SEC Football Preview 2014: After Another Big Season, Vanderbilt Loses Some of Its Best

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Mason takes over a team that will be missing some of the biggest names from 2013. So who might step up?

Vanderbilt is in an interesting place this year when it comes to the team's roster. Last year's starting quarterback is gone. The team's second-leading rusher is also out, as are three of the top four receivers. Six of the top eight tacklers are also not going to be on the field this year. When it comes to some of the more accomplished players on the stat sheet, the Commodores are looking at a lot of holes.

On the other hand, the Commodores have a pretty solid group at offensive line. In that case, the players who get the least amount of credit might be the most important members of the team. But the losses at the skill positions and throughout the defense will hurt -- the only question is how much, and whether some of the changes that Derek Mason will make, like switching to a 3-4 scheme on defense, will help to make up for those losses.

BIGGEST RETURN: RB Jerron Seymour
Whoever ends up as the starting quarterback for the Commodores -- and there's no shortage of candidates for the position -- it's not going to be someone who has started more than three games at Vanderbilt. And with the losses at wide receiver (more on that in a moment), Derek Mason's-c pedigree as a Stanford coach won't be the only thing dictating a run-first mentality. Enter Seymour, who quietly put together a pretty good season last year. Seymour ran for 716 yards and 14 touchdowns on 164 carries, an average of about 4.4 yards a pop. Combine that with 46 starts from last season returning along the offensive line, and you have the makings of a strong year for Seymour, though Brian Kimbow will probably share in the carries and Ralph Webb will also likely get some time on the field.

BIGGEST LOSS: WR Jordan Matthews
When any player from Vanderbilt goes with the 42nd pick of the NFL Draft, it's notable. When that player accounted for 32.1 percent of the team's total offense -- well, then it takes on an even greater dimension. Matthews isn't the only major offensive contributor gone from the 2013 offense -- quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and wideout Jonathan Krause are among the other players who won't be back -- but he was easily the most consistent. Matthews only had fewer than 75 receiving yards in a game once last season, when he had five catches for 45 yards against Florida. The five receptions also marked a season low. He broke 100 yards nine times. The most catches last season by a returning player in 2014? That would be the 19 grabs from Seymour.

BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY: LB Kyle Woestmann
It's a little bit weird to call Woestmann a potential breakthrough player, given that he had six sacks and seven tackles for loss last year, but his new responsibilities as an outside linebacker could help him boost those numbers. It could also put him in a position to surpass the 40 total tackles he had last year and get him into the conversation as one of the better pass rushers in the SEC. There's some proven potential there, but Woestmann could still have one of his best seasons this year.

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