PG: Brad Tinsley (Sr)/Kyle Fuller (So)/Kedren Johnson (Fr)
Gone: PF-Andre Walker (transfer-Xavier), F-Darshawn McClellan (transfer-Louisiana Lafayette), Joe Duffy
With John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, and Festus Ezeli all electing to return to school rather than bolt for the NBA Draft, the Vanderbilt Commodores became a top-10 team in the country, since they return all five starters and eight of their top nine players. Vanderbilt will have to live without Ezeli for the non-conference slate but could be a Final Four contender once they are at full strength.
The Commodores will be without big man Festus Ezeli for possibly the entire non-conference schedule due to a sprained MCL and PCL. Ezeli is a developing big man who made a huge jump during his junior campaign and could be bound for an even bigger year if he gets back to one-hundred percent. Until Ezeli returns, the physical Steve Tchiegang will hold down the middle. Tchiegang is more versatile than Ezeli in that he can step out to the three-point line. Redshirt freshman Josh Henderson will backup Tchiegang early in the season but likely ride the pine once Ezeli returns to the lineup.
Lance Goulbourne plays his role well as the fifth option in the starting lineup. He led Vanderbilt in rebounding, grabbing more boards than points scored. Goulbourne is capable of stepping out to the three-point line but doesn't shoot it at a high-percentage. Still, teams will have to respect his range which should create more room for Ezeli to operate on the block. Rod Odom is a talented backup power forward who gives Kevin Stallings a lot of depth up front. Freshman Shelby Moats likely won't factor into the rotation.
Jenkins and Taylor form one of the best wing duos in the country. Jenkins is a deadly pure shooter and improved in his ability to attack the rim but still has a ways to go in that area before he becomes a true all-around threat. Taylor is the opposite; effective off the bounce and explosive at the rim but still honing his outside shot. He did show growth in that area last year and is a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions. Vanderbilt will only go as far as this duo takes them when the calendar turns to March.
There is talent behind Jenkins and Taylor on the bench but a lot of inexperience. Dai-Jon Parker is considered the best of the Commodores' freshmen class and gives Vanderbilt a sharpshooter off the bench. James Siakam redshirted last season and will bring some athleticism off the bench.
Brad Tinsley returns to run the point and brings stability to the floor. He understands his role as a distributor but can also score when needed. Kedren Johnson is a big, physical point guard who is capable of overtaking Kyle Fuller as Tinsley's back-up. Johnson can also play off the ball if Stallings decides to use him in that capacity.
With experience, an inside threat like Ezeli, versatile wing like Taylor, scorer like Jenkins, and plenty of complementary role players, it could be a very special season for the Commodores. First things first though, make it through a fairly brutal non-conference slate without their starting center.
Player to Watch: John Jenkins, SG
In my opinion, Jenkins has a little Stephen Curry to his game with the way he is able to get his shot off quickly and pull the trigger from several feet behind the line. He is not a one-dimensional player by any means but can really take his game to the next level by improving his ball-handling and driving ability.
@Black&Gold Problem is that you see Eli and Cobi as solid backups. Truth is that Eli is number 2 and Cobi is our number 3. They aren't backups, but starters. So what you're saying is that we have no true number 2, but see no need in drafting a receiver? What D line depth are you thinking? DE or NT? Have you seen what LT Walton has done? Remember he's only in his second year.
@Steelr Fan 3:16 Coates was supposed to be plan B at number 2 with the uncertainty of Bryant. You make the case that he's a one trick pony and not a 50 catch per season wide-out, so does that scream out as a option for number 2? What gives you hope about Green? I hope he does end up staying on the field, but so far in his career he hasn't be able to do that. I like James, but if he goes down you trust Grimble? He can't block, and hasn't been reliable in the pass game. He did mess his ribs up with a nice touchdown reception a few weeks ago. That still doesn't mean he can pick up and be an impact if James would not be able to go. We have 7 picks in this draft. The first I hope goes OLB. We are good at CB with Burnes and @[email protected] will be challenged hopefully by Golson. Loser of the battle would be a good slot corner. Golson lacks length so they may throw him in the slot role anyways. LT Walton has been more than solid at DE. If Heyward or Tuitt can't go a few weeks during the season then I have faith in LT to get the job done. I like Chickillo and Moates at OLB. They have started and played solid. Williams and Dirty Red at backup ILB is good depth that any team would love. Safety we have Golden and Dangerfield. Both have started any didn't miss a beat. Offensive line? Yeah, we're good there. You say we're good at tight end and WR, so with or final 6 picks we're going what exactly? A RB would be nice with Williams age. A backup that won't see the field unless God forbid Bell gets hurt is a wasted pick anywhere in the top 4 rounds. Maybe 5th would be suffice. That's 2 picks gone and 5 to go. A backup QB of the future would be nice. Four to go. A special teamed lol? Warren, Boswell, and Berry are really good.