Wednesday, December 6, 2006

His Name is Earl

Courtesey of Brother Woody:

Earl Bennett was selected first-team ALL-SEC today. He finished 2nd in receiving in the SEC with 82 receptions for 1146 yards. Earl was 9th in the country in receptions. Not a bad sophomore season.


Stanimal said...

Bennett finished the season 7th in total receiving yards with 1146. Unfortunately, he only had 6 TD receptions, but how much of that is really on him and not on being thrown the ball in the red zone?

I still think it's a sham that Bennett did not make the list of 14 semifinalists. He finished with more receiving yards this year than several well-known receivers, such as Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith, Jeff Samardzija, Sidney Rice, and DeSean Jackson. The first team All-SEC is certainly deserving (he received that honor last year as well), but this guy transcends just the SEC and represents (get ready for this) at least one of the top 10 receivers in the country. You can bet that in our run at a bowl game next year, Earl Bennett will be a huge part in getting there.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Take a look at his catches and yards in each game of this season:

Mich 6-58
Ala 5-45 (1)
Ark 4-31
TSU 4-81 (1)
Temp 4-70
Miss 10-179
UGA 8-89 (1)
USC 4-16
Duke 9-184 (1)
Fla 13-157 (1)
UK 11-220 (1)
UT 4-16

While these are pretty solid numbers across the board, it's clear that the four 100+ yard games are what put him over the edge. 3 of those 4 games were against pretty weak opponents. The Florida game, considering how good their defense is, has got to be viewed as his best game of the season, or at least a close second to the Kentucky game (220 yards is a lot).

But the stats raise some interesting questions. Even when Earl had big games, we didn't necessarily win.

In a couple of the key, close losses (Bama and Arkansas) he was held to 45 and 31 yards. But in a few other close losses (Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky) he had monster games.

In some of the more lopsided losses (South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan to a lesser extent) it was clear that defenses were prepped for Bennett and were keyed in on denying him the ball.

But 2 of the 3 more lopsided wins (TSU and Temple) his numbers are very modest.

Even in the one close win (Georgia) it's hard to say that Earl was the difference, even though the numbers are reasonably strong.

So what does all this mean? Well, in terms of individual honors, I do think you have to look at the schedule and which teams the receiver racked up his numbers against. Florida, Georgia, and MAYBE Kentucky work in Bennett's favor there. But Ole Miss and Duke are clearly bad defenses.

The other point we can take from the numbers is two-fold. Against Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, and Michigan, Bennett was held to 6 catches or less and 60 yards or less. Was that because we didn't do a good enough job getting him the ball in those big games, or was it a product of defenses keying in on shutting him down? Probably a bit of both, I would imagine.

The big conculsion here is that, while Bennett is a great player, Vandy's offense cannot be summed up by "as Bennett goes, so go the Dores." Which actually makes me optimistic about next year, because you better believe that after the past two seasons, there won't be a single team we play that won't be preparing for Bennett all week in practice leading up to the game. We'll have to find ways to make plays when he's in double coverage, we'll have to run the ball to keep defenses honest (a scary thought), and offensive coordinator Ted Cain will have to figure out ways to get Bennett the ball in the red zone (6 TDs with those numbers is just not enough).

And for the love of your defensive brethren, stop turning the ball over!

Bobby O'Shea said...

I'm certainly not the football guy here, but I think Shamas makes a number of good points. What those numbers indicate to me is just how important establishing the running game will be for this team next season. Having watched both the USC and UT games pretty carefully, there is little doubt that both teams' defenses came in looking to shut Bennett down. If Vanderbilt can run the ball effectively, it will be much more difficult for teams to put double coverage on Earl. Earl's explosiveness and big-plan potential is important for the Commies because he forces other teams to focus on him not only in games, but also in practice. If the other receivers can make some plays, the running game can develop, and Nickson can scamper down field for yards, then Bennett's mere presense becomes weapon by viture of opening up other players on the offensive end. Bennett as a decoy is only effective, however, if ohter players step up.

With that said, Bennett has to have at least 10 touches a game. If that means setting up screen-plays, running reverses, or whatever, they have to get the ball in his hands. Earl Bennett is a playmaker and for this team to be successful, we have to put him in position to make plays.

Seamus O'Toole said...

All good points. He needs to touch the ball early and often in every game, and when he's not touching it, the result will often be that there's an opportunity to make a play somewhere else on the field.

Interesting to note: Bennett is listed in the program at 6'1", 200 lb. but was recruited at 5'11", 195. At the combine they measure you with your shoes off. My guess is his size will hurt his draft-day positioning, whether it's in 2008 (if he has another big season and Vandy has another losing season, there's not much reason for him to stay) or 2009.

Stanimal said...

All good points regarding his effectiveness next year. All in all, if you have a 1000 yard season, then you have had an exceptional year as a WR.

Teams are definitely going to key on Bennett but if you have to stick double-coverage on him, that means you can't put 8 in the box against a run. What that means is that our offensive line and running game is going to open things up, and it'll be up to Nickson to determine the coverage being played, as well as the the coordinators and Bennett to identify how he's being covered. In that sense, we'll have the best ability to distribute the ball elsewhere. But part of good play-calling is creating mis-matches with your stars, and those plays are the ones that we must execute on because that's where Bennett is going to be most effective.