Three unanswered questions for Vanderbilt football as game week arrives

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean

Game week has arrived.

Vanderbilt football opens its 2022 season against Hawaii on Saturday hoping to build on a 2-10 performance in 2021. The Commodores haven't won an SEC game since 2019 but a better recruiting class after coach Clark Lea's first season provides some hope for better days ahead.

Preseason practice concluded Friday and the team traveled to Hawaii on Sunday. Here are three unanswered questions as the season approaches:

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How has Mike Wright grown since last year?

Vanderbilt's practices are open to the media, but even then it's nearly impossible to accurately evaluate Wright. Quarterbacks wear a red non-contact jersey and run plays are blown dead quickly. Without the benefit of tackling, it's hard to know how well some of the option plays would work in a real game.

Wright's ability to run add a new dimension to the game, but he needs to improve his throwing accuracy. How much, and whether, he will look improved from last year when rushers are in his face remains to be seen.

How does Vanderbilt replace Miles Capers?

Capers went down with a season-ending knee injury in the last week of preseason practice. He was likely to start at star, Lea's hybrid defensive end-linebacker pass rush specialist. Without him, there's significantly less depth at the position.

Lea indicated that it will be an all-hands-on-deck approach. Redshirt senior Michael Owusu is by far the most experienced option at the position, but Lea also said freshmen Darren Agu and BJ Diakite are likely to get some playing time.

How do the lines hold up against SEC opponents?

The biggest weakness for Vanderbilt last year was in the trenches. While the quarterback play was poor, offensive line struggles didn't help the case. Meanwhile on defense, the linebackers and secondary performed very well at times, but a lack of significant pass rush put the defense behind from the start.

Much of the personnel on both lines will be the same as last year, so improvement will be about those players taking steps forward more than anything. The X-factor here is how the freshmen do. The Commodores recruited players with strong athletic traits, and while most first-year offensive and defensive linemen need to add weight to be viable SEC players, they could grow into contributors in 2023 and beyond.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at or on Twitter @aria_gerson.