Five Vanderbilt standouts -- Oren Burks, Nifae Lealao, Bruno Reagan, Ralph Webb and Ryan White -- have been named to preseason All-Southeastern Conference teams by a leading college football preview magazine.
Athlon Sports listed Webb, a senior running back from Gainesville, Fla., on its third team offense. Lealao, a senior defensive tackle from Sacramento, Calif., and Burks, a senior linebacker from Fairfax Station, Va., were named third-team all-conference. The magazine included Reagan, a junior offensive guard from Clarksville, Tenn., and White, a senior safety from Louisville, Ky., on its fourth team all-league squad.
The magazine, which recently hit newsstands, also predicts Derek Mason's 2017 squad to make its second consecutive postseason appearance.
The Commodores open the year on the road Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee before hosting straight opponents on campus: Alabama A&M on Sept. 9, Kansas State on Sept. 16 and Alabama on Sept. 23.
This marks the second straight year that Athlon Sports has recognized Webb, the powerful tailback who has shattered nearly every Vanderbilt rushing record as a three-year starter.
In 2016, Webb broke the Commodores' single-season rushing mark while becoming the team's all-time leading rusher. The product of Gainesville H.S. rushed for 1,283 yards, breaking Zac Stacy's school record of 1,193 yards set in 2011. The single-season total pushed Webb to 3,342 rushing yards for his career, bettering Stacy's former record of 3,143 yards.
Webb has been remarkably consistent as a Commodore, setting new rushing standards for freshmen, sophomore and junior running backs. He also holds team records with 739 rush attempts and 13 games of at least 100 rushing yards. Webb also has a chance to become one of the SEC's top career rushing leaders. He enters the 2017 season ranked No. 20 on the league's all-time charts and is 500 yards from the all-time Top Ten. With a season similar to last year, Webb could join the likes of Georgia's Herschel Walker, Arkansas' Darren McFadden, LSU's Kevin Faulk and Auburn's Bo Jackson in the league's all-time leaders.
Lealao, from Sacramento's Capital Christian H.S., is coming off his finest year as a Commodore. As a first-year starter in 2016, Lealao contributed four tackles for loss and 2.5 quarterback sacks among 22 total tackles. Lealao became a destructive force as the 2016 season developed, helping clog the interior of Vanderbilt's defense during a 4-2 Commodore run over the last six regular season games.
Reagan, a product of Clarksville (Tenn.) H.S., played virtually every meaningful offensive snap last year at guard. His effective blocking played a huge role in Webb's record-breaking campaign and the Commodores' remarkable success inside the 20-yard line where they scored on 44 of 48 red-zone possessions. The offense also produced 26 rushing touchdowns behind Reagan. This season, Reagan will be the most experienced member of the Commodore offensive front that returns two other starters, fellow guard Ean Pfeifer and tackle Justin Skule.
Burks, a versatile defender who has started in the Commodore linebacker corps and defensive secondary during the last two years, is penciled in to replace All-America Zach Cunningham at inside linebacker this season. In 2016, Burks topped the Commodore defense with five quarterback hurries, ranked second with 3.5 quarterback sacks, and was the team's fourth leading tackler with 40 solo stops. The South County (Va.) H.S. product also contributed an interception and six defensed passes playing the team's Star role.
White, from Trinity H.S. in Louisville, is a two-time team captain who is coming off his best year in Black and Gold. The starting safety established a number of single-season highs in 2016, ranking third on the team with 49 unassisted tackles and 75 total stops. He also forced a pair of fumbles, notched six defensed passes and one of the team's most dependable players on special teams.
The Commodores return 18 starters -- nine on offense, seven on defense and two specialists -- among 43 letterwinners from a 2016 squad that registered victories over Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee en route to an invitation to play North Carolina State in the Camping World Independence Bowl.
Besides hosting Alabama A&M, Kansas State and Alabama in September, the Commodores also have four other home games on the 2017 schedule: Georgia on Oct. 7, Western Kentucky on Nov. 4, Kentucky on Nov. 11 and Missouri on Nov. 18.
Season tickets for the Commodores' seven-game home slate starts at only $308 for premium sideline seats and $178 for reserve end-zone sections of Vanderbilt Stadium. Tickets can be purchased here.