Alabama junior Justin Thomas and senior Cory Whitsett were among the first five players selected for…
Preseason View Of Vanderbilt
What BCS football team has doubled its number program bowl appearances over the past five seasons? If you answered "Vanderbilt" you are absolutely correct. In the over 110 years before 2008 Vanderbilt's all-time number of bowl games stood at three. Vandy has since bowled in 2008, 2011 and 2012 to improve its all-time bowl record to 3-2-1.
Times are special with the formerly downtrodden Vanderbilt program. Because of the on-the-field successes season ticket sales are at an all-time high and new facilities are being built. There is even talk of expanding Vanderbilt Stadium to 50,000 seats from its current seating of around 40,000. It's stuff that for decades Vandy fans could only dream about.
Can Vanderbilt continue its momentum and become consistently successful in the SEC? That question is yet to be answered. However, the 2013 team returns a solid group of players to a schedule that looks conducive to another Vanderbilt bowl appearance.
Offensively it's not going to be easy. James Franklin's Commodores must replace a 2,500 yard passing quarterback, the program's all-time leading rusher and a pair of offensive linemen.
Austyn Carta-Samuels is the front runner to replace now graduated quarterback Jordan Rodgers. Carta-Samuels isn't as mobile as Rodgers but has a strong arm and some experience. He passed for over 3,500 yards in two seasons at Wyoming before transferring to Vandy prior the 2011 season.
It appears that it will be running back by committee for the Commodore ground game. Look for speedster Brian Kimbrow (413 yards, 3 TDs) and hard running Wesley Tate (376 yards, 8 TDs) to share the load in 2013 with jitter bug Jerron Seymour, who was injured through much of last season, also getting significant carries.
Vanderbilt's receiving corps returns intact. Jordan Matthews, who made 94 receptions a year ago, returns. The other two starters, Chris Boyd (50 catches) and Jonathan Krause (9 catches) also return. Steven Scheu returns at tight end but junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg could make a case for playing time.
Despite losing two starting guards, Vandy's offensive line looks to be the deepest in years. Tackles Wesley Johnson (38 career starts) and Andrew Bridges return. Redshirt freshman Barrett Gouger and veteran Chase White will man the guard spots with Joe Townsend returning at center. There is ample depth with experience.
A defense that allowed just 18 points per game a year ago must replace three defensive linemen, a linebacker and an All-SEC cornerback.
End Walker May (10.5 TFLs) is the lone returnee on the line. Talented sophomore Caleb Azubike (4 sacks) will man the other end. Barron Dixon and either Vince Taylor or Adam Butler will be the tackles.
Outside linebacker Karl Butler (11.5 TFL) and senior middle linebacker Chase Garnham (7 sacks) return. Sophomore Darreon Herring (1 INT) will be the third linebacker.
The secondary loses Trey Wilson who returned five picks for touchdowns but returns cornerback Andre Hal (2 INTs) and safeties Kenny Ladler (90 tackles) and Javon Marshall (60 tackles).
All-SEC kicker Carey Spear is back but the Commodores must replace punter Richard Kent. Redshirt freshman Colby Cooke is the leading candidate for that spot.