Vanderbilt 5 impact players to watch vs. Tennessee
The 2015 season hasn’t gone as Vanderbilt hoped, but with coach Derek Mason, a rising star in the SEC, and starting freshman QB Kyle Shurmur heading into his second season, 2016 could be the start to a brighter future.
The Commodores (4-7, 2-5 SEC) could use some momentum heading into next season with a win over Tennessee on Saturday, but for that to happen these five Commodores will have to play well:
1. RB Ralph Webb: With 1,003 rushing yards, Webb is just 190 yards from the school’s single-season record set by Zac Stacy in 2011. Not only would that be the highest single-game total of his career, but it would be against a Tennessee defense that hasn’t allowed an 100-yard rusher since Oct. 31.
With 508 yards in his past five games, Webb’s finish to 2015 has been one of the best in the SEC, and he’s accomplished that despite being the target of every defensive coordinator he faces.
2. QB Kyle Shurmur: With fewer than 45 net passing yards in three of their past four games, Vanderbilt’s aerial attack hasn’t put them in position to win all season.
Last week the Commodores gave Shurmur, a 4-star freshman, his second consecutive start, but after just 12 passes Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason removed him for the team’s season-long starter Johnny McCrary.
The offensive attack just isn’t there for the Commodores and though the problems won’t stop with Shurmur — he’s just 29 of 69 for 294 yards, with 2 TDs, 2 INTs — the team needs to rally behind their quarterback of the future.
3. DE Caleb Azubike: With three sacks in Vanderbilt’s past two games, the senior is finishing his Vanderbilt career off strong.
Caleb Azubike: "The only way to ease the pain is put a beating on the team (Tennessee) we have next week."
— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) November 22, 2015
The Volunteers have one of the best offensive line’s in the conference with recent SEC OL Player of the Week Award winner Coleman Thomas. Azubike will need to bring that fire and intensity if he wants to get to UT QB Joshua Dobbs on Saturday.
4. LB Zach Cunningham: Not much went right in a 25-0 loss to Texas A&M last week, except for Cunningham’s play: He finished with 14 tackles (3.0 for loss), a sack and a forced fumble. He has been one of the many reliable starters on a Vanderbilt defense that’s allowing a little more than 18 points per game.
The sophomore linebacker will have his hands full Saturday as only LSU has rushed for more yards than Tennessee in the SEC.
The Volunteers have rushed for over 200 yards in three of their past four games.
5. WR Trent Sherfield: The 2015 Biletnikoff Award finalist hasn’t been able to make much of an impact on the field since a 240-yard effort against Austin Peay on Sept. 19 Sherfield has just 11 receptions for 109 yards in his past six games.
Maybe he and Shurmur build some rapport in the final game of 2015 heading into next season.