The Commodores will not have the opportunity to upset the Crimson Tide in 2012. Phooey.
Jordan Rodgers, Sr. Quarterback - If it wasn’t obvious during the 2011 Liberty Bowl, you weren’t paying attention. The Vanderbilt offense is an entirely different animal when Jordan Rodgers is dialed in at the helm.
Last season over the first five games (pre-Rodgers), Vanderbilt’s offense averaged just over 20 points per game (though that included a matchup with Alabama). In the sixth game, Coach Franklin decided to make a change. From that point forward, with Rodgers at the helm, Vanderbilt’s offense averaged over 30 points per game. Over the first five games, Vanderbilt averaged ~245 yards per game in total offense. Over the last eight? Almost 400.
In Rodgers two worst outings (at Tennessee, vs. Cincinnati), Vanderbilt only mustered 283 and 295 yards in total offense.
If Jordan Rodgers career progression mirrors that of the typical second year starter, Vanderbilt fans aren’t going to have to worry about scoring points.
Preventing points, on the other hand, could be more of a question mark…
Chase Garnham, Jr. Linebacker - Though the Commodores lost stalwarts Chris Marve, Casey Hayward, Sean Richardson, TJ Greenstone and Tim Fugger, eight starters return on a team that ranked 6th in the conference in Total Defense and 7th in Scoring Defense.
Nobody has bigger shoes to fill than Chase Garnham. Chris Marve was a rock for the Commodores his entire career. He was a leader perfectly suited to the MLB’s role as the quarterback of the defense.
Garnham has been a solid player for the Commodores, though injuries forced him to miss five games of his sophomore season. He enters 2012 as the Commodores 3rd-leading returning tackler with 51 total tackles in 2011 (despite missing 5 games - Archibald Barnes is the leader at 59 in 2011, and Kenny Ladler is 2nd at 53).
It’s Garnham’s turn to run the show, having studied under the heralded but undersized Marve. Should Marve’s intangibles have rubbed off on the 6’3", 234 lb junior, expect the 2012 Commodores defense to be just as good if not better than the 2011 version.
What do y’all think? Who are the biggest keys to the offense and defense this season?