1) Ralph Webb is back
For most teams when you talk about a thousand-yard rusher you are talking about a senior. However, Vanderbilt will have a junior running back starting in 2016 that has already surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards. Ralph Webb, a speedy running back from Gainesville, Fla., is on a pace to break the all-time rushing record at Vanderbilt. He could do it during his upcoming junior season if he gains what he did in 2015: 1,152 yards.
Webb's 74-yard touchdown run in his hometown during the 2015 season nearly lifted the Commodores to a stunning victory over the Florida Gators. If Webb can improve just a little in 2016, the sky is the limit for the still young player.
2) More weapons in 2016
Vanderbilt returns both its top rusher (Webb) and top receiver in Trent Sherfield, who had 51 catches last season. In all, Vandy returns five of its six top receivers. One of those is also Webb (24 catches). Caleb Scott (24), Latevius Rayford (19) and speedy Darius Sims round out the reception leaders back from '15.
Additionally, Vandy has playmaker C.J. Duncan back. Duncan, who caught 28 passes during the 2014 campaign, was injured during the 2015 season. Talented tight ends DeAndre Woods and Jared Pinkney also spent most of 2015 injured but will be ready in 2016. An additional returning 2015 injured player that should factor in well for Vandy is offensive lineman Andrew Jelks who was considered Vandy's top returning lineman a year ago but spent the season on the sideline.
3) Continuity/improved coaching
The 2014 Vanderbilt season was a complete disaster, coaching wise, and the blame for that lies with none other that Derek Mason himself. However, credit must be given to Mason for making quick adjustments to his staff following that nightmarish Commodore season. Following an improved showing in the 2015 season, Mason again pruned his staff and did well bringing in veteran special teams/running backs coach Jeff Genyk to improve those units. Vandy's special teams likely cost Vanderbilt two wins last season and if Genyk can get things straight in that department the Commodores will have more success on both offense and defense.
Cameron Norcross, a solid offensive line coach from Fresno State, will work to get the big guys blocking better. Additionally, with Andy Ludwig now in his second season as offensive coordinator, look for things to improve as he has a better grasp on the talent available and the players are more experienced and familiar with his system.
How much will Vanderbilt's offense be improved in 2016? That remains to be seen. However, there are some reasons to believe it may be significantly improved.