Leading up to the start of the college football season, The Red & Black will preview each of the 13 teams Georgia plays alongside in the Southeastern Conference. Today, The Red & Black takes a look at the Vanderbilt Commodores.

2017 results

5-7 (1-7 SEC); finished sixth in SEC East

Summary of last season

Vanderbilt started last season hot, winning its first three games. Then, the real world of SEC play came calling in the form of Alabama. The Crimson Tide thumped the Commodores 59-0, and Vanderbilt lost seven of their final nine games, earning wins over only Western Kentucky and Tennessee.

Hot seat?

After his first four years on the job, it’s safe to say that head coach Derek Mason has failed to maintain the standard set by previous head coach James Franklin. After winning nine games in each of Franklin’s last two seasons, the Commodores have won just 18 in Mason’s four years. If Vanderbilt doesn’t make its second bowl game under Mason this year, the Commodores could be in the market for a new leader of the fleet this offseason.

Key returning players

Kyle Shurmur, quarterback: Shurmur enters his third season as Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback coming off a solid 2017 campaign. He completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,823 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Shurmur is the unquestioned face of the program and leader of the team, and if Vanderbilt wants to have any success in 2018 it starts with the man under center.

Charles Wright, linebacker: Last season was Wright’s first as a regular starter on defense, and he made the most of his opportunity. His nine sacks led the Commodores, and he also chipped in 43 total tackles. Vanderbilt has had solid linebacking play in recent memory with Zach Cunningham and Oren Burks, and it will be up to Wright to continue that tradition for Vanderbilt in 2017.

Season outlook

The 2018 conference schedule replaces Alabama with a road contest at Arkansas, which presents at least a chance at a victory. The other cross-division opponent is Ole Miss, while the Commodores have to face the entirety of the SEC East. Out of conference, Vanderbilt goes on the road to Notre Dame along with home games against Middle Tennessee, Nevada and Tennessee State. If they can go 3-1 out of conference, a bowl game is a very reasonable goal for the Commodores in 2018. Otherwise, this could be Mason’s last fall in the Music City.

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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