Aug. 31, 2007
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RICHMOND AT VANDERBILT
DATE: Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007
KICKOFF: 6:00 p.m., CST
STADIUM: Vanderbilt Stadium
LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee
RADIO: Vanderbilt Radio Network; Flagship Station - 104.5 "The Zone"; Affiliates
ONLINE RADIO: VUcommodores.com
ONLINE LIVE STATS: VUcommodores.com
COMMODORE RADIO CREW: Joe Fisher, play-by-play; John Gromos, color analyst; Kevin Ingram, sideline reporter
SPECIAL PROMOTIONS: Admission prices are discounted for the Commodore season opener, which is being billed as "Nashville Appreciation Night." Tickets are $12. A fireworks display is scheduled at the conclusion of the game.
Vandy-Richmond Series History
Meeting between schools: 3rd
Series record: Vanderbilt leads, 2-0
Prior Meetings: 2005 Vanderbilt 37, Richmond 13; 2001 Vanderbilt 28, Richmond 22
Bobby Johnson all-time vs. Richmond: 1-0
In the 2005 game, Vanderbilt fans were introduced to a standout freshman receiver, Earl Bennett, who caught 11 passes for 124 yards. Cassen Jackson-Garrison also ran for 119 yards.
The win was Vanderbilt's third of four consecutive to open the season. Richmond also responded in positive fashion, reeling off eight straight victories before losing 24-20 to Furman in the NCAA playoffs. Bobby Johnson served as Furman's head coach before accepting the Vanderbilt position.
In 2001, Vanderbilt captured a hard-fought win, edging the Spiders 28-22. That game - played one week after the tragic events of Sept. 11 - saw Richmond take a 16-7 second quarter lead before Vanderbilt responded with 21 unanswered points.
Vanderbilt Results in Season Openers
Vanderbilt, in its 118th year of organized football, enters the Richmond contest looking for its 75th victory in season-opening games. The Commodores are 74-39-4 all-time in season openers.
In 2006, Vanderbilt opened at Ann Arbor, Mich., in front of more than 109,000 fans, the largest crowd to ever witness a Commodore game. Vanderbilt fell to Michigan 27-7 on ESPN national TV.
Despite the historic success in openers, Vanderbilt has struggled to open with a victory. The 'Dores are 9-16 in the last 25 openers.
The Commodores are 51-15-2 all-time in season openers played on campus, and 14-11 in their last 25 home openers.
In their last 10 openers against non-SEC teams, the Commodores are 4-6.
Vanderbilt Versus Non-SEC Teams
Vanderbilt is looking for its fourth consecutive victory in non-Southeastern Conference action when it faces Richmond.
The Commodores were 3-1 in non-SEC action last year, beating Tennessee State, Temple and Duke after their season-opening 27-7 loss at Michigan.
In the last decade, Vanderbilt is 23-15 in non-conference play. The Commodores have won six of their last nine non-SEC games.
Two Key 'Dores From Virginia
Two key Vanderbilt defensive contributors, Gabe Hall (Sr., DT) and Brent Trice (So., safety), hail from the state of Virginia.
Hall, who will enter the season as a starter on the Commodore interior front, resides in Virginia Beach. Hall's parents serve as ministers in his hometown.
Trice, a top reserve safety who played as a true freshman for the Commodores last year, is from Orange, a small community near Charlottesville.
Hall and Trice attended Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
Kiser Served on 2001 Richmond Staff
One year prior to joining Bobby Johnson's Vanderbilt staff, current Commodore quarterback coach Jimmy Kiser served as the offensive coordinator at Richmond. Kiser, a former offensive coordinator at North Carolina State, directed the Spider offense in 2001, and nearly guided the Spiders to a victory in Nashville over Vanderbilt, losing 28-22.
Kiser, known at Vanderbilt for mentoring 2005 SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jay Cutler and 2006 starter Chris Nickson, worked with Stacy Tutt, one of the finest quarterbacks in Richmond history and a current member of the New York Jets.
Top Commodore Weapons Return
The Vanderbilt offense is one of four in the NCAA that will return a 2,000-yard passer (Chris Nickson), a 1,000-yard receiver (Earl Bennett) and a 600-yard rusher (Nickson and Cassen Jackson-Garrison).
Other teams to return such an arsenal this season are Purdue, Oklahoma State and Kentucky.
