2012 Vanderbilt Preview – Offense
Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Vanderbilt Commodore Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: With eight returning starters and good depth, the Vanderbilt offense should be better than it has been in several years. The running game will be dominant against the mediocre teams with the return of running back Warren Norman from a knee injury to help Zac Stacy, who set the Vandy single-season record for rushing last season. The line could be great if everyone stays healthy – that's not a given – and is versatile enough to patch things up when needed until the backups get more time to develop. The key to the season will be the play of quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who has a ton of talent but can't seem to find any consistency. He'll have a terrific receiving corps to throw to with Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd a rising pair ready to break out.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Zac Stacy
Passing: Jordan Rodgers
108-216, 1,524 yds, 9 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Zac Stacy
201 carries, 1,193 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: Jordan Matthews
41 catches, 778 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Jordan Rodgers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Chris Boyd
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Jordan Matthews
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Stacy, 2) Matthews, 3) WR Chris Boyd
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Receiver
Weakness of the offense: Line Depth, Quarterback Consistency
Can senior Jordan Rodgers hold down the spot as the main man? Aaron Rodgers' brother doesn't have the same skills and is only 6-1 and 205 pounds, but he's accurate – despite completing just half his passes - and can push the ball all over the field throwing for 1,524 yards and nine touchdowns with ten interceptions. A runner, he finished second on the team with 420 yards and four scores. He stepped in halfway through the season and bombed away three straight 200-yard games along with a 297-yard, two score day against Florida. However, he threw three picks in the loss to Tennessee and saw his role reduced as he struggled against Wake Forest and in the bowl loss to Cincinnati. The leader for Butte JC's 2008 national championship season now knows what he's doing and should be steadier and more effective.
Junior Austyn Carta-Samuels was supposed to be the franchise-maker for Wyoming. The lone man trying to carry the offense, he had a nice first season as a true freshman, but now he's about to be groomed to be the main man for the Vandy attack for next year if he's not able to push Rodgers out of the starting job. At 6-1 and 224 pounds he's thickly built and is a good runner with nice skills, and at the very least he's a nice backup option who can step in and produce.
New recruit Patton Robinette has 6-4, 204-pound size and excellent Elite 11 Camp skills and upside. He initially signed on with North Carolina with good passing skills and tremendous athleticism for his size, and he knows how to win taking his high school team to a 29-1 record and two North Carolina state titles.
Watch Out For … Carta-Samuels. It was a shocker when he chose to transfer from Wyoming, but the Cowboys turned out to be alright. He has the moxie and the baller mentality to step in and be the one the Commodores work things around if Rodgers struggles.
Strength: Depth. Rodgers showed potential, even if he had problems late last season, and he should be the type of bomber who can keep the team in the game. Carta-Samuels will be as game-ready as any backup quarterback in the SEC.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Vanderbilt hasn't exactly bombed away since Jay Cutler graduated, but it at the very least has to come up with an efficient passing attack. In the pass-poor SEC, Vandy stood out for its problems finishing 105th in the nation in efficiency while throwing for 15 touchdowns with 18 picks.
Outlook: Larry Smith is out of the mix now, but there's an upgrade with the addition of Carta-Samuels. Rodgers is a nice passer who worked this offseason to improve his overall game, and he has the potential to be one of the SEC's better dual-threat playmakers. This should be Vandy's best quarterback situations in years.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The Commodores needed Zac Stacy to come up big when injuries hit the backfield, and he did more than that setting the team's single-season rushing record with 1,193 yards and 14 scores averaging 5.9 yards per carry. The 5-9, 210-pound senior is quick, slippery and fast in the open field, hitting the 100-yard mark five times with three scores against Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest. A decent receiver, too, he made 20 grabs for 106 yards but he wasn't able to break free. While he's not built to take a pounding, he proved he could handle himself as a workhorse and he should be able to carry the attack from time to time.
Junior Warren Norman needed the last year-and-a-half to heal up after suffering a knee injury, but he's back and ready to add another key part to the rotation. The 5-10, 204-pounder broke Herschel Walker's record for the most total yards as an SEC freshman running for 783 yards while turning into a great kickoff returner. He struggled as a sophomore before suffering his injury, but he still did a decent job on kickoffs. Fast and built to bang a little bit, he doesn't have to carry the team with Stacy firmly established but he can be a major factor.
6-1, 218-pound junior Wesley Tate brings the power to the mix, but he didn't get much work last season running just three times for 26 yards and a score not finding a spot in the rotation. A great athlete, the brother of former Notre Dame star receiver Golden Tate has the talent to start handling the workload if needed. He might have the size, but 5-7, 190-pound sophomore Jerron Seymour is the speedster who finished third on the team with 268 yards and five scores averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
Watch Out For … the return of Norman. This was supposed to be his running game before he got hurt two years ago. Stacy might be too good to push out of a starting spot, but Norman has enough speed and breakaway ability to get the ball on a regular basis again.
Strength: The rotation. Tate didn't do much, but he has the size, speed and talent to be a key part of the mix. However, he'll have a hard time seeing the light of day with Stacy and Norman a talented enough 1-2 punch to make the strong running game even better.
Weakness: SEC defenses. The running game was terrific against Army and Wake Forest, but it struggled when it had to go against the better conference run defenses netting just four yards against South Carolina, 41 against Alabama and 80 against Florida.
Outlook: With the return of Norman, Vanderbilt has a terrific rotation of veteran backs to keep everyone fresh. There's a nice influx of young players to work into the mix, but Stacy and Norman should form a strong enough tandem to handle the work. Throw in the running ability of the quarterbacks and a 2,500-yard rushing season isn't out of the question.
