Vanderbilt does not quite have the embarrassment of riches that Ole Miss has with returning starters -- no one in the SEC does -- but the Commodores still managed to keep quite a bit of the team that took the school to back-to-back bowls for the first time in program history. there are seven starters back on offense and seven back on defense, according to Vanderbilt's count, as well as the placekicker and the long-snapper.
But of the few holes that Vanderbilt has this year, some are fairly significant. Jordan Rodgers might have never quite lived up to the hype of being Aaron Rodgers' brother, but he was a solid option for Vanderbilt to turn to, putting the burden on Austyn Carta-Samuels or whoever wins the starting job to at least come close to Rodgers' abilities. Oh, and the guy who just might be the best offensive player in Vanderbilt history also left after the 2012 season.
BIGGEST RETURN | WR Jordan Matthews
If you have to break in a new quarterback, you would at least like him to have some experience receiving talent on the field. Enter Matthews, who caught 94 passes last year for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Put another way, Matthews account for about 47 percent of the receiving yards and 47 percent of the receiving touchdowns in 2012, making him by far Jordan Rodgers' favorite target. If Austyn Carta-Samuels can get in sync with Matthews, they might be able to at least keep the passing game running at around the same pace as last season's. But that's a big if.
BIGGEST LOSS | RB Zac Stacy
It's almost difficult to find a rushing record at Vanderbilt that Stacy doesn't hold. He has the longest two rushing plays in Vanderbilt history and four of the 10 highest single-game rushing totals. He has the top two rushing seasons in the program's annals, with his 1,193 yards in 2011 just edging out his 1,141 yards last year. And, of course, Stacy has the highest career yardage total at the school, having rushed for 3,143 yards and 30 touchdowns -- which is, incidentally, the largest number of touchdowns scored in a career at Vanderbilt. And here's the number that could bring this home for Vanderbilt this year: Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Stacy has all but one of the 10 100-yard games put together by a Vanderbilt player. There are able replacements, like Brian Kimbrow, but there's no way to claim with a straight face that losing one of the most prolific offensive players in the history of the program won't hurt.
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | DE Kyle Woestmann
Woestmann is listed at the top of the non-depth chart in Vanderbilt's media guide, which "is not a preseason depth chart," but "is intended to show position depth." Semantics aside, Woestmann was second on the team in 2012 with six sacks and sixth on the team with eight tackles for loss despite not starting a single game. If he can lock down his spot on the actual depth chart, he should be a key part of what could be a very good Vanderbilt defense in 2013.