Nickson, who set a SEC rushing high for quarterbacks (694) last year while establishing a new team mark for rushing yards by a quarterback, is one of three quarterbacks in the nation that threw for more than 2,000 passing yards while rushing for more than 600 yards, joining Matt Grothe of South Florida and Stephen McKee of Texas A&M.
Virtually all of Vanderbilt offensive playmakers from a year ago, topped by Nickson and Bennett, return this season. The only missing ingredients from 2006 are WR Marlon White (313 receiving yards) and TE/FB Steven Bright (228 receiving yards).
Numerous Starters Back for 'Dores
The Commodore opening day lineup against Richmond could include a bevy of players who enjoyed starting roles a year ago.
Seventeen position players that started multiple games in 2006 - nine on offense and eight on defense - are in the mix to earn starting assignments for the Richmond opener. Both kicking specialists for the 2006 Commodores also are expected to return as starters.
Offensive starters from a year ago expected back in familiar roles are QB Chris Nickson, TB Cassen Jackson-Garrison, TE Brad Allen, WR Earl Bennett, WR George Smith, LT Chris Williams, LG Josh Eames, C Hamilton Holliday, RG Merritt Kirchoffer and RT Brian Stamper.
Defensive starters expected back in the first-unit this season are DE Curtis Gatewood, DT Theo Horrocks, MLB Jonathan Goff, OLB Marcus Buggs, CB D.J. Moore, SS Reshard Langford, and FS Ryan Hamilton.
Several other Commodores, including OG Ryan Custer, CB/S Joel Caldwell, CB Josh Allen, and CB Jared Fagan have multiple-game starting experience entering the season.
O-Line One of NCAA's Most Experienced
For the first time in recent history, the Vanderbilt offensive line for the season opener will feature five seniors - all returning starters from a year ago.
The veteran unit includes Outland Trophy candidate Chris Williams at left tackle, All-SEC candidate Brian Stamper at right tackle, Josh Eames at left guard, Merritt Kirchoffer at right guard and Hamilton Holliday at center.
Collectively, the five linemen have started 101 collegiate games.
Stamper, Jennings Back from Injury
The Commodores are expecting to welcome back a pair of former standouts, Brian Stamper (R-Sr., OT) and Jeff Jennings (R-Jr., TB), who missed most or all of the 2006 season.
The improved medical status of Stamper, a former All-SEC performer and team captain, and Jennings, a starting tailback in 2005, were among the most pleasing developments during Vanderbilt's recently concluded preseason camp.
Bobby Johnson is expected to name Stamper as a starter at right tackle. Stamper, of Windermere, Fla., underwent career-threatening back surgery last year after the pain became too much early in the season. Last winter, Stamper was granted a medical redshirt and fifth year of eligibility after he and the team petitioned the NCAA.
Stamper missed much of Vanderbilt's spring drills due to a foot injury, but has gone full-speed in preseason camp without pain.
Jennings return to action - from a severe 2005 knee injury- has been just as remarkable. A one-time starter who has 12 career rushing touchdowns, Jennings sat out the entire 2006 season while rehabilitating the injured leg.
In camp, Jennings has practiced like his old self, displaying excellent mobility and explosiveness. He enters the season likely to share the No. 1 tailback role with close friend Cassen Jackson-Garrison.
Gatewood, Horrocks Lead D-Line
Two of the Southeastern Conference's top defensive performers last year, Curtis Gatewood (R-Sr., DE) and Theo Horrocks (Sr., DT), return this season to pace the Commodore defensive interior attack.
Gatewood, of Memphis, posted seven sacks last year, the second highest single-season total by a Commodore since 1998.
Horrocks, a '07 co-captain from Fayetteville, contributed five sacks and an SEC-high four forced fumbles. Horrocks' 2006 campaign was arguably the most productive season by a Vanderbilt DT since Charles Manley's performance in 1994 (64 total tackles/9 sacks/17 TFLs).
Hahnfeldt Looks 100% Healthy
No Commodore has enjoyed a more productive preseason camp than Bryant Hahnfeldt (Jr., PK/P).
Eighteen months removed from a knee surgery, Hahnfeldt has displayed confidence, consistency and added range through the summer drills. He easily claimed the role of placekicker, and has competed with incumbent punter Brett Upson (So.) for that role.
Hahnfeldt was a game competitor in 2006, winning the placekicking role just six months after corrective ACL surgery. Though his success rate dropped, Hahnfeldt was responsible for the Commdores' game-winning field goal to beat Georgia.