Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: In an conference chock full of outstanding programs,
Vanderbilt quietly had one of its best seasons in program history, going 9-4
overall while winning five of its eight SEC bouts.
The Commodores' season did not start off on the right foot however, as they
were just 2-4 through mid-October, which included losses to top-10 teams South
Carolina (17-13), Georgia (48-3) and Florida (31-17). They managed to turn
things around in a hurry, however, by rattling off six straight wins to close
out the regular season.
The team became bowl eligible for the second straight year for the first time
in school history, and its 38-24 win over NC State in the Music City Bowl was
just its third-ever bowl victory.
The 2012 campaign featured plenty of milestones for the Commodores. Their
seven-game win streak to close out the season was the longest since 1948. It
was also the first time they won five SEC games in 30 years, and they finished
the season ranked in the AP Top-25 (No. 23) for the first time in more than 60
"(I'm) very proud of where we're going and what we're doing," head coach James
Franklin said. "(But) those are things of the past, and our focus is on where
we're going now."
OFFENSE: The Vanderbilt offense was modest at best a season ago in terms of
yardage (379.7 ypg), but thanks to a low turnover rate, it managed to put up
The Commodores' most dynamic playmaker is wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who
was named a unanimous First Team All-SEC selection in 2012 after tallying 94
receptions, 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Matthews had the opportunity to
be a high pick in the 2013 NFL Draft but opted to remain in Nashville for his
"I made the best decision of my life coming back," Mathews said. "There (was)
a little bit of time deciding what I wanted to do, but when I really laid
out the pros and cons, coming back and playing with some of these guys was a
no-brainer at the end of the day."
Chris Boyd (50 rec, 774 yards, five TDs) is also back to give Vandy arguably
the best receiving duo in the conference.
Throwing the ball to Matthews will be Austyn Carta-Samuels, who saw limited
opportunities in parts of six games last season (14-of-25, 208 yards, TD, 27
rushing yards). His production should be at least on par with the graduated
Jordan Rodgers, who was unremarkable as a senior (.599 completion percentage,
2,539 yards, 15 TDs, five interceptions).
Zac Stacy (1,141 yards, 10 TDs) set many school records at running back during
his career but is now battling for a starting job with the St. Louis Rams.
Wesley Tate (376 yards) has been anointed the feature back, and while his
yards per carry was lackluster in 2012 (3.5), he displayed a nose for the end
zone with eight touchdowns.
DEFENSE: In a conference filled with stout defenses, the Commodores were able
to hold their own and then some, yielding just 18.7 ppg and 333.9 ypg to
opponents, with their crowning achievement coming in a shutout of Kentucky on
The two top defensive playmakers from a season ago are both back for another
go, as safeties Kenny Ladler (90 tackles, two INTs) and Javon Marshall (83
tackles) return for their senior seasons and are the unquestioned leader of
the secondary. Linebacker Chase Garnham logged 84 tackles and was a menace
behind the line of scrimmage as well with 12.5 TFL and seven sacks last year.
Linebacker Karl Butler (51 tackles, 11.5 TFL, two sacks), defensive tackle Rob
Lohr (11 TFL), defensive end Walker May (10.5 TFL, three sacks) and cornerback
Andre Hal (48 tackles, two INTs) were all key pieces to the defensive puzzle
2012, and should ensure another stellar campaign this year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Carey Spear earned Second Team All-SEC honors in 2012 after
making good on 20-of-24 field goal attempts. Redshirt freshman Colby Cooke
will take over the punting duties from Richard Kent (44.9 avg), who is
currently in camp with the San Diego Chargers.
Brian Kimbrow was a solid kick returner as a freshman with 486 yards on 22
attempts. Jonathan Krause is a big-play waiting to happen as a punt returner
after tallying 281 yards (11.2 avg) and a pair of touchdowns last season.
OUTLOOK: Of all the powerhouse programs expected to make a splash in the SEC
last season, very few thought that Vanderbilt would make a run into the
Top-25. It's combination of smart, mistake-free offense combined with a steady
defense proved to be a winning formula down the stretch, but the Commodores
won't be sneaking up on anyone here in 2013.
"Probably our biggest challenge is handling the success," Franklin said. "I
think a lot of times when you're taking over a program, you're dealing with
18- to 22-year-old males, adversity is probably a little bit easier to handle
than success. (We're) making sure our guys understand that we're going to have
to play with the same type of emotion, passion, chip on our shoulder that
we've had in the past."
Vanderbilt's schedule is no picnic, as it's set to face off against BCS
hopefuls South Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida, not to mention other
tough conference matchups against Ole Miss and Missouri. The sheer difficulty
of its schedule should prevent the Commodores from improving upon their 2012
record, but they still have plenty of pieces in place to qualify for a third
straight bowl game.
The Sports Network