Good things come in pairs. Every great sandwich is based on the marriage between meat and cheese (or meat and bread, should you be one of God's forsaken lactose intolerants). Hawk and Animal were just a couple of Mad Max looking weirdos until they joined forces to create one of the greatest tag teams in the universe - the Road Warriors. And Vanderbilt football wouldn't have had to rewrite any of their history books this decade if it weren't for the presence and Zac Stacy and Jordan Matthews.
Stacy and Matthews may be the best Vanderbilt combination of all-time - but what about on this current roster?
There are several potential Perfect Combinations on this roster. Steven Scheu and Ralph Webb are the team's most reliable offensive weapons. Torren McGaster and Oren Burks are the key to a Commodore no-fly zone in the secondary. Stephen Weatherly and Nigel Bowden make sure that no ballcarrier is safe, either in front of or behind their line of scrimmage. Jay Woods and Nifae Lealao make up a pretty great combination despite sharing snaps at nose tackle.
However, this team's best pairing comes at either end of their defensive front. Adam Butler is a run-busting, kick-blocking defensive lineman who has the strength to take up multiple linemen and push them back into their own running backs. Caleb Azubike is a freight train pass rusher who can beat opposing tackles with speed and quickness or brute force. Together, they help give the Commodores a dynamic pass rushing, run-stopping threat at the line of scrimmage.
They're off to a slower start than expected this fall, but don't sleep on either player. The pair combined for 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season while adjusting to Derek Mason's new defense. Other players are stepping up to take the pressure off their shoulders - namely guys like Woods and Weatherly - but they are still the engine behind the SEC's most underrated front seven.
But Vanderbilt fans don't just love Butler and Azubike for their work on the field. They're also two of the most entertaining Commodores once the whistle blows. Butler was genuine enough to tell the whole story behind James Franklin's departure back at the 2014 SEC Media Days, and we called him a hero for it. And who could forget this tender moment after his fingertip deflection helped push a UMass field goal wide and seal up a Vandy victory?
And Azubike, well he looks like this:
And he deals with Tennessee fans like this:
@Sabanocchio Possible where? Definitely not UT. Like I said I came here because one day your sons and their sons after them will work for me— Caleb Azubike (@VandyKid_55) August 2, 2015
Yeah, just call that UT fan Dr. Wilbur Larch from now on, because he got ETHERED.
Azubike and Butler may not be this team's most irreplaceable duo, but they're almost certainly the most entertaining. Either player can be counted on for big plays in the clutch, and you'd better believe that they'll be fired up when this team heads to Knoxville in November. They're the veteran leaders of this emerging defense, and that's what makes them Vanderbilt's Perfect Combination.