Vanderbilt offense

The 2008 Vanderbilt Commodores had to be the most consistent offensive team in college football. They scored 61 first-quarter points, 61 second-quarter points, 62 third-quarter points and 65 fourth-quarter points.

Unfortunately for the Dores, being consistent doesn't ensure that you're being productive. Only two of the NCAA's 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams averaged fewer yards per game than Vanderbilt (256.2). Moreover, the Commodores ranked 110th in passing efficiency, 112th in passing yards (122.6 per game) and 104th in scoring (19.15 points per game).

Obviously, there's plenty of room for improvement, and Vanderbilt's attack should be much improved this fall. The only significant loss on offense from the 2008 team was receiver Sean Walker, who led the Dores in catches (36) and receiving yards (520) last season.

Senior Mackenzi Adams returns at quarterback after splitting time with Chris Nickson last fall. Adams completed 49 percent of his passes (77 of 156) for 882 yards and 5 touchdowns with 8 interceptions in 2008. He also ran for 136 yards.

Adams is being pushed by sophomore Larry Smith, who started the team's 16-14 Music City Bowl defeat of Boston College. Smith completed 10 of 17 passes for 121 yards that day, running for another 25 yards.

If Adams or Smith - or both - can manage the offense, Vandy has a chance to be significantly better than a year ago.

All five starters return on the offensive line, led by right tackle Thomas Welch (6-7, 310), left tackle Reilly Lauer (6-6, 275) and center Bradley Vierling (6-3, 294).

Jared Hawkins, a 5-10, 202-pounder, returns at tailback after rushing for a team-high 592 yards (4.3 per carry) last fall. Brandon Barden (6-5, 245) is back at tight end after recording 28 catches for 209 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

Vandy's weakest position on offense is wideout. Besides losing Walker to graduation, the Commodores have lost Justin Wheeler to a major knee injury. Fortunately for head coach Bobby Johnson, two transfers should fill those voids. Terence Jeffers (6-2, 225) caught 44 passes at UConn in 2007 and Tray Herndon (5-10, 182) caught 22 balls as a freshman at Minnesota in '07.

The fact Vandy went 7-6 last fall with such an anemic offense seems amazing until you look at its turnover ratio. The Commodores finished at plus-9, taking the ball away 30 times and giving it away just 21 times.

Bottom line: Vanderbilt won't be a juggernaut in 2009 but the Dores should be considerably more productive on offense than they were in 2008.


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