Florida Gators’ opponent preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

Florida hosts the Commodores on Saturday at noon for its homecoming game.


The Vanderbilt offense comes into Saturday ranked as the No. 13 total offense in the Southeastern Conference with 360.4 yards per game. The Commodores are No. 13 in scoring offense (15.8 points), No. 10 in rushing offense (156.1 yards) and No. 10 in passing offense (204.2 yards).


The Commodores come to Gainesville with uncertainty at the quarterback position. The depth chart lists Johnny McCrary or Kyle Shurmur as the starting quarterback on Saturday. McCrary has 249 of the team’s 286 passing attempts this season, but reps were split pretty evenly in last week’s game against Houston. McCrary went 2-9 for 24 yards and two interceptions while Shurmur went 3-11 for 20 yards and one interception. Shurmur started the game but McCrary replaced him during the game.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason hasn’t provided any clarity on the position this week. Shurmur is going through concussion protocol, and Mason even said third-string quarterback Wade Freebeck, who has thrown six passes on the season, could play on Saturday.


Gainesville native Raph Webb returns home for the first time in his Vanderbilt career. The redshirt sophomore graduated from Gainesville High School and leads the Commodores with 693 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Webb is also fourth on the team with 175 receiving yards and has two receiving touchdowns.

Backup running back Darrius Sims has 27 carries for 223 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.


Trent Sherfield is clearly the best Vanderbilt receiver on paper. He leads the team with 41 receptions, 518 yards and two receiving touchdowns. His numbers blow second receiver Caleb Scott -- 19 catches, 191 yards, one touchdown -- out of the water. Sherfield is averaging 12.6 yards per catch and the sophomore was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list recently.

Earlier this season against Austin Peay, Sherfield set a new Vanerbilt record with 240 receiving yards and had 16 receptions, the third most in program history for a single game. His breakout season has come after making just one catch in seven games last year.


Behind Sherfield, tight end Steven Scheu is the second best target in the Vanderbilt passing game. He has 21 receptions for 202 yards and zero touchdowns, averaging 9.6 yards per reception with a long catch of 24 yards this year.


The Commodores are already without two offensive tackles that have been lost for the season, and they could be without a third on Saturday. Right tackle Blake Fromang is questionable to play, which could force redshirt freshman Bailey Granier into action. At left tackle, redshirt junior Will Holden will start and has started every game at the position this year.

The interior of the offensive line has been healthy this season and there aren’t many questions. Left guard Jake Bernstein, right guard Barrett Gouger and center Spencer Pulley have started all eight games so far this season. 


The Commodores bring the No. 6 total defense in the SEC to Gainesville on Saturday, allowing 323.4 yards per game. Vanderbilt is also ranked No. 6 in passing defense (208.5 yards), No. 4 in rushing defense (114.9 yards) and No. 5 in scoring defense (18.5 points). The Commodores use a base 3-4 defense.


Nose tackle Jay Woods returned to the starting lineup last week against Houston and has 19 tackles with two tackles for loss and one sack this season. Woods also has one forced fumble.

Defensive end Caleb Azubike will return from injury this weekend. He has 14 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss in five games played this season. At the other defensive end position, redshirt junior Adam Butler has six tackles for loss and three sacks.


The linebackers are the playmakers in Mason’s defense. Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the team with 59 tackles, 16 more than any other players, and adds 10.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Darreon Herring, the inside linebacker next to Cunningham, is second on the team with 43 tackles, adding one sack, two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.

Outside linebacker Stephen Weatherly has 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks on the season. His six quarterback hurries make him the only player on the Vanderbilt roster with more than one. There are only four Vanderbilt players that have recorded a quarterback hurry on the season. Nehemiah Mitchell is the other outside linebacker, and the redshirt junior has 21 tackles on the season.


Cornerback Torren McGaster is an important part of the Vanderbilt secondary. He’s fourth on the team with 34 tackles and leads the team with nine pass breakups. The 6-1 cornerback also has one fumble recovery this season.

On the opposite side of the field, Tre Herndon has started all eight games and has 28 tackles.


The Commodores lean on their pair of senior safeties in Oren Burks and Andrew Williamson. Burks is third on the team with 40 tackles and has one of Vanderbilt’s three interceptions on the year. He also is second on the team with six pass breakups, adding a forced fumble and recovery.

Williamson has 24 tackles with one sack and one forced fumble.


Vanderbilt ranks No. 7 in the SEC at kickoff returns (20.6 yards), No. 1 at kickoff coverage, No. 11 at punt returns (7.5 yards) and No. 11 in field goal percentage (12-19). 

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