Vanderbilt Preview 2006 - Defense
Vanderbilt Commodores
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Vanderbilt Commodores Preview 2006 - Commodore Defense

What you need to know ... There's nothing special about this defense, and it needs to find something that it can do really well in a big hurry. It's a vanilla D that tried to do everything not to give up the big play, but it needs to force more game-changing plays. There's little to no proven pass rush and the corners have to be better, but there are things to work around up the middle in linebacker Jonathan Goff, tackle Theo Horrocks and safety Reshard Langford. Now someone has to start doing something big on the outside.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jonathan Goff, 63
Sacks: Chris Booker, 3
Interceptions: Reshard Langford, 3

Star of the defense: Sophomore SS Reshard Langford
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshmen DEs Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Marcus Buggs
Best pro prospect: Langford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Langford, 2) LB Jonathan Goff, 3) DT Theo Horrocks
Strength of the defense: Tackles, players up the middle
Weakness of the defense:
Overall playmakers, pass rush

Defensive Line
Where's the pass rush going to come from? Vandy finished dead last in the SEC in both sacks and tackles for loss, and there's not hope for an immediate turnaround especially with the transfer of end David Carter. There are some good combinations of size and speed, but little experience outside with redshirt freshmen Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart each needing time. The tackles could end up being a strength with Theo Horrocks a rising star.
The key to the unit: Get into the backfield. There's size to hope for improvement against the run, but the front four has to manufacture more big plays.
Defensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters

- DE Steven Stone, RFr.
With David Carter's decision to transfer, Stone will likely get the first look at one of the end spots. He's a rangy 6-6, 255-pounds (after adding 20 pounds) with good speed and great athleticism, but he has to prove he can be productive against the run.

- DT Ray Brown, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1 TFL
Never healthy last season. the 6-3, 300-pound senior struggled to play six games. He has struggled through a variety of injuries over the last two years and needs to grow into a reliable rock against the run right off the bat.

- DT
Theo Horrocks, Jr. - 21 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3 quarterback hurries
The team's best defensive lineman, the 290-pound junior moved over from end last season and was productive despite suffering through a leg injury. He bulked up this off-season and should be better at holding up against the run after getting beaten on. The light appeared to go on at the end of last year as he looked like a star against Tennessee in the season finale.

- DE Chris Booker, Sr. - 30 tackles, 3 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 broken up passes, 4 quarterback hurries
Booker got healthy and then became a decent starter throughout last season. He was one of the team's better pass rushers and was decent against the run highlighted by a tremendous performance in the loss to Florida. Now that he's experienced and fully healthy, he needs to be a consistent terror.

Top Backups
- DE Broderick Stewart, RFr.
A fantastic 6-5, 220-pound athlete, Stewart was great in practices last season and now will push for time as a speed rusher behind Chris Booker and rotating with Steven Stone.
- DT Gabe Hall, Jr. - 15 tackles
Hall should push Ray Brown for time on the inside after improving his overall conditioning this off-season. At 300 pounds, he's a true tackle who needs to be an effective run stopper.
- DT Brandon Holmes, Soph. - 1 tackle
At 280 pounds, Holmes adds some decent bulk on the inside. He moved over from defensive end and shows potential playing behind Theo Horrocks as a decent interior pass rusher.

The loss of one of the SEC's best linebackers, Moses Osemwegie, leaves a gaping hole on the outside. Marcus Buggs will take over and has the size and experience to be decent, but he's no Osemwegie. Kevin Joyce is an average veteran on the other side. The star if Jonathan Goff, who should be an All-SEC performer over the next two seasons in the middle. The reserves have promise, but no experience; all three spots are backed up by redshirt freshmen.
The key to the unit: Jonathan Goff has to be as good as expected in the middle and Kevin Joyce has to play like a star on the outside.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
Marcus Buggs, Jr. - 29 tackles, 1 TFL
Buggs will take over for all-star Moses Osemwegie, who led the team with 118 tackles. The 230-pound Buggs has good size and a little bit of experience seeing time as a reserve in every game last season. He has enough speed to have played free safety earlier in his career with decent hitting ability.

Jonathan Goff, Jr. - 63 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
The team's new defensive star, Goss can do a little bit of everything in the middle. He was a bit overshadowed last season by Moses Osemwegie, and now he'll be the leader of the defense with his good range and tone-setting hits. At 6-4 and 240 pounds, he has good size against the run and enough quickness to be better at getting into the backfield.

