Meet Zac Stacy.
Vanderbilt’s punch the clock and manage your shift workhorse has helped the Commodores to an 8-4 record this season punctuated by six straight wins.
Heading into the bowl game, Stacy has 3,036 career rushing yards (that’s 359 more than Marcus Lattimore with one more attempt) and has given Vandy an every-down option it has sorely missed in recent seasons in the smashmouth SEC. Along with head coach James Franklin and a better than average defense, Stacy’s behind the Commodores’ rise from the Eastern Division cellar.
Looking back in early-October, Vandy seemed average at 2-4. With the program’s toughest games already over, however, Stacy took charge in his final season and left his footprint on the program. After squandering a late lead against South Carolina, falling at Northwestern and having its anchors ripped off the ship in Athens, Vandy turned the tides in a different direction, becoming bowl eligible for only the sixth time since 1955.
Over the final six games that followed a deflating home loss to Florida, Stacy scored five touchdowns and averaged 110 yards of total offense as Vandy’s main weapon in the backfield. He’s coming off a career high 180-yard performance at Wake Forest that included a jaw-dropping 90-yard touchdown scamper. UGA’s Todd Gurley and Florida’s Mike Gillislee are the only SEC running backs with more rushing yards this season. Johnny Manziel leads all playmakers on the ground with 1,181.
Stacy, a lightly-recruited senior from Centreville, Ala. has transformed into a bundle of muscle at 5-foot-9, 210 pounds over his college career and packs quite a punch between the tackles. Noticed by scouts with 4.49 speed in the NFL-ready SEC, Stacy’s rated 16th out of 178 draft-eligible running backs according to NFLDraftScout.com. He could be a great middle-round option for a team looking for a third-down back whose shown the ability to make things happen on passes in the flats or in short-yardage situations.
At an attractive 8-4 riding a long winning streak, Stacy and the Commodores now await their bowl fate. According to the energized Vandy fans I’ve spoken with, the alumni base really wants a postseason game outside of Nashville. The Gator or Chick-Fil-A would be welcomed invites, but it doesn’t seem likely that those committees would choose Vandy over available options such as LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Music City Bowl in Vandy’s home state of Tennessee wouldn’t be much of a reward considering the Commodores’ win streak is tied with UGA’s for the SEC’s longest.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE