Vanderbilt Mid-Season Report Card

VandyMania takes a position-by-position look at the 2006 Vanderbilt football team at the season mid point.

Quarterbacks- This is the most critical position on the team.  While not horrible, Nickson and Adams just haven't gotten it done. If they would have gotten it done Vanderbilt would 5-1 right now instead of 2-4.  However, we must remember that it took four years before Jay Cutler was consistently leading the team to victory.  Both these quarterbacks look better than Cutler did as a freshman. Which one will emerge as the top signal caller?  Who knows, but one glaring statistic sticks out:  Adams' 173 yards passing in about a half at Ole Miss was greater than any of Nickson's entire game performances in the five previous games.  D+

Receivers- The receivers live and die with the quarterbacks. Dropped passes give this unit some of the blame for the quarterbacks not getting it done.  Looks like Earl Bennett and Steven Bright (TE/FB) have taken most of the load for the receivers.   Bennett is on the pace for a 66-catch season, which while not as good as last season is still pretty good.  Bright has picked it up a notch the past few games.  Sean Walker has been a pleasant surprise.  George Smith and Marlon White have 16 combined catches, which is surprisingly low and needs improvement.  C
 
Running backs- The running backs started off slow at Michigan with a paltry 48 yards rushing but have since helped Vandy turn into the #2 (Wow!) rushing team in the SEC with a 158 yard per game average. Vanderbilt is averaging almost 5 yards a carry which should mean more wins.  Cassen Jackson-Garrison is leading the way with 392 yards rushing.  Jared Hawkins averages an incredible 9 yards a carry in 20 carries.  Don't forget the quarterbacks here, they've contributed almost one-third of VU's total rushing yardage. B
 
Offensive line- The offensive line has done well.  Sacks by the opposition are down significantly over the 2005 season. Vandy's line has allowed only 9 so far this season after giving up 24 total last season.  The great rushing game Vanderbilt has developed also indicates a good offensive line.  Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell deserves some credit here for his hard work developing a great offensive line.  B+

Defensive line- Talk about a quick turnaround of a unit. This defensive line is now an asset for Vanderbilt.  After four years of poor production, new defensive line coach Rick Logo has developed an aggressive unit that consistently makes big plays.  Where were you last year Logo?  Two of the three top tacklers for Vandy are defensive linemen (Curtis Gatewood and Theo Horrocks).  Gatewood and Horrocks have four sacks between them.  Previously Vanderbilt defensive linemen had problems just registering tackles, let alone sacks.  Logo's new schemes have helped these defensive lineman play to the level they are capable of.  B+
 
Linebackers- Traditionally one of the Commodore's strongest units, this linebacker unit is no different.  Jonathan Goff has fell a little behind in the SEC tackle race but this could be because the rest of the defense is playing better.  Goff is still the leading Vanderbilt tackler by far with 50 tackles in 6 games.  Combined, the three starting Vanderbilt linebackers (Goff, Kevin Joyce and Marcus Buggs) have 97 tackles, 12.5 tackles for losses, 3.5 sacks, 3 passes broken up, 1 interception, 7 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles (Goff), and 1 kick blocked (Goff).  True freshman Patrick Benoist (14 tackles) has been a pleasant surprise. B+
 
Secondary- This is probably the weakest of the defensive units.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a weak unit. Vanderbilt is #3 in the SEC in passing defense.  They are just young and have given up a few big plays that have hurt. Newcomers D.J. Moore, Ryan Hamilton and Darlron Spead have all performed solidly.  It stinks to lose veteran Ben Koger who was having a fine senior season but those things happen unfortunately.  B-
 
Special Teams- What happened to this bunch?  They came out looking so good in the opening game at Michigan. Sadly, since then the Vanderbilt special teams have reverted to their 2005 form.  They are likely responsible for at least two losses.  Missed field goals, fumbled kickoffs and punt returns.  The unit has no where to go but up now.  If the current players can't get it done some changes might need to be made in personnel and schemes.  D+

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