|Posted by Russell on December 28, 2016 at 12:10 AM|
In what was a highly dissapointing Monday night for Commodores fans, Ralph Webb's immediate announcement that he will return to Vanderbilt for his senior year is great news for the 2017 team. The news followed the team's awful performance in the Camping World Independence Bowl, where they fell to NC State, 41-17.
"I gave it a lot of thought and talked to my family and my coaches," said Webb during the postgame press conference. "I will be coming back to play next year as a Vanderbilt Commodore."
Webb has high expectations for himself and the Commodores in 2017. The Gainesville, Florida native had his best statistical season in 2016, rushing for 1,283 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 carries, He broke Vanderbilt's all-time rushing record and also the team's single-season rushing record.
"We want a bowl game and to double the wins," Webb declared. "We're not playing just to get six wins and barely go to a bowl game. As a leader on this offense, I'm going to make sure we do that."
Webb has now rushed for 3,342 yards and 22 career touchdowns. Although his production has improved each season, Webb is not viewed as an elite NFL talent. He projects as more of a mid-to-late round prospect. Because of this year's saturated running back draft class, it makes a lot of sense for Webb to return. If he can have another solid season next year and test well at pro day and the NFL Combine, Webb will likely see more NFL opportunities come his way.
Another factor that may have kept Webb around is that he has been bothered by an ankle injury that has affected his production in some games. Webb rushed for less that 50 yards against both Auburn and Missouri, but recovered for strong performances in the final three games, in which he rushed for 348 yards and six touchdowns against Ole Miss, Tennessee, and NC State.
If Webb can remain healthy next season, this decision appears to be positive for both Webb and Vanderbilt. The Commodore offense will greatly benefit from having an experienced threat like Webb. Add in Khari Blasingame and the Commodores have a two-headed monster at the running back position. The linebacker turned running back was terrific in short-yardage situations and finished the season with 449 yards and 10 touchdowns.
With Webb and Blasingame in the backfield, the Commodores will have a strong rushing attack. The big question that remains is if QB Kyle Shumur and the team's aerial attack can be successful as well.
Ralph Webb announced that he will return to Vanderbilt for his senior year. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University Athletics.