Vanderbilt got off to the kind of start in 2012 that made some wonder if James Franklin had used smoke and mirrors in 2011. The Commodores dropped four of their first six with their only FBS win being a four point squeaker over Missouri. The schedule turned in the second half of the season and Vandy took full advantage as they ran the table winning seven straight games including victories over NC State, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
James Franklin heads into 2013 with a 15-11 overall record. Franklin has some talent returning but also some questions on offense. Vandy's loses 1,000 yard rusher Zac Stacy but return some talent in rising sophomore Brian Kimbrow (413 yards) and Wesley Tate (376 yds, 8 TD). They also return 134 receptions between Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews. The only person to catch more than one pass for Vandy that is not returning is Stacy (10 receptions) so it's safe to say that receiver will be a strength for the Commodores in 2013. Now if they can just find someone to throw the ball to them. Jordan Rodgers eligibility has expired and that's left Franklin with the choice of Wyoming transfer Austyn Carter-Samuels (14 of 25 for 208 yds in 2012) and RS Frosh Patton Robinette. Rodgers wasn't a great QB but he brought a lot of intangibles to the table for Vandy so it will be an interesting battle this spring to see who will replace him.
A big turnover on defense happened in 2012 for the Commodores as they had to replace Chris Marve, Sean Richardson, Casey Hayward and Tim Fugger. Vandy gave up a little bit more in yardage per game but they actually gave up less points per game in 2012 than they did in 2011. This year they have six returning starters but return six of their top seven tacklers. Vanderbilt is not going to be dominant on defense but there is no reason to believe they won't be as good as they were in 2012.
It's hard to ignore Vandy's seven straight wins that they reeled off at the end of 2012. 2013 will be the third year for James Franklin and that means that he's now had three recruiting classes to get his players in place. The Commodores finished 9-4 last year…I know I had a hard time believing it too. This team definitely has the talent to finish 8-4 in the regular season again but it means they are going to have to topple Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee again and all of those teams are going to be looking for revenge. My gut tells me 7-5 but I wouldn't be shocked by 6-6 or another 8-4.
Previous SEC First Looks: