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Opponent preview: Vanderbilt’s special teams

Vanderbilt has struggled this year, and its special teams are no exception.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT inside Davis Wade Stadium for its 82nd homecoming football game.

The 0-4 Commodores have struggled this year, and their special teams are no exception.

Vanderbilt junior kicker/punter Pierson Cooke is last in the nation in field goals, making just one of his four attempts, including two missed attempts between 20 and 29 yards. His one made field goal was a 33-yarder. Cooke has made all three of his extra-point attempts, while junior kicker Wes Farley has also made all three of his extra-point attempts.

The Commodores rank at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference and 94th in the nation in net punting with an average of 34.4.

Junior punter Harrison Smith has punted the ball 19 times for 813 yards (42.8 average). Five of his punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. Sophomore punter Jared Wheatley’s five punts have gone for 166 yards (33.2 average). He has seen four of his punts downed inside the 20.

As far as returns go, Vanderbilt ranks third in the SEC in kick returns and eighth in punt returns. Nationally, the Commodores rank 24th in kick returns and 51st in punt returns.

Freshman defensive back Donovan Kaufman has returned five kickoffs for 137 yards (27.4 average), while sophomore wide receiver Jayden Harrison has returned seven kickoffs for 141 yards (20.1 average). Kaufman, however, is out for the season due to a medical-related issue, according to Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.

Junior wide receiver Cam Johnson serves as Vanderbilt’s punt returner and has returned three for 23 yards (7.7 average).

You can catch the contest on SEC Network.