Vanderbilt enters the season with expectations of reaching another bowl game, but with that the program and fans expect increased win totals for the ‘Dores this fall.
After a great closure to the end of last season, paired with victories over Georgia, Tennessee and Ole Miss, Head Coach Derek Mason expects Commodore fans and those around the country to get familiar with some new names in the upcoming season.
Defensive Impact Player: Charles Wright (RS JR)
After waiting his turn, Charles Wright expects to be the “lead dog” for Vanderbilt’s defense in 2017 at the linebacker spot. Wright was a rotational player throughout most of his first two seasons as a Commodore, but played in all 12 regular season games in 2016.
The Irvine, California native produced 13 total tackles, including nine solo stops, 3.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Through much of Vanderbilt’s summer and spring practices, an emphasis was on the lack of a pass rush. Despite boasting the top red-zone defense in the country, Vanderbilt was last (14th) in team sacks in the SEC with 15. Vanderbilt looks to replace the production from the early departure of All-American Zach Cunningham, a 2nd round selection by the Houston Texans.
Defensive Impact Freshman: Jalen Pinkney (Fr.)
Jalen Pinkney, the younger brother of Commodore tight end Jared Pinkney, is expected to step in immediately and contribute for the Commodores in 2017. Pinkney provides the versatility to play with his hand in the turf or stand up and play in pass coverage, along with the speed needed to rush along the edge. Pinkney was tabbed a 3-star recruit out of the state of Georgia.
Offensive Impact Player: Kalija Lipscomb (So.)
Everyone is aware of Ralph Webb, C.J. Duncan, Trent Sherfield, Caleb Scott, and Kyle Shurmur. Despite not being able to play during the win against Tennessee due to injury, Kalija Lipscomb showed flashes of great potential during his freshman campaign.
Lipscomb finished the year hauling in 27 receptions, 319 yards, and two touchdowns. Lipscomb registered a season high with six receptions and 59 receiving yards at Georgia Tech, along with touchdown catches against Middle Tennessee and the Yellow Jackets. In addition, he posted a reception in Vanderbilt’s first 10 games in 2016. The sophomore is slated to be the punt returner for the Commodores, along with being a featured target on the perimeter. Vanderbilt has as much a multitude of weapons on offense since Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause in 2013.
Offensive Impact Freshman: Devin Cochran (RS Fr.)
A native of the state of Georgia, Cochran is penciled in on the Week 1 depth chart against MTSU as the starter at right tackle, replacing the production of Will Holden, who played left tackle in 2016, now with the Arizona Cardinals. Justin Skule slides over to left tackle to replace Holden. Mason hinted at the idea of Cochran playing in the weekly press conference.