Grim Future, but Glimpses of Hope
This is a new installment called “Beasts of the East”, which is a preview for each SEC East team paired with a projection. Once I get through the East, stay tuned for “Best of the West”. I am starting with the bottom dwellers, which unfortunately means...Vanderbilt. VANDY! Let’s dive in folks.
Head Coach Derek Mason’s seat is smoking hot right now. He really needs a good season, coming off just three wins last year. Is he in arguably the toughest division in college football? Maybe. Does he have the same resources as teams like Georgia and Florida? No. However, he has a job to do and that’s to win. Let’s go over both the bright spots and the concerns for the upcoming season.
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 31: Head coach Derek Mason of the Vanderbilt Commodores reacts to a call during the first half of a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Vanderbilt Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
The first interesting note is the coaching staff. Time will tell whether this is a bright spot or concern, but Mason fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators at the end of last year. Vanderbilt cycled through four, yes four quarterbacks last season. With Allan Walters transferring to Mississippi State, that means that none of those quarterbacks will be returning. Oof. Here’s who has entered that QB room.
The projected starting role is going to come down to two guys. First is true freshman Ken Seals, who has seen the seas part a perfect path of opportunity for him. He is a three-star pro-style prospect out of Texas, who set the school record at Weatherford with over 5,700 yards and 53 touchdowns during his time there. However, it’s not often teams plug true freshmen in at QB in the SEC. With Mason on the hot seat, it wouldn’t be surprising.
His competition? Jeremy Moussa, Junior transfer from San Bernardino Valley College, where he led his former team to the 2019 conference title with a 9-2 record. While it’s a small-time school, in his first start there he threw for 636 yards and seven scores...His freshman year he played at Hawaii but didn’t see the field much so decided to transfer. The big question here is whether or not he can play on the bigger stage. If there’s a bright spot here for Commodore fans, it’s that the coaching staff and QB rooms are both clean slates. It’s always tough when there’s turnover in one of those categories, but more beneficial when they align. That’s probably why Mason let them go.
Here’s the biggest concern. Vandy's three best "weapons" all finished their respective college careers last season. Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB, 1,028 yds), Jared Pinkney (TE, projected day 2 draft pick), and Kalija Lipscomb (WR, 46 grabs), all moved on. They are now left with raw prospects and major turnover at multiple positions. The roster turnover on offense could work out for the better for Vandy or it could end up being a tremendous disaster, we simply don’t know yet.
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19: Vanderbilt Commodores fans celebrate during a game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and Missouri Tigers, October 19, 2019 at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Vanderbilt fans have hope in finding a diamond in the rough at QB, and a new coaching staff below Mason. I think that they will improve on their 3-9 record from last year, but things will still look grim. Maybe Ken Seals can gain some valuable experience for when he eventually gets some help in the future.
Schedule (Projected W/L): Mercer (W) | @ Missouri (L) | @ K-State (W) | Col. State (W) | @ Georgia (L) | Ole Miss (L) | @ Kentucky (L) | South Carolina (L) | Florida (L) | @ Texas A&M (L) | LA Tech (W) | Tennessee (L)