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Vanderbilt Commodores Defensive Preview

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Vanderbilt definitely fields 11 guys on defense who try to stop their opponents from scoring. And that’s the most positive thing you’ll see here.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I feel obligated to say this: Vanderbilt can absolutely beat Missouri on Saturday. Missouri is good, but not good enough to sleepwalk through any opponent. Road games are hard, conference road games are harder, and there’s a lot of “look-ahead” potential as the team goes to Kentucky next week. If Missouri does not pay attention and focus on beating the Commodores, then they can find themselves in an outright dog fight and possibly lose.

...that being said, wow, Vanderbilt’s defense is an outright car wreck.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Dayo Odeyingbo
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive End

Dayo Odeyingbo - JR: 14 tackles/4.5 TFLs

Rutger Reitmaier - R-SO: 2 tackles/1 PBU

Defensive Tackle

Drew Birchmeier - R-JR: 8 tackles/0.5 TFLs

Josiah Sa’o - R-JR: x

Defensive Tackle

Daevion Davis - FR: 5 tackles/1 TFL

Cameron Tidd - R-JR: 10 tackles/1 TFL

The stat: Third Down Conversions

The Vanderbilt defense ranks 37th in Power Success Rate (stopping first downs on 3rd/4th-and short, stopping touchdowns in goal-to-go situations), 61st in line yards per carry on passing downs, and 72nd in limiting explosive plays in passing down situations. Every other stat you can think of... and, no, I’m not exaggerating... ranks 92nd or worse in the country. Situationally, the Commodores are decent at stopping third down conversions: 45th in third-and-long, 54th in third-and-medium, 15th (!) in third-and-short. The Tigers were pretty good at converting third downs against Troy and Ole Miss, mainly by keeping the yards-to-go manageable, so if they continue that approach, then they’ll remove one of the few strengths the ‘Dores have.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Mississippi
Dimitri Moore
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Outside Linebacker

Andre Mintze - R-JR: 14 tackles/2 TFLs/2 sacks

Elijah McAllister - SO: 7.5 tackles/3 TFLs/2 sacks

Inside Linebacker

Caleb Peart - R-SR: 10 tackles/1 TFL

Feleti Afemui - R-SO: 13 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 FF

Middle Linebacker

Dimitri Moore - R-SO: 30 tackles/3 TFLs

Brayden DeVault-Smith - R-SO: 8.5 tackles

Outside Linebacker

Kenny Hebert - R-JR: 18 tackles/4.5 TFLs/1 sack/2 PBUs

Lashawn Paulino-Bell - JR: 7 tackles/1 TFL/2 PBUs

The stat: Havoc Rate

Over six games, Vanderbilt has 52 havoc plays which equates to a havoc percentage of 18%. For comparison, Missouri has 75 havoc plays for a season-long havoc rate of 29.5%. A defense needs to create havoc to keep offenses off schedule and create opportunities for turnovers and... the Commodores are not great at it. In a 3-4 scheme, that’s the responsibility of the linebackers who have lots of tackles but haven’t disrupted all that well. If the Tigers keep the havoc rate to their season average of 18%, they’ll probably be moving the ball comfortably.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt
Cam Watkins
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

Cam Watkins - R-SR: 10 tackles/1 PBU

Elijah Hamilton - R-JR: x

Free Safety

Dashaun Jerkins - SO: 28.5 tackles/1 PBU

Max Worship - SO: 6.5 tackles

Strong Safety

Brendon Harris - SO: 28 tackles/1 TFL/2 PBUs

Tae Daley - JR: 7 tackles/1 INT/1 FF

Cornerback

B.J. Anderson - SO: 12 tackles/2 PBUs

Randall Haynie - R-SO: 11 tackles/1 TFL/3 PBUs/1 INT

The stat: Turnovers

I really don’t want to continue to dump on the Vandy defense, so I’ll cite turnovers as another stat to watch. Any team can beat any other team, regardless of the talent deficiency, if turnovers skew crazy in favor of one side. That’s really the best way the Commodores can keep up, because their passing defense is bottom 30 in every statistic possible. It’ll be a good day for Albert O to add to the TD total and Nance/Knox/Gicinto/Scott to pad their stats.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Vanderbilt
Ryley Guay
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Ryley Guay - SR: 47-47 PATs/7-8 FGs/13 kickoffs/6 touch backs

Punter

Harrison Smith - SO: 38 punts/44.5 avg/4 touch backs/9 fair catches

Kick Returner

Justice Shelton-Mosley - SR: 11 returns/18 avg

Punt Returner

Justice Shelton-Mosley - SR: 6 returns/9.7 avg/4 fair catches

It is interesting to note that the Vanderbilt special teams unit ranks 15th in the country, powered by some solid (but not numerous) punt returners and an excellent kicker in Ryley Guay. If this game comes down to field goals and special teams though, then the Tigers have royally screwed up, but it is nice to see an actual, bonafide strength for the Commodores.