NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt receiving corps doesn’t have a cute nickname.
Nor do they get into all the adjectives being thrown around to describe their collective prowess, except for one simple description.
Being the best.
Thus, the many pundits who have gone as far to label the trio — seniors Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause and redshirt junior Chris Boyd — as the SEC’s best receiving group … and maybe the country, as well.
It’s not a surprise when you consider Matthews, Krause and Boyd have notched 48 career starts, while consistently driving opposing defenses crazy with their athleticism, versatility, sure-handedness and ability to make big plays after the catch.
They have also played a major role in the Commodores reaching consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and posting their most victories (nine) since 1915.
“It is something that we have worked toward every offseason and every week during the season,” Boyd said of wanting to be considered among the elite receiver groups. “We work to be the best unit in the nation. Obviously, we are playing in the best conference in the nation.
“We want to be the best receiving unit in this conference. If you are the best in this conference, then you are the best in the nation.”
The bell cow of the bunch is Matthews, an All-SEC pick, member of various preseason All-America teams and a preseason Biletnikoff Award candidate (nation’s top receiver).
His three-year tallies (150 catches, 2,282) make him the SEC’s active leader in both categories. Those totals include 94 receptions from 2012 — second-most in conference history for a single season — for a program-record 1,323 yards.
“That’s my biggest thing,” Matthews said of the spotlight Commodores wideouts garner as a group. “I love when people talk about the core because, from top to bottom, that’s what we want to work toward, just having the best core around.
“And not just having the best No. 1 or best duo, but top to bottom we want to have the best wide receiver core in the country.”
While dealing in superlatives, we might as well throw out the combination of Matthews and Boyd, the SEC’s top duo last season (2,096 receiving yards). Together, they have combined for 231 catches for 3,530 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns, including Boyd’s 50 receptions, 774 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
Boyd realizes that having Matthews opposite him allows for more opportunities to come his way.
“Jordan, he is a baller, and everyone knows that,” Boyd said. “It’s nice to have someone like that opposite of you, because they can’t shade you all the time. They have to kind of play it honest.
“And if they try to shade both of us, then the running game is going to be open. So, it really helps us offensively to have a guy like that.”
With Matthews at 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds and Boyd going a nearly identical 6-4 and 205, they cause quite the challenge for secondaries, especially ones that have shorter defenders. And when you add the speedy and shifty Krause (career marks: 56 catches, 483 yards) to the mix as the inside receiver, it makes for quite an arsenal for Commodores quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.
“I got my two trees on the outside who can go up and make plays over everybody,” Carta-Samuels said of Matthews and Boyd. “And then we have our little (Denver Broncos slot receiver) Wes Welker in the middle in Krause, who is really good and has shown he can do a lot. All three of them are an incredible luxury.”
A large part of the trio’s success is derived from their simultaneous arrival on campus in 2010. Eventually, they would go from workout buddies to best of friends who are inseparable on and off the field.
“We get along extremely well,” Matthews said. “We are all like best friends off the field. On the field, we have always had that chemistry from the very beginning when we first stepped on campus.
“We just built that bond early on and it’s carried us all the way through. And we’ve been friends ever since. I don’t think we have had a single disagreement.”
“We all look out for each and all want the best for each other,” he said. “We all look at each other as brothers. So, we have really good relationships on and off the field.”
Having coached offenses on the collegiate and NFL level since 1997, including Maryland and Kansas State (offensive coordinator), Vandy head coach James Franklin has been around his share of talented receiving groups. This Commodores trio might be the best he has ever coached.
“I think it has a chance,” said Franklin, whose team opens the season at home against SEC rival Ole Miss (Aug. 29). “I have been around some pretty good wideouts, not only in my time in the NFL, but also at other institutions.
“The combination, I think it is pretty darn good. They have really good leadership. They’re good friends. They’re competitive with each other.”