Pre-Snap Read: Alabama A&M

Sept. 8, 2017

By Zac Ellis

Previewing Vanderbilt’s matchup with Alabama A&M on Saturday:

History Lesson: Despite campuses that sit just 120 miles apart, Vanderbilt has never faced Alabama A&M in football. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs opened the season with a 38-7 loss at UAB.

Names to Watch (Alabama A&M):
RB Jordan Bentley
Last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, Bentley rushed for 851 yards in 2016. He is joined by fourth-year back Byran Brower to form a skilled running back corps.

QB Aqeel Glass
The freshman from St. Louis won a three-way quarterback battle and earned the start against UAB. But coach James Spady played both Glass (7-17 for 101 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and redshirt junior Damion May (6-12, 37 yards) in the opener. Spady has said a third signal-caller, redshirt freshman Dylan Smith, could also see the field this fall.

LB Kenneth Davis
The senior linebacker notched a team-high 98 tackles in 2016, good enough for second-most in the SWAC. He is one of eight returning starters on the Bulldogs’ defense.

PODCAST: Previewing Alabama A&M with Bulldogs radio announcer Ted Dixie

The Statistical:
Sacks recorded by Vanderbilt against Middle Tennessee, the most by the Commodores in a single game since 2013. Linebacker Charles Wright (three sacks) and Dare Odeyingo (two) did the heavy lifting for Vanderbilt, which managed just 15 total sacks in 2016.

Middle Tennessee’s third-down conversions against Vanderbilt. The Dores held the Blue Raiders to 0-of-12 on third down, the first time Vanderbilt’s defense has pitched a shutout on third down since holding Missouri to 0-of-14 in 2014.

Number of Vanderbilt players who caught passes against Middle Tennessee. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur spread the wealth in the victory, resulting in a 20-of-28 day for 296 yards. The junior also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes.

The Big Question: Can the Dores build off momentum? Vanderbilt looked dialed in on both sides of the ball in its 28-6 win over Middle Tennessee. But coach Derek Mason still noted a drop-off in energy in the second half, when the Dores scored just seven points. Vanderbilt would like to keep its foot on the gas for four quarters against Alabama A&M.

Vanderbilt Needs To: Not overlook the Bulldogs. Mason referenced FCS Howard’s 43-40 upset of UNLV in Week 1 as reason to respect every opponent. "When we go out to practice, Alabama or Alabama A&M, it's all the same,” Mason said. “We have to be about the work."

Did You Know? Alabama A&M landed five players on the Preseason All-SWAC team, the most under head coach James Spady. Bentley and Davis were joined by defensive back Tere Calloway, kicker Nick Carden and offensive lineman Austin Simmons.

He Said It: “I believe from Week 1 to Week 2, you can make your biggest improvements and biggest advances. We’re just going to prepare the way we always prepare.” –Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason

Vanderbilt and Alabama A&M kick Saturday at 3 p.m. CT at Vanderbilt Stadium. The game is televised on SEC Network+.

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics. Check out his story archive and follow him on Twitter here.


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