The case for
Since finishing last in the SEC in total defense in 2010, the year before James Franklin's arrival, the fiery coach has elevated the unit to sixth in '11 and fifth last year, when the Commodores held SEC opponents to 250.0 yards—and 10.9 points—per game. They're likely to be as stingy this year. Six starters return, including key contributors such as senior defensive end Walker May, senior linebacker Chase Grnham and senior corner Andre Hal.
Jordan Matthews led the SEC in 2012 with 94 catches, and Vandy is at its deepest along the offensive line, with senior left tackle Wesley Johnson (a three-year starter who has never been flagged for holding), junior center Joe Townsend and junior right tackle Andrew Bridges. Depth, an issue in Franklin's first two seasons, has improved at every position, and the coach has all but erased Vanderbilt's image as a conference doormat, exemplified by the program's nine-win season—its first in nearly a century—in 2012.
The case against
Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels—a former starter at Wyoming—has played sparingly since 2010 (14--24, 220 yards). Also, the program's career rushing leader, Zac Stacy, is gone, and there is no apparent successor.
This is your deepest team since arriving at Vanderbilt. Did you notice a difference in the spring?