2010 Vanderbilt Preview - Offense
Vanderbilt RB Warren Norman
Vanderbilt RB Warren Norman
Posted May 13, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Vanderbilt Commodore Offense

Vanderbilt Commodores

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 Vanderbilt Preview | 2010 Vanderbilt Offense
- 2010 Vanderbilt Defense | 2010 Vanderbilt Depth Chart
- Vanderbilt Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: Abysmal. Inept. Disastrous. Any negative word can fit what the Vandy offense was last year as it finished 110th in the nation in total offense, 113th in scoring, and 119th in passing efficiency. The line wasn't bad, the receivers were athletic, and the freshman running back tandem of Warren Norman and Kennard Reeves were terrific. And then there was the quarterback play. Larry Smith struggled to complete the short to midrange throws, much less anything deep, and the running game was shut down cold by the better defenses. This year's offense has to replace four starters on the line and desperately needs more out of Smith or backup options Jared Funk and Jordan Rodgers. New offensive coordinator Jimmy Kisler has his work cut out for him, but first he has to do more to make the quarterbacks productive.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Larry Smith
106-227, 1,126 yds, 4 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Warren Norman
145 carries, 783 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: John Cole
36 catches, 382 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Warren Norman
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Larry Smith
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Ryan Seymour
Best pro prospect: Junior OT James Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Norman, 2) Williams, 3) Seymour
Strength of the offense: Running Back, Line Potential
Weakness of the offense: Passing, Scoring


Projected Starter: The excitement was through the roof about the possibility of what Larry Smith could bring. After coming up with a great performance in the 2008 Music City Bowl leading the way to a win over Boston College completing 10-of-17 passes for 121 yards and rushing for 25 more. But the 6-2, 220-pound junior struggled to generate points last year completing just 47% of his throws for 1,126 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he finished third on the team with 213 yards and two scores. He came up with a nice game in the win over Rice, throwing for 268 yards, but he couldn't carry the offense by himself and ended up missing the second half of the year with a torn hamstring. A winner who led his high school team to the Alabama state title, he'll be better with more help around him, but he also has to be far more efficient and far better on third downs.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Jared Funk came up with a nice offseason and did enough to deserve a longer look at the starting job if Larry Smith starts to sputter. The 6-2, 205-pounder has decent size, plenty of practice experience, and a live arm that could potentially get the passing game going. However, he hasn't done anything in game action and will only come in if nothing else is working.

6-2, 210-pound JUCO transfer Jordan Rodgers is making a big push for immediate starting time. The leader in Butte JC's 2008 national championship season, he's a great passer with just enough mobility to take off from time to time. He also has a great tutor and guide in his brother, Green Bay Packers star, Aaron, to lean on.

Watch Out For … Rodgers. While he's not his brother, he's good enough to quickly step in and play if Smith can't get the offense going. He would've been a bigger recruit out of high school, but he was far smaller and grew over the last two seasons.
Strength: Decent options. Smith is a dual-threat veteran with enough time logged in to be ready to grow into a far better playmaker. Funk and Rodgers are good passers who could be stronger options for the nation's 112th ranked passing game.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Come back, Jay Cutler … please. The Commodores finished second-to-last in America in passing efficiency, with only New Mexico State having a worse year. Only Army (45%) completed a fewer percentage of passes than Vandy (48%) and the 1.7 passing TD percentage was the worse in America by far. The 4.99 yards per pass attempt was the second-worst in the country finishing just ahead of NMSU.
Outlook: The passing game couldn't have been worse if the Commodore quarterbacks actually tried to be miserable. Smith never got on the same page with his receivers, he wasn't sharp, and Mackenzi Adams wasn't any better when he got his chance. With the coaching staff in need of showing more signs of life for the offense, Smith will be on a short leash with Rodgers likely to be the first option in off the bench.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: It's a big deal whenever anyone does something better than Herschel Walker, and sophomore Warren Norman was able to better the former Georgia superstar's record for the most total yards as an SEC freshman. The 5-10, 192-pound speedster led the team with 783 yards and three touchdowns, caught 19 passes for 108 yards and a score, and was a whale of a kickoff returner cranking out 1,050 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 26.2 yards per carry. He wasn't a workhorse only carrying the ball more than 15 times once, but he was always productive with the ball in his hands averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

While Norman took the running game spotlight last year, Zac Stacy also came up with a tremendous true freshman season finishing second on the team with 478 yards and three scores and catching seven passes for 72 yards. The 5-10, 205-pound sophomore isn't nearly as quick as Norman, but he can carry the ground game for stretches. He's a perfect No. 2, complement back who doesn't have the ego that'll be bruised if Norman blows up, and he'll produce when he gets his chance.

