June 16, 2016
June 16, 2016
Vanderbilt standouts Zach Cunningham, Andrew Jelks, Torren McGaster, Ralph Webb and Oren Burks have been named to preseason All-Southeastern Conference teams by a leading college football preview magazine.
Athlons listed Cunningham, a junior linebacker from Pinson, Ala., on its first team All-SEC defense. Jelks, a senior offensive tackle from Paris, Tenn., Webb, a junior running back from Gainesville, Fla., and McGaster, a senior cornerback from Daphne, Ala., were named third team all-conference by Athlon’s. The magazine included Burks, a junior linebacker-safety from Fairfax Station, Va., on its fourth team all-league squad.
The magazine, which hit newsstands in early June, predicts Derek Mason’s squad to contend for the program’s first postseason appearance in three years.
Athlon’s College Football Preview also included Cunningham, a consensus first team All-SEC in 2015 after ranking among league leaders in numerous defensive statistical categories, as a second team All-America.
The Commodores open the season before an ESPN national audience on Thursday, Sept. 1, hosting SEC Eastern Division South Carolina in Vanderbilt Stadium.
Cunningham, from Pinson Valley High School just north of Birmingham, put together a sensational sophomore campaign after being a starter in Week 3 when SEC All-Freshman Nigel Bowden was forced from the lineup. He finished the year topping the Commodores and ranking high in the SEC with 69 solo tackles, 103 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Cunningham became the first Commodore linebacker named first team All-SEC by both head coaches and Associated Press writers since Moses Osemwegie was recognized in 2005. Cunningham also earned postseason All-America honors from Phil Steele.
Webb smashed Vanderbilt sophomore rushing yards in 2015. The product of Gainesville High School rushed for 1,152 yards, the second highest season total in team history, as a sophomore. His rushing total of 277 carries also ranks as the second most by a Commodore.
Through two years, Webb is on target to become Vanderbilt’s all-time rusher. With 2,059 yards, he ranks No. 8 on the team’s all-time charts and is less than 1,000 yards from Zac Stacy’s school record of 3,143 yards set from 2009-12.
Jelks, from Paris High School in west Tennessee, is back this year after missing the entire 2015 campaign with injury. Jelks started 21 games at offensive tackle as a freshman and sophomore in 2013-14. He earned SEC All-Freshman and Freshman All-American honors in 2013.
McGaster, from Daphne High School in south Alabama, ranks among the league’s top cover corners. In 2015, he ranked fourth in the conference with 13 passes defended.
McGaster is a two-year starter who leads all active Commodores with 17 passes defended. He ranks second on the team’s active list with 97 solo tackles and two interceptions.
Burks, another two-year defensive starter, has moved to the team’s hybrid `Star’ role. The South County (Va.) High School product contributed a team-high three interceptions and ranked among Commodore leaders with 58 total tackles.
The Commodores return 16 starters and 55 letterwinners from an improved 2015 squad that finished fourth in the SEC East. The campaign included victories over SEC East foes Missouri and Kentucky.
Season tickets for the Commodores’ six-game home schedule starts at only $250 for premium sideline seats and $135 for end-zone sections of Vanderbilt Stadium. Tickets can be purchased at here.