Vanderbilt has flown under the radar since James Franklin left after the 2013 season. After struggling out of the gate, Derek Mason’s Commodores have gone a combined 17-21 the past three years, far from bad given that they play in the SEC, but certainly not anything exciting, so I’d say Mason is probably on the hot seat heading into the 2019 season, although not to the degree that coaches at more storied programs are like Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Mason is incredibly well-liked within the program and he’s made a bowl two of the past three years, Vanderbilt fans know that their expectations need to be tapered, as Franklin is the only Vanderbilt coach in the past 40 years to emerge with a winning record.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn is back at halfback after an extraordinary 1,244 yard, 12 touchdown year on 7.9 yards per carry as he exploded the back end of the season. The top three pass-catchers return as well, including Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkey, who combined for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,600 yards. Younger names like CJ Bolar, Amir Abdur-Rahman, and Cam Johnson will provide depth and Vandy also will at a Harvard grad transfer to the group in Justice Shelton-Mosley.
The quarterback spot is a little bit up in the air, but three-year Ball State starter Riley Neal feels like the leader. Neal has over 7,000 career passing yards so we’ll see if his talent can translate against SEC competition. Last year’s backup, Deucue Wallace, also returns.
The line returns three starters and adds South Alabama starter Rowan Godwin who graduate transferred here. I think despite the loss of QB Kyle Shurmur, the offense will hold steady and could even improve if Neal impresses.
On defense, the ‘Dores continue their trend of bringing in some interesting transfers, like Marist tackle Eddie Zinn-Turner, Wisconsin by way of JUCO corner Dontye Carriere-Williams, and Illinois grad transfer corner Cameron Watkins, who started 16 games with the Fighting Illini.
In terms of returning talent, Kenny Herbert is an ace pass rusher who led the team in sacks despite not starting a single game last year, and junior safety Frank Coppet had three picks. Some new faces will have to step up, though, as no returning player had more than four sacks, four TFL, or four PBUs last year. I think the defense takes a step back with the losses of guys like Josh Smith and JoeJuan Williams.
Another seven-loss year seems to be the model’s prognostication, but that means you’re just a slightly overachieving year away from a bowl game. The Commodores need to take care of business against a sneaky good Northern Illinois team in non-conference play, but win that and you’ll likely just need a 3-5 record in SEC games to go bowling.
|at ole miss
|at south carolina
|east tennessee state
Average Projected Record: 5.0 wins, 7.0 losses (2.1 wins, 5.9 losses)