|TideSports College Football Preview|
Ask Vanderbilt football head coach Derek Mason and he will say that the team and the program are on the rise. Vanderbilt is set to play Alabama on Sept. 23, marking the first time the Crimson Tide and the Commodores have faced off since 2007.
Mason believes his team is building what it takes to compete.
“I want to say we have depth,” Mason said at SEC Media Days this summer. “For the first time in my tenure, I look at depth on this football team and I truly believe we have a chance to do something special.”
Vanderbilt finished last season with a record of 6-7 and an appearance in the Independence Bowl, where they lost to North Carolina State. Mason said he is “definitely not satisfied.”
Perhaps this season, satisfaction is like an object in the rearview mirror: closer than it appears. Mason has an experienced coaching staff and some top recruits to go with the optimism in his words.
“I said this before, but when your team grows up, you’ve got a chance,” Mason said. “As I look at where we are offensively, the future is bright, but the future is now.”
Andy Ludwig will continue to coach offense for the third year. Mason’s background is defense, and he oversees that unit.
Kyle Shurmur is expected to lead in his role as quarterback. Last season, Shurmur finished with 2,409 passing yards and nine touchdowns. He’s surrounded by veterans like running back Ralph Webb, and wide receivers Trent Sherfield and Caleb Scott.
Vanderbilt will start the season at Middle Tennessee, followed by a home game vs. Alabama A&M.
Sept. 2; at Middle Tennessee
Sept. 9; Alabama A&M
Sept 16; Kansas State
Sept. 23; Alabama
Sept. 30; at Florida
Oct. 7; Georgia
Oct. 14; at Ole Miss
Oct. 28; at South Carolina
Nov. 4; Western Kentucky
Nov. 11; Kentucky
Nov. 18; Missouri
Nov. 25; at Tennessee
2016 record: 6-7 (3-5 Conf./T-5th East)
All-time SEC championships: 0
Bowl appearances: 8 (4-3-1)
Sept. 1; South Carolina; L 13-10
Sept. 10; Middle Tennessee; W 24-47
Sept. 17; Georgia Tech; L 7-38
Sept. 24; Western Kentucky; W 31-30 OT
Oct. 1; Florida; L 13-6
Oct. 8; Kentucky; L 13-20
Oct. 15; Georgia; W 17-16
Oct. 22; Tennessee State; W 17-35
Nov. 5; Auburn; L 16-23
Nov. 12; Missouri; L 17-26
Nov. 19; Ole Miss; W 17-38
Nov. 26; Tennessee; W 34-45
Dec. 26; North Carolina State; L 17-41*
* Independence Bowl
Starters returning: 18
Starters lost: 5