July 28, 2014
Head coach Derek Mason has assembled an impressive coaching staff, including a former Pac-12 head coach and three others with experience as coordinators, to guide the Commodore offense.
Karl Dorrell, the former head coach at UCLA and recent offensive coach with the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, will serve as coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Commodores' pro-set offense. He will be assisted by two former Ohio University staffers, tight ends coach Gerry Gdowski and line coach Keven Lightner, receivers coach Marc Lubick and the lone holdover from the Vanderbilt's former staff, running backs coach Charles Bankins.
Four key offensive playmakers from the 2013 squad must be replaced: quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause, and offensive tackle Wesley Johnson.
Without doubt, the biggest question facing Dorrell is deciding who will guide the Commodores' offense.After conducting Spring Practice with just two quarterbacks in uniform,the Commodores enter camp with six candidates competing for the signal calling position left vacant by the graduation of Carta-Samuels.
The former UCLA head coach and key Houston Texans' offensive assistant has several candidates, including sophomore Patton Robinette, redshirtfreshman Johnny McCrary and recent transfer Stephen Rivers.
Robinette started three games last year, including wins at Florida andHouston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. He demonstrated a dual-threat ability that resulted in 11 total touchdowns. McCrary's athleticism and strong arm were on full display throughout spring drills. Rivers is an intriguing late addition, transferring to Vanderbilt as a graduate student after playing behind talented Zach Mettenberger for two years at LSU.
Junior Josh Grady, a dual-threat player who saw limited action last year, adds depth at the position.
The 2014 signing class also includes two prospects, Wade Freebeck and Shawn Stankavage.
New position coach Charles Bankins appears to have a three-person competition for the tailback role involving juniors Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour, and redshirt freshman Ralph Webb.
Seymour rushed for 716 yards and a record-breaking 14 touchdowns last year, while Kimbrow posted 341 rushing yards and three TDs. Seymour is an excellent inside runner and among the SEC'sbest in short-yardage situations. Kimbrow offers greater quickness and big-play abilities. Webb displayed breakaway speed and inside toughness during an impressive showing last spring.Junior Derek King will get preseason snaps at running back.
The team's lone signee at running back, Dallas Rivers,brings a bigger frame and different dimension to the corps.
Senior Kellen Williams, a former linebacker, enters camp as the team's likely fullback.
Two walk-ons - JosephHoffman and Chris Martin - complete the fullback candidates.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Commodore fans will see a notably different receiver corps in 2014,following the graduation of Jordan Matthews, the most prolific receiver inSoutheastern Conference history.
With the departures of Matthews and second leading receiver Jonathan Krause, new Vanderbilt receivers coach Marc Lubick promises to oversee a competitive camp with starting jobs at stake.
Senior walk-on Trey Wilkins and a pair of sophomores, Jordan Cunningham and Latevius Rayford, are the team's most experiencedreceivers. Cunningham's 15 receptions for 123 yards tops the team's returnees at wide receiver.Junior Kris Kentera is a potential target, bringing a bigger body to the wide receiver position after catching 20 passes the last two years playing tight end/H-back.
Redshirt freshmen C.J. Duncan and Gerald Perry flashed plenty of ability during spring drills. Duncan could become a fan favorite, bringing an array of playmaking skills to the Commodore offense. No Vanderbilt receiver displayed surer hands during the spring than Perry.The development of a third redshirt freshman, DeAndre Woods, who missed all of 2013 to injury, would create more depth at the position.
Redshirt freshman Chandler Dorrell, also joins the Commodores as a transfer from Stanford.
The staff also signed four wide receiver prospects: Rashad Canty, Ronald Monroe, Caleb Scott and Trent Sherfield.
Walk-ons Curtis Graves rounds out the wide receiver prospects.
First-year coach Gerry Gdowski expects continued development from the team's corps of tight ends.Junior Steven Scheu developedinto a quality starter in 2013,catching nine passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Scheu also possesses the physical frame to effectively block for the 'Dore running game.
Dillon van der Wal looks to create more opportunities during his final season.
The new staff also secured a transfer from Stanford tight end Davis Dudchock, a graduate student who becomes eligible this year.
Redshirt freshman Nathan Marcus also impressed during springdrills. Freshman Mitch Parsons also joins the roster.
The Vanderbilt offensive line, which includes four of five starters back from a year ago, should be a strength of the Commodores this season.
New offensive line coach Keven Lightner inherits a unit that includes two-year starters at center and both guard positions, and a pair of experienced tackles. The corps also blends solid depth, with another five contributors competing for more playing time.
In 2013, the offensive line helped Vanderbilt produce its most potent scoring offense of the modern era. The team's 30.1-point average ranks as the highest single-season average since the 1910s.
The new staff must replace All-SEC left tackle Wesley Johnson. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnson graduated with a school-record 51consecutive starts.
The staff expects sophomore Andrew Jelks to move into Johnson's vacancy at tackle. Jelks earned SEC All-Freshman honors last year after impressing in eight starts at right tackle.
The core of the offensive line is senior center Joe Townsend, and juniorguards Jake Bernstein and Spencer Pulley. All three are All-SEC caliber performers and are entering their third seasons as starters.
Townsend tops the entire squad with 22 career starts and enters his final year as a contender for the Rimington Trophy.Pulley and Townsend as the only 'Dores to start every game last year.Bernstein has started in 17 of his last 18 appearances.
Fifth-year senior Andrew Bridges, who missed much of the 2013 season to injury,is back to reclaim the right tackle role across from Jelks. He is expected to face strong competition from a trio of young Commodores: sophomores Blake Fromang and Kevin McCoy, and redshirt freshman Sean Dowling.
Sophomore Will Holden and redshirt freshman Delando Crooks possess the ability to push Bernstein and Pulley at the guard positions, while a third sophomore, Barrett Gouger, canswing between center and guard.Senior Ryan Brockway also provides depth at tackle.
The team's signing class also includes three highly regarded prospects Bailey Granier, Cole Hardin and Bruno Reagan.