Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Week in the Dawg House: Vanderbilt Defense

The Vanderbilt defense comes into this game off of a dominating performance against lowly Eastern Michigan -- they only allowed six points, 203 yards of offense, and 3.4 yards per play. For the season, they are statiscally better than our previous opponent (Tennessee) in almost every defensive category. Here is how their defensive stats rank in the SEC: Yards allowed per game (345.2, 9th), points per game (22.0, 9th), yards per play allowed (4.9, 5th), and turnovers forced (9, t-7th). So not extraordinary but not horrible either. Their defensive coordinator is Jamie Bryant, who was promoted to DC last year, and runs a standard 4-3 scheme. Here is the breakdown of the individual units:

DEFENSIVE LINE: Normally, the Commodores are led up the middle by DT #59 Adam Smotherman (6-4 295) and DT #74 T.J. Greenstone (6-3 285, 7 tkls). However, Smotherman, a captain on the team, tore his ACL in the spring but could play his first game this weekend against the Dawgs. Greenstone, also a starter, has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. If either of these two can't go, the backups, #84 Rob Lohr (6-4 288, 21 tkls) and #58 Colt Nichter (6-2 288, 9 tkls) will be called on to play big minutes. On the ends, they are led by #42 Tim Fugger (6-4 255, 1.5 sacks) and #91 Theron Kadri (6-4 255, 3 tkls). Freshman #92 Walker May (6-5 230, 10 tkls) has been seeing ample playing time, as well as So. #98 Johnell Thomas (6-0 250, 7 tkls).

Vandy ranks 3rd in the SEC in terms of tackles for loss with 42.0 (not necessarily from the D-Line) but ranks 10th in sacks with 8.

LINEBACKERS: The other big question in terms of injuries for Vanderbilt is the availability of star middle linebacker #13 Chris Marve (6-0 230, 39 tkls).
Bad A$$ LB Chris Marve
Bad A$$ MLB Chris Marve

Marve had his knee scoped last week but did practice in full pads on Wednesday. My gut says he will play Saturday. The starting outside linebackers are seniors #49 John Stokes (6-5 235, 33 tkls) and #52 Nate Campbell (6-2 220, 9 tkls). Vandy lacks experienced depth at linebacker, as the top six backups are all freshmen or sophomores, adding the urgency for Marve to return this week. If he can't go, it looks like #47 DeAndre Jones (6-1 235, 2 tkls) would get the start.

Besides Marve and Stokes, Vandy's linebackers aren't the most active, but these two are very experienced players that can stymie anyone's run game.

SECONDARY: This is probably the Commodores best defensive unit, as their leading tackler and interceptor both line up deep. Safety #21 Sean Richardson (6-2 210) leads the team in tackles with 44 total. Strangely, he also leads the team in tackles for loss (5.5), which tells me he likes to play close to the line of scrimmage. The other starting safety is talented freshman #27 Kenny Ladler (6-1 198, 14 tkls). On the outside, they are led by Cornerbacks #19 Casey Hayward (6-0 185, 4 INTs) and #16 Eddie Foster (5-10 175, 22 tkls, 4 TFL). Hayward's 4 picks leads the SEC. Although Marve is Vandy's best individual player, the reason the secondary is Vandy's best overall unit is the fact that they rank 2nd in the SEC in 'pass yards per game allowed' (161.4) and are very active in the run game, as their two starting safeties have recorded 9.5 tackles for loss combined. I think Aaron Murray and the receivers are going to have a tougher time racking up the pass yards in this game as compared to UT.

PUNTER: Their punter is #94 Richard Kent, who averages 39.31 per punt, which ranks 75th nationally.

Overall, this defense is much more experienced than Tennessee's, and generally makes more plays. They are a defense that held Ole Miss to just 14 points (Ole Miss has been scoring lately) and shut down Eastern Michigan last week. If we come out focused, I think we will still be able to move the ball, but I wouldn't expect another 41 point outburst like last week. If we reach 31 points, I would consider that a successful performance by our offense, and given Vandy's struggles at times of offense, I think it would be plenty enough to win the game.

Here is the projected depth chart for Vandy's defense Saturday:

DE: #42 Tim Fugger
DT: #59 Adam Smotherman (assuming he plays)
DT: #74 T.J. Greenstone (asssuming he plays)
DE: #91 Theron Kadri

OLB: #49 John Stokes
MLB: #13 Chris Marve (assuming he plays)
OLB: #52 Nate Campbell

CB: #19 Casey Hayward
SS: #38 Sean Richardson
FS: #27 Kenny Ladler
CB: #16 Eddie Foster

P: #94 Richard Kent

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