Opposition Danger Men: UMass

It's is time to get back on course with our opposition danger men series. We will eventually get around to full previews of all the Vandy's opponents in 2014, but first we are going to take a look at a couple of difference makers who Vanderbilt will face each week during the season.


Offense: WR – Tajae Sharpe

UMass may not quite be a lost cause yet at the FBS level, but they are not far off. This is a team which lacks an identity, lacks talent, and for the past few years has existed as nothing more than a payday program for bigger schools. The offense enters 2014 with very little in the way of returning production, not that last year's group really produced all that much anyway. One player though who does look poised for a potential breakout season is wide receiver Tajae Sharpe.

In 2013 Sharpe led the team in receptions (61), receiving yards (680), and receiving touchdowns (4). These may seem like modest, even pedestrian, numbers in the college football world of today, but you have to consider that Sharpe was playing on a UMass team with no production at all at quarterback. This was partly due to personnel and partly due to the ill-advised up tempo system of the previous coaching staff which instead of hiding the flaws of the Minutemen only served to heighten them. In 2014 Sharpe will have the most capable quarterback the program has had in years throwing the ball to him (Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel) and he will be able to display his quick breaks in and out of his routes with more confidence that the ball will be delivered on time.

Defense: CB - Trey Dudley-Giles & Randall Jette

On a team with so little in the way of talent the UMass secondary shines like a beacon in the night. The unit is easily in the top third of the MAC in terms of ability and the two junior starting cornerbacks are a big reason why. Dudley-Giles (42 tackles) and Jette (45 tackles) are just the kind of no nonsense defenders you would expect to find at a MAC school. They are both pretty good at defending the ball when it is in the air and the Vanderbilt receivers will have to work hard to find open spaces on the field if the two are locked in on game day.

The one aspect of the game which really holds the two corners back is their inability to turn their aggressive play into turnovers. With the Minutemen's offensive production, or lack thereof, being well documented it would be a huge boost for all involved if they could corral a few more balls in 2014. It is actually strange that between them they only had one interception (Jette) last fall, as both seem to have a knack for breaking on the ball and jumping routes. With the Vandy receiving corps still being a work in progress at this point in the season it will be very interesting to see who comes out on top in this positional match up.

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