QB Jay Cutler

2002 Statistics

Coach: Bobby Johnson
2-10, 1 year
2002 Record: 7-7
at Georgia Tech LOST 3-45
at Auburn LOST 6-31
at Mississippi LOST 38-45
at Georgia LOST 17-48
at Kentucky LOST 21-41

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

There's reason for renewed optimism in Nashville, even after a second consecutive season without a Southeastern Conference win. The reason, in a word, is sophomores. Second-year coach Bobby Johnson had a remarkably young team in spring drills, with 45 of the 71 players going into this fall as sophomores or redshirt freshmen. The tough season endured as freshmen gives the team unusual experience for their relative youth, an asset that should set up Vanderbilt's emergence from the SEC cellar in the next two years. Nearly all of the 2003 Commodores will be back again in 2004, with only seven seniors on roster for this season and only one - tight end Nick Getter - listed as a starter.

The team is young enough that two of the team's three captains - quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Jovan Haye - are only sophomores. Junior tackle Justin Geisinger is the third. Vanderbilt hasn't had a sophomore co-captain since running back Jared McGrath held the honor in 1998.

Johnson, perhaps seeking to build confidence in his young team, has a schedule that includes seven home games, including three straight to open the season. Vanderbilt nearly upset Ole Miss last year, losing 45-38 on a touchdown with three minutes left, and if the Commodores can upset the Rebels in the 2003 season opener, they stand an excellent chance of matching their 2002 win total in the first two weeks. Their second game is against Division I-AA Chattanooga, which matched Vandy's 2-10 record last season. The Commodores' homecoming is Oct. 11 against another team that went 2-10 last year, Navy.

The key for Johnson's second season is turning close losses into close wins. Vanderbilt was tied with Ole Miss in the fourth quarter, led South Carolina in the third quarter, had Middle Tennessee beaten until the final minute and gave Florida a considerable scare, holding the Gators scoreless in the second half before ultimately losing by four points. With experienced sophomores on the field instead of untested freshmen, Vanderbilt could turn its season - and program -- around with a few game-turning plays.

The home-heavy schedule could help Vanderbilt reverse a trend that has seen the Commodores lose more games than the year before in four straight years. By beating non-conference foes such as Chattanooga and Navy, Vanderbilt can build the confidence it needs to contend with the lesser teams of the SEC, where it has mustered a 5-59 record since 1995.

Johnson has enough youth and talent to script a strong turnaround in the next three years after back-to-back two-win seasons in 2001-02. The Commodore sophomores who survived a tough freshman year last fall will gain experience, if not victories, in 2003, offering hope that they'll leave the Vanderbilt program very different from the way they found it. Hope is not its own ends, so wins are needed for any change.

Projected 2003 record: 2-10
LB Moses Osemwegie
QB - 2.5 DL - 1
RB - 3 LB - 2
WR - 1.5 DB - 1
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Jay Cutler, 212-103-9, 1433 yds., 10 TD

Rushing: Kwane Dester, 160 att., 798 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Brandon Smith, 19 rec., 173 yds., 0 TD

Scoring: Jay Cutler, 9 TD, 54 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: none

Tackles: Moses Osemwegie, 53 tot., 40 solo

Sacks: Moses Osemwegie, 1.5 sacks; Aaron Carter, 1.5 sacks

Interceptions: Herdley Harrison, 1 for 0 yds.

Kickoff returns: Kwane Doster, 24 ret., 25.7 avg.

Punt returns: Erik Davis, 6 ret., 12.0 avg.


OFFENSE: Jamie Byrum-C, Jim May-OG, Tom Simone-TE, M.J. Garrett-WR, Dan Stricker-WR, Greg Johnson-K/P
DEFENSE: Chuck Losey-DE, Hunter Hillenmeyer-MLB, Justin Giboney-SS, Rushen Jones-CB, Jonathan Shaub-FS

written by Greg Auman

A big reason for the Commodores' optimism is a pair of talented sophomores in the backfield who made impressive 2002 debuts.

At quarterback, 6-foot-4 Jay Cutler returns after starting 11 games as a freshman, passing for 10 touchdowns and running for nine more. Cutler hails from cheerily named Santa Claus, Ind. His strong freshman campaign was overshadowed by that of 5-foot-11, 175-pound tailback Kwane Doster, who earned freshman All-America honors and was the Southeastern Conference's Freshman of the Year. Doster had four 100-yard games in Vanderbilt's "Power I" offense after opening the season third on the depth chart. When SEC writers chose their All-Conference preseason team, Doster was named to the second team.

The two players who were ahead of him, juniors Ronald Hatcher and Norval McKenzie, were both sidelined by leg fractures, but are expected to return and provide depth.

