Vanderbilt was dealt a blow when starting wide receiver Chris Boyd was dismissed from the team thanks to his connection to the rape scandal that rocked the Nashville campus over the summer. However, his presence on the field was quickly replaced by a veteran leader who had been waiting for an opportunity to explode onto the scene in the SEC.
Senior Jonathan Krause has developed into a deep threat for the Commodores in 2013. His presence has given this team an additional weapon alongside Jordan Matthews and provided Vandy with one of the most productive receiving duos in the country. Before sitting out last week's game against Florida with a leg injury - an injury that rippled through the Vandy offense, helping contribute to a gameplan that led to just 57 passing yards - he was on pace to gain more than 900 yards through the air. That projection would have put him amongst the top 10 single season leaders in receiving yards in school history.
Krause had shown flashes of receiving ability as a freshman alongside Matthews back in 2010. He developed into one of the SEC's best special teams players thanks to his ability to return punts and draw interference penalties. Still, few could have predicted that he'd develop into one of the best big-play threats the Commodores have had this millennium. More than 40 percent of Krause's receptions in 2013 have resulted in gains of 15 yards or more. That's a better mark than the man he replaced - Boyd - in the lineup. It's a better mark than Jordan Matthews has put up in the last two seasons. In fact, it's even better than the gold standard for Commodore receivers - SEC all-time reception leader Earl Bennett.
|Receptions of 15+ yards
|Big Play Rate
|Jonathan Krause ('13)
|Jordan Matthews ('13)
|Jordan Matthews ('12)
|Chris Boyd ('12)
|Earl Bennett ('07)
|Earl Bennett ('06)
The senior's emergence cannot be overlooked in this team's 5-4 start. While this entire roster has worked hard to overcome an offseason that revolved around an off-field scandal, no one player's improvement has been as visible as Krause's. His emergence in 2013 has come thanks in part to defenses focusing on stopping Matthews, but Krause's growing ability to make opponents pay downfield has been equally effective in opening up room for the potential first-round draft pick to shine. Together, the two have combined for 170+ receiving yards in seven of their eight games together.
The senior receiver may end up being overlooked when All-SEC honors are handed down this winter, but Commodore fans understand just how valuable he's been to a team that needed stability. The statistics show just how dangerous he's been for this team downfield, but they can't show how that has loosened up opposing defenses to create running space for Jerron Seymour or extra time in the pocket for Patton Robinette. Krause has quietly put together one of the best seasons a Vandy receiver has ever had through two-thirds of the year. If he can keep that up, he'll be a driving force behind getting the 'Dores to a third-straight bowl game.