Commodores must win in 2007

The Vanderbilt Commodore football team opens 2007 preseason practice on Monday at 6 p.m. The Commodores are hoping to improve on a 2006 4-8 record and have plenty of reasons to believe they can be a bowl team.

Vanderbilt returns 17 starters from a year ago including their entire starting offensive line and almost all their skill players. No less than five Commodores were recently named to various preseason All-SEC squads.

The Commodores just missed a winning season in 2005 after blowing games against Middle Tennessee and Kentucky. That Jay Cutler led team worked hard and learned how to win the tough games, pulling off big upsets over Arkansas and Tennessee on the road but blowing two games they were expected to win.

The 2006 squad spoiled Georgia's homecoming and narrowly missed upsetting a great Arkansas team in Nashville and a so-so Alabama squad on the road. That Commodore team got a reprieve in 2006 because they were breaking in a new quarterback in Chris Nickson. Nickson struggled early but showed such rapid improvement as the season progressed that he was recently named to some All-SEC preseason squads.

Include Nickson with returning starting tackles Chris Williams and Brian Stamper along with wide receiver Earl Bennett and tailbacks Cassen Jackson-Garrison and Jeff Jennings and you have the makings of a great offense. Throw in All-SEC second-year team Captain Jonathan Goff along with fellow linebacker Rashard Langford and defensive linemen Theo Horrocks and Curtis Gatewood and the potential is there for a rugged defense.

Add an experienced football team with a veteran coaching staff and a losing 2007 season is inexcusable. Yes Auburn, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina will be tough tests but anything less than six wins is a failure in 2007. Commodore fans are tired of waiting. Some weren't born yet the last time a Vanderbilt team went to a bowl game. While the 2007 team can't be faulted for the failures of past Commodore teams they will have to carry the burden of knowing that they are Vanderbilt's best chance at a winning season in almost 25 years.

This Commodore squad has the right attitude. Almost the entire team has been working vigorously throughout the summer in to improve their conditioning. For instance, Gatewood has gained over 15 pounds of muscle. Bennett recently commented that he and his teammates were expecting a BCS Bowl in 2007. Goff when asked at SEC Media Days which SEC team concerned him answered bluntly but intelligently, "Richmond!" He and his teammates won't allow the mistakes of 2005 to be repeated again.

This team knows they can be good and they know anything less than a bowl is a failure in 2007. Let's do our part and back them up as fans. Over 13,000 have already purchased seson tickets. Visit and order your season tickets too.

Practice open to public: The Commodores first practice on Monday (6 p.m.) will be open to the public. Be sure to bring water and lawn chairs to the John Rich Practice Facility. Top Stories