Chalk Talk: Vanderbilt Offense

Stacy Revere


I've decided to bring you guys a fanpost I'm calling Chalk Talk, where we will breakdown what you can expect to see from the Vanderbilt Commodores this season in terms of the X's and the O's. I am a football coach for Gulf Breeze High School in Florida, but I've been a staple in the Murfreesboro area football scene for the better part of the last 5 years. Hopefully you guys enjoy this, and it gives you some insight as to what exactly we're going to be doing in the fall. Sit back, and enjoy.

The Offense

Everybody wants to know, how exactly is this offense going to look compared to last season? The answer to that is very simple, it's going to be different. But I don't think it's going to be Stanford different. Let me explain a little more clearly. Stanford is in the very basic sense a man blocking, Power O type of team. What is Power O? Well...let me explain a little more clearly (bear with me, I had to find pictures).



That play right there, is the barebones Power Play. Here it is done with an H back over a Fullback, but as you can see the left guard in this case is pulling to the right. The Center is reach blocking the tackle, the tackle is scoop blocking the end, and the H (who I would assume goes in motion) will take on the Strong Side Linebacker (as indicated by S). As you can see, your tight end (who would be a Y normally) blocks in on the Defensive End creating an unblocked man (Strong Side Linebacker) who gets tagged by the H. The Tight End does what is called a chip block where he will chip off the end and hit the Weakside Linebacker who at this point would be flowing to the ball. The pulling guard meanwhile would clean up on the middle who would also be flowing to the ball. What this creates is a mismatched side where the offense has the Point of Attack advantage. This creates a running lane off tackle for the Tailback, and in turn normally turns into a 7 yard gain if blocked right (maybe more depending on how the back challenges the safety or if the corner tackles well). Let's look at the play in a still frame.



Alright, as you see here Stanford is running the Power O to the Left Side. Number 52 is pulling left while number 82 (Zach Ertz I believe) is going to take on the corner. Number 52 is going to take on the linebacker currently standing on the Pac-12 logo. Here the fullback and left tackle are planning on swapping targets. As you can see the left tackle firmly placed the Defensive End into the dirt, he'll probably scramble to get up where he will be met by the fullback. Meanwhile the left tackle will creep up and hit number 3 in the mouth. This allows the back time and space to get off the edge and up field. He has an added benefit of one safety being down in the box on the weak side. I had a video of the power play, but it isn't blocked like we see above.

As you can see, the guard is still pulling. Yet Virginia Tech is going with a run blitz. Stanford finds a way to block it, and in turn you have a huge gain and touchdown on the play.

Now back to Vanderbilt. Are they going to run the Power play? Yes, they will indeed run the Power play. However, it won't be a staple as much as it was at Stanford. While Derek Mason came from Stanford, his offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell did not. Coach Dorrell is a West Coast Offense guy in the purest form. His last job was coaching the Texans' quarterbacks the year Schaub went down and the team still finished 12-4. Before that he was part of the trainwreck that had become the Miami Dolphins from 2008-2011. It's hard to hold that against him, considering he didn't get the quarterbacks until 2011 and before that Chad Henne was all but ruined. He did a fairly decent job with the receivers from 2008-2010 despite having a whose who of wideouts. Davone Bess came into his own as a student of Dorrell, so there is always that to hang his hat on.

The last evidence we have from Coach Dorrell having anything remotely close to play calling duties is the work he did as UCLA's head coach. He had a number of coordinators who worked under him, but the scheme remained fairly similar to what I expect to be ran at Vanderbilt. Zone blocking was the key word going around the Vanderbilt Spring game, and with backs like Ralph Webb, Brian Kimbrow, and Jerron Seymour it's hard to not see success with it. It's hard to compare our offense to anybody else. I would say it's fair to think we'll be similar to Stanford, just with more zones than powers because of our size at the moment, another team with a similar style might be the Colts. Let's talk about the key elements of the zone running game we'll be using.

Inside Zone

This is one of the most basic plays you'll ever learn. You basically get the ball, and your cutback lane is to the inside. It's designed to open up holes from tackle to tackle. Let's take a look at an example (I know it's poor quality, but you take what you can get).

As you can see, everything is set up for the back to hit an inside hole. If he does this, chances are he'll have a monster gain (as we've seen with Ralph Webb).

Outside Zone (Stretch)

Another very basic play, the line fans out and the back picks a hole. When he does it correctly it can be a high yielding play. This is something I would expect Kimbrow to run 9 times out of 10, however Seymour and Webb could run it as well and provide a more "powerful" punch to the zone game.

Here you can see Arian Foster taking the ball and choosing to go for a cutback that's still fairly inside BUT with the line fanning out and stretching out the defense it allowed some of his interior linemen to reach the linebackers. That's where you could see Ralph Webb excel.

Counter play

It's hard for me to imagine a counter without SOME power, but I'm going to go ahead and throw this in because this is one of those things that tags in well with a zone blocking scheme. One of my favorite videos is coming up, and you will see why this play is MONEY for any of our running backs.

That my friends is one of the more beautiful counter plays you will ever see. I'd expect Vanderbilt to run it quite a bit in the near future.

We've already discussed the Power Play, so expect those four plays to make up a majority of our offensive scheme this year. We do have some big boys in the bullpen so don't be too surprised if you see more power running and dives in our future. Given the size of the line starting this year though, I would be shocked if we weren't more zone based (which really isn't a bad thing at all).

