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If Missouri can't run, Vanderbilt's defense will destroy Drew Lock and the passing game

Don't let the record fool you. Vanderbilt is a better team than it was last year. That's almost completely because of the defense.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Adam Butler (6'5, 305, Jr.) -- 9.5 tackles, 5 TFL (2 sacks)
Torey Agee (6'4, 284, Jr.) -- 3.0 tackles

Jay Woods (6'3, 285, So.) -- 10.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU, 1 FF
Nifae Lealao (6'5, 315, So.) -- 6.5 tackles, 1 TFL

Caleb Azubike (6'4, 265, Sr.) -- 8.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Jonathan Wynn (6'5, 260, So.) -- 5.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU
Dare Odeyingbo (6'2, 255, Fr.)

In key situations, Vanderbilt's run defense has been pretty good. The Commodores are sixth in the country with a stuff rate of 30.3% (meaning nearly one-third of opponents' carries have been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage), which is mortifying if you're a Missouri fan -- the Tigers rank a whopping 119th in offensive stuff rate, logging a full 25% of their carries for 0 yards or a loss. Guh. Vandy also ranks fourth in power success rate; Missouri ranks 126th. 126th! Double guh!

Derek Mason led some pretty spectacular Stanford defenses onto the field, and they succeeded mostly because the linemen occupied blockers while big, faster-than-they-look linebackers swarmed the ball. That's more or less what Vandy's line does here, though Jay Woods is pretty active for an interior guy, and Adam Butler breaks into the backfield once a game.

This isn't a huge line, though, and while it stiffens in short-yardage, it will also give you some downfield opportunities. Vandy ranks 27th in rushing success rate allowed but only 63rd in rushing IsoPPP allowed. The successful plays you have could go for a pretty long way. Luckily for Vandy, ahem, Missouri only had one successful run against Georgia.

Nehemiah Mitchell (6'4, 260, Jr.) -- 12.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU
Landon Stokes (6'4, 240, So.)
Charles Wright (6'3, 236, RSFr.)

Darreon Herring (6'2, 230, Sr.) -- 25.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU
Ja'karri Thomas (6'1, 230, Jr.) -- 4.0 tackles

Zach Cunningham (6'4, 230, So.) -- 38.0 tackles, 8 TFL (2 sacks), 3 PBU, 1 FF
Khari Blasingame (6'1, 228, RSFr.) -- 8.0 tackles

Stephen Weatherly (6'5, 250, Jr.) -- 18.0 tackles, 4 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU, 1 FF
Josh Smith (6'3, 236, Fr.) -- 3.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL

The combination of Cunningham and Weatherly has been rock solid, especially considering last year's leading tackler, Nigel Bowden, has barely played. This duo combined for 19 tackles for loss and is on pace for 24 or so this year, and Cunningham has taken on more tackling machine duties as well. The linebackers have been good, both in making plays behind the line and breaking up some passes here and there.

Torren McGaster (6'1, 200, Jr.) -- 22.0 tackles, 2 TFL, 7 PBU
Tre Bell (5'11, 178, So.) -- 7.5 tackles
Bryce Lewis (6'0, 180, RSFr.)

Andrew Williamson (6'1, 212, Sr.) -- 11.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack)
Ryan White (5'9, 190, So.) -- 16.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF

Oren Burks (6'3, 215, So.) -- 27.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF
Jahmel McIntosh (6'1, 202, Sr.) -- 4.5 tackles, 1 PBU

Tre Herndon (6'0, 185, So.) -- 19.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU
Taurean Ferguson (5'9, 185, So.) -- 6.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU
LaDarius Wiley (6'1, 205, RSFr.)

Arnold Tarpley (6'0, 202, So.) -- 16.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU
Emmanuel Smith (6'2, 218, So.)
Donovan Sheffield (5'11, 182, Fr.)

If you can't run against Vandy, you're in trouble because you probably won't be able to pass either. Western Kentucky's offense has torched just about everybody but managed only a 19-for-30 passing day for 209 yards. Ole Miss and Georgia combined to complete 55% of their passes with one score and two picks.

Strangely enough, the only QB to have success against Vandy was South Carolina's Perry Orth last week. After going just 16-for-33 against Missouri and LSU, Orth went 17-for-28 for 272 yards; much of that went to Pharoh Cooper, who had seven catches for 160 yards and a long score.

Missouri doesn't have a Pharoh Cooper. We're excited about Cam Hilton's progress, and Nate Brown comes and goes, but without a go-to guy, Mizzou will have to be able to stay on schedule at least a little bit to hope for any passing success. Last week's ridiculous run blocking won't suffice. If Missouri is to win this game, a rejiggered (we hope) offensive line will need to take advantage of Vandy's small, three-man front and find four or five yards at a time for Russell Hansbrough and Ish Witter. Without that, Drew Lock's completion percentage will likely again find its way under 50%.

Special Teams

Tommy Openshaw (6'2, 185, So.) -- 9-9 PAT, 5-7 FG under 40, 6-9 over 40
Hayden Lekacz (6'0, 192, So.) -- 28 kickoffs, 9 touchbacks

Tommy Openshaw (6'2, 185, So.) -- 29 punts, 40.8 average (12 fair caught, 11 inside 20)
Colby Cooke (6'3, 220, Jr.)

Darrius Sims (5'9, 188, Jr.) -- 15 KR, 21.3 average (long: 47)

Ryan White (5'10, 190, So.) -- 5 PR, 10.4 average (long: 36)

Vandy's special teams unit is perfectly decent. Tommy Openshaw has a big leg in the place-kicking department, and while neither Hayden Lekacz on kickoffs nor Openshaw on punts gets massive distance on their kicks or avoids returns, that only matters if Missouri can show even a hint of potential in the return game.