Nobody thought the transition away from Jordan Rodgers would prove easy. QB Austyn Carta-Samuels’ first half has been something of a roller coaster. At times he shows the escapability and arm of a potentially dangerous quarterback. At others, he stares down primary receivers and allows defenses to come up with huge plays.
Rest of offense: C+
WR Jordan Matthews props this grade up almost singlehandedly. Matthews is among the truly elite receivers in a conference that is suddenly swimming in them – and he’s proving it with the least consistent passing game. WR Jonathan Krause has finally started to give Matthews a running mate. The offensive line has been a mess for much of the season against reasonably talented opponents. RB Wesley Tate’s production dropped once he took over Zac Stacy’s featured back role, enabling RB Jerron Seymour to steal more carries.
When the opponents have been tough, the defense has not. Sure, Vanderbilt’s defense ranks eighth and seventh in the SEC in scoring defense and total defense, respectively. But that number is largely propped up by non-conference games against Austin Peay, UAB and UMass. In league games, the Commodores have allowed 39 points to Ole Miss, 35 to South Carolina and 51 to Missouri. Two of those games were at home.
The expectations for Vanderbilt to take the next step never made sense with how much the team lost during the offseason and because of how much the team overachieved in 2012. Truth is, coach James Franklin squeezed more out of his team last year than most thought possible. In the SEC, though, when teams achieve greater heights, expectations increase regardless of reality. The Commodores are in grave danger of failing to make a bowl game in 2013.
Offensive Spotlight: RB Jerron Seymour
Carta-Samuels desperately needs someone to present better balance to an offense that ranks 13th in the league in rushing. Seymour looks more capable of providing that dynamic than does Tate at this point. Franklin seems to be noticing the same, increasing Seymour’s workload accordingly.
Defensive Spotlight: DE Caleb Azubike
The sophomore defensive end is in the midst of a breakout season. His 6 TFLs lead the team and his 16 solo tackles easily rank best among Commodores defensive linemen. DE Walker May’s production has slipped this season, leaving Azubike to pick up more slack. Fortunately for Vanderbilt, he has done so.