The 2012 college football season just gets closer and closer and now it is less than two months from kicking off. Today we preview the No. 62 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football preview series. The Vanderbilt Commodores.
Vanderbilt has the unenviable position of playing in SEC. Don’t let the conference schedule fool you, Vandy has a chance to surprise in 2012.
Head coach James Franklin enters his second season leading Vandy. Franklin will have a clear-cut starter in senior Jordan Rodgers. Rodgers is the younger brother of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The younger Rodgers doesn’t have to be a Pro-Bowler to help Vandy get in the end zone. There is plenty of help surrounding QB position.
Fellow senior Zac Stacy returns after having arguably the best season a back has ever had for Vandy. Stacy set the school record for rushing yards last season with 1,193 on the ground to go along with 14 touchdowns. If having Stacy in the backfield isn’t enough the Commodores will retain the services of Warren Norman. Norman missed 2011 due to injury but had a spectacular freshman year in ’09 rushing for 783 yards and 3 td’s.
Almost the entire offensive line will be intact from last season as Vandy will have four returning starters. The only newcomer on the line will be center Spencer Pulley a sophomore who reportedly had a solid spring performance.
The receiving corps should be a strength. Junior Jordan Matthews and sophomore Chris Boyd provide two large targets for Rodgers to pass to. Matthews (6’3″) averaged 19.5 yards per reception and Boyd (6’4″) 15.3 in 2011. The two big play receivers will be assisted by newcomer Josh Grady a freshman out of Tampa who dazzled in the spring game reportedly out of the wildcat position.
The SEC hangs it hat on defense and Vandy is no exception. While no one will mistake the Commodores for being Alabama or LSU on defense, Vandy should have the respect of opposing offenses. Seven starters return to a defense that was ranked 18th in the nation. Senior Rob Lohr will lead the charge from the defensive tackle position.
The linebacking corps will miss the services of Chris Marve but still be in position to keep SEC offenses on their toes with returning starters Chase Garnham and Archibald Barnes. Garnham enters his junior year after showing a heap of promise from his 2011 campaign.
In the secondary senior Trey Wilson returns at cornerback backed up by junior safety Javon Marshall, also a returning starter. Wilson is the real deal as a cover corner returning two picks for TD’s in 2011 and starting every game last season. Marshall is a hard-hitting safeties safety who can defend the pass and tackle well.
It’s no secret the ‘Dores will have to navigate a difficult road to make their second bowl appearance in a row. The season begins with a tough in-conference draw opposite South Carolina in Nashville. After that a road game in Evansville, Illinois to tangle with Big Ten up-and-comer Northwestern. Presbyterian on September 15 should be a break before an SEC gauntlet. From September 22 to October 20 the ‘Dores will play at Georgia, at Missouri, and then home dates with Florida and Auburn.
The non-conference schedule produces another break October 27 with UMASS at home, as the Minutemen begin their inaugural season in the FCS. The next two weeks have Vandy on the road playing Kentucky and Ole Miss in that order. The final game in Vanderbilt Stadium is opposite rival Tennessee. The season concludes with a second consecutive road trip to Wake Forest of the ACC.
Vanderbilt avoids Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas from the SEC West. Both Florida and Auburn are at home. If the ‘Dores are to improve on their 2011 six win result they will have to pull off an upset somewhere along the way. It can be done.
Since 1982 Vandy has won at least six games three times. Coach Franklin begins year two with one such season under his belt. Six wins are very possible with 18 returning starters.