2009 Vanderbilt Commodores Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 4-4)
2008 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Boston College (W 16-14)
Coach: Bobby Johnson (87-92 at Vanderbilt, 87-92 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ted Cain
Defensive Coordinator: Jamie Bryant
Other Key Returnees: DT Greg Billinger, S Ryan Hamilton, OT Reilly Lauer, LB Chris Marve, DT Adam Smotherman, LB John Stokes, C Bradley Vierling, OT Thomas Welch, WR Justin Wheeler
Key Losses: K Bryant Hahnfeldt, S Reshard Langford, CB D.J. Moore, QB Chris Nickson, WR George Smith, WR Sean Walker
Vanderbilt finished the 2008 season by winning their first bowl game in 53 years. The Commodores had not even been to the postseason since 1982. Every year the question was whether or not this would be the year that Vanderbilt could end that dreadful streak. And in 2008 Vanderbilt and Coach Bobby Johnson actually did it. Now the question is…what do they do next?
The Commodores certainly did not win games with their offense last year. In fact, usually it took a big play from the defense to even give the offense any hope at all of finding the end zone. The defense has some questions to answer, mostly in the secondary where D.J. Moore and Reshard Langford once roamed. Without those two around, Myron Lewis and Ryan Hamilton better be ready to step up and develop into the leaders of the secondary. Luckily for defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant everybody else is back. All-conference honoree Patrick Benoist, freshman All-American Chris Marve and John Stokes are all back to turn the linebacker corps into one of the best in the conference. Defensive ends Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart both tallied five sacks a season ago and Greg Billinger and Adam Smotherman proved to be capable tackles. All four of those players are upperclassmen and the d-line will get pressure on the quarterback and help out the relatively inexperienced secondary.
If it was not for the stellar defense, Vandy would have been nowhere near a bowl game. The most obvious concern is at quarterback where Mackenzi Adams is battling with Larry Smith and Jared Funk for the starting nod. Adams has the most experience of the bunch and led the team in passing last year. However, it was Smith who led the Commodores to their bowl victory over Boston College. Smith was certainly not that impressive during that game, but a win is a win. The three have fought through the spring and it looks like this battle could go well into the fall. No matter who starts at quarterback they should feel the benefit of a more experienced offensive line. All five starters return and that can be nothing but a good thing for the offense. Running back Jared Hawkins is also back, but it might be the versatility of wide receiver Alex Washington that turns the offense into something at least half way decent.
The Bottom Line for the Commodores:
Washington, a senior who only saw action in two games last year, had a great spring. He is the type of player who can make things happen and that is exactly what this offense needs. The defense should be just as good as it was last year and if the experience, along with a little explosiveness provided by Washington, can make the offense better, Vanderbilt should be back in a bowl game.
By Joel Welser
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