SEC East: Vanderbilt

Thanks to the controversial NCAA rule granting immediate eligibility to graduate school students, University of Arizona transfer Richard Kovalcheck looks to be the heir-apparent to Jay Cutler as Vanderbilt's No. 1 quarterback.

Kovalcheck has completed zero passes for the Commodores but that's only one less than his chief competition. Chris Nickson was 1 of 3 passing as Cutler's backup last fall. Basically, Vanderbilt's quarterback situation for 2006 is about as stable as the peso.

Surprisingly enough, the Commodores are fairly settled everywhere else. Seven starters return on offense, including receiver Earl Bennett, who was tabbed first-team All-SEC as a freshman after catching 79 passes for 876 yards and nine touchdowns last fall.

Also back is the tailback tandem of Cassen Jackson-Garrison (539 yards, 8 TDS in 2005) and Jeff Jennings (448 yards, 7 TDs in ‘05). Tackle Brian Stamper, a second-team All-SEC pick last fall, is the best of three returning starters in the blocking front.

Defensively, the ‘Dores must replace one end, one tackle, one linebacker, one safety and one cornerback. The biggest loss by far was weakside linebacker Moses Osemwegie. He led the '05 defense with 118 tackles, 44 more than the team runner-up.

The schedule-maker must not have realized Cutler was out of eligibility because he has Vandy opening the ‘06 season with visits to Michigan (Sept. 2) and Alabama (Sept. 9). By the time the Commodores play the home opener Sept. 16 against Arkansas, their confidence should be completely shot.

Bobby Johnson's team hosts Temple on Sept. 30. That's a date Vandy fans might be wise to circle on their calendars. Minus the talented and resourceful Mr. Cutler, it could be the only game the ‘Dores win all season.

TOMORROW: My take on Rich Brooks' Kentucky Wildcats.


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