Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stanimal's Ruminations on the "State of the 'Dores"

It's been far too long everyone, but today I come back (temporarily) from the abyss of bar review and wedding planning that has consumed my time for the past three months. While both have their own miseries (or lack of miseries in case the future Mrs. Stanimal reads this post), one positive side effect is that I think I have FINALLY gotten over our first-round exit to Murray State. It's no secret based on the exponential increase in my blog posting that I am much more active during basketball season, and it took me quite a bit of time to really shake off that early exit.

But I digress from the purpose of this post. With the end of the college sports season, I thought this would be an appropriate time to have a look around the world of Vanderbilt Sports and see where we are and where we're going. With no teams presently active, I think it will be much easier for me to look at the programs objectively. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.


I know we landed our best recruiting class since the ranking era began. I know we have, and always will have, a solid defense with plenty of talent in the linebacking corps and secondary. I know we have an electric playmaker in Warren Norman. But is anyone really optimistic about this upcoming season? After two years of "offensive" offense, coupled with a schedule that has maybe 1 or 2 gimme wins, I'm lacking a lot of reasons to see that this program is on the up and up. The "future" that we here at VSL dubbed Larry Smith so often has looked more like a Chris Nickson reincarnation, so much so that we're getting excited about a transfer QB simply because his brother is an NFL stud. But it isn't all on Larry, a lot of the young WRs have not come along as quickly as we needed them to. Then you have this whole notion of the "no-huddle spread" offense, which was a hasty decision by Ted Cain in order to try to save his coordinator position. The benefit of the no-huddle spread is that its run at a fast pace so that the opposing defense can't get set up. The downside is that a bad offense running at a fast pace means MORE 3 and outs and MORE time that our defense has to be on the field. Now I didn't do the math perfectly accurate, but based off my analysis between our 2008 and 2009 seasons, we held the ball for about 30 minutes a game in 2008, and about 25 minutes a game in 2009. That 5 minutes may not seem like a lot, but when your offense already wasn't anything to write home about, that 5 minutes is just enough for your defense to keep you in the game. The no-huddle spread is a joke and a travesty and was the final black eye on a Ted Cain stained offense. Forgive the harsh words, but the truth hurts.

Outlook: Not looking good


I'm a basketball homer. I fully admit it. Earlier this season I'm pretty sure that Mrs. Stanimal wanted to ring my neck for all my talk about the glory of Vanderbilt basketball. The best part was that everything we had talked about here was coming true. We won 12 SEC games last season. In any other year, that's enough to win the East, hence why I get so furious at UK. But that's a conversation for another post. Despite the loss of Beal and Ogilvy, the basketball program is still in good shape, albeit with a few more questions for next year than last. We're by far the most experienced team in the SEC East, we have scorers in Taylor and Jenkins, and we have a lot of depth. Without getting into specifics, this team can and will compete for an SEC title and should get another trip to the NCAAs. The most frustrating thing about the basketball program? I don't know about y'all, but I'm dying to have SOMETHING to brag about on a level of national relevance. So when we have our best regular season in god knows how long only to lose to Murray State in the first round, it sends me into a bit of a tailspin. Particularly when you look at how UK, Florida, and Tennessee recruit. Oh, and then there's those two kids down there in Athens named Leslie and Thompkins joining up with scoring guru Gerald Robinson, Jr. Not to mention that South Carolina landed a pretty stellar recruiting class in their own right. My point? There's a window here and we need to take advantage of it.

Outlook: Good, but we shouldn't settle for middle of the SEC road anymore.


I have to admit that I don't get much of a chance to watch Vandy baseball games. They're rarely on TV down here in Columbia, and while I will always make time for Vandy hoops, I'm less likely to watch baseball games on the computer. That being said, I do follow along with the stat sheets and I did watch some of our great run into the Super Regionals. The baseball program has a very bright future. The most encouraging thing about our teams? While we have never been to the College World Series, we sure as hell recruit like we have. Make no mistake, Tim Corbin does one hell of a job in selling Vanderbilt as a place to get noticed by professional scouts. While it was disappointing to lose to FSU in the Super Regionals, we certainly didn't go quietly, and really that's about all you can ask for sometimes. With nearly the entire team back next season, the baseball team is in great shape. Call me an optimist, but am I crazy for thinking that Vanderbilt baseball could be to Nashville what USC football is to L.A. (albeit on a MUCH smaller scale)?

Outlook: This team is going to get over the hump real soon as long as we hang on to Tim Corbin.