- Kevin Joyce, Sr. - 47 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
A serviceable outside defender, Joyce has too much experience to have another inconsistent season. He has 148 career tackles over the last three seasons and started to get better as last season went on, but he has to make far more plays on the weakside.

Top Backups
- Brandon Bryant, RFr.
Bryant has bulked up in a big way over the last year getting up to 230 pounds and now should be a factor on the strongside behind Marcus Buggs. He should grow into a decent pass rusher in time.
- Chris Johnson, RFr.
At 235 pounds, Johnson brings decent size and good potential to the middle. He should be strong against the run, but his skills as a pass defender are questionable.
- Quavian Lewis, RFr.
A decent scout teamer last season, Lewis will be groomed for the 2007 starting spot on the weakside. He's 6-4 and 220 pounds with good pass rushing ability; he played wide receiver at times in high school.

Defensive Backs
Vanderbilt's pass defense has been decent, but not spectacular over the last few seasons with few big plays. It only picked off eight passes and, outside of the Tennessee win, didn't do nearly enough to come up with anything to change games. Jared Fagan and Josh Allen are decent sophomore corners who should grow into their roles, while the safeties should be better with redshirt freshman Ryan Hamilton and sophomore Reshard Langford looking like potential rocks of the secondary for years to come.
The key to the unit: Live through the mistakes. By opening day, Vandy will likely start three sophomores and a redshirt freshman, with the top backups all young.
Secondary Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- CB Jared Fagan, Soph. - 10 tackles, 1 interception
One of the team's fastest players, the sophomore has nice size and good experience. After seeing his playing time drop to next to nothing after getting the opening day nod, Fagan came up with one of the biggest plays of the season picking off a pass against Tennessee to seal the win.

- FS Ben Koger, Sr. - 24 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Koger has a some starting experience getting the call three times last season and showing off decent run stopping ability. Can he make plays when the ball is in the air? He's been around long enough to be in the right places at the right times, but he's still a bit unproven.

- SS Reshard Langford, Soph. - 54 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3.5 TFL, 4 broken up passes
Langford had a terrific freshman season and should be one of the team's leaders over the next few seasons. At 6-2 and 218 pounds, he has good size and next-level hitting ability. Now he has to use his year of experience to anticipate plays a little bit earlier on and come up with more game-changing plays.

- CB Josh Allen, Soph. - 42 tackles, 5 broken up passes
The athletic Allen had a nice first season proving to be decent against the run as well as a good pass defender. While not an elite enough athlete to be a stopper against the top SEC receivers, he's good enough to grow into a steady playmaker.

Top Backups
- FS Ryan Hamilton, RFr.
It's just a question of time before Hamilton makes his presence felt. He has more range than projected starter Ben Koger and is every bit as physical. He dominated as a scout teamer last season and should push for time early on.
CB Sean Dixon, Sr. - 11 tackles, 2 broken up passes
A tremendous athlete with 4.4 speed and good size, Dixon will look to be back in the mix this fall after missing the end of last year and all of spring ball with a leg injury. He could take back a starting spot when 100%.

Special Teams
New special teams coach Warren Belin ha to get more out of the return game and needs his coverage units to be far better after allowing 22.7 yards per kickoff return and 11.5 yards per punt return. Earl Bennett will handle most of the return duties after averaging 21.3 yards per kick return and 6.3 yards per punt return. Bryant Hahnfeldt is good enough to handle all the kicking chores, but if he can't come back 100% after a knee problem, veterans Patrick Johnson and Kyle Keown will see time.
The key to the unit: The coverage units have to be far, far better. The D can't keep being put in lousy positions.
Special Team Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK/P Bryant Hahnfeldt, Soph. - 12-17 FGs, 32-33 extra points, 36 punts, 1,481 yds, 41.1 yards per catch, 12 inside the 20
Hahnfeldt had a nice season and could've finished with tremendous stats if he didn't get four field goal attempts blocked. He showed off excellent range connecting on five of seven shots from beyond 40 yards. As a punter he had a nice average and was solid on placing the ball, but he'll have to work better with his coverage unit. He's expected to be back as good as new after recovering from off-season knee surgery.

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