2008 CFN Vanderbilt Preview
Vanderbilt CB D.J. Moore
Vanderbilt CB D.J. Moore
Posted May 20, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt Commodores

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Vanderbilt Preview | 2008 Vanderbilt Offense
- 2008 Vanderbilt Defense | 2008 Vanderbilt Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Vanderbilt Preview | 2006 CFN Vanderbilt Preview 

The Commodores keep pushing the boulder up the mountain only to be crushed under the weight of a possible winning season.

Head coach Bobby Johnson has done a good job of upgrading the talent level and making the program far more competitive in SEC play than it used to be, but the Commodores haven’t gone to a bowl game since 1982 and have been heartbreakingly close to getting in over the last three years.

Head coach: Bobby Johnson
7th year: 20-50
15th year overall: 80-86
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Vandy Players
1. CB D.J. Moore, Jr.
2. DE Steven Stone, Jr.
3. SS Reshard Langford, Sr.
4. QB Mackenzi Adams, Jr.
5. QB Chris Nickson, Sr.
6. RB Jeff Jennings, Sr.
7. OT Thomas Welch, Jr.
8. DE Broderick Stewart, Jr.
9. CB Myron Lewis, Jr.
10. FS Ryan Hamilton, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Miami Univ.
Sept. 4 South Carolina
Sept. 13 Rice 
Sept. 20 at Ole Miss
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Auburn
Oct. 11 at Mississippi State
Oct. 18 at Georgia
Oct. 25 Duke
Nov. 8 Florida
Nov. 15 at Kentucky 
Nov. 22 Tennessee
Nov. 29 at Wake Forest

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-

Sept. 1 Richmond W 41-17
Sept. 8 Alabama L 24-13
Sept. 15
Ole Miss W 31-17
Sept. 29 Eastern Mic
h W 30-7
Oct. 6 at Auburn L 35-7
Oct. 13 Georgia L 20-17
Oct. 20 at South Carolina W 17-6
Oct. 27
Miami Univ. W 24-13
Nov. 3 at Florida L 49-22
Nov. 10
Kentucky L 27-20
Nov. 17 at Tennessee L 25-24
Nov. 24
Wake Forest L 31-17

In 2005 the Commodores started out 4-0 only to lose six in a row. 4-5 in 2006, they lost their final three games, and worst of all, they were 5-3 last season before losing their final four games.

Now the window might have slammed shut. Vandy was good enough to get to a bowl game, didn't, and now it's rebuilding time. The rest of the SEC East, outside of Kentucky, appears to be better, while Vandy might be a lot worse.

That's not to say the Commodores will roll up the tents and go away, but in a year when there are a few superpower, major rebuilding/changing jobs going on, the SEC has enough gray areas for a plucky team to be able to rise up and come up with a few upsets. The problem is that Vandy has more building to do than anyone else.

Talents like WR Earl Bennett and OT Chris Williams don't hang around Nashville every year, but there are some bright spots to work around, like the secondary and the offensive line. By far, on overall talent level, this is the SEC's 12th team, but that also works to Vandy's advantage from time to time.

Every SEC team assumes the Vanderbilt game is a win. As much as everyone likes to throw out the one-game-at-a-time cliché, it's impossible to focus on the Commodores when Florida or LSU is coming up the week after. Vandy has to continue to take advantage of every team's B performance, and it has to pull off a few upsets, but just when nothing is expected, that might be when the bowl game finally comes.

What to watch for on offense: Will the quarterback situation ever be completely settled? Vandy has two nice talents in Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson who can lead the offense, but neither one seems able to give the coaching staff exactly what it's looking for. Adams is a decent veteran, but he's not consistent enough to overcome Nickson's upside. Either way, the offense will have to live through the mistakes, and the starter will have to keep looking over his shoulder.

What to watch for on defense: One of the best secondaries in America. This isn't just a "good by Vanderbilt standards" secondary; it's the real deal. D.J. Moore is a pick-off artist at corner, taking away six last year, while SS Reshard Langford is a tough veteran who has seen it all, lived through his early mistakes, and has come through as a star. Corner Myron Lewis and FS Ryan Hamilton are solid, while Darlron Spread, who's back after a knee injury, is good enough to fill in anywhere.

The team will be far better if … it can score. And here's your problem. The offense has a ton of holes to patch from an attack that didn't do much last year. Take out the 41 hung on Richmond of the FCS, and Vandy averaged fewer than 20 points per game. Worse yet, the offense didn't score more than 24 points on anyone over the final eight games. There has to be more explosion and more scoring, or even more pressure will be put on the D.

The Schedule: The schedule would be a dream for a Florida or LSU, but Vandy can't take anything for granted. At Miami University, Rice, Duke and at Wake Forest makes for one of the best academic tours in college football, but outside of the trip to Winston-Salem there's nothing to break a sweat over. Even though both games are on the road, getting Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the West is a nice break. The problem comes in the back half of the year with no gimme November home games playing Florida and Tennessee. Getting one home win against the Gators, the Vols, South Carolina and Auburn is a must. 

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Mackenzi Adams and/or Senior QB Chris Nickson. The quarterbacks are the veterans and the playmakers who'll have to stand out more than ever. They can't just be efficient and productive game managers; they have to do special things to make a young, potentially punchless attack shine. Even if they're in a rotation, it might not be the worst thing in the world considering they might provide different looks.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB D.J. Moore. Even at 5-10 and 182 pounds, he's a big hitter for his size and a tremendous ball-hawk. If he's not the SEC's premier all-around corner, he's close with 83 tackles, six interceptions and ten broken up passes last season. If he gets a little bigger, he could be a solid NFL free safety, but his future will likely be as a No. 2 corner.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. All five starters are gone including all-star tackles Chris Williams and Brian Stamper. Fortunately, Vandy is good at getting decent line prospects and molding them into excellent starters, and while there's good potential, there isn't a sure-thing to work behind. Forget about the backups for now; it's all about developing the chemistry and the cohesion.

The season will be a success if ... Vandy wins six games. That would be a mega-achievement for a team that's not nearly as good as the last few that couldn't get over the hump, but the schedule is just decent enough to pull it off if everything breaks the right way. Beating Miami University, Rice, and Duke will be a must; there's no shot at a bowl without winning all three. Then it'll come down to pulling off some key road victories against Ole Miss and Kentucky, and hoping for a big upset somewhere along the line.

Key game: Sept. 4 vs. South Carolina. While Vanderbilt will need more time to jell than anyone else in the SEC, if it's going to come up with a big SEC upset, it might have to do it early before a team like South Carolina is in mid-season mode. Considering the other three SEC home games are against Auburn, Florida and Tennessee, the conference opener could be the one real shot to come up with a big upset.

2007 Fun Stats: 

- Penalties: Opponents 83 for 631 yards – Vanderbilt 59 for 479 yards
- Punt return average: Opponents 14.7 – Vanderbilt 7.3
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 69 – Vanderbilt 41