2017 Prespring Rankings: No. 53 Vanderbilt Commodores
The 2017 prespring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Vanderbilt Commodores
No. 53: Vanderbilt Commodores
Vanderbilt Commodores Prespring Status
Derek Mason came up with a bowl season, even if the team got bombed by NC State on the way to a losing campaign. At least the Commodores were able to hang with Florida and Auburn, and beat Georgia, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Overall, the offense was just okay until the end, and the defense was worse than it was in 2015, but it managed to do enough to get by in key moments. Now the SEC East should be stronger, and it’ll be even harder for Vandy to try repeating the success.
All-star LB Zach Cunningham took off early to the NFL, but the D gets back eight starters and should be more than fine as long as a Cunningham-like disruptive force emerges. The offense will never be Texas Tech, but after a long, tough run of struggling, it should be far better with nine starters back.
Vanderbilt Commodores Biggest Issue
Plays behind the line. The offense still needs to do more to push the ball down the field, and it has to be stronger at consistently cranking up the production, but the Commodores can win as long as the defense keeps doing its job. That might be a bit of a problem without Cunningham along with NT Adam Butler, who were the top playmakers in the backfield ranking 1-2 in tackles for loss. The pass rush has to be far, far better after coming up with 15 sacks – Butler came up with four of them. However …
Vanderbilt Commodores Biggest Positive
The rest of the defense is loaded. Cunningham was special, and he might be irreplaceable, and S Torren McGaster was a stud, but this is going to be a senior-loaded defensive side with a smart, tough group that should dominate in the secondary. 16 of the top 19 tacklers are back, to go along with all the veterans returning on offense.
Really, Why Are The Vanderbilt Commodores Ranked Here?
It’s possible this might be a better team with a worse record. Again, the SEC East will be better – good luck beating both Georgia and Tennessee this time around – but Mason has put together a rock-solid group. RB Ralph Webb and QB Kyle Shurmer form a decent, veteran backfield, and all the veteran receivers are back, but the season will revolve around another good defense.