Hope and concern: Vanderbilt

July, 2, 2009
7/02/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Biggest reason for hope: Experience, coaching and belief

Take a look at the depth chart, and you'll see that the Commodores have experience in key spots. On defense, Patrick Benoist, Myron Lewis, Chris Marve, Greg Billinger, Broderick Stewart and Ryan Hamilton have all played a lot of football, while everybody is back on the offensive line along with a healthy Jared Hawkins at tailback. It also goes without saying that Bobby Johnson has proven he can coach them up pretty well. Does any other staff in the SEC get as much out of their talent as the Commodores? There's also a belief on this team now that it can compete in the SEC, and much of that goes back to Johnson and the way he's elevated the program and elevated the talent level. Remember, Vanderbilt won four games in the SEC last season, and only Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss won more.

Biggest reason for concern: Not enough punch on offense

There's still the matter of sorting out who's going to be the quarterback, and the reality is that Larry Smith and Mackenzi Adams are both going to play. There wasn't enough separation in the spring to name a starter. A bigger question is: Who are they going to throw to? Justin Wheeler blew out his knee during spring practice, and talented transfer Terence Jeffers is still working to be eligible this fall. On paper anyway, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of big-play capability on this offense, and having to drive the field all the time for touchdowns is risky business against SEC defenses. The Commodores should be a little better at running the ball this season and controlling the clock, but they're going to have to find a way to score more points if they want to get back to a bowl game.

Chris Low | email

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