The Pseudo-Athletic Department as a Whole (Both Men's and Women's)

It's really unfair to judge a school's department based off three programs, but I don't watch enough of any of the other sports to be able to fairly give an opinion as to their outlook. I can say that, as a whole, the folding of the athletic department into the Office of Student Life cannot be construed as anything more than a tremendous success. Academics are priority #1 for Vanderbilt. When we folded the Athletic Department up and put David Williams in charge, there was a lot of skepticism that we were basically throwing in the towel on all of our sports teams to raise our academic profile to one of a top national university. I remember sitting in a press conference at McGugin when Vice Chancellor Williams said that nothing much would change and that we were still committed to having competitive athletic programs. I didn't believe him then, but I sure believe him now. Vandy athletics, one could argue, are in the best shape they've been in for almost two decades, both for men's and women's teams. We are attracting more talented athletes and students, many of our coaches, who other programs would love to have, are loyal to the University because they believe in the goals and direction we strive for, and we have achieved our goal of being a top National University. While we struggle with the frustration of SEC athletics, where private athletic departments are run as an independent competitive business, we have stuck to our guns as a school that has its priorities in order. And frankly, that makes me damn proud to be a Commodore.


Anonymous said...

outside of baseball i think the future is bleak. baseball could very well be in the CWS next year. basketball may do worse without beal on the team and who knows about football. i don't even care about that any more.

Douglas James said...

I have very little faith in the football team doing much this season. Baseball team should be quite good next year with all the returning talent. But neither of those are what I truly care about. I have a favorite football team (the Jets) and a favorite baseball team (the Mets), I even have a favorite hockey team (the Islanders) but I never had a favorite basketball team till I came to Vandy. The Murray State loss was a kick in the face followed by an elbow drop off the top ropes with the loss of AJ. While I like the recruiting class coming in to say that this program is not at a cross roads would be to be a bold face lie. UK/UT/UF continue to recruit like gang-busters and if we are going to take our place as a perenial top team in the SEC well then its time to put up. That means beating the teams your supposed to and doing more than just qualifying for the NCAA's. It means regularly winning the first round games and semi-regularly going to the 2nd weekend, and every 4/5 years going to an Elite 8 or Final Four. It means being in the top 15 ALL YEAR LONG....and it means recruiting McDonald's All-Americans. I really thought we were on the verge of that happening last year but the loss to Murray State really set the program back. I don't know if we will recover, I hope we will.......

Mazey said...

Until we get a legitimate SEC-caliber QB and give him legitimate SEC-caliber WRS, we will continue to suffer in football. WR should be the easiest position to recruit bc there are so many of them in the SE and WR is the position that freshman can make the biggest instant splash too. But we still haven't had a legitimate WR threat since Earl. Basketball, I am not too worried about. We just haven't showed up in big games. We seem to choke. Luckily, just bc we haven't been a big-game team the last 4 years doesn't mean we will continue to choke again in the future. Maybe our players just had a bad games in March. Maybe the other teams we play in March just gets lucky against us. Whatever it is, our starting lineup will be full of 4*s so we should be in good shape talent wise. Ogilvy was a twazimotto anyway and he disappeared in every big game he played so I won't miss him at all.

Chuck Heston said...

Great post as usual and welcome back.

I'll limit my comments to football, as I cannot imagine attempting to tackle, if you will, more than 1 Vandy team preview.

Let me list the positives:

1. Warren Norman. Enough said.

2. Zac Stacy. He was injured in Game 2 last year, which slowed him up. Healthy, and in his 2nd year, he and Norman make a formidible backfield. If the passing game struggles (which it likely will), look for both to serve as the occasional wide out to get quick passes in the flat.

3. Remember Ryan Fowler? He struggled (mightily) in the beginning, but made 11 of his last 12 FGs and all 4 of his last FGs from 40+ yards.

4. The Secondary shall be First. Last year, everyone in Vandy's secondary looked like they were thinking "Gotta prevent the score" as opposed to "Gotta prevent the 1st down". Look for Casie Hayward and Jamie Graham (and Sean Richardson) to cause major problems for opponents.

5. It can't possibly get much worse than last year. The key I believe is establishing some form of passing threat. If Nickson [I actually did mistakenly just type Nickson] I mean Smith can hit the occasional receiver, that will open the line up for Norman and Stacy to do what they do best.

6. This is the number of wins I predict this year, and Yes, Vandy will go to a Bowl game. In case you care, the "Ws" will be: Northwestern, Ole Miss, Uconn, Eastern MI, UK and TN.

FiveStarDore said...

Hear, hear, Stanimal!