Scouting Report: Vanderbilt Defense

The Commodores are a very good defensive team, allowing just one opponent (Auburn) to top 24 points. They give up just 301 yards a game, but the real strength has been their ability get sacks (24) and interceptions (14). They blitz, blitz and blitz some more, usually sending some combination of five guys after the quarterback.

Defensive line --- This is probably the weakest unit on this side of the ball, but it's not bad. Defensive end Steven Stone has good size (6-6, 255) leads the unit in tackles (32) and is one of five Commodores with three quarterback sacks. Defensive tackle Theo Horrocks is an active guy on the inside. Broderick Stewart comes off the bench to give them a speed rush in obvious passing situations. The Vandy line is bigger than in past years, but I think Florida should be able to handle the front four.

Linebackers --- This is a really good unit with three guys who all make plays beyond and behind the line of scrimmage. The unit is led by senior middle linebacker Jonathan Goff who will definitely play in the NFL. He's big (6-4, 235) and leads the team with 71 tackles. He has three quarterback sacks as do all the starting linebackers and also has intercepted two passes. Strongside linebacker Marcus Buggs is another senior who leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss while weakside linebacker Patrick Benoist has good speed on the outside.

Secondary --- The Commodores' secondary is very solid as evidenced by allowing just six touchdown passes. Cornerback D.J. Moore could be a great one. He has five interceptions, is second on the team in tackles (59). He's good enough for Florida to scheme for and should be avoided whenever possible. The other corner, Myron Lewis is a safer bet for the Gator offense. The Vandy safeties are good, but not spectacular players. SS Reshard Langford and FS Ryan Hamilton are similar players and both will be active in run support. You can get over the top of them if you can establish an inside running threat that forces them closer to the line of scrimmage.

Overall --- This isn't the best defense the Gators have faced, but it's in the top four. It is really a unit that thrives on big plays with 24 sacks and 16 takeaways. Deny them those plays and the Gators can have a good time.

Special Teams --- Vandy is probably the best team the Gators have faced at returning kicks. D.J. Moore is tops in the SEC (28.6, long 63). Alex Washington (9.4, 37) is a decent punt returner, but sometimes they will use wide receiver Earl Bennett (14.4, 36) back there. Teams have also had success returning kicks against the ‘Dores including a 69 yards punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Their punter Brett Upson is rather ordinary (38.3) and the place kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt (10-14, long 45, 3-6 beyond 30) is too. Vanderbilt has not blocked a kick, nor have they allowed a kick to be blocked. If there is a big play on special teams it will likely be a return.

For the Gator offense first down is unusually important this week. The Gators want to slow the Vanderbilt blitz and throw the ball on their terms, not Vandy's. If the Gators spend most of the game in positive down-and-distance situations (like 2nd and five or less) the Commodores' defense will be on its heels. Keep Vandy on their heels then the sacks and interceptions are much less likely to occur.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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