With both the all-time and single-season rushing records under his belt, Zac Stacy will be considered one of the best Vanderbilt running backs even when, and if, those marks fall.
But where will he fall among the great backs of the Southeastern Conference?
That chapter isn’t finished.
Heading into Saturday’s game at Kentucky, the senior has 2,685 rushing yards after breaking Frank Mordica’s record of 2,632. He had just five carries for 15 yards before injuring his ankle on the opening drive last weekend against Massachusetts. He practiced on Wednesday, with his right ankle tightly wrapped.
Stacy said he expects to start against Kentucky and will most likely wear a splint to protect his ankle.
“It’s good. It’s good,” Stacy said. “I’ve had a great week of preparation. I’m looking forward to getting out there and helping my team be successful. I’m good to go. I’ve been working with the [athletic] trainers and I’ve been getting some good reps. ... I’ve always been battling ankle injuries. For the most part, it was one of those things that just happens.”
Two weeks ago, Stacy surpassed the 32-year-old school record with 169 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 win over Auburn that ended with a ride on the shoulders of his offensive linemen. In order to crack the SEC’s top 20, the league’s active leading rusher will have to pick up his pace with just five regular-season games remaining.
At 20th on the all-time list is Neal Anderson, who rushed for 3,234 yards for Florida from 1982-85. Herschel Walker stands above everyone else. The Georgia tailback ran for 5,259 yards from 1980-82. It still stands as the NCAA record for three years.
Stacy has averaged 95.4 yards a game this season. But over the last five games, as his carries increased, so did his average with 116.8 yards a game. With 668 rushing yards this season, he needs just 332 to become Vanderbilt’s first multiple 1,000-yard rusher.
Also working in his favor is Vanderbilt’s schedule. The final three SEC opponents – Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee – rank ninth, 11th and 12th, respectively, in the league in rushing defense.
Still, amassing 565 yards to eclipse Anderson won’t be easy, but the native of Centreville, Ala., has overcome obstacles before.
Stacy arrived on campus with Warren Norman and bided his time behind the 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year. Injuries and shared reps limited him to just 66 carries in 2010.
With a lingering injury to Norman, he finally took advantage of being the go-to guy in 2011. He rushed for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns – both school records.
The bruising, 5-foot-9, 210-pounder doesn’t shy away from running north to south and taking licks – or doling out praise. Humble and always complementary of those around him, especially his offensive line, there’s no doubt Stacy will go down as one of most liked players in Vanderbilt history.
“I’m definitely honored,” Stacy said after the Auburn win. “Reflecting back on my career here, I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, coaching changes. No doubt about it, I am very honored to represent Vanderbilt and have the rushing title.”
• Chick-fil-A Bowl: A representative from the Chick-fil-A Bowl will be in Lexington, Ky., Saturday.
Ken Schick will scout Vanderbilt as a potential SEC representative for the 45th annual Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta. The Commodores (4-4) need to win just two of their final four games to go to back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history.
Vanderbilt last played in the bowl, then the Peach Bowl, in 1974. The Commodores tied Texas Tech 6-6.
• Halloween fun: For the second straight year, the Vanderbilt coaches and their families dressed up and went trick-or-treating around the football offices at the McGugin Center.
Head coach James Franklin and his family dressed up as characters from Shrek. Franklin put on spandex to get into character while his daughter, Addy, 4, was Donkey. His other daughter, Shola, 5, was Fiona, and his wife, Fumi, went as Gingy.
“It was interesting,” said Franklin, who added daughter picked out the Halloween theme. “There’s nothing to make you feel more masculine than rubber and spandex.”