It's always hard to project rosters this far out of the season -- before summer practice has begun, after all -- and it's particularly hard at Vanderbilt, which has seven quarterbacks and thus is very limited in how many players it can have at other positions. But what we do know is that Vanderbilt will need to wear down the clock and shorten the game, which means running the ball and making other teams run it. So here are a few players whose presence or absence could shape Vanderbilt's season -- and some of them aren't even quarterbacks.
BIGGEST RETURN | DB Casey Hayward
While much of the attention on defense will go to Chris Marve, and deservedly so, Hayward had just ten fewer tackles on the year (70, instead of 80) and threw in six interceptions to go along with it.
He also defended 17 passes, and broke up 11. Given some of the questions that surround the rushing defense this year, Hayward and what could be a decent secondary will be all the more important as Vanderbilt tries to limit the damage teams can do through the air and force opponents to win games on the ground -- and maybe keep things within reach a little longer.
BIGGEST LOSS | QB Jared Funk
For anyone who has followed the saga of Vanderbilt quarterbacks over the last few years -- and anyone aware of the seven-headed quarterback monster that seems to be emerging -- Funk might seem like an odd choice for the player Vanderbilt will most miss. But the fact is that Funk would have been the only experienced quarterback either pushing or ready to back up incumbent Larry Smith if something goes wrong. He also had a slightly higher passer rating than Smith did last year. Now, if Smith is either injured or can't hold down the job, it will go to someone who has never before taken a snap at Vanderbilt. That's likely not somewhere Franklin and Co. want to be right now.
MOST LIKELY BREAKOUT | RB Wesley Tate
Because its unclear which members of the Quarterback Hydra will actually get to play this year, the running game will be all the more important. And while Warren Norman and Zac Stacy both did well in their playing time last year, both of them were limited by injury. Enter Tate. The rising sophomore has been inspiring some buzz in the media, and might also give the Commodores a third credible threat in the backfield if Norman or Stacy is hurt again. If nothing else, he can spell Norman and Stacy enough to dial back the threat of injury to either.
Okay, so there was one quarterback in the mix. What else did you expect.