Vanderbilt Football 2007: Running backs

We continue our 2007 positional analysis of the Vanderbilt Commodores today as we look at the running backs. This is part II of a multi-series previewing the 2007 Commodores.

22 Cassen Jackson-Garrison 6-1 220 Sr.-3L Knoxville, Tenn./Central
21 Jeff Jennings 6-1 222 Jr.-2L Dandridge, Tenn./Jefferson County
31 Jared Hawkins 5-10 192 So.-1L Spring, Texas/Klein
27 Gaston Miller 5-6 165 So.-1L Murfreesboro, Tenn./Riverdale
28 Kennard Reeves 5-11 195 Fr.-RS Duluth, Ga./Duluth
41 Jermaine Doster 5-10 205 Fr. Tampa, Fla./Robinson
34 Ryan Van Rensburg 6-1 200 Fr. Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School

Bold= projected starter

Vanderbilt might be stocked with as much talent at running back as the Commodores have ever have seen. Two talented running backs with starting experience lead the ranks with Cassen Jackson-Garrison and Jeff Jennings vying for playing time.

Jackson-Garrison started every game last season including the opener against Michigan after having an emergency appendectomy just 17 days before. He rushed for a single season career high 614 yards and had15 receptions for 104 yards in 2006. He has shown the ability to carry the load at running back with a consistent career 4.7- yard rushing average. His experience and durability should prove to be invaluable for the Commodores.

2005 starter Jeff Jennings returns after rehabbing his knee after surgery at the end of the 2005 season. Jennings, a powerful downhill runner, will further solidify the position with an experienced leader at running back. He started 10 games in 2005 before the season ending injury against Kentucky. During his 2005 campaign he rushed for 448 yards and 7 touchdowns to go along with 21 receptions. He has shown excellent ability for short yardage and receiving skills that should compliment the offense this fall.

The big surprise for the offense last season might well be the emergence of Jared Hawkins. Hawkins played in every game last year where he posted a total of 298 rushing yards on 43 attempts that averaged a whopping 6.9 yards per carry. Hawkins has excellent running and receiving skills that should warrant him significant playing time this fall. He possesses great vision and the ability to read his blocks and make great cuts for big gains.

Along with the three other running backs sophomore Gaston Miller and redshirt freshman Kennard Reeves (photo at right) are hoping to get their chance to contribute this year. Miller played in the final eight games last season where he gained 70 yards rushing on 13 carries. He has excellent quickness and vision, which allows him to be an excellent change of pace back. Kennard Reeves redshirted last season, but coaches were impressed with his running skills while helping the scout team compete against the first team defense.

Two freshman Floridians, Jermaine Doster and Ryan Van Rensburg, make their debuts as Commodores in 2007. Van Rensburg was one of the top fullback prospects in the State of Florida during the 2006 season as he starred for the powerful Bolles School program. Doster is the brother of former Commodore great Kwane Doster who was tragically slain during the Christmas holidays a couple years ago. Both players are expected to be redshirted this season.

Because of solid depth and experienced talent at running back this fall, the Commodores should see significant improvement in their rushing attack to help solidify a balanced offense.

Grade B

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