Projected Top Reserves: Mostly a special teamer throughout his career, 6-0, 205-pound senior Kennard Reeves was decent when he got the opportunity last season rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He's a shifty back with good enough power to get through the line when needed. He's not as dangerous as Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, but he's reliable enough to be used as a relief back.

6-2, 220-pound redshirt freshman Wesley Tate was supposed to be in the hunt for time last year, but with the emergence of Norman and Stacy he wasn't needed and ended up redshirting. More powerful than his classmates, he has the pop to barrel through the line and the potential to be a deadly short-yardage runner. While he has the talent to be a No. 1 back, he's a get-dirty player who won't be afraid to be used as a blocker and be used in a variety of ways once he gets back from a foot problem.

Watch Out For … Tate. While all the attention will be paid to Norman and Stacy, and rightly so, Tate, a finalist for Tennessee's Mr. Football, has as much talent as either one with better size and track star speed. He was the state champion in the 100-meter dash and when he gets healthy, he could be one of the team's biggest surprises.
Strength: The young stars. Norman and Stacy, and eventually Tate, form a deadly group of young backs to build the entire offense around. Even with one of the worst passing games in the nation allowing defenses to focus all of their attention on the running game, the backs still looked good at times.
Weakness: Production against the better teams. The Commodores ran for 433 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener against Western Carolina and ran for four scores against Rice. They only ran for three touchdowns the rest of the way with two of those coming against Georgia Tech.
Outlook: The Commodores have the talent and they have the young rushing stars to get excited about, but they need help from the passing game to take off some of the heat. They only ran for two touchdowns in the final eight games, and those came against the Yellow Jackets. Even so, Norman, Stacy, and Tate form a dangerous trio that might be the strength of the team. The backs are better than the production will be.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: 5-10, 180-pound sophomore John Cole was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago, and he showed why with an impressive first season leading the team with 36 catches for 382 yards and a score. He didn't get much help around him, and the passer didn't do him any favors, but he was able to show off enough speed and athleticism to force the coaching staff to invent ways to get him the ball. Fine after missing 2008 with a knee injury, the record-setting Kentucky high school star should blossom if he gets better quarterback play.

Junior Udom Umoh has decent 6-0, 180-pound size and is one of the team's fastest players clocking in a 21.7 in the 200 and 48.6 in the 400 as a Georgia high school track star. He came up with a solid 13.4 yards per catch, but he disappeared for long stretches failing to make more than two grabs in any of the final seven games finishing with 20 catches for 267 yards and a score. A fantastic downfield blocker, now he has to do more as the team's No. 2 target.

Tight end Brandon Barden finished second on the team with 29 catches for 357 yards and a score as he grew into a more reliable target as the year went on. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, the junior has good size, is a great route runner, and has good hands. The former quarterback is athletic enough to do far more while continuing to be a key target on third downs.

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-4 and 205 pounds, redshirt freshman Brady Brown was going to be a big part of the rotation in his first year, but he got hurt with a leg problem and didn't make any grabs in his limited time. With his size and quickness, he should grow pose dangerous matchup problems as part of a rotation with John Cole. While he won't come up with big numbers in the mediocre offense, he'll have a few key catches.

Senior Turner Wimbley got a little bit of time making 12 catches for 99 yards as a possession receiver, and now he'll work more behind Udom Umoh. A good blocker for his 6-1, 192-pound size, he's not afraid of being physical and he has good hands. However, he's not going to come up with many runs after the catch.

Part receiver, part tight end, 6-6, 255-pound junior Austin Monahan is an interesting prospect who has seen a little bit of work over the last few years and was growing into a more dangerous target making ten catches for 92 yards. However, he suffered a knee injury and is still trying to get back for the start of the season. At his size he's a matchup nightmare, but he can't stay healthy. Along with his leg problem, he had to come back from a shoulder injury that cost him most of 2008.

