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Georgia Tech Football: 2016 Opponent Previews - Vanderbilt Commodores

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Will the Commodores be able to pair their solid defense with a competent offense?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to Kickoff: 38 days

As our 100 Days to Kickoff continues on, we begin our opponent previews to provide a quick look at each of the teams coming up on our schedule this season. Each team has changed and provides new challenges than in years past, so this week is all about learning about those changes and learning exactly what the ACC has to offer.

2016 Opponent Previews - Vanderbilt

Who’s Gone?

LB Stephen Weatherly - One of the best players on a pretty good defense last season, Weatherly was the only Vanderbilt player selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started all 12 games for the Commodores and finished the year with 46 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks.

LB Darreon Herring - Herring was voted a defensive captain for the Commodores following the 2015 season. He finished the year with 64 tackles and 3.5 TFL and was signed by the Los Angeles Rams after going undrafted.

TE Steven Scheu - For a mostly dismal offense, Scheu was a relative bright spot for the Commodores throughout his career. He was named to the Associated Press All-SEC team following the 2014 season. Last year, however, Scheu finished with just 26 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown, still good enough to be Vandy’s second leading receiver.

Who’s Back?

RB Ralph Webb - Webb may be the best-kept secret in the SEC. In a league that returns running backs like Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb and Jalen Hurd, it’s easy for Ralph Webb to fly under the radar. But Vanderbilt’s tailback quietly rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season as just a sophomore, and looks to do that and more in 2016.

QB Kyle Shurmer - Vandy went into the season with Johnny McCrary as its starting quarterback. However, after McCrary had a disappointing start to the season, Kyle Shurmer became the starter for the final five games of the year. In the season finale against Tennessee, Shurmer threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns, and it appears he has built a platform on which he will be able to build in 2016.

LB Zach Cunningham - Cunningham led the Vanderbilt defense as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. He was named to the AP First Team All-SEC last season after compiling 88 tackles, 14 TFL and 4.5 sacks. Cunningham will almost certainly be the best player on a Commodores defense which returns seven starters in 2016.

Who’s New?

DB Joejuan Williams - Coming from Hendersonville, Tenn., just outside of Nashville, Williams was rated as a four-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite rankings (0.9163). Being the Commodores’ highest-rated prospect and with two starters in the secondary gone, Williams will have an opportunity to compete for playing time immediately.

WR Jackson Winrow - Winrow was rated as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite rankings (0.8466).

Season Outlook

By most accounts, Vanderbilt should be better. The defense should still be one of the better units in the SEC, with seven starters returning. The offense, which looked downright incompetent many times last year, returns a quarterback with experience and the SEC’s best-kept secret in tailback Ralph Webb. Additionally, many of Vandy’s SEC East opponents, save Tennessee, will be playing unproven quarterbacks. I think Vanderbilt could make the jump to a bowl-eligible team in 2016.

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 SEC)