Vanderbilt released their depth chart for the upcoming game in College Station.
While this first look provides more questions than answers, especially on the offensive side of the ball (or or or or), it is the first glance at what we can anticipate to see on the field.
Let’s break down the new look Commodore offense.
Ken Seals or Mike Write or Jeremy Mousa or Danny Clark
The pressing questions at the forefront of the minds of Vanderbilt fans: who will be taking the first snap? After discussing the competition with sources close to the situation, The Dore Report confidently believes Freshman Ken Seals will be starting for the Commodores.
The highly touted Freshman comes in with a winning pedigree. At 6’3″ 218, he has the size, arm talent, and wheels to be highly effective. He amassed 3,060 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, nearly 500 rushing yards and seven scores as a senior and led his team to their first state playoff appearance in 12 years.
I expect to see Mike Wright utilized in RPO and other read option packages to capitalize on his elite speed. Danny Clark appears to be the frontrunner for traditional backup duties if Seals is the starter.
Keep in mind the decimated offensive line will make it difficult for any of these guys to succeed, regardless of talent level.
The right side of the line seems set. Anchoring the center is Senior Grant Miller, with Dan Dawkins at Right Guard, and Tyler Steen at Right Tackle. The inexperienced left side of the line is where concern lies.
Converted defensive lineman Drew Birchmeier is in a competition with Connor Mignone for the Left Guard duties. Sophomore Brayden Bapst and Freshman Ben Cox are battling for the ever important Left Tackle position.
In one word: Thin
Any injuries across the O-Line would be devastating. Already decimated by opt-outs, even a single injury to a starting lineman would make a bad situation untenable.
There is a lot of talent here. 6’4″ Juniors Ben Bresnehan and Gavin Schoenwald will likely see a majority of the snaps. Both have seen action early in their careers, with Bresnehan catching 7 passes for 105 yards last season while starting 2 games. Schoenwald has seen action in a reserve role and on special teams.
Joel Decoursey and Justin Ball round out the position. This group has all the physical characteristics to be highly successful, even without a signficant amount of experience.
The position with the most upside on the roster. Even though there is an or at every spot, I really doubt Cam Johnson and Devin Boddie Jr. are seriously in a battle for a starting spot.
Cam Johnson is primed to fill the role of WR1 held in the past by the likes of Earl Bennett, Jordan Matthews, Trent Sherfield, and Kalija Lipsomb. All signs point to a breakout season for Johnson if inexperienced quarterbacks can get him the ball while being protected by a depleted Offensive Line.
Experienced Senior Chris Pierce also looks poised for a big season. Graduate transfer Tyrell Alexander and Senior James Bostic provide quality depth.
An under the radar player is Amir Abdur-Rahman. We all remember the catch he made against Tennessee in 2018, but the 6’4″ receiver’s Sophomore season was cut short last year due to injury.
Look for him to play a key role in the revamped offense under Todd Fitch. Graduate Transfer Mac Hereford is not listed on the Offensive depth chart.
It has been since Warren Norman that Vanderbilt hasn’t had a bell cow running back in the backfield. Norman to Stacy to Webb to Vaughn, Commodore fans have been spoiled with talented backfields.
This year is a little bit different. Expect to see Wakefield take a majority of the carries with Brooks and Marlow rotating in often. A running back by committee is likely what we will see.
There is upside here, but there is inexperience as well. Wakefield comes in as the most experienced back with 107 career carries. Keyon Brooks follows, recording 56 carries as a Freshman, and Ja’Veon Marlow rounds out the trio with 15 carries in 2 seasons.
I believe Keyon Brooks has the most potentital of the group. We saw flashes last season as he served in a backup role to future NFL draft pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He possesses elite speed and a burst that can result in home run plays much like we saw against Northern Illinois when he scampered for a 61 yard touchdown in the blink of an eye.
Overall, the offense is inexperienced and has a lack of depth. There is potential under new offensive coordinator Todd Fitch as the Wide Receiver position is extremely talented. However, this is overshadowed by a complete lack of experience at the QB position and an offensive line facing the dauting task of battling SEC defensive lines week in and week out. I would temper expectations associated with this group, it could be a tough year on the scoreboard, reminiscent of 2015 in which Kyle Shurmur took his first snaps in black and gold. Brighter days are ahead.
Stay tuned for analysis of the defensive side of the ball.