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I Wanna SEC You Up: The Vandy Defense

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After breaking down yesterday why the Vandy offense is nothing for the rest of the SEC to scoff at, there is good news for the Crimson Tide offense when Bama rolls into Nashville in week two. Vandy reached the middle of the conference in only two significant defensive categories last year, Red Zone Defense and Opponent First Downs, while wallowing near the bottom in the rest:

Total Defense 10th
Scoring Defense 10th
Passing Defense 10th
Rushing Defense 10th
Passing Efficiency Defense 11th
Red Zone Defense 6th
Sacks By 8th
Opponent First Downs 6th

Only twice did Vandy hold an opponent to less than 300 yards of offense; Against 1-AA Tennessee State (216 yards) and, amusingly, against Ole Miss (196 yards), though to be fair the Rebels won that game 17-10. In fact, in the final three game stretch the 'Dores gave up a combined 1,426 yards to Florida, Kentucky, and UT. Not a good thing. Their biggest redemption on that side of the ball, though, was a Red Zone Defense that managed to keep an opponent that moved at will down the field from reaching the end zone a little less than half the time (Mike Shula called. He says, "You're welcome."). Opponents scored TDs 21 times in 47 tries against Vandy, and made 13 of 16 FG attempts. Could the Vandy defense step up enough to help out the offense this year and win some football games? Maybe. The D returns 7 starters from last year's unit, including leading tackler MLB Jonathan Goff and DE Curtis Gatewood, a converted linebacker who led the team in sacks last year with 7. There is also potential help on the way from four star recruit John Stokes, a high school linebacker ranked as the sixth best player in Tennessee who will likely follow in Gatewood's steps by joining the defensive line.

But the front seven for Vandy isn't the real issue if this defense is going to stop anyone. Last seaon Vandy gave up 2,360 yards (196.7 ypg) and 18 TDs through the air, due mostly to poor CB play. The brightest spot in the secondary for Vandy fans is SS Reshard Langford, a returning starter who led the team in picks (3) and came third in tackles (51) last year, despite nagging injuries throughout the season. Here's a look at who opposing offenses need to be aware of in the coming season:


DE Curtis Gatewood
Gatewood was the highlight of the Vandy D last season. He made the transition from LB to DE during the offseason and produced a team high 7 sacks. It's up to the Sr. to provide consistent pressure on the opposing QB, as he's joined by first time starter Steven Stone at the other end position.
   

DT Theo Horrocks
In the middle is three year starter Theo Horrocks, who followed Gatewood in number of sacks with 5 last season. Next to him is So. Greg Billinger, who saw playing time last season as a true freshman but has no starting experience.
   

MLB Jonathan Goff
At middle linebacker is Sr. Jonathan Goff. Goff considered entry into the NFL Draft after last season, but decided to return for his senior season. He led the team in tackles last year with 93, and could improve his draft stock with another stellar performance this year.
   

OLB Marcus Buggs
Returning at OLB is Marcus Buggs, who led the team in tackles for loss last year with 10.5, and was the fourth leading tackler with 50. He'll likely be opposite So. Brandon Bryant, who's performance in spring appears to have earned him a starting job.
   

CB D.J. Moore
Hopefully Moore will cover DJ Hall when Vandy hosts Alabama. Oh, the laughs those wacky announcers will have! Anyway, Moore was solid if unspectacular as a true freshman last year, generally learning the ropes in his first season as an SEC CB. This is a position where Vandy is desperate for a playmaker, so the fact that he's still got his starting job should speak well of him. Still, look for the corners to get burned down the sidelines as opposing QBs shy away from....
   

SS Reshard Langford
Clearly the best DB Vandy can put on the field, Langford had 3 picks last season was third best in tackles with 51. Probably not a good thing for your safety to have so many tackles, but we're trying to accentuate the positive here. He managed to do all this while battling injuries, so if the Junior can stay healthy, he could easily be one of the best in the league by season's end.

Tomorrow we'll look at the upcoming schedule before welcoming some comments from the guys at Vanderbilt Sportsline on Friday.