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2016 Vanderbilt Football Position Previews: Wide Receiver
August 2, 2016
12:40 pm
College BattleGround
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cdn1.vox-cdn.comthumborBdP3VS2EaW073ng71t3_wLv6org0x04915x32771310x873cdn0.vox-cdn.comuploadschorus_imageimage50266427usa-today-8925331.0-1037cfd85c21f4a899ed590cb5af781af7f892d3.jpgImage EnlargerJim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Duncan returns from injury to join a receiving corps that could use the help.

If you want an idea of what kind of offense Derek Mason and Andy Ludwig are going to run, here are some key numbers as Mason enters his third season as head coach.

Vanderbilt has eight scholarship wide receivers on the roster.  The Commodores also have six tight ends, and seven running backs (including fullbacks.)  And one of those “receivers” is Darrius Sims, who frequently lines up in the backfield.

In other words: Mason and company aren’t planning to run a lot of three- and four-receiver sets.  Two-receiver sets with a tight end or two and/or a fullback are going to be the norm from here on out.

The Commodores ranked 108th in Passing S&P+ in 2015 and while much of that had to do with inconsistency at the quarterback position, the receivers weren’t helping a lot, either.  C.J. Duncan missed the season after catching 28 balls for 441 yards as a sophomore.  Latevius Rayford began the season as a starter after being Vanderbilt’s most-targeted receiver in 2014 with 61 targets; in 2015, he was only targeted 38 times and his catch rate dropped from 59.0% to 50.0%.  (Again, some of this might have to do with quarterback play — but then it’s not as though Vanderbilt’s quarterback play in 2015 was worse than it was in 2014.)  Departed senior Kris Kentera began the year as essentially a co-starter, but dropped down the depth chart while posting a catch rate of 38.9%.

In short — the receiving corps had issues in 2015.  But the Commodores did have a couple of guys emerge from the pack.

The Presumptive Starters

Trent Sherfield: Look, I don’t like pulling the Austin Peay card again, either.  But Sherfield’s numbers if you take out the AP game look pretty pedestrian: 35 catches for 419 yards.  Sherfield showed some promise as the number one wide receiver as a sophomore, but disappeared at times; in a four-game stretch starting with the Houston game, Sherfield caught just four passes.  (Yes, I’ll grant the point that Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks only completed 26 passes in that stretch.  The point is a #1 WR should never be that quiet.)  Sherfield did start every game, however, and he’s the best hope Vanderbilt has for having a threat in the passing game in 2016.

Caleb Scott: While Sherfield was the guy from day one in 2015, Scott didn’t work his way into the starting lineup until the Week 5 game at Middle Tennessee — but from there, he started all of the remaining games.  While Sherfield led the team in raw receiving yards, Scott led the way both in catch rate and yards per catch — indicating that he was making the most of fewer targets.

The Jack of All Trades

Darrius Sims: He’s listed on the roster as a WR, but perhaps that’s a misnomer; in fact, Sims didn’t catch a single pass in the last five games of the season.  But he did get 21 carries as a runner.  Sims will return kicks and also line up as a running back or a wildcat QB.  Still, he hasn’t “permanently” moved to RB and may still line up as a receiver from time to time, but using him as a full-time receiver isn’t the best use of his talents.

Where Do These Guys Fit In?

Latevius Rayford: To say Rayford’s junior season was a disappointment is the understatement of the year.  As mentioned above, Rayford was Vanderbilt’s second-leading pass catcher in 2014, and he caught 7 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 against Georgia.  And then he caught 11 passes for 92 yards… for the rest of the season.  What happened?  Well, for one thing, Rayford got overtaken by Caleb Scott, but Rayford’s 50 percent catch rate was also a problem.  He’ll get some snaps on the rare occasions when Vanderbilt goes 3- or 4-wide, but he’s probably not getting his starting job back.

C.J. Duncan: Duncan had the second-most receiving yards on the team in 2014, albeit with a 50.9% catch rate, before missing all of 2015 due to injury.  On paper, his return should help the receiving corps, but it’s not clear where he fits in.  Both Trent Sherfield and Caleb Scott showed enough as starters in 2015 that you can’t just pencil Duncan in as a starter at WR.  To be sure, he’ll be a factor in the passing game, it’s just not clear what his role will be.

He’s Still Here?

Chandler Dorrell: After catching 10 passes for 118 yards as a redshirt freshman, Dorrell was targeted three times in 2015 when his father was not the team’s offensive coordinator.

The New Guys

Donaven Tennyson: Of the three freshman wide receivers, Tennyson probably has the best chance of making an immediate impact.  He’s a burner, albeit a bit undersized at 5’10″/164.  Tennyson could ultimately move into the Darrius Sims role down the road; for now, his speed gives him a chance at seeing the field in 3- and 4-receiver sets.

Jackson Winrow: Winrow was an underrecruited guy (Tulsa was his only other offer, if recruiting services are to be believed), which might be a function of playing high school ball in an underscouted area.  He’s not a burner and only has decent size at 6’1″/182, but he has good hands on tape and could function well as a possession guy down the road.  But he’ll probably redshirt in 2016.

Kalija Lipscomb: See what I just wrote about Winrow?  I could write a lot of the same things about Lipscomb.  On the other hand, Lipscomb does have a good ability to catch balls in traffic, which could make him useful down the road.  But he enters his true freshman season pretty far down the depth chart, and like Winrow, he’s a redshirt candidate.

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