2020 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview
Vanderbilt has had a rough time in the SEC, especially as of late. It’s no secret that the team has mightily struggled and is outmatched by the rest of the conference. If they were ever going to be worrisome to their opponents, it would’ve been last year. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the star running back returning for his senior season. Riley Neal had just transferred in from Ball State, with Jared Pinkney and Kalija Lipscomb back as other offensive weapons. Unfortunately for them, Vandy continued to struggle in 2019 and after losing some of their best players, this year will also be a rough one.
With Riley Neal out of town, there will be a new leader of this offense. Jeremy Moussa is a JUCO transfer that will compete for the job this summer. If Ken Seals can make it a close competition at all, coach Derek Mason will likely go with the true freshman because of the future he can bring to the team. This is one of the top QB battles to watch in the SEC.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn was Vandy’s best player last year. Now that he’s playing with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they’ll need to try their best to replace his production. Jamauri Wakefield is a bruising back that needs more attention from fans. The fifth year senior will have the first crack at replacing Vaughn. Keyon Brooks should work his way into a rotational role in this offense. The duo should not be taken lightly in 2020; they could surprise some people.
An already subpar passing offense loses Senior Bowl wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb. Chris Pierce brings back some veteran leadership to the group and it will be much needed. Cam Johnson and Amir Abdur-Rahim are unproven underclassman receivers that could benefit from someone like Pierce taking him under their wing. Vanderbilt also adds Alabama transfer Mac Hereford. It was tough for him to see much time at Bama with the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs in the room, but he was a solid special teams player. At the very least, he went through 4 years in the Alabama program and can offer some excitement to this program.
Derek Mason and Vanderbilt want to play smashmouth football and run the ball down the opposition’s throat. It has been crucial to have a blocking tight end to really maximize this game plan. Jared Pinkney had his flaws as a pass catcher, but brought it every play as a blocker. The Commodores will now need that from Ben Bresnahan and Gavin Schoenwald.
As we’ve seen in some of the past SEC team write-ups, the defensive line talent is off the charts as per usual. If Vandy wants to continue to be able to run the ball, they’ll need to come together as a unit along the O-line. Tyler Steen and Jonathan Stewart are the favorites to start at each tackle position with Cole Clemens and Dan Dawkins at guard. Grant Miller should round out the offensive line at the center position. In a Vanderbilt offense without any legit NFL prospects, one of these 5 guys has the best chance of anyone to elevate their game and really make a name for themselves on a national level.
The most recognizable name on this team because of NFL bloodlines and talent is defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo. The brother of Dare has developed nicely in his career as a Commodore. With more consistent play in 2020, he could elevate his draft stock to a day 2 or 3 pick. He joins an experienced defensive line with Cameron Tidd, Drew Birchmeier, and Andre Mintze. All 4 are seniors and are the heart and soul of a defense that is loaded with upperclassmen. They have the versatility to do a lot of fronts with Elijah McAllister, a younger pass rusher, being added to the mix.
Dimitri Moore is back for his redshirt junior season and is again the best player in this linebacker group. He led the team in tackles with 99. Kenny Hebert is the preferred starter next to him in nickel packages. The duo adds more experience to a defense that has a significant amount of leaders.
BJ Anderson and Allan George are Vandy’s two best cover guys going into 2020. They’ll likely start at the corner positions week 1. Frank Coppet and Tae Daley are one of the more experienced safety duos in the nation; the two seniors will bring the leadership and the processing skills that are so important for playing in the secondary. The nickel spot is still up in the air. Elijah Hamilton has experience at CB, but also has the size (6’2”, 205) to play inside and in the box. Look for true freshman Donovan Kaufman to also contribute in the secondary.