Three things we learned in the spring about the Vanderbilt Commodores:
1. The front seven has promise: With Vandy moving to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator David Kotulski, the defensive line should have more freedom and be more versatile. The coaches were very happy with the progress the front seven made, especially Caleb Azubike and Kyle Woestmann, who made the successful move from end to outside linebacker.
2. A more improved running game: Vandy’s coaches were very pleased with how the running game looked this spring, especially when veteran Brian Kimbrow and redshirt freshman Ralph Webb carried the ball. Kimbrow looked a little stronger and still has that home-run ability, while Webb could be a star in the making. Oh, and vet Jerron Seymour is back, too. This offense shouldn’t have a problem leaning on the running game.
3. Strength at cornerback: While the Commodores lost solid starters Dre Hal and Steven Clarke, Mason felt pretty good about the youngsters filling in. Sophomores Paris Head and Torren McGaster had exceptional springs and could take starting spots, while redshirt freshman Tre Bell really made strides this spring. Taurean Ferguson also had a good spring at corner.
Three questions for the fall
1. Who will start at quarterback? While coaches seemed pretty pleased with the progress made by redshirt sophomore Patton Robinette and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary, it doesn’t look like either really separated himself. That could be a good thing, for now, but Mason will be pushing those guys even harder in fall camp. Also, don’t forget that LSU transfer Stephen Rivers will be around to compete this fall.
2. Who becomes the guy at wide receiver? Top receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause are gone, which means so are 2,191 yards, 154 catches and 10 touchdowns from last year. Sophomore Jordan Cunningham is the top returning pass-catcher, after snagging 15 receptions last year. There is a lot of inexperience at receiver and not having the quarterback situation figured out doesn’t make figuring things out there easier.
3. Can players get their edge back? Mason has to replace a coach in James Franklin who completely turned Vandy’s program around. The excitement surrounding Franklin and his teams were tremendous, but can the Commodores get that edge back? This team has a lot of pieces to replace and has to maintain the attitude it had that made it so competitive under Franklin.
One way-too-early prediction:
For a couple of years now, we've heard about the potential that Azubike has. He's an athletic freak and has all the tools to be a top-end defensive player in this league. His move to outside linebacker should make him an even bigger threat for the Commodores. He'll hit the double-digit mark in sacks this fall.