Oh, so you thought I forgot about Vanderbilt? Well, maybe I did. Or maybe I tuned out when Derek Mason stood at the podium on the final day of festivities at SEC Media Days. Even so, the people need to know about Vanderbilt, who actually shouldn’t be too shabby, even though they were picked to finish last in the SEC East.
The Best Thing Derek Mason Said — Mason talked a lot about Ke’Shawn Vaughn during his SEC Media Days appearance. The addition of a new running backs coach from Auburn created a funny line. “There’s nobody more excited about Tim Horton than Ke’Shawn Vaughn.” Mr. Vaughn must really love some Timbits.
The Best Thing Derek Mason Said (Out of Context) — ” I’m just happy to be here today.”
Coach Speak 101 — I have never heard this description of a running back, one Mason used for Ke’Shawn Vaughn. “He’s a three-dimensional running back who can run, block, and catch. I mean, he can do it all.
Vanderbilt’s Three-Headed Monster — Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pickney are ballers. All three were second team All-SEC selections (even though Vaughn’s first team omission is baffling). Vaughn, a Nashville native who transferred from Illinois, almost single-handedly beat Florida before an injury forced him to the sideline. One of two 1,000-yard rushers returning to the SEC in 2019, Vaughn’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield has convinced me to give him my vote for best playmaker in the conference.
Lipscomb and Pickney are exceptional pass catchers who will provide a safety blanket for Vandy’s new starting quarterback. Lipscomb was only 84 yards shy of the 1,000-yard threshold in 2018 while Pickney caught 50 passes for more than 750 yards. All three of these guys will play at the next level.
Can you believe this? Vanderbilt has beat Tennessee three years in a row. That’s hilarious.
Biggest Question Mark — Who’s the quarterback? Mason will have to choose between Deuce Wallace and Riley Neal. Last year Wallace was suspended for the season for violating university policy, while Neal threw for 1,917 yards and 11 touchdowns at Ball State. Vaughn will take some of the pressure off of whoever wins the job, but he can’t do it all, especially behind an offensive line that is replacing three starters.
Good News for UK — The game is on the road, but home field advantage does not exist at Vanderbilt. The game falls on the heels of Vandy road trips to South Carolina and Florida, while UK’s lead-up is a bye week and a home game with Tennessee.
Bad News for UK — This game will likely either make or break Vandy’s season. If they can upset Kentucky, they can go bowling for the third time in four years. If Kentucky wins again, the Commodores may have to kiss a postseason goodbye. Those stakes should give Derek Mason’s team extra juice entering the matchup in Nashville.
Fear Factor — 4.1
Is Vanderbilt good? Not really, but they have three really, really good players. Is it enough to beat Kentucky? Maybe. Vaughn is an absolute stud. It only takes a few big plays to put the Cats on their heels.