Watch Out For … the receivers to hope Jordan Rodgers sees time under center. Larry Smith has the experience, but he's not a big time bomber. Rodgers might make the passing game more vertical and show what the receivers can do.
Strength: Cole. Umoh is a nice veteran and Barden is a strong receiving tight end, but Cole is a fantastic No. 1 target who doesn't get enough passes thrown his way in the bad attack. If he gets a chance, he'll shine.
Weakness: The quarterbacks. Smith has to be far more accurate and he's not going to come up with enough deep plays to stretch the field. Funk and Rodgers might be promising passers, but neither one has done anything at the FBS level. There's speed in the receiving corps, but they're not able to show it off.
Outlook: The receiving corps has had a rough go of it over the last few years, and while the quarterbacks are mostly to blame, the receivers didn't do enough when they got their chances. Even so, the core of Cole, Umoh, and Barden are good enough to work with, but they have to come up with more big plays and they have to make more things happen with the ball in their hands.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The line has to replace four starters, and no spot will be tougher to fill than left tackle where Thomas Welch was the star of the front five. Sophomore Ryan Seymour has decent 6-4 and 295-pound size and got a start late last year against Florida and did a great job. The 6-4, 295-pounder will eventually be the new star up front, but he has problems with a shoulder injury and needs to be back in the mix as soon as possible to become the team's top pass protector.

Taking over the starting left guard job will be Jacob Burrow , a 6-4, 275-pound sophomore who added 20 pounds to his frame over the last year after working mostly on the defensive front as a key scout teamer. Moved over to the offensive side late in the season, he proved to be a natural and should be fine with time to work through his mistakes.

The one returning starter up front is junior Kyle Fischer, a 6-6, 305-pound veteran who has grown into the right guard job. He has played at both guard spots and could see time at tackle if needed, but he's at his best as a run blocker in the interior. A big, experienced all-around blocker, he'll be the one the team works around early on.

6-4, 295-pound senior Joey Bailey is one of the team's most versatile linemen able to play anywhere up front, and he looked great this offseason at center. He's at his best in the middle and has seen just enough time to be ready to hit the ground running with five games of starting experience under his belt, but he has to stay healthy after being banged up throughout 2008 before seeing a little bit of time last year.

Junior James Williams was all ready to be a big part of the blocking scheme when he suffered a broken ankle and missed most of the season. The 6-6, 310-pounder is one of the team's most talented linemen and has the ability to grow into an all-star if he can get and stay healthy. A blaster of a blocker with solid athleticism, there's an NFL future if he can keep progressing over the next two years.

Projected Top Reserves: With James Williams banged up, 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Caleb Welchans could play a key role at right tackle. He saw enough time over the second half of last year to be considered a solid backup option, and he's tough enough to move to guard as the top reserve at right guard.

6-2, 280-pound junior Rob Ashabranner will become a key backup somewhere inside. A guard by nature, he could see time at center in a rotation with Joey Bailey and will also be a factor at guard. While he's not huge, he's tough, is a decent run blocking prospect, and will see plenty of action in the interior.

Redshirt freshman Wesley Johnson has spent the last year trying to beef up a bit after coming to the team as a 252-pounder, and now he's 6-4 and 275 pounds and will be a key reserve at left tackle with a shot at seeing time on the right side. A great athlete, he'll soon be a solid pass protector once he gets his feet wet.

Watch Out For … the line to not be all that bad. Even with four starters gone, the Commodores have enough talent to reload in a hurry. This might not be as cohesive a group as last year's, but there's excellent upside.
Strength: Athletes. After cranking out several excellent linemen in the Bobby Johnson era, the reputation has helped and there's a slew of young talent ready to shine. Seymour, Johnson, Welchans, and Burrow should form a great nucleus for the next few seasons.
Weakness: Experience. Everyone was back on last year's line and it was fine, but it wasn't special enough. While the line should be better next year, losing four starters is always going to be a problem. Having two injured starting tackles doesn't help.
Outlook: Vanderbilt seems to be able to reload on the line in a big hurry, with the front five undergoing a wholesale change two years ago and turning out to be a plus. The line will be fantastic next year and desperately needs Seymour and Williams to be healthy to be decent this season. It's not going to be a rock of a line, but it'll be fine.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2010 Vanderbilt Preview | 2010 Vanderbilt Offense
- 2010 Vanderbilt Defense | 2010 Vanderbilt Depth Chart
- Vanderbilt Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006