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Vanderbilt Commodores: Where they were 10 years ago

Under coach Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt regularly put scares into SEC heavyweights, but rarely came away with wins. AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain

To know where you are in the present, sometimes you have to look into your past.

For some, that can be a fun, healthy endeavor. For others, well, not so much.

Still, we're paying homage to the past and how it's affected the present in the SEC this week by taking a look at where each program was 10 years ago and where it currently stands. Some programs have made big leaps, some have steadied the course, and others, well, they’re yearning for the days of old.

We complete the series now with Vanderbilt:

2006 record: 4-8

2006 coach: Bobby Johnson

Notable: Vanderbilt was frequently a scrappy underdog during Johnson’s first several seasons -- particularly during a 2005 campaign when senior quarterback Jay Cutler was the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year for a 5-6 club -- but wins were always tough to come by. The 2006 season was no different as Vandy finished 4-8 and 1-7 in SEC play, the fourth time in five seasons under Johnson that the Commodores finished either dead last or tied for last in the Eastern Division standings. The highlight of the season came in mid-October when a last-second field goal by Bryan Hahnfeldt gave Vandy a 24-22 win against defending SEC champ Georgia -- at the Bulldogs’ homecoming game no less. The Commodores were otherwise 0-4 against ranked opponents that season, falling 27-7 at Michigan and 13-10 at Alabama, then losing a 25-19 nail-biter at home against eventual BCS champion Florida and 39-10 to Tennessee.

Trending: It certainly seemed in 2006 that Johnson would be the SEC’s lovable loser: a coach who did his job well despite obvious structural limitations. Vandy regularly put scares into SEC heavyweights, but rarely came away with wins. However, over the next two seasons, Johnson’s teams won a bit more consistently. The Commodores went 5-7, beat a top-10 South Carolina team and missed bowl eligibility only because of a series of narrow losses in 2007. Then they started the 2008 season with five straight victories, including wins against ranked South Carolina and Auburn teams, and finished the season at 7-6 thanks to a Music City Bowl win against Boston College. It was Vandy’s first winning season since 1982 and first bowl victory since 1955. However, Johnson’s eight-year tenure came to a disappointing conclusion the following year when his 2009 team went 2-10 and lost every conference game.

What’s happened since: Johnson retired just before the 2010 season, and assistant coach Robbie Caldwell took over as a surprise interim coach for that season. The Commodores went 2-10 and finished in the Eastern Division cellar once again, opening the door for the hiring of Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin. The charismatic Franklin turned Vandy into a surprisingly competitive program. He led the Commodores to a bowl in each of his three seasons, including back-to-back 9-4 records in 2012 and 2013. Prior to Franklin’s arrival, Vanderbilt had never appeared in bowl games in consecutive seasons. Franklin accepted the head coaching job at Penn State after the 2013 season and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason took over at Vandy. Mason has struggled thus far, going 7-17 overall and 2-14 in SEC play in two seasons. Largely thanks to a stifling defense, Vandy notched the first SEC win (against Missouri) and first road win (against Middle Tennessee State) of the Mason era last season, but the Commodores’ offense remains a problem. If Vandy fails to develop a more competent attack, it seems foolish to predict that Mason’s team will ever win consistently.