Vanderbilt’s wide receiver room is what the running back room isn’t: deep and experienced.
By my count, the Commodores have ten scholarship wide receivers on the roster. That’s probably more than you would normally have, but then Vanderbilt got an unexpected boost with two receivers opting to return for, respectively, a fifth and sixth year of eligibility thanks to the NCAA granting everyone a free year of eligibility after the COVID pandemic. That means that of the seven wide receivers who caught a pass for Vanderbilt in 2020, five are back in 2021, with the only losses being Jayden Harrison (who caught 8 passes for 20 yards and transferred to Marshall) and James Bostic Jr. (who caught a single pass in 2020.)
On paper, I like this group, as there should be a bevy of targets for Ken Seals to throw to. Now if we can only find a running back...
Cam Johnson, redshirt junior: The local product from Brentwood Academy has appeared in 25 career games at Vanderbilt with 14 starts over the last two seasons, including five in 2020, when he was Vanderbilt’s leading receiver with 56 catches for 545 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson should once again be Ken Seals’ favorite target in 2021.
Amir Abdur-Rahman, redshirt junior: Abdur-Rahman announced his presence as a true freshman in 2018 with a ridiculous touchdown catch in the Tennessee game, then an injury cost him all of 2019. That might have affected his development a bit, I guess, but it didn’t show too much in 2020 when he had 27 receptions for 406 yards and a touchdown. He’s a big target at 6’4” and 217 pounds and should provide a nice balance to Johnson.
Chris Pierce, fifth-year senior: We were probably expecting to lose Pierce, who made 24 starts over the last three years, but he elected to return for a fifth year after registering a team-leading five touchdown receptions in 2020. At 6’4” and 231 pounds, Pierce makes a good red zone option.
Tyrell Alexander, sixth-year senior: Yep, we’ve got a sixth-year senior. The 6’1”, 184-pound Alexander, from Lancaster, Texas, was actually in his first year at VU in 2020 as a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, and registered two catches for 11 yards — which actually equalled his tally in three years at Oklahoma State. Anyway, he’s got experience and if he wants to take advantage of the NCAA’s free year of eligibility to finish his master’s, why not.
Will Sheppard, sophomore: The 6’3”, 190-pound Sheppard was a late addition to the 2020 signing class after a breakout senior year at Mandeville High School in Louisiana, and he announced his presence with a 24-yard catch in the Florida game — but that was one of two on the season. Still, even with the return of Pierce and Alexander, I won’t be surprised if Sheppard finds a way to make an impact on the 2021 team.
Devin Boddie Jr., redshirt sophomore: I’m not really sure what’s going on with Boddie, who was a well-regarded prospect out of Whitehaven High School in Memphis and hasn’t seen the field in two years at Vanderbilt. If Pierce had graduated as expected, I could see him taking advantage of some playing time opening up, but I’m not sure what his role is here; perhaps Jayden Harrison’s role as a slot receiver and punt returner will go to Boddie.
Logan Kyle, redshirt freshman: The 6’3”, 207-pound Kyle, from Cypress, Texas, played in four games (the maximum for a redshirt year under normal circumstances) and didn’t register a catch; I expect the latter to change at some point in 2021, as he was a pretty well-regarded recruit.
Quincy Skinner Jr., freshman: The wide receiver room is crowded, but if there’s a true freshman who I could see forcing the issue in 2021, it’s Skinner, who was one of Vanderbilt’s highest-rated recruits. Another product of South Florida prep powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, which has produced a bunch of Vanderbilt recruits over the last few years, Skinner is 6’1” and 185 pounds and will probably inherit Cam Johnson’s role when he graduates.
Gamarion Carter, freshman: The other two true freshmen in Vanderbilt’s wide receiver room probably figure to redshirt this season. Carter is a 6’2”, 185-pound product of Toccoa, Georgia, who was a late addition to Vanderbilt’s 2021 class after a senior season in which he had 26 catches for 638 yards and six touchdowns.
Ezra McAllister, freshman: McAllister, a product of Marshall, Michigan, played both running back and wide receiver in high school, and had 124 career catches for 1498 yards and 32 touchdowns, though he played at a small high school in Michigan.