On Tuesday, four former Vanderbilt football players charged with raping an unconscious woman in a campus dorm pleaded not guilty. Cory Batey, Brandon Banks, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg are facing five counts of rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Suspended Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd, charged with one felony count of being an accessory after the fact, also pleaded not guilty. Police have said Boyd advised one of the four charged players on how to cover-up the alleged crime.
The suspension of Boyd is a dramatic loss for the Commodores as he was the second leading receiver last season with 774 yards on 15.5 yards per catch. In fact, Jordan Matthews, who set a school record with 1,323 yards last season, and Boyd were the top receiving combination in the SEC last season. Each of Vanderbilt’s other returning receivers had ten or less catches last year, whereas Boyd and Matthews had a combined 144 catches for 2,100 yards.
The off-field distractions would cripple most programs, but I expect Vanderbilt to respond well to the ongoing adversity due to the leadership of head coach James Franklin (one of the best in college football). Consider the fact that Vanderbilt won five conference games for the first time since 1935 and won six consecutive games for the first time since 1955! Franklin also brought the Commodores to consecutive bowl games for the first time in 123 years, and Woodrow Wilson was our President the last time Vanderbilt reached nine wins in a season. While I do not expect Vanderbilt to reach nine wins again this season, the Commodores will be bowling for the third consecutive year.
Negative Factors Impacting Vanderbilt’s Prospects in 2013:
- Pending criminal charges against Chris Boyd and related suspension
- Only thirteen returning starters (six on offense with Boyd’s is suspension)
- Very difficult schedule (twice as hard as last year)
- Benefited from three close wins in 2012; only one close loss