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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Hope and concern: Vanderbilt

By Edward Aschoff

Spring is over with in the SEC and as we head into what will feel like an endless offseason, we figured we wouldn't waste any time looking toward the upcoming season.

Today we start our "Hope and Concern" series where we look at each team and analyze why that team has reason for hope and why it has reason for concern in 2011.

Pretty self-explanatory stuff, right?

We're changing things up this time going in reverse order so we'll start with Vanderbilt:

Biggest reason for hope: Experience and an energetic new coach

The Commodores return 51 letterwinners, including 21 starters. Making things that much sweeter for Vanderbilt is that 15 of those starters are upperclassmen. One of them is senior linebacker Chris Marve, who was a 2010 All-SEC selection. With a new coaching staff in place, having veteran leadership to help guide this team will be key in the fall. Speaking of coaches, new head coach James Franklin brought some much-needed juice with him from Maryland. The Commodores have been to two bowl games in the past 30 years and were 2-10 last season, but Franklin doesn't seem concerned with that. Franklin, who was one of the top recruiters in the ACC during his time with the Terps, embraces his new challenge and has said he plans to do something special at Vanderbilt.

Biggest reason for concern: Inexperience at linebacker and thin offensive line

Marve might be one of the top linebackers in the SEC, but he can't get the job done alone. Vanderbilt must replace outside linebackers John Stokes and Nate Campbell from last season's team. There are six candidates, but they have one start among them. Coming out of spring, it appears as though juniors Tristan Strong and Archibald Barnes and sophomore Chase Garnham are the leading candidates to play with Marve. Offensively, there's some solid speed at the skill positions, but the offensive line is inexperienced. Vanderbilt was never completely healthy along the line this spring and there were a few position changes along the way. If Vanderbilt wants to get the best use out of its playmakers, the offensive line has to mature quickly.