While Derek Mason has not been able to reach the heights of the James Franklin era at Vanderbilt, he has established a gritty, blue-collar mentality that makes their SEC counterparts take them seriously.
The Dores managed to get to a bowl game last year, but in order to repeat that success, they must find a replacement for their boom or bust four-year starting quarterback, Kyle Shurmer. The candidates to take his spot are Ball State transfer Riley Neal and Deuce Wallace, who is coming off a year-long suspension. Both are dual-threat quarterbacks with enormous potential and whoever gets the nod gets to line up next to or in front of the most underrated tailback in the SEC and perhaps the country, Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
August 31 vs. Georgia
September 7 at Purdue
September 21 vs. LSU
September 28 vs. Northern Illinois
October 5 at Ole Miss
October 12 vs. UNLV
October 19 vs. Missouri
November 2 at South Carolina
November 9 at Florida
November 16 vs. Kentucky
November 23 vs. East Tennessee State
November 30 at Tennessee
Vaughn rushed for 1244 yards and 12 scores in 2018 and has a knack for yielding explosive plays in the running game. His ability to take the ball to the house every time he touches it, along with two quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs, creates opportunities for the passing game to thrive in the RPO game. None of this will matter much if the offensive line can’t protect and create running lanes, and with three starters gone from last year’s unit, that is a major cause for concern.
On defense, Mason concentrated his recruiting efforts on getting bigger up front, but it is rare that a freshman, (no matter how large) can come in and make an impact. So, I would expect them to struggle at the point of attack again in 2019. They have young impact players at linebacker in Dimitri Moore and JUCO-transfer Brandon Maddox, while boasting plenty of unproven depth in the secondary. All signs point to this defense being really good in 2020, while they find their footing in 2019
Overall, the schedule is tougher this year than last as they trade Arkansas for LSU in their cross division rotational match up and a trip to Purdue in week two won’t be a gimmie in non-conference play. There is a chance Ke’Shawn Vaughn just goes nuts and Vandy gets back to a bowl game, but I wouldn’t bet on it.