In order to prepare for Vanderbilt’s new coach Derek Mason, a former Stanford defensive coordinator, coach Matt Rhule and his staff inadvertently learned more about Pac-12 than the Commodore’s conference itself.
“I’ve been studying Stanford a lot,” Rhule said. “I probably know more about the Pac-12 than any other conference watching Stanford.”
The Owls will be the first to match up against the new-look 3-4 defense that was so successful underneath the regime of Mason and now NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Much like the 2013 Owls, the Commodores began training camp with an open competition for quarterback, eventually claimed by top 2013 contributor sophomore quarterback Patton Robinette.
Robinette, a dual-threat quarterback, will test the Owls defense, which allowed 473.6 yards per game in 2013.
Players to watch
Offense: P.J. Walker QB
Heading into the year as an incumbent starter, Walker has set the bar for himself higher as a passer. With the third highest passer efficiency rating (150.8) in the American, Walker has already shown the ability to deliver the ball.
Despite only throwing seven interceptions to twenty touchdowns in his six games, Walker appeared careless with the football, with seven fumbles on the year.
Walker will also have the advantage of starting the season against a Commodore’s defensive backfield that is returning none of its starters from last year and set to start three underclassmen at both corner spots as well as strong safety.
Defense: Sean Chandler CB
Coming off an impressive camp with numerous interceptions in scrimmage play, slot cornerback Sean Chandler could very well prove to be a playmaker.
While being the slot corner behind senior Anthony Robey and junior Tavon Young,Chandler should see plenty of playing time facing up against the Commodore’s West Coast style offense.
Offense: Patton Robinette QB
Robinette, who recorded four touchdowns and five interceptions in limited time, will look to use his big 6-foot-4, 214-pound frame to exploit a relatively inexperienced Temple secondary.
Robinson, who spent his 2013 season mostly as a backup, will need a strong performance in order to retain the starting position he won during camp.
Defense: Caleb Azubike
Azubike, who is coming off a season where he posted 31 total tackles, is expected to flourish in Mason’s 3-4 scheme.
Expected to line up as a 6-foot-4, 260-pound outside linebacker with 4.65 40-yard speed, Azubike’s physical tools mixed with Mason’s unknown scheme for him will make for an interesting matchup against Azubike and offensive tackles Eric Lofton and Dion Dawkins.