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Friday, January 25, 2013
Season report card: Vanderbilt

By Edward Aschoff

We finish up our grading of all 14 SEC teams by checking out how the Vanderbilt Commodores did in 2012:

OFFENSE: A year ago, Vanderbilt had one of the most improved offenses, and even with some younger parts to work with, the Commodores still had a very solid offensive attack in 2012. For starters, quarterback Jordan Rodgers made a big leap from his junior season. Rodgers threw for 2,539 yards and 15 touchdown to just five interceptions. He was more efficient and more settled in the pocket in 2012, which was a major boost for the Commodores' offense last fall. Vandy wasn't a juggernaut on offense, but it was effective enough to help produce a nine-win season that included seven straight wins to end the season. Vandy finished the year eighth in the SEC in total offense (379.7 yards per game) and was seventh in scoring (30). Helping Rodgers in 2012 were dynamic receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Matthews led the SEC with 94 catches and registered 1,323 yards with eight touchdowns. Boyd caught 50 passes for 774 yards and five scores. Running back Zac Stacy produced his second straight 1,000-yard season (1,141) and scored 10 touchdowns. Again, the Commodores weren't flashy when they had the ball and registered middle-of-the-road numbers in SEC play, including averaging just 22.1 points per game against conference foes. Grade: B

DEFENSE: Year 2 under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was another success for the Commodores. Even though some key components -- and leaders -- were missing from last year's team, the Commodores' defense was one of the more underrated units in the league last fall. Vandy finished the season ranked fifth in the SEC in total defense (333.9) and had one of the top pass defenses, ranking 14th nationally, allowing 191.8 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt. The Commodores also grabbed 11 interceptions, while allowing seven passing touchdowns. Defensive backs Kenny Ladler and Andre Hal made real names for themselves in 2012. Ladler led the team with 90 tackles (60 solo) and Hal recorded two interceptions and was second in the SEC with 16 passes defended. Vandy did have its issues against the run in SEC play. The Commodores allowed 173.9 yards per game in SEC play and 12 touchdowns. In losses to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, they allowed an average of 277.7 yards and surrendered 10 touchdowns. In their five other SEC games, they gave up just two rushing touchdowns. Grade: B

OVERALL: James Franklin seems to really know what he's doing in Nashville. Year 1 was nice, but his second year was much better. Even after an 0-2 start, the Commodores rolled through the second half of the season. The close loss to South Carolina didn't hurt, but blowing a lead and losing by 10 on the road to Northwestern was a bad loss. The Commodores were then blown out by Georgia and lost to Florida to start 2-4, but those were the final low moments for the Commodores. They ripped off seven straight wins to finish the year and won nine games for the first time since 1915. They also won five conference games for the first time since 1935, routed rival Tennessee and soundly beat NC State in their bowl game to finish the year at No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll. Grade: A-

Past grades: