Get back to a bowl game. It took 26 years for Vanderbilt to see a bowl; that's a long time, too long. Let's let the 2009 team be the first Vanderbilt team to repeat a bowl appearance. Music Bowl or Sugar bowl, who cares? Just get back to a bowl.
Top stat to keep: turnover ratio. There are a lot of stats that the NCAA track but there is no stat that is more indicative to team success than the stat of turnover ratio. Vanderbilt finished 19th nationally in that area, gaining 30 total turnovers while allowing 21 for an average margin of plus .69 turnovers per game. This doesn't sound like much but if you look at the teams in the top 20 nationally in turnover margin you'll see the likes of Utah (T 10th, 1.00), Oklahoma (1st, 1.77), TCU (T 10th, 1.00), Florida (2nd, 1.69), and Buffalo (3rd, 1.36). In fact, out of the top 25 teams in turnover ratio only 3 teams have losing records, NC State (6-7), UTEP (5-7), and Baylor (4-8).
Leadership man for 2009. Bradley Vierling. He was voted team Captain as a junior but look for him to repeat that honor as a senior. Listening to Bradley talk after the game was indicative of why he was voted captain by his teammates. Vierling is an outspoken guy who has a strong desire to win. He's also a pretty good football player. Vierling paid his dues at center behind the reliable Hamilton "Ham bone" Holliday. Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell described Vierling well a couple years ago, "he's the type he'll fight a chain saw and it running." Vanderbilt is lucky to have both Vierling and Caldwell back as it now appears that latter has spurned overtures from Spurrier and company in Columbia and who can blame him? I give Spurrier one, maybe two more seasons with South Carolina and he'll be gone. He just can't get the recruits for the Gamecocks like he could for the Gators. Maybe he should have picked up Vierling a few years back and local Carolina product D.J. Moore who will be playing on Sundays next season.
Kentucky the key. We want to win all games but Kentucky is the key to a winning season for Vanderbilt (except if you are Gerry DiNardo). Looking at this season, even with a great 5-0 start, the season came down to a win over the Wildcats. If you look at the past 10 years Vanderbilt could have been bowl eligible with wins over Kentucky in 1999, 2005 and 2007. Me thinks it'll probably come down to the Kentucky game again in 2009. Maybe the Commodore staff should post some beat Kentucky propaganda around the locker room of their players. Vanderbilt has defeated Kentucky each of its four bowl seasons except for the 1974 team, which went to the Peach Bowl. That '74 UK team beat Vandy 38-12 in Nashville. DiNardo, by the way, was 4-0 versus the Wildcats as a Commodore head coach but never took Vandy bowling.
Offense needs to get offensive. Hats off to the offense for getting it done in the MC Bowl. No, they didn't put up a ton of points but they played error free ball and didn't give the Eagles any chances for easy scores. However, heading into the 2009 season Vanderbilt needs to make it a priority to score more. The 19 points a game in 2008 should be increased to at least 26 points a game in '09. The arrival of eligibility for wide receiver Terence Jeffers should be a welcome sight for Commodore coaches, players and fans. Jeffers caught 44 passes for 5 touchdowns in 2007 while at Connecticut. He is said to have raised the eyebrows of quite a few of his teammates during practice sessions this season. Jeffers will compliment a host of returning offensive players including the entire offensive line, running backs, experienced tight ends and two quarterbacks who can pass.
Defend our turf! While 2008 was a banner season the Commodores failed at times to get the job done protecting the home field. After a great start, losses to Duke, Florida and Tennessee cast a late season shadow on a good season. If the Commodores are to compete for more regular bowl appearances they need to win more games at home and to develop a good, hostile SEC evironment they need more fans in the stands. Hopefully the bowl win will spark an increase in season tickets sales. Vanderbilt sold well over 15,000 season tickets last season. It would be nice if this number could increase to at least 20,000 in 2009. It's always been said that if Vanderbilt won the fans would come, let's hope that holds true.