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2009 CFN Vanderbilt Preview
Vanderbilt CB Myron Lewis
Vanderbilt CB Myron Lewis
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 16, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt Commodores

Preview 2009


By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Vanderbilt Preview | 2009 Vanderbilt Offense
- 2009 Vanderbilt Defense | 2009 Vanderbilt Depth Chart
- 2008 Vandy Preview | 2007 Vandy Preview | 2006 Vandy Preview 
 

Head coach: Bobby Johnson
8th year: 27-56
16th year overall: 87-92
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Vandy Players
1. CB Myron Lewis, Sr.
2. LB Patrick Benoist, Sr.
3. LB Chris Marve, Soph.
4. SS Ryan Hamilton, Sr.
5. OT Thomas Welch, Sr.
6. DE Broderick Stewart, Sr.
7. DE Steven Stone, Sr.
8. DT Greg Billinger, Sr.
9. TE Brandon Barden, Soph.
10. C Bradley Vierling, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
5-7
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Western Carolina
9/12 at LSU
9/19 Ole Miss
9/26 at Rice
10/3 Miss State
10/10 at Army
10/17 Georgia
10/24 at South Carolina
10/31 Georgia Tech
11/7 at Florida
11/14 Kentucky
11/21 at Tennessee
11/28 OPEN DATE

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9
2008 Record: 7-6

8/30 at Miami Univ. W 34-13
9/4 South Carolina W 24-17
9/13 Rice  W 38-21
9/20 at Ole Miss W 23-17
9/27 OPEN DATE
10/4 Auburn W 14-13
10/11 at Miss St L 17-14
10/18 at Georgia L 24-14
10/25 Duke L 10-7
11/1 OPEN DATE
11/8 Florida L 42-14
11/15 at Kentucky W 31-24
11/22 Tennessee L 20-10
11//29 at Wake Forest L 23-10
Music City Bowl
12/31 Boston College W 16-14

They did it, but now can they keep it going.

After coming achingly close three years in a row from breaking the ugly bowl drought, Vanderbilt got the needed six wins, got to a bowl for the first time since 1982, won it, and now needs to do it again to keep the program going forward. Of course, that’s easier said than done in the SEC.

There will always be limitations from school size to history to academics, but the biggest single factor in Vanderbilt’s success will always be the conference. Unlike schools in the same all-around situation, like Wake Forest and Northwestern, who are able to shine in lesser leagues, Vandy has to hope for a down year to make a lot of noise, and it got one last season.

To be fair to the Commodores, they were able to beat a strong Ole Miss team, did what they needed to do to beat South Carolina, and beat Kentucky at Kentucky to stop the second half of the season collapse and become bowl eligible. But to get back to a bowl, and to be more consistent overall, the team has to find some semblance of an offense.

Vanderbilt survived thanks to an opportunistic defense that, in retrospect, put up one of the great years in recent SEC history. The D had to go into every game knowing that if it allowed 20 points and didn’t come up with at least two takeaways, the Commodores would probably lose. The offense was totally inept when the defense wasn’t providing opportunities, but that might not be the case again.

The talent level has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and now there’s depth, options, and a ton of experience on both sides of the ball to get excited about. The offense isn’t going to start hanging 40 points on the board, but there’s the potential for more firepower from an improved receiving corps, there are three decent quarterback options, and there’s the defense that will continue to provide the help.

The pass rush should be fantastic and the quick linebacking corps should be disruptive and productive. The secondary has to fill in some major holes losing D.J. Moore and Reshard Langford, but there shouldn’t be a major drop in overall production.

It all means that Vandy might not have to win ugly. There might be wins that come over good teams simply by playing better on both sides of the ball, and not just because the plucky Dores managed to win the turnover battle.

