2013 Vanderbilt Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Vanderbilt Commodore Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: No, the Vandy attack won't blow up on the top SEC defenses, but it'll be extremely effective. The offense was expected to be stronger last season with eight starters back, and it came up with a good year averaging 380 yards and 30 points per game. Eight starters return to this year's attack with the talent and upside to do even more and be more explosive. The strength is at receiver where Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are back, but they need someone to throw them the ball. Jordan Rodgers is gone, but former Wyoming starter Austyn Carta-Samuels is a good baller and there are a slew of good young options ready to show what they can do. The line technically gets four starters back, but it might as well be five and should be dominant at times for a ground game loaded with a great group of speedy backs ready to do more.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Jordan Matthews
Passing: Austyn Carta-Samuels
14-25, 208 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Brian Kimbrow
66 carries, 413 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Jordan Matthews
94 catches, 1,323 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Austyn Carta-Samuels and/or redshirt freshman QB Patton Robinette
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Jake Bernstein
Best pro prospect: Matthews
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Matthews, 2) OT Wesley Johnson, 3) C Joe Townsend
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Line
Weakness of the offense: Quarterbacks, SEC Defenses
The passing game was efficient and effective with Jordan Rodgers coming up with a decent season, but former Wyoming starter Austyn Carta-Samuels has to rise up and do even more. The 6-1, 218-pound senior hasn't taken the starting job by the horns after seeing a little time last season, completing 14-of-25 passes for 208 yards and a score and running for 27 yards, but he has the talent and moxie to become a difference maker. He's not big and he's not fast, but he's a baller who'll fight to make a play.
Fighting hard for the starting job is redshirt freshman Patton Robinette, a 6-4, 208-pound passer who came in as one of the team's top recruits last season. An Elite 11 Camp performer who initially signed with North Carolina, he has terrific skills with good athleticism for his size. He knows how to win taking his high school team to a 29-1 record and two North Carolina state titles, but he needs to be steady and consistent in practices to push Carta-Samuels out of a job.
Watch Out For … freshmen Johnathan McCrary and Chad Kanoff. The 6-3, 200-pound McCrary is a dual-threat playmaker who could've gone anywhere with tremendous accuracy and nice poise. Kanoff is also a 6-3, 200-pounder with Ivy League smarts and a strong, effective passing arm. While he's not a runner like McCrary, he's a good athlete.
Strength: Options. Carta-Samuels has enough experience and enough talent to step in and be fine, but there's a nice base of up-and-coming talents to develop in the mix. Robinette is going to be a solid SEC starter.
Weakness: Experience. Carta-Samuels has some time logged in both at Wyoming and Vanderbilt, but it's not like he has been through the SEC wars. There might be talent waiting in the wings, but it's going to take a while for everyone to get their feet wet.
Outlook: The goal is to come up with an efficient season and keep the interceptions to a bare minimum. The quarterbacks aren't necessarily going to win games for the Commodores – that's not really their job in the system – but they can't screw things up. However, Carta-Samuels and Robinette can be playmakers who grow as the season goes on.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Gone is Zac Stacy, who led the team with 1,141 yards and ten touchdowns, but there's a decent twosome returning in senior Wesley Tate and sophomore Brian Kimbrow, two veterans who were decent parts of the rushing puzzle. The 5-8, 185-pound Kimbrow ran for 137 of his 413 yards against Presbyterian and 98 against UMass. Mostly a mop-up runner, the speedster did enough to finish second on the team with three scores, while doing a nice job for the kick return game.
The 6-1, 224-pound Tate brings the power to the mix. A great athlete, the brother of former Notre Dame star Golden Tate can move and he can be used as a receiver, catching 12 passes for 116 yards and a score and barreling for 376 yards and eight touchdowns. Steady, he's good for around ten carries per outing with a rushing score in six of the last seven games.
Also deep in the hunt for playing time is 5-7, 190-pound sophomore Jerron Seymour, a flash of lightning who finished third on the team with 268 yards and five touchdowns two years ago, but he only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. He redshirted last season, but he'll be more than just part of the rotation this season with the flash to have plays designed for him.
Part fullback and part tight end, 6-3, 240-pound senior Fitz Lassing will be a blocker for the running game and will occasionally get a few passes his way. He's not a big play producer with just eight career catches for 76 yards and a score, but he could be used in a variety of ways when he's not blocking. He'll be backed up by 6-2, 228-pound junior Blake Gowder, a special teamer and pure blocker. He'll never get the ball, but he'll hit.
Watch Out For … Ralph Webb, the team's only running back recruit with 5-10, 190-pound size and next-level athleticism. The Gainesville, Florida native is a blazer with state champion leaping ability in the long jump. He ran for 2,020 yards and 20 scores last season and could find a role early on to get his speed on the field.
Strength: Quickness. Tate is more of a pounder, but he can move, and Seymour and Kimbrow can fly. The Commodores have been recruiting to a type and they have so much athleticism and speed to hit home runs from anywhere. However …
Weakness: Home runs. There were a few big plays with Stacy cranking up a 90-yarder and Kimbrow tearing off a 74-yard dash, but the team averaged just 4.1 yards per carry and didn't get the speedsters in space enough to do big things.
Outlook: It should be an interesting rotation with lots of athletes and lots of good runners who can make things happen when given the chance. The more this group can get the ball on the move, and the less they have to do between the tackles, the better. If Vandy is rushing for over 2,000 yards, the backs will likely be doing their jobs.
