Vanderbilt received some more reasons to be excited about their 2013 football season this week. Three members of the Commodore offense have been named to a pair of prestigious preseason watch lists.
Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews earned recognition from the folks behind the Biletnikoff Award, earning a spot on the watch list that's reserved for the premier wide receivers in the NCAA. Matthews, a senior, is widely regarded as a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft after a record-setting year in 2012. He had 94 catches for 1,323 yards as he led a revived Vandy offense to a nine-win season.
Boyd could end up joining him in the first round if he can keep up the pace with which he ended last season. The 6'3" redshirt junior emerged as one of Vandy's most consistent touchdown threats and finished the year with 50 catches for 774 yards - a per-catch average of more that 15 yards. He's expected to have an even bigger output this fall, as he'll team with new starter (and roommate) Austyn Carta-Samuels for a Vandy team with limited pass-catching depth behind him and Matthews.
This good news compounded Monday's announcement that senior offensive lineman Wesley Johnson had been named to the Lombardi Award Watch List. Johnson, a three-year starter who has played in almost every position on the line and never been called for a holding penalty, has been the catalyst behind Herb Hand's rebuilding project in the trenches. While unsung, he might be the most important piece of the Vanderbilt offense in 2013. Another solid season could make him a finalist for the Lombardi Award, which is given to the best lineman - either offensively or defensively - in the NCAA.
These announcements are strong honors for players that have earned them after a culture-changing 2012 season. Johnson, Boyd, and Matthews were three of the five most important pieces of a Vanderbilt offense that not only won nine games, but was one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NCAA as the year wore on. If they can build on that performance, they'll be able to absorb the losses of Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy and keep this team's momentum rolling towards a third-straight bowl bid.