Head, DB, 3


Other Key Returnees: RB Brian Kimbrow, OL Joe Townsend, LB Caleb Azubike, DL Vince Taylor, S Andrew Williamson
Key Losses: QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, WR Jordan Matthews, OL Wesley Johnson, WR Jonathan Krause, DB Kenny Ladler, DB Andre Hal, S Javon Marshall, DE Walker May, K Carey Spear


If this year’s team is anything like last year’s, Vanderbilt’s success will be predicated on defense.  Franklin was able to vault the Commodores’ defense into an SEC caliber unit over his tenure.  Hiring a defensive-minded coach should help facilitate a smooth continuation of defensive dominance.  Darreon Herring returns at inside linebacker to lead the defense.  The defensive backs will be key.  Vanderbilt was stout in pass defense efficiency last season.  Losing Kenny Ladler is big, but Paris Head returns after a multi-interception season last year.  They were an athletic, ball-hawking unit last season that allowed Vanderbilt to create issues for opposing quarterbacks.  Mason will likely continue to hone in on that side of the ball.


The Commodores tended to struggle on the offensive side of the ball last season.  They were dead last in the conference in rushing in the SEC.  Returning rushing leader Jerron Seymour only had 716 yards on the ground.  Franklin usually concentrated on the air game, but the SEC is generally a grind-it-out conference.  A run game is crucial.  Mason will surely want to improve that this season.  Vanderbilt loses a whole lot of experience from the roster entering 2014.  They lose their steady quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, along with leading receiver Jordan Matthews, a converted quarterback.  In fact, their three leading receivers have all moved on.  Even with their issues throwing the ball last season, losing most of your receiving corps is never a positive. 


The Bottom Line:
Any coaches’ first year is a learning curve.  It will be Mason’s first shot at head coaching at this level.  It will take him some time to implement his system, culture, and philosophy.  However, between himself and the coaching staff he has in place, there are countless years of coaching experience to help alleviate transitional difficulties.  He has a lot of production to replace, and that will be the number one priority heading into the first game of the year.  It is not unreasonable to believe Vanderbilt will take a step back this season as Mason becomes accustomed to life in the SEC.


Projected Bowl: None


2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 139.0 (92nd in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 227.5 (67, 9)
Total Offense: 366.5 (93, 10)
Scoring Offense: 30.1 (56, 8)
Rushing Defense: 147.8 (40, 5)
Pass Defense: 206.9 (23, 6)
Total Defense: 354.8 (23, 6)
Scoring Defense: 24.6 (46, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.5 (29, 4)
Sacks:  2.15 (56, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.54 (96, 13)

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:

#116 Nifae Lealao