Jeff: Nothing has changed since last week, which is to say Chris Boyd remains suspended from the team and is still facing a felony charge of accessory after the fact in the Vanderbilt rape case. The longer he is away from the team, the longer it will take him to get re-acclimated to what is going on when (and if) he returns. Obviously, he hasn’t been in practice for Ole Miss implementation, so I don’t know if the Rebels would have to worry about him playing even if something dramatic happened that led to his suspension being lifted before Thursday night. Without Boyd, Jonathan Krause will be the No. 2 receiver. He doesn’t have the size or big-play ability of Boyd, so the Ole Miss secondary should be in better shape. When Vanderbilt lines up in a three-receiver set, the third guy could be a tight end or H-back (Steven Scheu, Kris Kentera or Fitz Lassing), a running back (Wesley Tate or Brian Kimbrow) or a true receiver that has never played (Trey Wilkins, Jordan Cunningham, Carlos Burse or Latavius Rayford).
2. PA: In the big picture of things can you tell if the rape case has been a distraction for this team?
Jeff: It’s honestly hard to tell in the preseason. I think Boyd’s absence has been a distraction because it impacted the Xs and Os, which in turn impacts practice. The incident itself and the dismissal of the four players (who have since been charged with raping an unconscious female student) happened in late June, so I get the sense enough time has passed to where the event is no longer on the forefront of the players’ mind. It clearly was in the month following the incident.
3. PA: How is the Vanderbilt offense different with Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback?
Jeff: The offense has expanded a bit, at least in terms of wrinkles that James Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan threw in, but Carta-Samuels will still be running the same system that Jordan Rodgers was. Carta-Samuels has a stronger arm than Rodgers, so don’t be surprised if Vandy throws a few more deep balls to Matthews or Krause every game. The questions will be whether Carta-Samuels can get Vandy into the right audibles at the line of scrimmage when the situations call for it, and whether he can be accurate with his short and mid-range throws on a consistent basis. Rodgers did those things very well in 2012.
Jeff: Strangely, I don’t see this being a problem. Defensive tackle Rob Lohr is the guy who will be missed the most, but Vince Taylor has the chance to be an even more dominant interior lineman over the next two seasons. Jared Morse, who started half the season in place of graduate Colt Nichter in 2012, may not start this season because of how far redshirt freshman Adam Butler has come. The leadership of Johnell Thomas is gone at defensive end, but I look for Kyle Woestmann and Caleb Azubike to put up some nice sack and quarterback pressure stats with the extra reps.