Prior to the arrival of head coach James Franklin at Vanderbilt University, the thought of signing a high school running back with as high a ranking as Brian Kimbrow was laughable.
However, that is exactly what happened when Kimbrow chose Vanderbilt over schools like Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Stanford and Tennessee.
Kimbrow bought into coach Franklin's vision of a new Vanderbilt. In fact, Kimbrow stated on the day he verbally committed to the Commodores over the more historically successful programs mentioned above, "I know they don't have the tradition at Vanderbilt, but things are going to change there.”
Expectations were high for the No. 4 ranked all-purpose back in the nation coming out of high school. He had carried the ball 187 times for 1,969 yards and 21 TDs.
His first season at Vanderbilt he did not disappoint. Kimbrow rushed for 413 yards on just 66 carries (6.3 YPC) and also returned 22 kicks for 486 yards.
His carries were limited in 2012 because he was backing up future NFL running back Zac Stacy. However, Stacy is now a member of the St. Louis Rams and Kimbrow will be the top homerun threat for the Commodores in 2013 from the running back position.
Kimbrow is one of the fastest players in the SEC and has the athleticism and quickness to turn any carry into a touchdown. However, for Kimbrow to be fully effective he will need a partner-in-crime. He is not the biggest back at 5'8" and 185 pounds and could wear down as the season goes forward if he is required to take the bulk of the carries for the Commodores.
This is where senior running back Wesley Tate comes into the picture. He doesn't have the breakaway ability of Kimbrow, but he does have the size (6'1" and 225 lbs) to take the pressure off of Kimbrow. Tate has carried the ball 150 times for a modest 542 yards (3.61 YPC) over his three seasons at Vanderbilt. However, His size makes him a talented blocker and a more physical presence.
He also spent time as a slot receiver and has developed the type of receiving ability out of the backfield that could come in handy for James Franklin's screen-happy offense.
Much of the talk this offseason is about the stable running backs in the SEC, and while Kimbrow and Tate might not put of the numbers of the Georgia Bulldogs dynamic duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, they will be far more productive than the casual fan realizes.
Tate will bring the power and Kimbrow the home run threat. Both backs are talented alone but together could become one of the top duo's in the conference.
In my opinion, these two running backs will likely combine for over 1400 yards this season.
This past season, Vanderbilt won nine games for the first time since 1915 . Their nine-win season also included their longest win streak (7) since 1949 and perhaps most importantly a 41-18 thrashing of instate rival Tennessee.
Coach Franklin and company believe 2013 will be even more successful. With the talent that they have at wide receiver and with the combination of Kimbrow and Tate, this season could be another record-setter for the Commodores.