Cutler's top two receivers from 2002 graduated, leaving 6-foot-1 junior Brandon Smith as the top returning target. A talented group of four sophomores - all 6-foot or taller - will compete for Cutler's passes, led by Keith Williams and Grant Brigham. Erik Davis stood out in the spring game, catching three passes for 54 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown. Establishing a pair of go-to receivers (at least one being a deep threat) early is crucial to any offensive balance, making this a pivotal position in Vanderbilt's success.

Junior tackles Justin Geisinger and Kenan Arkan return to bookend an otherwise inexperienced offensive line. The interior is unproven, with junior Jordan Pettit and sophomore Steven Brent competing to replace Jamie Byrum, a three-year starter at center. Brian Kovolisky, the tallest Commodore at 6-foot-7, will likely switch to left guard (to replace Jim May, another three-year starter) after playing right guard and tackle last year. Sophomores Nigel Seaman and Mac Pyle, the latter an SEC all-freshman selection, will compete for the opening at right guard.


OT Justin Geisinger


Returning Starters in bold
QB Jay Cutler-So Benji Walker-Sr
FB Matthew Tant-So Zeke Brandon-Sr
TB Kwane Doster-So Norvan McKenzie-Jr
WR Erik Davis-So Chris Young-Jr
WR Brandon Smith-Jr Keith Williams-So
TE Nick Getter-Sr Curtis Brancheau-Jr
OT Justin Geisinger-Jr Ryan King-So
OG Brian Kovolisky-Jr Adam Dossett-Fr
C Steven Brent-So Jordan Pettit-Jr
OG Mac Pyle-So Nigel Seaman-So
OT Kenan Arkan-Jr Blake Luker-Fr
K Patrick Johnson-Fr ..



written by Greg Auman

Defense is still the area where Vanderbilt needs the most improvement after finishing last in the SEC in scoring defense (30.7 points per game) and total defense (405.8 yards per game).

Pass defense was an area of concern - Vanderbilt's opponents averaged 80 more passing yards per game than the Commodores. Vandy's top three DBs graduated, leaving an untested group to shore up this key part of the defense.

Dominique Morris, a 6-foot sophomore, returns at one cornerback spot, with junior Lorenzo Parker and sophomore Cheron Thompson competing on the other side. All three can hit. At safety, sophomore Andrew Pace returns with the most experience, though no other potential safety had more than 10 tackles in 2002. Once experienced, look for this crew to gel and perform better than 2002's squad.

Vanderbilt's front seven, an active part of Bruce Fowler's 4-3 defense, return in force, with seven linemen and four linebackers back after starting at least one game last fall. The Commodores gave up 30 rushing touchdowns last year, 12 more than any other conference team. In terms of returning talent, the only hole is at MLB, where Hunter Hillenmeyer was Vanderbilt's lone pick in the NFL Draft (5th round to Green Bay). Junior Pat Brunner will try to hold off sophomore Otis Washington for the starting middle job, and sophomore Herdley Harrison leads the way on the strongside. On the weak side, sophomore Moses Osemwegie was an SEC all-freshman pick after registering 4.5 tackles for loss, trailing only Hillenmeyer on the Vandy defense.

Anchoring the defensive line is junior Aaron Carter, who started every 2002 game at defensive tackle. Junior Matt Clay, limited by injuries, and sophomore Ralph McKenzie, who shined while stepping in for Clay, will compete alongside Carter. At end, Jovan Haye returns as a starter - the sophomore had a sack and seven tackles in Vanderbilt's Black and Gold spring game. Junior Robert Dinwiddie, slowed after knee surgery in spring 2002, could make a strong comeback on the other end of the line.


DT Aaron Carter


Returning Starters in bold
DE Jovan Haye-So Robert Dinwiddie-Jr
DT Trey Holloway-So Matt Clay-Jr
DT Ralph McKenzie-So Aaron Carter-Jr
DE Antoine Morgan-So Chris Booker-So
LB Moses Osemwegie-So Marty Morgan-So
LB Otis Washington-So Pat Brunner-Jr
LB Herdley Harrison-So Eric Byrum-Jr
CB Dominique Morris-So Lorenzo Parker-Jr
CB Cheron Thompson-So Bill Alford-Jr
SS Andrew Pace-So Nick Lyle-Jr
FS Kelechi Ohanaja-So Ronnie Swoopes-So
P Kyle Keown-Fr ..



Doster is the team's deadliest option on returns - he was identified as the conference's second-biggest threat on returns in the preseason All-Conference honors. In 2002's wild tilt against Ole Miss, he set an SEC record for kickoff return yardage in a game with 243 yards, including 95 on a fourth-quarter touchdown. He also set the Vanderbilt record for all-purpose yards in a game with 344, so this fall's season opener against the Rebels could be a breakout game for the promising sophomore from Tampa. This area will again need to be shored up tight - SEC special teams, like other conferences, can change a game's complexion fast. Special teams could easily win or lose a game, accordingly.