Vanderbilt football: 5 most important returning players in 2020
Vanderbilt has had a tumultuous offseason on the coaching staff and at quarterback where the Commodores have seen 4 quarterbacks leave and 4 new quarterbacks join the roster.
While production in 2019 from the likes of Kalija Lipscomb, Jared Pinkney and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, as a collective group, fell well short of expectations, there is a core nucleus to build on with this retooled coaching staff.
After coach Derek Mason was retained for 2020, the question turned to his assistant coaches and if those new coordinators can dramatically improve both sides of the ball. The offense, for example, was 125th of 130 FBS teams in scoring offense. Now that The Big 3 are gone, the Commodores don’t have a definitive threat on offense, especially with the quarterback situation undecided.
It was notable that Mason chose 2 very experienced coaches as his coordinators in DC Ted Roof and OC Todd Fitch.
“I have followed Todd for several years, and he’s consistently developed innovative and productive offensive attacks,” Mason said. “I look forward to Todd leading our offense into an exciting future. … Attracting Ted Roof to join the Commodores as defensive coordinator is a huge win for our program.”
Vanderbilt is expected to return 6 starters on offense and 10 starters on defense.
Here are the 5 most important returning players in 2020:
WR Cam Johnson
Johnson will be a veteran presence for the new quarterback and has some production to back it up. He played in every game in 2019 and started the final 9. He led Dores receivers with 3 TD catches, and overall had 30 receptions, 316 receiving yards. Some of his best plays came against the SEC East, including the winning 21-yard touchdown catch vs. No. 21 Missouri, 4 catches for 35 yards at Tennessee and a 26-yard score at Florida.
Speaking of the Missouri win, Johnson’s touchdown showed off more potential for years to come as he took a pass from Riley Neal and willed his way in on a 21-yard touchdown near the goal line.
RB Keyon Brooks
Despite being a backup, Brooks had a big coming out party against Tennessee with game-highs of 70 yards on 13 carries, along with 5 catches for 34 yards. Brooks contributed in 11 games, and ultimately had 252 rushing yards and a touchdown on 56 carries, 4.4 yard average per carry. Against Northern Illinois, Brooks scored from 61 yards out.
While it’s easy to point to Vanderbilt’s struggles in recent years, there’s no disputing that the Commodores know how to identify and deploy a quality running back, from Ke’Shawn Vaughn to Ralph Webb. Is Brooks the next in line? That answer isn’t in yet, but Brooks has surely showed the potential and tools.
DL Dayo Odeyingbo
Odeyingbo is a veteran presence on the defensive front who has production to back it up. He made 11 starts at defensive end in 2019 and had 12 tackles for a loss. He notably registered 2.5 tackles for a loss at Tennessee and had 2 TFLs against Purdue. In 6 of the final 8 games, he had at least 4 tackles.
There are several newcomers to the defensive line, between incoming recruits and transfers, but Odeyingbo is the one steady force at that position.
CB Allan George
Against some of the best opponents, and when it mattered most, George delivered.
He led Vandy with 5 passes broken up.
He had career-high 6 stops against LSU and South Carolina, scooped and scored a 67-yard touchdown against Kentucky, and made an interception in the end zone in the win over No. 21 Missouri.
LB Dimitri Moore
Moore led the team in 2019 with 99 tackles, which was good for 4th in the SEC. He did it consistently, too, with double-digit tackles against UNLV, Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Those numbers aside, there’s a thought among the Vandy faithful that Moore needs to deliver more to match his potential.