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Team Capsule; Vanderbilt University


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Nickname: Commodores
2006 Record: 4-8(1-7 in The SEC)
Head Coach: Bobby Johnson(6th year at Vandy 15-43)




Overview:
Every once in a while, Vanderbilt appears to be a team on the rise, capable of earning a winning record and a bowl berth. The past two seasons however have been a little disappointing. The Commodores will look to improve this season from a near hopeful '06 campaign. Their record doesn't reveal the close SEC battles they fought all of last season. The Commodores had close games with nearly all their SEC foes. The close games included matchups with Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Florida, and Kentucky. The first four being the "nail biters" only losing by a touchdown or less. However, a win against Eastern division foe Georgia was the highlight of the Commodores' season. Vanderbilt will need great Quarterback play from a now experienced Chris Nickson, along with some help from one of the SEC's best WR's Earl Bennett. Playing in the tough SEC conference and deadly eastern division, they will need all the help they can get. If the Commodores can't get two or three big wins this season, namely in the SEC, then it could be another long and unhappy season.

In the early season they could very well be 3-1 after the first four games. With matchups against Richmond, Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Michigan. However, after those four games the stretch becomes a lot more difficult with the exception of Miami(OH). The rest of the schedule includes games against Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, the before-mentioned Miami(OH), the reigning National Champions Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the ACC Champions last season Wake Forest. Bobby Johnson has a lot of work to do, to make 07' a winning season.




Offense
Turnovers plagued the Commodores last season losing 14 fumbles and throwing 14 INTs. However, Vanderbilt was able to put up a lot of good numbers last season, even without former QB Jay Cutler. Chris Nickson performed well as a Sophomore and added a lot to their offense. He led the Commodores in passing for 2085 yards, 15 TDs, and 13 INTs. Not only did he lead the team in passing, but also in rushing with 694 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs. Also contributing for the team in rushing was Cassen Jackson-Garrison with 614 yards rushing and 5 TDs. He will most certainly be a senior leader next season for Vanderbilt.

The most notable returnee from last season however is All-SEC WR Earl Bennett. Bennett was voted the SEC's best receiver(07'Pre-season All-SEC top WR vote getter) over the likes of Early Doucet of LSU, Keenan Burton of Kentucky and Andre Caldwell of Florida. Bennett led all receivers with 82 receptions, 1,146 reception yards, and 6 TDs. He will most assuredly make some noise in the SEC for the Commodores this season. Earl is also considered to be a possible All-American candidate and a outside chance as a Heisman candidate. Expect Bennett to improve his #9 ranking in receiving yards/game in all the NCAA from last season.


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Earl Bennett/VUCommodores


The Commodores seem to be set on the Offensive Line this season. Not only are they gaining back all five of their starting offensive lineman, but all five will be seniors. Returning senior Brian Stampler was given a extra year of eligibility with a medical redshirt. The extra year or eligibility really gives another experienced spot on Vandy's offensive line. Senior offensive tackle Chris Williams is the leader of the group however, who has earned second team Pre-season All-SEC already. The 6'7 left tackle will lead this well experienced line in a possible better year in rushing.




Defense
The Vanderbilt defense had less then stellar numbers when it came to defense last season. Although they held their opponents close in most games last season, they still ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in almost every category. Their total defense was ranked 10th out of 12 in the SEC, and 74th overall in the Nation. They will certainly need their defense to step up next season if they want to compete in the SEC, especially from their leaders.

One of those leaders for the Commodores defense is three year MLB starter Jonathan Goff. Goff was given the duty to be captain of the defense as a junior last season and will be looked at as the unquestioned leader for this upcoming season. He recorded 93 tackles last season, 67 Solo, 26 Assisted, 7 for loss, 7.6 Per Game, and 3 sacks. Goff was among the SEC's best in tackles after being ranked 7th last season.

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Jonathan Goff/VUCommodores


The anchor of the Defensive line will be returning Senior Curtis Gatewood. The defensive end recorded seven sacks last season and was a force for the Commodores as a Junior. Opposing linemen will have a hard time with this future NFL prospect. Also holding down the D-line for the Commodores is Theo Horrocks and Broderick Stewart. Both each had five sacks last season in leading the Vanderbilt defense with Gatewood.

The Vanderbilt Secondary were led by freshman Darlron Spead and sophomore Reshard Langford last season. As a freshman Spead led the team in pass breakups with five. Spead and Langfored both led the team with interceptions however with three.




Special Teams
The Commodore kicking game was less then average last season. As a sophomore Bryan Hahnfeldt attempted 17 field goals in 2006 and made only 8 of them. The average was a discouraging .471 and will definitely need some improvement this season.

As for the punting game, Brett Upson averaged 37.40 and was the worst in the SEC.

Sophomore Alex Washington and Earl Bennett had the kick return and punt return duties last season. They will be expected to run kickoffs and punts this season also.

By: Tider 27
 
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