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Speed fuels Vanderbilt's sack patrol

9/18/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Everybody who's played against Vanderbilt this season has come away talking about the Commodores' improved speed on defense.

Obviously, that's not just talk.

Vanderbilt leads the SEC with 10 sacks through three games and is second with six interceptions.

The Commodores, though, face their biggest challenge yet in getting to the passer this weekend against Ole Miss. The Rebels have allowed just one sack in three games, and offensive tackle Michael Oher is a wall unto himself on the left side.

"They have a big line, and Michael Oher is one of the best offensive linemen in the country," Vanderbilt junior defensive end Steven Stone said. "They're big, but we're fast. We can get to them with movement and speed and try to get back there and put some pressure on them and help our D-backs out."

One thing's for sure. Vanderbilt junior defensive end Broderick Stewart knew what he was talking about back in August when he boldly proclaimed that the Commodores were the fastest defense in the SEC.

Are they the fastest? That might be debatable. But they're clearly faster than they have been, and they've been fast enough this season to carve out a 3-0 start.

Getting to Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead won't be easy. Not only are Oher and Co. pretty good up front, but Snead is a wizard at buying time and getting rid of the football. He's also extremely effective at throwing the ball on the move.

Something else to note about the Commodores is how good they've been in the second half. They've outscored their opponents 45-10 after halftime this season. Stone credited Vanderbilt speed, strength and conditioning director John Sisk for the program he put together this summer for the players.

"That's a big sticking point for us, not allowing any points in the fourth quarter," Stone said. "That's what we're trying to do, because that's when games are won."