Returning Starters – Offense: 9 Defense: 9
Preview: The Commodores instantly fell off the map in their first year under new head coach Derek Mason going 3-9 overall with 0 wins coming in conference play. The signs were there early for Vanderbilt that it was going to be a rough 2014 after opening the season with a 7-37 home loss against Temple followed by a 3-41 home loss against Ole Miss. The Commodores return 18 starters and there’s practically nowhere to go but up for this program coming into 2015.
Vanderbilt was terrible on offense in 2014 ranking at the bottom of the SEC in a number of key statistical categories, but that’s to be expected from a team that goes 0-8 in conference play. The Commodores decided to change things up by bringing in new OC Andy Ludwig to take over for the departed Karl Dorrell. The QB position will be a battle between returning players Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck who both struggled in 2014. The O-line underperformed last season, but this unit has the bodies to be successful with 4 returning starters. The run game lacks depth, but returning starter Ralph Webb has shown promise. The WR corps is young, but there’s some intriguing talent to look out for if the Vandy can find a QB that can get these guys the ball.
The defense has also changed things up with DC David Kotulski being removed in favor of head coach Mason taking over to call the plays. Expect the defense to show signs of improvement with 9 returning starters back in the mix. The D-line has potential with talented players like Azubike, Butler, and Lealao leading the unit. The LB corps should be solid with 3 returning starters back in the mix in addition to highly touted recruit Josh Smith. Vanderbilt had a tough time in pass defense last season and this unit hopes to be better building around the continuity of 4 returning starters.
Prediction: It was pretty remarkable to see the difference one offseason made for Vandy as they had to bring in a new head coach going into 2014. The Commodores were coming off back to back 9 wins seasons, but they fell off winning just 3 games last season. The 2015 version of the Commodores will be better, but that might not translate into a noticeable difference in their overall record. A legitimate goal for Vanderbilt should be to pick up at least 1 conference in this season.
Projected Record: 2-10 (0-8)