The Waiting Is The Hardest Part: 14 Weeks Until 2018 Vanderbilt Football Kickoff

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Commodores Head Coach Derek Mason. Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky. Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN on November 4, 2017. Photo by Kate Pearson-Halyburton, LWOS.

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part:14 Weeks Until 2018 Vanderbilt Football Kickoff

As Tom Petty famously sang, “the waiting is the hardest part”…

The offseason is almost over. We have watched the National Championship; we have made it through National Signing Day. The Vandy faithful enjoyed the “Spring Showcase”. Commodore Nation watched Oren Burks in the NFL Combine, and we cheered as Burks was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Furthermore, we have watched with pride as our Vandy Boys are slowly, but surely being picked up by NFL teams.

We have 14 weeks or 101 days to go until the first game of Vanderbilt’s 2018 football season. Let’s take the next 14 weeks to overanalyze last season and make way too early predictions about next season. Along the way, this offseason we will remember the players that made an impact. Now is as good as time as any to hop on the Commodore Bandwagon.

A Few Positives From 2017 Season

The 2017 season did not end as everyone had hoped. There was the win at Tennessee, but there was no bowl game. It was a tumultuous season, to say the least. The first three weeks were glorious. Now, we have 14 weeks to overanalyze last season and hype up next season. Let us review the highlights from 2017.

The Season Finale IN Knoxville

Vanderbilt defeats Tennessee 42-24 in an NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo by Joe Howell Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics.

Victory is always sweet when Vandy defeats Tennessee, especially when it happens two years and in Knoxville. The Commodores started the season strong. Ultimately, the 2017 season was not for the faint of heart, and that win at Knoxville was much needed. Tennessee had fired Butch Jones after dropping to 0-6 in SEC play, with two games left in the season. This was not the caliber of game it had been the season before, although a win is a win is a win.

The final game of the 2017 season marked the end of head coach Derek Mason’s fourth season at the helm and his last season as defensive coordinator. Every season from here on out will be comprised completely of Mason recruits. It was also the end of the Ralph Webb era.

Trey Ellis’ Touchdown

Vanderbilt Commodore C.J. Duncan #19 lifts Trey Ellis #36 in celebration after his first career touchdown. Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN on November 4, 2017. Photo by Kate Pearson-Halyburton, LWOS.

Trey Ellis‘ touchdown in the Western Kentucky game was Sportscenter-worthy. It was a deflected pass that landed perfectly in Ellis’ hands. His catch and sprint to the end zone had the Vandy fans on their feet, and Ellis in the arms of his teammates. Ellis is a walk-on who has fought hard to earn a spot on the Commodore sideline. His passion, hard work, and drive paid off on a sunny November Saturday. The reaction of Ellis’ teammates was almost as much fun to watch than the touchdown itself. When you have a player who works as hard as Ellis has to make the team the pride beaming from his teammates was priceless.

Defeating A Ranked Kansas State Week Three

NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 16: Vanderbilt (16) Kalija Lipscomb (WR). Vanderbilt Commodores and the Kansas State Wildcats on September 16, 2017, at Commodore Stadium in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Commodores crushed Middle Tennessee in the first game of the season, the very first Week 1 win in the Mason era. Week two, they shut out Alabama A&M. Then week three, Kansas State arrived on West End. Coming in as a ranked opponent, Vandy was ready to knock them out. And they did. It was not a high-scoring game, but the Dores defeated the Wildcats 14-7. They were riding high going into the Alabama game. K-State was ranked 18th walking onto Dudley field, and Vandy came out ready to play. The momentum from the win over the Wildcats could not be sustained, as hard as the Dores fought to make it so.

Ralph Webb Rewrote The Record Books

Ralph Webb walks off Dudley field for the final time as a Commodore. Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN on November 18, 2017. Photo by Kate Pearson-Halyburton, LWOS.

Ralph Webb ran his way into the hearts of Vanderbilt fans and into the record books. His accomplishments did not only break Vanderbilt records but SEC records as well. His 4,178 career rushing yards landed him at number six in the SEC, a mere 125 yards behind Bo Jackson. As Webb leaves the black and gold behind, he leaves his name atop every rushing record in the program including the aforementioned 4,178 rushing yards, 931 carries, 35 total touchdowns, as well as 16 games of at least 100 rushing yards.

Webb also holds the records of: single-season rushing yards with 1,283 yards; rushing yards by a junior with 1,283 yards; sophomore rushing yards 1,152; and rushing yards by a freshman with 907 yards. Now imagine if the Vandy offensive line been a little tighter, but I digress. Now Webb prepares for the future, again as an underestimated player. There was no invitation to the combine but he is preparing for his future, undoubtedly using the combine snub for motivation. He will be a sleeper pick for any team that decides to take a chance.

Onward and Upward For The 2018 Season

The 2018 recruiting class was the first with the new NCAA early signing period and it boded very well for Vanderbilt with 17 signees, with an additional five in February. This was the highest ranked class in Mason’s tenure. As mentioned above, going forward the Vanderbilt teams are comprised solely of Mason recruits. The proof will be in the pudding as these teams line up against the best of the best in the SEC. Mason has also added to his staff; he is no longer the defensive coordinator with the hiring of Jason Tarver. Hopefully, this move will allow Mason to be present in ALL areas of his team.

I am as excited as anyone for football season. I cannot wait to see what the Commodores have in store for the Vandy faithful. Yes, I watched Mason’s spring ball presser on Facebook Live. He said all the right things to get me excited for the upcoming season. I survived the spring showcase in the rain. As we navigate through 2018, I will attempt to do this staff and team justice by providing player profiles on some of the new kids on West End, as well as telling the stories of some of the players that paved the way for them. I will even go so far as to say if there is a player you would like to see a profile on or a story you would like to read, please let me know I will take all suggestions into consideration. I am here to tell the stories YOU want to read. Contact me on Twitter @CoachK8 or via email K8MPH@yahoo.com. Looking forward to hearing from you this off-season and beyond!

 

Main Photo Credit:

Commodores Head Coach Derek Mason. Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky. Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN on November 4, 2017. Photo by Kate Pearson-Halyburton, LWOS.

 

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