Unit Rating: 8
The receiving corps is full of promising veterans who should be able to do more with the expected emergence of Jordan Rodgers as a steadier quarterback. The leader of the pack will once again be Jordan Mathews, a 6-3, 205-pound junior who led the team with 41 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns averaging five yards per grab. He started out the season struggling with just eight catches in the first seven games, but he developed a rapport with Rodgers going on a tear with 151 yards against Arkansas followed up by 170 against Florida and 131 against Kentucky.
While Matthews might be the No. 1 target, 6-4, 205-pound sophomore Chris Boyd is No. 1A with a team-leading eight scores on 31 catches for 473 yards. He has the size and the talent with terrific leaping skills and nice deep speed. While he didn't have any blow-up games, he was steadily good.
Juniors Jonathan Krause and Wesley Tate will combine in the slot with the 5-11, 182-pound Krause finishing third on the team catching 23 passes for 171 yards and the 6-1, 218-pound Tate finishing fourth with 22 catches for 187 yards. Neither one caught a touchdown pass and they were both short-range targets, but they're veterans who can move the chains.
6-0, 188-pound redshirt freshman Josh Grady was a quarterback who can work as a runner or as a deep receiver working behind Boyd. Very quick and very explosive, he can be a gamebreaker when he gets his chances, while 6-0, 175-pound redshirt freshman Jacquese Kirk provides even more speed playing behind Matthews. Each has big-play ability.
6-6, 252-pound senior Austin Monahan was supposed to play a big role at tight end, but he only caught three passes for 40 yards. Out all of 2010 with a leg injury, after suffering a knee problem earlier in his career, he wasn't the dangerous receiver he was supposed to be, but he has the skills to be a good target. He's the starter, but 6-5, 255-pound redshirt freshman Steven Scheu and 6-7, 255-pound sophomore Dillon van der Wal are each great-sized receivers with high upside.
The Commodores use an H-Back as more of a big tight end than a fullback, but 6-3, 240-pound junior Fitz Lassing can do a little of both. He only caught five passes for 54 yards and a score and took off for a 25-yard run, but he's at his best when he can blast away for the running game. 6-4, 218-pound redshirt freshman Kris Kentera is a speedier option who could turn into a dangerous receiver.
Watch Out For … the slot. Matthews and Boyd are a dangerous 1-2 to work around, but the offense needs more across the middle and needs more big plays from Krause and Tate. They can find the holes and they have nice hands, but they have to be bigger factors on the move.
Strength: Experience. Six of the top seven pass catchers are back with Matthews and Boyd good enough to produce big numbers. There won't be any concerns about this group knowing what they're doing.
Weakness: Tight end production. Brandon Barden was the main man with excellent receiving skills and nice hands, but now he's gone and the oft-injured Monahan has to prove he can be up to the task. The backups are promising, but they need time and experience.
Outlook: The receiving corps has the potential to be a major strength if everyone takes a step forward in their production. With the experience at quarterback, the receivers should be able to come up with even bigger plays and should put up bigger numbers with most of the stats coming over the second half of last year. It's not a stretch to call this Vandy's best receiving corps in a long, long time.
Unit Rating: 7
The offensive line did a great job paving the way for the ground game led by senior Ryan Seymour, a 6-5, 305-pound left guard who has done a little of everything starting both at left and right tackle and moving around where needed throughout his career. He has settled into his spot in the interior where he should be in the mix for all-star honors.
6-5, 290-pound junior Wesley Johnson has added pounds to his frame and now looks more like an SEC left tackle. He moved well and brings nice athleticism to the outside, but he's versatile enough to have seen time at center and could play any spot along the front five. He's one of the key blockers the line will work around for the next two seasons.
Taking over in the middle is Spencer Pulley, a 6-4, 285-pound versatile veteran who saw a little time at both guard and tackle. He's built more to be a right tackle, but he has the quickness off the ball and the smarts to be fine in the middle, but he'll have to battle with fellow sophomore Joe Townsend for the job. The 6-4, 288-pounder played a little bit as a true freshman and has gotten far better over the last 12 months and should see a spot somewhere.
Senior Josh Jelesky moved over from the defensive line and ended up starting five times at right guard. Now the job is all of his as a physical and tough pounder for the ground game. He improved as the season went on and should be more consistent.
6-6, 280-pound sophomore Andrew Bridges is smart and quick for his size at right tackle, and he's all back full after missing time with mono. He was fine last season and ended up starting five times at left tackle and now should be more than fine in place of veteran Kyle Fischer on the other side.
Watch Out For … Pulley. He was solid wherever he had to play last year, but he appears to be a natural at center where he should be a leader of the veteran line, even as a sophomore. He has the talent and the potential to be a rock.
Strength: Versatility. The coaching staff can play around with the lineup and the puzzle with seemingly every veteran having seen time at more than one spot. The line shuffled around a bunch last season, and now the experience should pay off.
Weakness: Pass protection. The numbers are a bit skewed because the quarterbacks ran around a lot and are mobile, but still the line allowed 27 sacks and struggled to keep the better lines out of the backfield.
Outlook: Fully rebuilt, the line should be solid as long as the starting five can stay in place. The depth is still developing, but it isn't awful. However, if and when injuries strike, a starter from one spot would most likely move over to fill in the gap. The run blocking should be outstanding against the more average lines.
Unit Rating: 7
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