2020 Results: 0-9, 0-9 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 2-10, 0-8 (SEC)
The Derek Mason era is over and the Clark Lea era begins in Nashville. Mason’s tenure featured some really good defensive units, but 2020 was not kind to the Dores on that side of the ball. They surrendered 37.3 points per game in 2020, while the offense only mustered up an average of 14.8 points per game. That adds up to a winless season and Lea has his work cut out for him if he wants to improve on that record. So much so, he introduced a 10-year plan to bring the program where he believes it can be. Good luck coach.
Ken Seals was an absolute bright spot for Vandy in 2020. The true freshman didn’t have much help while putting up respectable stats against a brutal schedule. His favorite target, Cam Johnson returns, giving Seals a reliable target that accounted for 56 receptions for 545 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2020. Amir Abdur-Rahman and Chris Pierce also return at receiver, which is the deepest unit on the offense.
Running back is a huge question mark after Keyon Henry-Brooks opted to transfer, leaving the Dores to scramble and pick up a transfer of their own in former Temple Owl, Re’Mahn Davis. Davis tallied 936 yards as a freshman for the Owls and will be relied upon to produce immediately in Nashville.
Up front Vandy gets a big boost to a unit that struggled last season via the return of three players that opted out of the 2020 season. Cole Clemens, Bryce Bailey and Jonathan Stewart are all back and bring experience to go along with Tyler Steen at left tackle. The Commodores were the worst pass blocking team in the SEC last year, and with the strength of the offense being the quarterback and receivers, they must improve greatly for the offense to succeed.
The defensive woes of 2020 have already been mentioned, so what is the outlook for 2021’s unit? Sayo Odeyingbo and Andre Mintze were the anchors of the Dores d-line last season and both are now playing in the NFL.
They have some meat left in the middle, but with the defense moving to a 4-2-5 scheme, the experience on the interior may struggle to make that transition. Feliti Afemui is another player that opted out in 2020 that returns this season and he will be relied upon to lead the linebacking corps.
The secondary has proven safeties in Dahaun Jerkins and Brendon Harris, but are paper thin at cornerback. With a lack of proven edge rushers and interior linemen that are solid, but don’t generate much of a pass rush, the corners could be in for a painfully long season.
The Commodores addressed a serious need at placekicker by luring former Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas, which should provide some stability after Pierson Cooke converted just 4-9 field goals in 2020. Harrison Smith is back at punter and is as good as anyone in the SEC at that position.
Like all of his predecessors, Lea has his work cut out for him at Vanderbilt. One thing he will receive in Nashville is patience from the fanbase and administrative staff to make a run at building the program. I don’t know how many coaches present a 10-year plan in this day and age. Only at Vandy. Good luck coach!