May 2, 2010

Spring Review: Special Teams

Defense led the way for Vanderbilt once again in 2009. A year after leading the program to its first winning season in 26 years, the Commodore defense was again one of the conference's best units against the pass last season and battled to give the team a chance to win in nearly each game, but injuries and offensive shortcomings seemed to do in the unit in the fourth quarter as the team suffered through a 2-10 season.

The Commodores surrendered 362.8 yards during the year and 23.3 points, but the defense was also on the field for an average of nearly 34 minutes per game. In Vanderbilt's 10 losses, the defense was on the field for an average of over nine minutes, giving up a 110 yards and surrendering a total of 86 points. Without the big fourth quarters by opponents, Vanderbilt's defensive numbers were quite comparable to what the team did in 2008, when the unit ranked among the nation's Top 30 defenses.

This spring, the Commodores attempted to build more depth along the front seven of the defense while also working in some promising young players in the secondary. From a scheme stand point, the unit also attempted to improve on creating turnovers and be more effective once team's entered the Red Zone. The Commodores generated a respectable 19 turnovers during the year but VU forced only 11 mistakes in the 10 losses. The Commodores only ranked behind National Champion Alabama and SEC East Division Champion Florida in allowing opponents to reach the Red Zone with just 2.83 average possessions per game. However, the Commodores allowed opponents to score on 91-percent of those opportunities, ranking dead last in the league. Sixty-nine percent of those scores were touchdowns, ranking only behind Kentucky and Auburn in terms of league's worst against red zone touchdowns.

Vanderbilt returns nine players that started at least one game on defense last season, and 15 players that registered at least 10 tackles. Starting positions at defensive end, defensive tackle and free safety were up for grabs during the spring but depth appears to be at every position.

Vanderbilt presents a spring review at each of the special teams positions:

KICKING SPECIALIST

PUNTER

KICK RETURNER

PUNT RETURNER

OTHER POSITIONS

COVERAGE UNITS

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