Monday, August 2, 2010

Top Five Questions for Vanderbilt Football in the Month of August

If you don’t like being perplexed, you might be forgiven for finding it difficult to be a Vanderbilt fan. The array of mind-boggling questions facing the Commodore faithful on any given day are liable to range from the quite disappointing (e.g., “Why in the name of all that is holy did that ref call excessive celebration on us against Florida in 2005?”) to the utterly heart-wrenching (e.g., “What did we do to deserve God’s wrath by getting completely jobbed out of the 2007 Elite 8 when Jeff Green traveled?”) to the genuinely inquisitive (e.g., “What exactly is involved in the process of turkey insemination (former job of Interim Head Coach Robbie Caldwell, as stated by none other than himself at SEC Media Days)?”).

With one week to go before fall camp and a month before kickoff against Northwestern, there are a ton of question marks for Vanderbilt football and limited space in my brain to process them. Here are five that I would venture to guess are on every Commodore fan’s mind at this point:

1. What sorts of “tweaks” for the game plan does Robbie Caldwell have in mind?
2. For how many seconds can this offensive line hold off a rush?
3. Who will be the starting quarterback?
4. Will he have anyone to throw to?
5. What is the over/under on additional number of moronic articles about Vanderbilt by self-proclaimed “sports writers” from now until the start of the season?

1. “Tweaks”
This is anyone’s guess. The players are saying ICRC told them nothing’s going to change and he’s going to run the same show as CBJ. Caldwell corroborated that but added that he’s got one or two ideas of his own and might be making some “tweaks” to the offense. Then he goes off and hires Herb Hand from Tulsa to be offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. Hand has been co-running one of the nation’s top offenses, particularly in 2007 and 2008 when the Golden Hurricanes put up the #1 total offense in the country under the direction of Hand and Gus Malzahn, who has made a big splash already as offensive coordinator at Auburn. As Bobby O’Shea made clear, hiring Hand was a terrific move by ICRC to set things up for a head coaching tenure beyond this season. Personally, I’d like to think we’ll see some Tulsa-style, high-energy spread influence and more than just a touch of shakeup in the play-calling. But who knows -- maybe just tweaks.

2. O-Line
Um, do we really have to talk about this? A line that couldn’t spell “pass protection” last year and helped earn Vanderbilt the 11th-worst offense in the nation gets replaced by a group with a combined number of starts that barely breaks double digits if at all. Moving on.

3. QB
Larry Smith has been showing leadership, commitment, and a return to good health, but people are saying JuCo transfer Jordan Rodgers (younger brother of NFL QB Aaron Rodgers) could give him a run for his money. I’m all about competition for the job in preseason, but I hope this doesn’t become quarterback-by-committee. Hate to say it but whoever’s taking the snaps, he better be able to move.

4. Catching Passes
O-line and QB play were not the only reasons Vanderbilt had the 112th-ranked passing offense in FBS last year. Wide receivers John Cole and Udom Umoh played with a lot of desire, but at 5’11” and 6’0” they’re very undersized. (They also had some bad drops at times.) Word on the street is they’ve been working hard, but we’ve been singing this tune for a while now and until I hear different from preseason camp I’m just going to keep saying it: Use your tight ends more, coach. Brandon Barden and Austin Monahan are both experienced and very capable. Also, I really think Jamie Graham has potential as an offensive weapon and I hope he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Sounds like he’s a DB for good now, but would be nice to see him in the slot every now and again.

5. More Ridiculous Articles About Vanderbilt
I’m setting the line at 4.5 truly awe-inspiring pieces between now and September 4 because I’m seriously beginning to expect at least one per week. Recent journalistic achievements in this category -- the Mike Bianchi “Vanderbilt should get kicked out of the SEC” article followed by Paul Finebaum’s Pulitzer-worthy “Robbie Caldwell insulted me by being a good guy” clown routine followed by hometown reporter David Climer trying to sow seeds of discord within the athletic staff -- really have set a high bar in this category. But who knows, maybe some other nut job will top them. Good luck to all the contestants!


Alex said...

I'd say the biggest question is whether we'll stay healthy enough to beat Tennessee at the end of the season. This year doesn't seem to have much hope already but the only glimmer is that the Volunteers are in disarray. If we can top UT then I will consider this season a success. Plus, at least that'll mean we get a conference win.

Douglas James said...

Its too close to the season to see anything more than little "tweeks" from Caldwell. I think Hand will be the offensive coordinator next season regardless of who is coaching. Our offensive line is very inexperienced. I'm worried. I think Larry Smith holds on to the job, I was hoping Rodgers would take it from him but don't think thats going to be the case. I love Brandon Barden and have been asking them to throw to him more often for a while now. But don't forget we now have Brady Brown (6'5), Jordan Matthews (6'3) and Chris Boyd (6'5). My guess is we only get 3 more absolutely retarded articles before the season starts.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Agreed -- not enough time for too much in the way of offensive revamping. Which is why I, like many, am a bit disappointed with the timing of CBJ's departure. All the backup WRs mentioned are inexperienced and unproven, and in any event aren't set to be starters -- hence the concern.