Unit Rating: 7
The Commodores caught a tremendous break with senior Jordan Matthews returning for his senior year. The 6-3, 205-pound senior came up with a massive season catching 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight scores, coming up with a touchdown in each of the last five games and doing big things against the better teams with eight catches for 147 yards and a score against South Carolina and eight grabs for 131 yards and a touchdown against Florida. The size and athleticism were never in question, and last year he got the steady quarterback play to come up with the All-SEC campaign averaging 14.1 yards per play with production against everyone – he won more than his share of battles against top SEC corners. While he'll be a marked man, and he has to show the same rapport with the new quarterbacks that he had with Jordan Rodgers, he's a big-time weapon no matter who's throwing his way.
Back on the other side of Matthews is junior Chris Boyd, a strong No. 2 targets who would've received more headlines if it wasn't for the No. 1 guy, catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five scores averaging 15.5 yards per play. The 6-4, 205-pounder has great size, terrific leaping skills and nice deep speed. Last year he showed he could be a steady producer with great pop, scoring in five of the last six games.
5-11, 192-pound junior Jonathan Krause made the most noise as a top punt returner averaging 11.2 yards per try with two scores, but he also showed a little bit as a receiver catching nine passes for 69 yards. He has the hands and he has the talent, but now he needs more passes to come his way working behind Boyd. Also in the rotation is junior Trey Wilkins, a transfer from Harding University who worked his way into a backup job this offseason. At 5-11 and 195 pounds he's not huge, but he's quick and can be used in a variety of ways as a runner or a receiver.
Growing into more of a factor at tight end is the 6-5, 255-pound Steven Scheu, a talented junior with a world of upside. He only caught eight passes for 45 yards and a score, but he's a whale of a blocker who's tremendous for the running game. The hands are there to do more for the passing game. 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Kris Kentera is more of a receiving tight end making ten catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The former quarterback is still learning the position and isn't a great blocker, but he's a good athlete who knows how to get open.
Watch Out For … Jordan Cunningham. The Commodores came up with a terrific recruiting class for the passing game with Carlos Burse, DeAndre Woods and Latevius Rayford a big part of the future, and tight ends Mitch Parsons and Nathan Marcus great gets, but it's Cunningham who should be the best of the bunch. The 6-1, 175-pounder from Fort Lauderdale was expected to go to Alabama or Florida State, but he surprised everyone by choosing Vanderbilt. He has the total package with great hands and terrific quickness.
Strength: Matthews and Boyd. Matthews could've been an NFL starter this season without a problem, but he's back to combine with Boyd to give the Commodores one of the nation's better tandems. The two combined for 134 catches and over 2,100 yards on the year, and there should be more where that came from.
Weakness: Tight end receiving production. There's expected to be more coming from the tight ends, but for the most part the biggest contribution from Scheu has been as a blocker and Kentera is still growing into the job. These two will get more than their share of opportunities with all the attention paid to the wideouts.
Outlook: The hope was for the receiving corps to shine and become a major strength, and thanks to Matthews and Boyd, it was. The depth is a wee bit lacking and the latest recruiting class needs to add something to the mix, but as long as the two stars are doing what they do – and if the quarterback play is solid – the potential is there to do even more.
Unit Rating: 8
The O line did its job last year and got better as the year went on, and now with four starters returning the production should be even better starting with the return of senior left tackle Wesley Johnson. The 6-5, 285-pound All-SEC performer has had to work to add bulk to his frame, but with good athleticism and nice feet, he handles himself well against all kinds of pass rushers. Versatile, he could move to center if absolutely needed. Next to him on the right side will once again be sophomore Jake Bernstein, a backup guard who grew into a key starter down the stretch. While the 6-4, 305-pounder mostly worked at right guard, he got in a couple of starts on the left side where he turned into a whale of a run blocker.
Junior Joe Townsend is the main option at center after taking over the job and starting nine times. At 6-4 and 310 pounds, he beefed up in a big way over the last few years and should be better and stronger at handling himself on the inside. A blaster of a blocker, he's outstanding for the running game. 6-4, 300-pound junior Spencer Pulley is the top backup option at center, but he'll likely start at right guard. While he's built more like a offensive tackle, and started four times in the middle and is more consistent as a guard option. If it's not Pulley at right guard it'll be 6-4, 305-pound redshirt freshman Barrett Gouger, a good tackle prospect who's needed more on the inside. A superstar high school wrestler, he's a mauler.
6-6, 275-pound junior Andrew Bridges might not be huge, but he's a tall-framed athlete on the outside who's terrific as a pass blocker. With tight end athleticism, he's great on the move. It was a rocky start to his career suffering a bout with mono, but he's turning into a key part of the front five.
Watch Out For … Delando Crooks, a great get out of Atlanta who should be a big-time SEC starter once he adds a little weight on his frame. The 6-5, 275-pounder is a physical run blocker who could be moved to guard, but he has the upside to become an anchor at left tackle in a few years.
Strength: Experience. With four starters returning along with Pulley, the Commodores have the veterans who know what they're doing and should be able to handle themselves well in SEC play. Jelled, as long as there aren't any major injuries, the five veterans should form a nasty all-around blocking unit.
Weakness: Consistency for the ground game. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are Florida , South Carolina and Georgia partly because they're great against the run, but that's who the Commodores have to run through to make more noise in the East. Throw in the 89 rushing yards against Missouri, and Vandy's front five struggled against most of the divisional teams last year.
Outlook: The line was supposed to be a positive last season after a season of rebuilding, and now it should be dominant with so much experience returning. The depth is a wee bit lacking, but as long as the starters hold up well this will be a major plus. There's a talent gap between Vandy O line and the top SEC defensive lines, but there will be times when the line controls the game.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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