2022 Vanderbilt Commodores Preview

by Matt Fargo

Vanderbilt Commodores

2021-22 Season Record 2-10 (0-8 SEC East) - 6-6-0 ATS - 5-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 7
Defense - 7

Overview

Vanderbilt has gone 5-28 the last three years and it is in the midst of its worst three-season run since 2002-2004 when it went 6-29. The Commodores had a decent stretch prior to this, going to bowl games six times in the previous 11 seasons which is saying a lot considering they went to just three bowl games in the first 104 years of existence. Former head coach James Franklin was responsible for two of the three seasons where it finished ranked in the AP Poll and he parlayed that into a successful gig at Penn St. while Derek Mason could not get anything going in just under seven seasons, now current head coach Clark Lea has to regroup his team after a 2-10 season in his debut. There is good experience coming back with seven starters returning on each side of the ball and the incoming recruiting class is the third best in program history so the future could be somewhat bright.

Offense

The offense could get nothing going last season as the Commodores managed 30 points only once while scoring 17 points or fewer in half of their games. They finished No. 119 in total offense and No. 128 in scoring offense with all facets of the unit not doing anything right. Quarterback play was a mess as Mike Wright and Ken Seals split time with neither being effective and it is Wright that has been named the starter after throwing for 1,042 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions while completing only 53 percent of his passes. The good news is that the offensive line is pretty good and allowed 28 sacks last season with three starters coming back and adding key transfer help. The receivers lost two of the top three guys with Will Sheppard coming back after 577 yards and four touchdowns. Leading rusher Rocko Griffin also returns but needs to improve his 3.6 ypc average.

Defense

The defense was slightly better in the overall rankings but it was still awful in most areas. The Commodores were No. 118 in total defense and No. 120 in scoring defense and they did show some good things that can be carried over into this season. The linebackers are solid with Anfernee Orji and Ethan Barr leading way as the top two tacklers last season with 177 combined stops and they add Clemson transfer Kane Patterson so there is a lot of potential here. The defensive front was part of the problem with stopping the run, allowing 5.6 ypc yet they should be able to shore that up with all three starters returning but they only played a combined 25 games. Vanderbilt finished No. 114 in passing efficiency defense as it allowed the fifth most passing touchdowns and has two starters back led by safety Maxwell Worship who was third in tackles with 52 and a pair of interceptions.

2022 Season Outlook

An opening loss to East Tennessee St. of the FCS set the tone for the season last year even though Vanderbilt did get to 2-3 before bottoming out with seven straight losses. While there are some positives heading into the season, getting out of the basement will be next to impossible by playing a schedule where every team won at least six games last season. The Commodores open vacation style in Hawaii before facing Elon and Wake Forest at home and then go to Northern Illinois to close out the nonconference schedule where a 2-2 record would be a positive. Then it gets nasty in the SEC with the start being at Alabama, at home against Mississippi and at Georgia. It gets better after that but with all five against bowl teams from last season. The O/U win total is set at 2.5 and it could sneak out going above that with an upset as they will be underdogs in every conference game.  

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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