SEC MD17 2: Scouting Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason speaks during the Southeastern Conference's annual media gathering Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. [AP Photo/Butch Dill]

Vanderbilt Coach: Derek Mason, fourth season (13-24, all at Vanderbilt).
Last year: 6-7 overall, 3-5 in the SEC (T-5th in the East). Lost to North Carolina State 41-17 in the Independence Bowl.
Best case scenario: The momentum gained by late-season wins over Ole Miss and arch-rival Tennessee carries over and the confident Commodores are 3-0 heading into what could be a huge home game against Alabama on Sept. 23. In those two wins over the Rebels and Vols, the offense combined for 83 points. With that kind of production, along with a usually strong defense, the Commodores pose a serious threat in what should be a tight SEC East race.
Worst case scenario: An inconsistent passing game that led to so many offensive struggles early last season returns and opposing defenses are able to gang up on tailback Ralph Webb. On the other side of the ball, the Commodores are impacted by the loss of All-SEC linebacker Zach Cunningham and do not play up to Vandy’s usual standard. Along with a tough schedule, it adds up to Vandy’s bowl streak ending at one.
Quotable: “Vanderbilt football is on the rise. As I look at our program and where we’re at and what we’ve done, in 2016, we took several steps forward to be a better program. You looked at how we finished the season, 4-2, got us to a bowl game for the first time in my tenure. And that was an exciting time for us. Definitely not satisfied. This group is definitely moving forward.” — Mason