What to watch for on offense: The receivers. The offensive line struggled a bit last year with all five starters needing to be replaced, but now the front five should be a strength. The running game will be mediocre and there’s a question about the ability of any of the quarterback options to throw, but the receivers will be better. How bad were things last year? Vandy finished 112rh in the nation in passing and 110tin in efficiency. How good do things look this year? Jamie Graham, arguably the team’s best all-around athletes, is moving from receiver to corner. The addition of transfers Tray Herndon from Minnesota and Terence Jeffers from Connecticut provides two proven targets who should be better than anyone Vandy had last year. John Cole is an exciting young player who appeared to be ready to explode before getting hurt in his true freshman season. Justin Wheeler is solid, Udom Umoh is fast, and Alex Washington is a good veteran. Throw into the mix rising sophomore tight end Brandon Barden and big junior Austin Monahan, and Vandy has the makings of one of its best groups of receivers in the Bobby Johnson era.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush should be fantastic. With Broderick Stewart returning after getting hurt late last year, to go along with Steven Stone, Tim Fugger and Teriall Brannon on the outside, the Commodore ends will get to the quarterback early and often. The tackles are great at generating pressure from the inside while the speedy linebackers can fly into the backfield. And then there’s corner Myron Lewis, who tied for the team lead with five sacks. The Commodores will bring the noise from all angles.

The team will be far better if …  a steady passer emerges. To be fair, the quarterbacks didn’t get a whole bunch of time last season and the receivers were mediocre compared to this year’s group, but there wasn’t exactly a Jay Cutler under center to wing it around. Mackenzi Adams is the senior veteran, but Larry Smith might be the best all-around option and Jared Funk might be the best passer. There might be a rotation as the season goes on, but it would be nice if one could emerge as a playmaker who could move the offense and put points on the board on a regular basis.

The Schedule: It’s all about getting off to a hot start. If Vandy has to play LSU, who appears to have reloaded, and it has to go to Baton Rouge to do it, it’s a plus to go early before Jordan Jefferson becomes settled in at quarterback. Florida is a loss no matter where it’s played, so it might as well be in Gainesville, and the season finale at Tennessee will be tough. Other than that, everything else is manageable with Rice, Army, and South Carolina the other road games. It’s a straight alternate of home and away games all season long, so there won’t be a chance to go on a big home run, but there’s not a brutal string of road trips, either. Western Carolina, Mississippi State, Rice, and Army are all in the first half of the season, and all four of those games need to be wins. Georgia Tech is a nasty non-conference home game on Halloween, and the November home date with Kentucky might be the key to a bowl game. 

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Thomas Welch. While he struggled at times with speed rushers, he was able to use his 6-7, 310-pound frame to be the team’s key blocker at right tackle. A fantastic athlete, he has the chance to be a left tackle at the next level if he can come up with a solid season and show he can be the anchor who can improve the running game.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Myron Lewis. Taking over the role from D.J. Moore as the team’s top cover-corner, the 6-3, 205-pound Lewis has the size, the athleticism, and the experience to become a superstar now that he’s the main man. He tackles like a safety and he’s great at getting to the ball with five interceptions and six broken up passes last season. He’s also a shot-out-of-a-cannon pass rusher   who knows how to close.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Mackenzi Adams or sophomore QB Larry Smith. The line will be fine, the receivers will be better, and the defense should be even stronger and more disruptive than last season. None of it will matter on the bottom line unless the Commodores can get steady quarterback play from either Adams or Smith. Adams struggled with his accuracy, but he stepped in and produced in key spots. Smith was effective in his time on the field as a game manager. Now the offense needs more.

The season will be a success if ... Vandy gets back to a bowl game. The SEC will be better this season, but after getting to a bowl and beating the ACC’s second best team, Boston College, the bar has been set. With an improved team returning, anything less than another bowl game will be a failure, and eight wins has to be the stated goal to keep things moving forward. It’s a lofty mark to shoot for with a decent schedule, but there are too many positives to not hope for bigger things.

Key game: Oct. 3 vs. Ole Miss. As long as Vandy doesn’t royally screw up, it should be able to handle Western Carolina, Mississippi State, Rice and Army. Assuming the trip to LSU is a loss, the Commodores could still get off to a great start, and make a statement against a team likely to be ranked in the top 15 of 20, with a win over the Rebels. Vandy forced six turnovers to overcome a mere 202 yards of total offense to win 23-17 last year. This time around, the offense will have to show up.

2008 Fun Stats: 

- Penalties: Opponents 79 for 669 yards – Vanderbilt 56 for 473 yards
- First half scoring: Opponents 174 – Vanderbilt 122
- Interceptions: Vanderbilt 20 – Opponents 12


- 2009 CFN Vanderbilt Preview | 2009 Vanderbilt Offense
- 2009 Vanderbilt Defense | 2009 Vanderbilt Depth Chart
- 2008 Vandy Preview | 2007 Vandy Preview | 2006 Vandy Preview

  

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