HOOVER, Ala. — With the 2017 SEC Media Days set to kick off on Monday, Vanderbilt and the other 13 SEC schools have officially released a media guide for the upcoming season.
Inside, the Commodores unveiled what is expected to be their 2017 football roster once preseason camp rolls around.
Coming off an Independence Bowl appearance in Year 3 of the Derek Mason tenure, the Commodores will look to make some noise in a wide-open SEC East with the return of senior RB Ralph Webb and junior QB Kyle Shurmur giving the team an optimistic feel on offense to go along with an always strong Derek Mason-led defense.
While Vanderbilt did not unveil a preseason depth chart in its media guide, it did provide a look at positional depth on the 2017 roster.
Here’s a look at what Mason will be working with in the coming weeks:
Note from Vanderbilt on the following charts: The listing below is not a preseason depth chart. It is intended to show position depth. Vanderbilt coaches will release an updated depth chart in late August. Players in bold started at least four games in 2016.
Vanderbilt QB depth
The Commodores return Kyle Shurmur as the top dog in this group, signifying the first time that the quarterback position has really been settled before fall camp during Mason’s tenure. Deuce Wallace, who redshirted last season, would seemingly be the favorite to win the No. 2 spot ahead of oft-injured Shawn Stankavage. Newly signed Jacob Free appears to be a strong redshirt candidate.
Vanderbilt RB depth
Ralph Webb surprised some by returning for his senior season. If the talented runner posts another solid season, he could place himself among the SEC elite in terms of career rushing yardage. Khari Blasingame made a successful transition from linebacker to running back last season and has served as an excellent secondary option to Webb. Dallas Rivers and Josh Crawford offer experience and depth at the position.
Vanderbilt WR and TE depth
The Commodores have perhaps their strongest collection of wideouts since Jordan Matthews graduated following the 2013 season. Caleb Scott, Trent Sherfield, Kalija Lipscomb and C.J. Duncan all have experience and have flashed big-play ability.
Another experienced group for the Commodores offense should be led by seniors Nathan Marcus and Jared Pinkney.
Vanderbilt OL depth
The Commodores offensive line appeared to turn the corner under the guidance of new OL coach Cameron Norcross last season, but they did lose anchor tackle Will Holden, who went to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft.
Vanderbilt DL depth
Vanderbilt has a trio of seniors that should anchor its defensive front this fall. Jay Woods, Nifae Lealao and Jonathan Wynn all have the talent and starting experience to make a difference in the trenches for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt LB depth
Losing Zach Cunningham, who led the SEC in tackles a year ago, to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL draft is certain to hurt this group. But there’s still talent here. Senior Oren Burks moves back to the position to try to fill the gap left by Cunningham, and brothers Emmanuel and Josh Smith offer experience and athleticism.
Vanderbilt DB depth
The secondary is Mason’s specialty, so there’s little doubt that this group will come ready to play this fall. The Commodores will look to replace long-time start Torren McGaster at corner, but seniors Taurean Ferguson and Tre Herndon should be joined by Joejuan Williams and Donovan Sheffield on a deep and productive cornerback unit.
At safety, Vanderbilt will feature Ryan White, Arnold Tarpley and LaDarius Wiley with plenty of playing experience.
Vanderbilt specialist depth
Tommy Openshaw returns for one more year as the Commodores place kicker, and Sam Loy is a talented option at punter.
C.J. Duncan and Ryan White are a pair of experienced returners that should see more opportunities this fall.