Head Coach Bobby Johnson announced the selection of Benoist, a senior from Southlake, Texas, Hamilton, a fifth-year senior from Wycombe, Pa., and Vierling, a redshirt senior from Warminster, Pa., during a press conference held Monday in McGugin Center. The three captains were elected by Commodore teammates.
The head coach strongly supports the squad's choice of captains for the coming year. Benoist is the Commodores' only returning All-Southeastern Conference performer, having earned second-team honors from coaches and sportswriters last year, after leading the team in tackles as a junior. A 32-game career starter in the secondary, Hamilton is coming off a career season when he set single-season highs in tackles, interceptions and fumble recoveries. Vierling returns for his second season as a captain after starting every game in 2008.
"Patrick, Ryan and Bradley combine great leadership skills with the ability to make plays on the football field. They've been leaders on and off the field for this team," Johnson said. "I think their teammates did an excellent job electing guys that are totally committed to the success of our football team.
"Our upcoming squad returns a lot of starters from last year. While this team has a lot of guys that can step forward in a leadership role, Patrick, Ryan and Bradley have demonstrated the kind of leadership traits you really want to see in your captains," Johnson added.
The Commodores open the 2009 season hosting Western Carolina of the Southern Conference on September 5 in Vanderbilt Stadium. Besides Western Carolina, other opponents on Vanderbilt's six-game home schedule are SEC foes Mississippi State (Sept. 19), Ole Miss (Oct. 3), Georgia (Oct. 17) and Kentucky (Nov. 14), and Atlantic Coast Conference power Georgia Tech (Oct. 31).
The Commodores, coming off a 7-6 campaign and Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl title, look to make team history this season, bidding to become the first Vanderbilt squad to enjoy back-to-back postseason appearances.
A Rimington Trophy preseason candidate, Vierling stepped forward as a leader and player last year, earning the respect of teammates before even starting a single game on the offensive line. As an offensive co-captain, he helped bring together an offensive line looking to replace five starters from the previous year. By season's end, Vierling had snapped nearly 95 percent of the Commodores' offensive plays.
Benoist put together a career year in 2008 despite playing with an injured right hand for much of the season. He concluded the season with single-season highs in solo tackles (48), total tackles (109), tackles for loss (6.5) and defensed passes (5). A stellar student-athlete and two-time district academic All-American, Benoist also earned national acclaim in Vanderbilt's early-season win over nationally ranked South Carolina, walking away from National Defensive Player of the Week honors after a 15-tackle performance. He came back three weeks later to earn the SEC's top weekly defensive award after posting 13 tackles in the Commodores' victory over Auburn.
Benoist also has been named to the preseason watchlist for the Lott Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's defensive impact player of the year.
No Commodore returnee put together a stronger year in 2008 than Hamilton. In his third campaign as a starter at safety alongside veteran standout Reshard Langford, Hamilton blossomed in 2008, setting career highs in solo tackles (51), total tackles (104), fumble recoveries (3) and interceptions (4). Hamilton also was remarkably consistent, posting at least five tackles in 12 of 13 games.
Hamilton also put together one of the greatest individual performances in Vanderbilt history in the Commodores' road win at Ole Miss, tying a team record with three pass interceptions. Hamilton returned his first pick 79 yards for a score as Vanderbilt trailed 10-0 early in the game. His final interception pick sealed the Commodore victory. Hamilton also contributed a huge fourth-down tackle at the Vanderbilt 1-yard line in the performance that garnered National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Season ticket packages for the upcoming Commodore campaign, starting at $109, are available online by by clicking here, by phone (615) 322-3544) or at the Ticket Box Office in McGugin Center (2601 Jess Neely Drive).