NCF Nation: Reshard Langford
|Charles Small/US Presswire|
|The Commodores defense, led by cornerback D.J. Moore, are second in the country to North Carolina with 11 interceptions.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
It's not in Bobby Johnson's makeup to come out and say it, but he doesn't really need to.
Turn on the tape. Look at the numbers. Talk to other coaches and check with the NFL scouts.
Vanderbilt's secondary is playing as well as any in the SEC right now and rates favorably with any defensive backfield in the country.
"We know each other pretty well and play together pretty well ... and we're pretty good," said junior cornerback D.J. Moore, a first-team All-SEC selection a year ago. "With the way our defensive line and linebackers are getting up the field and pressuring the quarterback, it just opens up a lot more big plays for us."
The Commodores are second in the country to North Carolina with 11 interceptions. All four starters have at least two picks, and junior safety Ryan Hamilton is tied for the SEC lead with three.
All four starters in the secondary are also among the top six tacklers on the team.
Johnson admitted back in August that he had a lot of confidence in this secondary, and that confidence has been on display during the Commodores' 5-0 start.
Moore said they're playing more man coverage than they ever did last season. Also, the Commodores haven't held back in going after the opposing quarterback. They lead the SEC and are tied for sixth nationally with 16 sacks.
"When you have defensive backs who can guard people, you can call any defense you want to," said Moore, who also leads the country in punt return average (28.5 yards per game) and is one of the most exciting multipurpose players in college football.
Teams haven't been able to throw away from Moore, either. On the other side at cornerback is junior Myron Lewis, who has equally good cover skills. Lewis' interception down the sideline sealed the 14-13 win over Auburn last Saturday.
"We love going after the quarterback. That's what we do," said Lewis, who already has three sacks and is a blur on the corner blitz. "If we don't get there, we feel like we're good enough in the secondary to cover. We have faith in each other."
The glue in the Commodores' secondary is senior safety Reshard Langford, another guy with NFL potential who hits like a linebacker.
"We like our secondary," Johnson said. "We've got experience back there, and we can do a lot of things with them. We felt like we were pretty good back there last year."
Vanderbilt secondary coach Jamie Bryant has been able to take that unit to an even higher level this year.
Langford thinks their best is yet to come, and it may have to be when you consider some of the offenses (Florida and Georgia) the Commodores still have to face.
"We have confidence we can play with anybody, and that's the way we're playing," Langford said. "I know there are still some doubters out there, but we're not going anywhere."
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt offensive tackle Thomas Welch has spent most of his nights this week doing what any football player in the SEC does the week of a nationally ranked showdown.
|AP Photo/Mark Humphrey|
|The Commodores are attempting to start a season 5-0 for the first time in over 60 years|
Forget the film room or even the hottest party on campus. Welch has been sequestering himself in the library for hours at a time.
Midterms are fast approaching at Vanderbilt.
"Last Saturday on our open date, I was in the library for four or five hours," Welch said. "I've also got a paper due, so I've got a lot to get ready for."
Somewhere along the way, Welch will also manage to squeeze in Saturday's football game. Don't think he's not excited. Don't think everybody on West End Avenue isn't excited.
It's only been since World War II that the No. 19-ranked Commodores last started a season 5-0, but that's the opportunity that awaits them Saturday when No. 14-ranked Auburn visits Vanderbilt Stadium in the kind of storyline usually reserved for Hollywood.
Come on. Vanderbilt, a top-20 school academically, playing a game in October that means something in the SEC race and ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand to watch it?
"I have a lot of pride in the fact that I'm at a place like Vanderbilt," said senior safety Reshard Langford, one of the team captains. "Not everybody can do what we do. I keep my head high every day, because this is a special place."
Indeed it is, and this is shaping up as a special season for the Commodores, who've historically led the football-crazed SEC in GPA's, but not much else.
Well, maybe losses. But we won't go there. This team refuses to go there, so why should we?
Remind quarterback Chris Nickson, center Bradley Vierling or any of the Vanderbilt players for that matter that the Commodores have had 25 straight losing seasons and only one winning season in SEC play over the last 47 years, and they barely flinch.
"We let what's happened in the past stay in the past," said redshirt freshman receiver Jamie Graham, who also plays on the Vanderbilt basketball team. "We know this is a new generation, new players and a new team.
"We want to change the program around."