It was a good news/bad news situation for Vanderbilt’s offensive line in 2017.
The good news: the Commodores’ offensive line was actually quite good at keeping Kyle Shurmur upright, ranking 25th in the country in adjusted sack rate. The bad news: Vanderbilt ranked 102nd in Adjusted Line Yards and 118th in Stuff Rate... meaning, this unit wasn’t all that good at run blocking.
The further good news: Vanderbilt returns all five starters from the offensive line, and at tackle, the Commodores return a two-year starter on one side. Two other players who saw snaps return, though reserve tackle Bailey Granier transferred to Tulane. And there are a couple of big young prospects to provide depth.
Justin Skule, senior: The 6’6”, 315-pound Skule started all 12 games at left tackle last season, after starting 13 games at right tackle in 2016. The anchor of the line allowed just one sack all season and had, according to the team website, 19 domination blocks. He’ll start at left tackle again.
Devin Cochran, redshirt sophomore: Taking over as the team’s starting right tackle last year, Cochran had some shaky performances but showed upside. A physical specimen at 6’7” and 315 pounds, Cochran is built to play offensive tackle but needs to get closer to his potential.
The Top Reserve
Cole Clemens, sophomore: When Derek Mason talked about having quality depth at media days, the first place to look was right here. In 2015, Justin Skule was forced into action as a true freshman because there just weren’t any good options. In 2017, Clemens was about where Skule was as a freshman and didn’t play a lot. Odds are that Clemens will be starting by season’s end, but Mason will have to figure out where.
Jonathan Stewart, redshirt freshman: At 6’7” and 310 pounds, Stewart has the size to play offensive tackle but is still relatively new to the game. He’s probably still a year or two away from being a major contributor.
Bryce Bailey, redshirt freshman: Bailey came in with more polish than Stewart, though at 6’5” and 305 pounds he might ultimately end up at guard. For this season, he’ll most likely be the backup at right tackle.
Tyler Steen, freshman: Steen comes from a good high school program and was recruited for both the offensive and defensive line. Expect him to redshirt this season.