Nik's Commodore Keys: Richmond

Curtis Gatewood (VM/Stan Jones)

With Vandy opening their season on Saturday, there are high hopes and confidence among Bobby Johnson's commodores as they prepare for Richmond on September 1st. The fans are excited, seeing as how there are a record number of season ticket holders. Everybody expects one thing . . . win. But what will the 'Dores have to do to defeat Richmond?

Run the ball

Vandy should win this game seeing as they have, for the most part, superior players. Vandy has much more depth than Richmond, an I-AA school. If Vandy can successfully run the football, and wear down Richmond's defense, depth will become a deciding factor, and the Commodores will have a huge advantage. With Jeff Jennings back and healthy, he will provide a power back for VU while Jared Hawkins will provide a deep threat. Cassen Jackson-Garrison will be a solid back giving Vandy a lot of depth. And Chris Nickson can never be counted out of the run game.

It'll be interesting to see…

How well Curtis Gatewood plays. After being a solid on-field performer in 2006, Gatewood has set the bar even higher. His goal? Fifteen sacks. It will be interesting to watch how aggressive he will be going after Richmond quarterback and 2006 A-10 Rookie of the Year Eric Ward. Also, Gatewood may become key in stopping Richmond's run attack led by sophomore Timothy Hightower. In addition to Hightower, Richmond has John Vaughn and Justin Forte as guys who can break a big run (They averaged 6.6 and 6.8 yards per carry last year.) 

Special Teams

If Vandy wants to break their 25-year old drought they will have to get better on Special Teams. Bryant Hahnfeldt had difficult with the place-kicking duties in 2006, only making 8 of 17 field goals last year. Vanderbilt struggled in the return game, and Gaston Miller struggled during pre-season practice. However, DB Jamie Graham could change all of that. He was a highly-touted athlete out of Whites Creek who was a QB, RB, DB, and a very speedy returner who can easily break a long return. Sean Walker, a deep-threat receiver, could see some action on Special Teams returns.

Starting on the Right Foot

Earl Bennett, Jonathan Goff, Brian Stamper, Chris Williams, and Chris Nickson were all named to the coaches' preseason all-SEC list. For VU to have a successful campaign this year, all of these players must live up to the expectations. Richmond provides a perfect opportunity for these players to have a great game and set the morale even higher for this team. 

Fountain of Youth

One potential upside for both squads is that each one had tremendous youth last year. A key factor for the Commodores will be their defensive secondary. Sophomore D.J. Moore is just one of the many returning starters in the secondary that returns safeties Rashard Langford, Ryan Hamilton, former Hoover High School standout Joel Caldwell, and cornerbacks Dalron Spead, Jared Fagan, Myron Lewis, and Whites Creek standout Jamie Graham. Richmond started both a freshman quarterback and tailback as well as others that defeated I-A Duke 13-0 last season. 

Last Meeting: VU 37 – UR 13

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