With a good deal of help from Year2.
Vanderbilt generally doesn't win with personnel; the school has significant recruiting issues that we all know about. and a three-star recruit is considered a "get" by Commodore standards. But players matter -- to what degree depends on to whom you listen -- and it's not like every Vanderbilt player is subpar when they get on the field.
One note about the Commodores this year: They have a lot of players returning from last season. The team won two games last season.
THE ONE WHO ISN'T THERE
It's hard to open this way, but there's no way to examine the Vanderbilt roster without mentioning the senseless death of Rajaan Bennett. It's likely that Bennett will play some role in the season ahead, if nothing else as a memory that some players won't be able to shake. It's clear that he had quite an impact on Bobby Johnson and the coaches. Even for players who might not have met Bennett, the mere idea of a teammate dying has to have an effect on college-age men.
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY
Vanderbilt actually gets off without too many major losses this year, though there are a few players that will be missing from the sidelines.
Mackenzi Adams, at one point the most promising of Vanderbilt's quarterback combination, graduated last year. Despite only starting three games, Adams had a better completion percentage, passer rating and average yardage per attempt than regular starter Larry Smith.
On defense, Myron Lewis -- in some ways the team's best defensive back -- is gone, along with his four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. Another big loss is LB Patrick Benoist, who was second on the team with 85 tackles last year and had 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
THE ONES LEADING THE WAY
Smith will almost certainly be the starting quarterback this year. He'll need to improve on a 46.7 percent completion rate and a 4-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio if Vanderbilt is going to be competitive. His receiving corps returns pretty much intact, though we'll have to see them all play together before figuring out whether that's a positive or not.
One place where little improvement is needed is at running back. Warren Norman had a good freshman year, running for 783 yards on 145 carries, an average of 5.4 yards. His backup, Zac Stacy, tacked on 478 yards on 107 carries for an average of 4.5. But Smith and the passing game will have to make sure the running game will have some room to move.
LB Chris Marve is back after leading the team with 121 tackles -- 6.5 for loss -- and three forced fumbles. SS Sean Richardson and CB Casey Hayward are also key returns. The questions on defense will be whether the replacements for Lewis and Benoist -- likely Jay Fullam and Tristan Strong, respectively -- can hold their own well.