VANDERBILT AT MIAMI-O
7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Aug. 28
Yager Stadium (cap. 24,286)
We've got a lot of questions. Can Chris Nickson return to sophomore form? Can the brand-new O-line gel in the first game? Can Thomas Welch replace C-Williams at left tackle? Can the young wide receivers step up? What about the brand-new linebackers? Can Bryant Hahnfeldt make clutch kicks?
You know, we're a 4.5-point underdog. And that's fine with me. We don't look good on paper. Two returning starters on offense and six on defense (seven if you count the nickel back).
But we've looked good on paper before and we didn't do so hot. I'm thinking about our season opener against this Miami (O) team in 2000, when we gave up two touchdowns in a couple of minutes and lost a heartbreaker.
For this one game, I'm just gonna trust that all those redshirt freshmen and sophomores are as good as advertised. I'm talking about:
• Wide receivers Jamie Graham (R-Fr.) and Udom Umoh (R-Fr.)
• Tight ends Brandon Barden (R-Fr.), Austin Monahan (So.) and Justin Green (R-So.)
• Offensive linemen Joey Bailey (R-So.), Reilly Lauer (R-So.), Kyle Fischer (R-Fr.) and Rob Ashabranner (R-Fr.)
• Defensive linemen Adam Smotherman (R-So.) and T.J. Greenstone (R-Fr.)
• Defensive ends Theron Kadri (So.) and Teriall Brannon (R-So.)
• Linebackers Chris Marve (R-Fr.), John Stokes (So.), Austin Newton (R-So.) and Nate Campbell (R-So.)
• Defensive back Alan Strong (R-So.)
These probably won't be the stars of the game — more than half of them won't even start — but they'll be the ones flying around making a difference.
I think the star will be D.J. Moore. He'll be playing cornerback, of course, but also wide receiver and running back and kick returner and punt returner — and I hope he'll line up behind center some too.
It'll be fun to see all the new guys out there. Especially if we win.
And I think we do.
VANDERBILT 24, MIAMI (O) 16