HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — The last time we saw the Vanderbilt Commodores play it was in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl against the Baylor Bears. A close game but ultimately ended with Vandy on the losing side, 45-38.
The Commodores finished 2018 with a 6-7 (3-5 in the SEC) record with all but two of their wins, Nevada and Middle Tennessee State, coming against teams with losing records.
Head coach Derek Mason enters his sixth season at the helm and potentially their most exciting season since former coach James Franklin left in 2013.
Mason said he expects to replicate the team to continue to grow, much like the city that houses them.
“Nashville’s a hot city right now,” Mason said. “Vanderbilt football, much like the city, is constantly evolving to be better. We are focused on all of our areas and all of the areas in our program for success for 2019.”
Vanderbilt will begin the season with a very tough three-game stretch as they take on the Georgia Bulldogs, Purdue Boilermakers and LSU Tigers.
Wide Receiver Kalija Lipscomb is projected to be an All-SEC first-teamer and rightfully so considering he led the SEC in receptions in 2018.
Lipscomb said he fully expects his team to make it to another bowl game in his senior season.
“We feel like we have the talent to do so,” Lipscomb said. “But not only to get to a bowl game, to win it.”
Mason called Lipscomb a vital part of the offense and has had a positive impact since he was getting vital snaps as a freshman.
He’s top 10 in school history in receptions, touchdowns and yards and will likely move even further up the list at season’s end.
Tight end Jared Pinkney is already expected to be a first-round draft pick in next year’s draft, but he has one more year at Vanderbilt first.
Mason said not only does Pinkney get “better every time he steps on the field,” but that the senior may be the best blocking and receiving tight end in the country.
While many experts agree with Mason, Pinkney said he isn’t concerned about being the best.
“Comparison is the thief of all joy,” Pinkney said. “In all seriousness, I do not need the hyperbole. I just want to be known as a really good player.”
He averaged 15.5 yards per catch last season and is a nice balance to the Commodores’ other offensive talent: Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
The former Illinois running back decided to come back home to Nashville following his freshman year. Mason and Vaughn had stayed in contact with even after Vaughn passed up on the Vandy offer. Mason credited their relationship as to what brought Vaughn back to the Music City.
Vaughn led the SEC with an insane 7.9 yards per carry last season. He also finished third in total yards with nearly 1,250.
Offensively Vandy looks to be a force. But to the average college football fan, the team may be overlooked, something Vaughn said he isn’t surprised by.
“It’s because we’re Vanderbilt,” Vaugh said. “Nowadays, people get lost in who is getting the most hype. We like it because we want people to sleep on us. You are going to sleep on us, and we are going to run the score up on you. We want you to keep sleeping on us. We will wake you up on gameday.”
After the Vanderbilt baseball team won the College World Series in the spring, Mason and company want to keep the winning tradition alive in Nashville.
The Commodores kick off the 2019 season at Georgia August 31.