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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 2-10, 0-8
Bowl Game:Chick-fil-A Bowl (L 37-14 vs. Virginia Tech)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'):NR, NR
Conference finish:6th SEC East
Offensive rank: 110
Defensive rank: 56

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing:Warren Norman, 783 yards, 3 TD
Passing: Larry Smith, 1,126 yards, 4 TD, 7 INT
Receiving:John Cole, 382 yards, 1 TD; Brandon Barden, 357 yards, 1 TD
Tackles:Chris Marve, 121 total tackles
Sacks:Greg Billinger, 3.5 sacks (3 solo, 1 assisted); Theron Kadri, 3 sacks (3 solo)
Interceptions:Myron Lewis, 4 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook


(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 4 vs. Northwestern: After this one is LSU at home, Ole Miss in Oxford and Connecticut in East Hartford. If they don't beat Northwestern, where they'll also be the underdog, they're likely to start their season 0-4 before…

October 9 vs. Eastern Michigan: This is the one game that should be a guaranteed Commodore victory. If wins were handed out without playing the games, Vandy would finish the year 1-11.

November 27 vs. Wake Forest: The Commodores haven't beaten Wake Forest since 2005 when Vandy went 5-6. This is one of the teams that they may have a better chance of beating, and would be a nice way to close Robbie Caldwell's first year as head coach.


Coaches': Not Ranked

Key Losses

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

Key Returning Players

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

Offensive Overview

The Commodores were thin along the offensive line even before it was announced that James Williams would not be playing due to academic issues. Now, when things seemed like they couldn't get much worse, they've gone ahead and done just that. Williams was perhaps the most talented member of this thin line and his absence will surely be felt. At right guard, Kyle Fischer is the lone returning starter on this unit. Ryan Seymour, who missed a good deal of spring ball with a shoulder problem, is set to take over the left tackle spot for the departed Thomas Welch.

The green line will protect junior quarterback Larry Smith who returns for his second year as the starter after sitting out the final three games in 2009 with a torn hamstring. Before his injury, his production was underwhelming and we could actually see JUCO transfer Jordan Rodgers, brother of Aaron, take over if Smith struggles to get going. Vandy ranked 112th in the nation in passing offense, averaging under 150 yards per game and something will have to change if this team wants to win an SEC game this season. The Commodores took a hit when tight end Austin Monahan, expected to share tight end reps with Brandon Barden, went down with a season-ending ACL tear. Barden will carry the load with Monahan's absence after finishing second on the team with 29 receptions and 357 yards. Wide receiver John Cole is talented, athletic and pretty damn fast, but he'll need more help if this passing game wants to crawl out of the cellar. Udom Umoh is also fast, but needs to be more productive. He'll serve as the #2 target in 2010 with redshirt freshman Brady Brown expected to see some passes as well.

Running backs Warren Norman, named the SEC Freshman Player of the Year in 2009, and Zac Stacy both return after finishing one and two on the team in rushing with 783 and 478 yards, respectively. Each finished with three touchdowns on the ground. Norman is the speedier, do-everything type of back, while Stacy can be a consistent producer on the ground as well. Stacy is listed as questionable for the season opener coming off a sprained knee. Wesley Tate could also see time in the backfield rotation.

Defensive Overview

The Commodores lose a cornerback and safety in Myron Lewis and Ryan Hamilton, respectively, but also return a talented cornerback and safety in Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson, respectively. The secondary should be the strength of the defense with Jamie Graham taking over the corner spot opposite Hayward and Eddie Foster once again handling nickel duties. Jay Fullam would have played as a true freshman last season if not for a head injury, but he'll return in 2010 as a likely starter at free safety.

At the second line of defense, linebacker Chris Marve returns after leading the team with 121 tackles. He'll be the leader of the defense with John Stokes also expected to come away with a good year. Tristan Strong and Dexter Daniels are battling for the third spot in what should be a pretty solid group.

The defensive line, however, needs pass rushers and they may have found one in Walker May. A redshirt freshman, he may not start at end, but he should be a big part of the rotation. Tim Fugger and Teriall Brannon are expected to start, although neither has been ultra productive on the field. Adam Smotherman started 12 games last year at defensive tackle and is the unit's lone returning starting tackle with Greg Billinger gone. Smotherman has battled an ACL tear and his status for the season is not 100% yet. The promising T.J. Greenstone should get the start in Billinger's place. Improving in both run defense and the pass rush will be a focus of this unit.

Special Teams Overview

Following a shaky start of just 4 for 9 in field goal attempts, Ryan Fowler went 12 for 13 to close out the year. He also hit all 20 of his extra point attempts. He returns to his placekicking duties in the coming season. While the kicker situation remains constant, punter is another story. Gone is Brett Upson, who averaged 43.1 yards per punt on 81 attempts (81!), the second most attmpets in the nation tied with New Mexico State's Kyle Hughes and Middle Tennessee's David DeFatta. Richard Kent takes over punting duties and is expected to emerge as a very formidable option.

The kick returners should be great. Warren Norman, named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2009 and Vandy's leading rusher, returns to handle kick return duties after averaging 26.3 yards per return and taking three back for scores last season. Zac Stacy averaged 9.2 yards per punt return on four attempts last season and, once he recovers from a sprained knee, will handle punt return duties once again.

Head Coach: Robbie Caldwell

Bobby Johnson decided to retire in mid-July, leaving the head coaching job vacant about a month and a half before the start of the season. Robbie Caldwell, the assistant head coach and offensive lines coach, was named interim head coach and a short time later was officially named the head coach. At the SEC Media Day, he colorfully made light of the fact that most have never heard of him. He certainly has a way about him and from the brief video clips on the Internet, he seems like a fun guy to be around and from what people are saying, he deeply cares about his players.

Whether his personality translates into success on the field is up for debate, with some speculating that he won't be around for an encore at next year's SEC Media Day. Caldwell has been an offensive lines coach for four different institutions including Vanderbilt. He started at Furman in 1978 where he coached until 1985 before moving on to NC State. He stayed with the Wolf Pack until 1999 and headed over to North Carolina for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. In 2002 he joined the Vanderbilt staff and served as the offensive lines coach until he was named head coach last month.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

John Stokes, LB

Season Prediction

6th SEC East

The offense ranked 113th in scoring offense and 110th in total offense. Things may get a little better in the coming season with two talented young backs, but they're still likely to finish towards the bottom of the conference unless the passing game can come together. The Commodores have talent on defense, with the secondary likely the best unit, a few good linebackers and a promising pass rusher in Walker May. Nonetheless, it's hard to think that Vandy won't finish in the basement of the SEC East again. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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