Passing game

Now let's talk about the passing game. Vanderbilt the last couple of years has lived and died by Jordan Matthews, and losing him hurt. So how do we replace him? Well, that's going to come in the form of Dillon van der Wal, Steven Scheu, and Davis Dudchock. All of them are tight ends, and to be quite honest all of them are the best receivers we have left. Dudchock played a reserved tight end role at Stanford, and never caught much. Van der Wal was the first 4 star Franklin recruit, and to be honest he's been underwhelming at best. And Scheu caught on in a reserve role last year. So why exactly are these three guys who together have less than 20 career receptions going to help us? Because now we have an offense who will use them.

Van der Wal was the key cog to what has been a very disappointing class. Barron Dixon has only registered 51 tackles and 3 sacks in a reserve role, Derek King is a reserve running back (recruited as a corner), Kellen Williams is a fullback (recruited as a linebacker) fighting for playing time behind 3 others, Casey Hughes has done nothing of note. Lafonte Thourogood is a quarterback at James Madison . Jacquese Kirk stabbed a teammate. Darien Bryant left the program, came back, then left again to go to West Virginia. Jake Bernstein has been a pretty successful part of the offensive line and is over 300 lbs. James Lewis transferred from Vanderbilt to Tennessee State (at least he cares about his education). Larry Franklin is gone. Jahmel McIntosh is expected to step it up with all the departures in the secondary. Conor Hart left (not sure why). Mitchell Hester was dismissed. Steven Scheu is expected to contribute a lot as his role will expand. Jimmy Stewart went to DE, and is now back at OLB. I'd expect him to join the rotation there. Josh Grady is a receiver, no he's a quarterback, no he's a receiver. I'm hoping Mason does the right thing and moves this kid back to wideout. Andrew Williamson is another expected to step up in the secondary. Jose Valedon left the program. Kris Kentera is a reserve wide receiver. Joe Townsend is one of the best Centers in the SEC. And of course we've got Jerron Seymour leading the way for the backs.

Sorry, I got off on a tangent there. I just remembered how bad Franklin's first class really was. 14 out of 22 players still with the program, and now we need them all to step up. Anyway, back to the offense.

I would expect outside of our 3 tight ends, we could look at Brian Kimbrow as a Charlie Garner/Reggie Bush/Danny Woodhead type of option. In my mind, Webb and Seymour will handle the heavy loads. Kimbrow is likely the 3rd down back or the back they use in a passing game and an occassional runner. In terms of wide receivers? Well...Matthews, Boyd, and Krause are all gone. Leaving the 2010 cupboard dry. In terms of 2011, outside of Josh Grady (if he goes back) and Kris Kentera that option is out as well. Cory Batey was the only wideout in the 2012 class and we know what happened there. If I had to guess, I'd say Jordan Cunningham would be my top choice to go over 1000 yards. I'm also excited to see how DeAndre Woods pans out.

What you can expect, for starters would be multiple tight end sets. With the lack of explosive playmakers at receiver and the overall experience level of our tight ends, I'd venture to guess that we will line up with at least two tight ends on most plays. Obviously we will have our stick play, our cross play, and our smash play (all of which are also common in the Air Raid), but in terms of the passing game and what else comes in it is entirely in the mind of Dorrell. The WCO has so many passing plays they can dial up, that most times coordinators pick and choose which ones bet fit their scheme. I would say given the accuracy of Patton Robinette and Johnny McCrary that quick routes would be more of the idea over long developing routes that require accurate passing. Should Rivers win the job, you might see an entirely different concept all together. Rivers is fairly accurate and has a cannon for an arm, pretty scary combo. While McCrary certainly is no slouch, 11 for 18 (61%) isn't the type of accuracy Dorrell wants in this offense. That's not to say McCrary isn't the better option, I believe it's him and Rivers at this moment. If it were myself, I'd start Johnny McCrary if he understands the playbook fully. If not then Rivers almost has to be your guy.


Don't expect Vanderbilt to become the offensive powerhouse in the SEC...yet. Outside of Cunningham, the outside threats are few and far between. I wouldn't be surprised if Mason is looking at some big time receivers to see if they would come in to Vanderbilt. You can expect better offensive production. I can honestly say that we've got better offensive coaches now than what we had. Donovan didn't do an overly great job, but he did well enough. Truthfully? Bob Shoop is what made Vanderbilt a great program over the last several years. I think we'll continue the tradition of a strong defense, but I do expect we will be better overall on offense than last season. I don't know if we have a 1,000 yard rusher this year, only because our back depth is so deep we will use a 3 back rotation. I don't know if we have a 1,000 yard receiver on this team, but if I had to guess Cunningham would be that guy. I expect van der Wal, Dudchock, and Scheu to all be over 20 catches this season. In terms of success, Vanderbilt was 57 in the nation in Points Per Game with 30. The reality is the offense only produced 366 yards per game and accounted for less than 5,000 yards. As a team we accounted for only 15 passing touchdowns. While we accounted for 34 rushing touchdowns, we were 94th in rushing yards.

These are stats which have to improve greatly. Our defense accounted for a lot of touchdowns, and a lot of great field position last year. But we cannot expect them to do that every year. Truth be told, with all the new secondary pieces THIS needs to be the year our offense drives down the field and scores at will. Transition on defense makes the offense have to step it up a little bit quicker, if they can do that then Vanderbilt will be a very deadly football team.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my fanpost.

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