Other Vanderbilt receivers must step up

The Commodores face their first real challenge of this young season on Saturday when the Alabama Crimson Tide comes to Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt has traditionally played Alabama very well but has not beaten them in their last 19 tries (not counting the 1993 game which was given to Vanderbilt as a win because of Alabama's probation).

Alabama is considered by many to be down a little this year, which could make this a great opportunity for Vanderbilt to turn the series around.

The key for Vanderbilt's offense to have success against Alabama on Saturday is to find someone to step up and compliment Earl Bennett. Bennett is obviously what makes the Commodores' offense go. The good teams that Vanderbilt faces this year are going to do their best to not let Bennett beat them. Bennett is a good enough player that he is still going to put up numbers, but most teams are not going to let him have 13 catches for 223 yards. Case in point, in last year's game against Alabama, Earl Bennett had 5 catches for 45 yards and 1 touchdown.

Probably the best way to open up the field for Bennett is for the Commodores to establish the run game. Alabama will probably come in on Saturday with a game plan of stopping the run with just their front seven. If the Commodores can have some success on the ground, it will force Alabama to bring a safety in the box. This will give Nickson the opportunity to take some shots down the field to Bennett.

The Commodores will also need another receiver to step up and make some big plays in the passing game. The better teams will keep rolling their coverage to Bennett until another receiver steps up and proves that he warrants some attention. George Smith should get a lot of chances against man coverage when they face Alabama on Saturday. If he can make a couple of plays, Alabama will be forced to put another defender on him, which will free up Bennett for some more chances at big plays.

The key for Vanderbilt's defense will be stopping the run with the front seven. Alabama had a very successful running attack in their opener against Western Carolina. Freshman running back Terry Grant ran for 134 yards on 18 carries earning him SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The Alabama rushing attack as a whole gained 313 yards on 44 carries.

It would be easy if Alabama was a one dimensional team, but they are not. They have a pretty potent passing attack as well. John Parker Wilson is entering his second full season as the Alabama starting quarterback, so he has some valuable experience under his belt. He has a talented group of receivers to throw to in Nick Walker, DJ Hall and Keith Brown, who was suspended for last week's game. If Vanderbilt is forced to bring an extra defender in the box to stop the run, it could spell trouble defending the pass.

The keys to the Commodores winning this game are to move the ball using someone other than Earl Bennett early in the game and to contain the Crimson Tide rushing attack with just the front seven. Look for the Commodore faithful to have a good afternoon on Saturday if Vanderbilt can accomplish those two things.


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