Vanderbilt spring wrap

2009 overall record: 2-10

2009 conference record: 0-8

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 5; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Larry Smith, RB Warren Norman, RB Zac Stacy, TE Brandon Barden, DT Adam Smotherman, LB Chris Marve, CB Casey Hayward, S Sean Richardson

Key losses

OT Thomas Welch, C Bradley Vierling, DE Broderick Stewart, LB Patrick Benoist, CB Myron Lewis, S Ryan Hamilton, P Brett Upson

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Warren Norman* (783 yards)

Passing: Larry Smith* (1,126 yards)

Receiving: John Cole* (382 yards)

Tackles: Chris Marve* (121)

Sacks: Greg Billinger (3.5)

Interceptions: Myron Lewis (4)

Spring answers

1. Strength in the secondary: The Commodores will again be strong in the secondary under the guidance of defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jamie Bryant. Losing a cornerback the caliber of Myron Lewis always stings, but the duo of Sean Richardson at safety and Casey Hayward at cornerback gives the Commodores a solid core. Eddie Foster returns as the nickel back, while cornerback Jamie Graham is one of the most versatile players on the team.

2. A May find: Redshirt freshman defensive end Walker May had two sacks and two hurries in the Black and Gold spring scrimmage to cap an outstanding spring. With the loss of senior ends Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone, the Commodores were looking for pass-rushers, and May fits that bill.

3. Running game options: The Commodores won’t have any shortage of options in their offensive backfield. Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Kennard Reeves all had their moments this spring. If Warren and Stacy can both stay healthy next season, that’s a combo that should be plenty effective in 2010. Plus, the Commodores will add Wesley Tate to the mix in the fall. He missed the spring with a foot injury.

Fall questions

1. Finding some points: After struggling to score points last season, Vanderbilt’s offense wasn’t much better this spring. The Commodores went the first 13 possessions of the Black and Gold spring scrimmage without scoring a touchdown. But in one final scrimmage to end the spring, the offense fared a little better by scoring on its first three drives to at least go into the summer with a little momentum. It's an offense that needs more playmakers. John Cole was a one-man show last season at receiver. Maybe freshman receivers Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews are the answer.

2. Quarterback uncertainty: Nobody won the quarterback battle, and it's not because everybody was so effective. Jared Funk pushed Larry Smith, and junior college newcomer Jordan Rodgers started to come on after a slow start to the spring. Smith is still the guy to beat, but he’s going to have to prove to the coaches and his teammates this summer and then in the preseason that he’s going to be more consistent and more efficient under center. Otherwise, you could see a couple of different players taking snaps for the Commodores in the fall. Rodgers is a redshirt candidate if he doesn't win the job.

3. Settling on the offensive line: There’s still several different directions the Commodores could go in their offensive line. One of the keys will be tackle James Williams returning from a broken ankle he suffered last season. It also didn’t help that Ryan Seymour, expected to be the other tackle, missed most of the spring with a shoulder injury. Finding a right guard will be critical in the preseason, although senior Joey Bailey entrenched himself at center.