The Season-in-Review (SIR) awards continue here at Anchor of Gold, and today the panel has taken on the task of determining which player grew the most for 2013. When the votes settled, there was only one clear choice - Jonathan Krause.
The senior receiver grew from fan favorite to potential draftee behind a stellar season that cemented his status as a big play threat in the SEC. Krause developed from a special teams player to a key piece of the Vandy offense as 2013 wore on, developing a rapport with Austyn Carta-Samuels and giving this team an extra dimension beyond Jordan Matthews downfield.
Krause stepped up in the biggest way possible for an offense that needed all the weapons it could get. He stepped up in Chris Boyd's absence to give Vanderbilt a legitimate deep threat and put up even better numbers than his dismissed predecessor at the WR2 position. Before a leg injury kept him from two games late in the season and disrupted his emergence, the senior spent the five-game stretch from UMass to Texas A&M averaging nearly 95 receiving yards per game and more than 20.5 yards per reception.
Those elite numbers were even more surprising coming from a player who had made his bones as a special teams ace in his three years of varsity play beforehand. Krause looked strong as a freshman for Robbie Caldwell's 2-10 team, but it was Jordan Matthews who emerged as this team's breakout receiver. Instead, Krause turned into one of the SEC's most reliable punt returners. His ability to field the ball, break big plays, and draw illegal contact penalties gave the Commodores a big advantage in the field position battle from 2011 to 2012.
Now, with a seven-catch performance in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Krause can eclipse his receptions total from the first two years of his college career combined. Just as importantly, he created the space and drew the defensive attention that allowed Matthews to haul in 100+ catches across the field from him. That explosion made him a unanimous choice for Most Improved Player in 2013.
Vanderbilt fans will miss Jordan Matthews next fall, but Krause's graduation will have a major impact on this team as well. The senior was a quiet leader who set a standard of growth for young players like Jordan Cunningham and Carlos Burse behind him. His impact went beyond receptions and touchdowns, and that presence played a key role in getting this team to another eight-win season.
Counterpoint: Jerron Seymour filled the shoes of the greatest running back in Vanderbilt history.
Nobody would dispute that the biggest hole left behind in the 2013 Commodores was shaped like Zac Stacy. It took three players to fill the shoes of the greatest Vanderbilt running back of all time, and most people assumed the job would be taken by Wes Tate on the inside and Brian Kimbrow on the outside. But as the coaches struggled to find a good fit, the ball increasingly went to a player who was one of the brightest spots in James Franklin's first recruiting class but vanished behind a redshirt last year.
And yet by the fourth game of the season, Jerron Seymour was getting double-digit carries against UMass. The next week, at home against UAB, I watched him break the 100-yard mark for the first time, by which point he was established as the default running back - he would get the most carries in every game until Tennessee, when he was hurt in the first quarter. But not before scoring a touchdown.
That's what Jerron Seymour did - he wasn't as big and bruising as Tate, he wasn't as jet-quick as Kimbrow, and he certainly wasn't the inexorable force of Stacy. Instead, he was the Joystick - a 5-foot-7 pinball who might bounce off two or three defenders and run eight yards to make four, feet grinding like an SUV in the snow, pushing piles and dragging defenders with a strength that belied his size. Before the season, he was the third option. By the end of it, he was the workhorse. 4.4 yards per carry and a touchdown every 11 touches, and oh-by-the-way the fourth-leading receiver as well. Jerron Seymour may have started the year in the shadows, but he ran right out of them - and woe betide the first tackler to find him.