Better Vandy running game in 2013?

With the loss of All-SEC running back Zac Stacy to graduation this spring it would seem to be the logical conclusion that the Vanderbilt running game will take a step back in 2013. After all James Franklin and his staff have to replace a guy who has combined for over 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons.

With the loss of All-SEC running back Zac Stacy to graduation this spring it would seem to be the logical conclusion that the Vanderbilt running game will take a step back in 2013. After all James Franklin and his staff have to replace a guy who has combined for over 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons. Add in the fact that Stacy assumed the role of the team's on field leader and that he was the one trusted with the responsibilities of handling the ball in the wildcat (read Wild-Zac) formation and you will see there is quite the hole to fill.

Yet if reports coming out of spring practice are to believed the powers that be feel that the run game could be stronger than ever this fall.

Though much of the reason for this optimism lies with the stable of backs that Franklin has put together it would be remiss not to mention the other parts that will make the ground game tick. This time last year Vandy had seven scholarship offensive line players are they were struggling to get a cohesive unit out on the field. Twelve months later there are 15 players battling for position in the trenches and there is competition at every spot. The fact that much of this competition is coming from the younger linemen on the roster can only bode well for depth this season and play in the future. When you also throw in the fact that the combination out wide of Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd will be one of the most feared in the entire country you can see that the backs have plenty of help around them to keep defenses honest against the run.

Then you get to the backs themselves. If the scrimmage on Saturday is anything to go by then this group has the chance to be something special. The group paced by Wesley Tate, Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow combined for 232 yards and seven touchdowns against a defense which looked overmatched even though they knew what was coming. Out of the wildcat alone the three backs rolled for 121 yards on 17 carries using a blend of speed and vision which had the Vandy fans in attendance salivating at what they could produce this fall.

"The second half of last year, the wildcat was very good for us," coach James Franklin said to the Tennessean. "Everybody knows it's coming, but you've got numbers. … We're excited about the wildcat and continuing to grow that package in a lot of different ways."

Stacy was outstanding in the wildcat for sure, but he doesn't have the elite speed which some of their potential replacements do. Kimbrow for, example, scored on a 50-yard touchdown play where he cut cross field and just seemed to turn on the afterburners to rocket by defenders and into the end zone. If Franklin is able to find a rotation which keeps his backs fresh and engaged then the ground game could prove to be every bit what it was in 2012 and possibly more.

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