Preview 2017: How Good Can Vanderbilt Be With An Offense?
With just about everything else in place, just how good can Vanderbilt be if the offense starts to roll?
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Can you imagine if Vanderbilt’s offense was consistently good?
Before last season, if you had told Commodore fans that their team would be 4-6 – with losses to Kentucky and Missouri – going into the final two games against Ole Miss and Tennessee, they’d have assumed the offseason would about what the program might be able to do to get back into the bowl picture.
Instead, the O actually worked, rolling by the Rebels and Vols with a real, live passing attack, and boom – Vandy got to go for the swag bag.
Nevermind the NC State applied a 41-17 atomic wedgie in the Independence Bowl – the Commodores showed what could happen if and when the program was able to crank up a little bit of offensive production.
So you think it’s insane that Vandy maybe, probably, could be in the hunt for the SEC East title at some point? Yeah, it’s far-fetched, but if Kentucky could go into November last year with the East title still in play with just two SEC games to go, why not Vanderbilt?
The defense is always going to be just good enough to survive. Star LB Zach Cunningham might be gone, but seven starters return to the D led by a great-looking secondary.
There needs to be more of a pass rush, and the linebacking corps could use some help, but there’s enough experience to expect to at least tread water compared to last season.
The special teams – at least the kicking game – should be great. PK Tommy Openshaw is steady, and P Sam Loy averaged almost 42 yards per kick.
And that leaves it up to the offense to do its job.
Vanderbilt all-time leading rusher Ralph Webb is back, along with ten-touchdown blaster Khari Blasingame to provide a dangerous 1-2 punch to take the heat off everyone else.
All of the receivers are back, two-year veteran QB Kyle Shurmur returns, and three starters are back up front. Nine starters are back in all to an offense that finished 110th in the nation, but cranked out 400 yards or more in each of its last three regular season games.
It showed Vandy fans a little glimmer of hope that if everything else breaks right, the Commodores can finally stop being seen as a yearly SEC East also-ran.
It’s not all that long ago since the program was coming off of back-to-back 9-4 seasons in 2012 and 2013. After improving in each of the first three seasons under head coach Derek Mason, it’s possible the program is on track to get back to the level it showed under James Franklin.
But those two teams had dangerous offenses. And this one could, too.
If it does, all of a sudden, Vanderbilt could finally be a player.