Andrew VU '04: Derek Mason's no Cicero, but can he be a Ditka or Madden? In other words, did last week's pre-game locker room speech make you feel ready to run into a brick wall for him? Should we stop running into brick walls when football coaches fire us up? Well, ignore that last part, as it's a question for another day.
VandyTigerPhD: Let’s all just watch this video again. Mason had a good pre-game talk during UMass also, but this was something intense and awesome. As you are aware, I am a competitive ass. As I watched this, I wanted to lay someone the heck out for him, I can’t imagine what the men must’ve felt after all the prep and who were actually about to do battle.
Actually, I do know. For this was a team who not only played to win, they played like they deserved to win. I don’t mean to say the previous games were the result of lack of trying, or lack of motivation; however, this USC game gave me great confidence that the team believed in itself. It is just as Mason says, "History will be written tonight – if you believe." You can have all the talent in the world, but it means jack squat if you don’t believe in your own skills. The team last Saturday played like a team that dared to believe that they could win. And they nearly did.
This kind of pep talk was not just needed for the players though, but for the fans. A lot of fans expressed a lot of doubt in the leadership ability of Coach Mason not so much for the losses but for the way he seemed to react to what was happening. You pointed it out in your article on Ethos, and it was a great point – the interactions we had seen from Coach Mason to that point did not inspire confidence. I agreed with you, and a large majority of the fans believed you. Hell, even Coach Mason commented about how he felt like he was looking at a stranger when he saw how he acted during the Temple game.
Maybe this was building, maybe it was nerves, maybe it was poor portrayal, maybe it was just poor handling of the media to start. It doesn’t really matter if this is the Coach Mason that the players interact with. This is a coach that I’d want to give my best for. I will say, however, that even in the media interactions, Coach Mason has been considerably better since that win over UMass. So overall, I’m super excited about what the team and coaching staff have been showing us lately.
VandyTigerPhD: How do you feel about the 3-4 now that we're 1/3 of the way into the season? Obviously, we've got some issues at CB which we'll need to address, but I think it's clear the defense is strong and getting stronger. Those fumbles go our way and the USC game is a different ending.
Andrew VU'04: (Shakes Magic 8 Ball) "Ask again next year."
Again, I agree with you, Marge. In theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.
The 3-4 makes sense for us based on the type of athlete we can recruit, the type of offenses we're increasingly likely to face, and the coach we hired. However, it's likely '16 before this experiment bears fruit
VU04: With what we saw towards the end of the UMass game and while The General was beating The Cocks, might Dorrell just be the kind of offensive coordinator who is actually willing to adapt his preferred system to the talent we have?
VandyTigerPHD: It’s a little of both, really. We’re certainly utilizing the ground attack better, and my God, Webb and Seymour have the potential to be an absolutely devastating one-two punch. Webb is already there and Seymour really isn’t that far behind. I’m really excited to see where those two go in a few years.
I’ve been saying this for a while, but we need to be using the ground attack to bring in the defense, force them to overload the box, and then air it out. We’ve been doing a lot of that in the early parts of both games, doing what is a much more "traditional" football approach. Heck, it’s so traditional, it’s one that most NFL teams don’t even do anymore. However, it’s what works and we’ve got the personell to run a ground and pound, so we should do more of that, in my opinion.
In the later parts of the game, we’ve been moving more towards a pass first attack, but it’s not as "West Coast" as one may think. It’s more of an air-raid attack with a lot of passes downfield, as opposed to the 1,232,312 2-yard passes to Jerry Rice that the 49ers ran for years.
One thing though that makes this offense more of a hybrid though is the utilization of all those tight ends. Having 2 or 3 TEs on each set really makes us a dangerous team. We can utilize those guys as extra blockers like we did in several Ace sets last week, or we can fake it, and have an open TE way down field for a 20+ yard strike. I’m liking where the Offense seems to be going, and while I think that Dorrell wants Freebeck to be in a pass-first offense, the system is slowly changing to something in-between a traditional and WCO.
VandyTigerPhD: Speaking of Patton "the General" Robinette, let's talk Wade Freebeck. I know both of us were very frustrated to see his red shirt burned for seemingly no reason in that UMass game. However, I think that we both can agree that the reasons the staff is high on Freebeck were obvious against USC. Dare I say... shades of Cutler FR year?
Andrew VU'04: Absolutely. However, you must remember Cutler redshirted as a freshman (not going to let this drop). The raw talent is obvious, but the emphasis is on raw. He's got an arm cannon, and throws a tight spiral. His mechanics, despite being young, are phenomenal. The big difference between Big Wade and Smokin' Jay as freshmen (other than Smokin' Jay's kick-ass red shirt) was that Jay was more of an athlete. Freebeck's the classic drop-back QB, and though Smokin' Jay has become that, he was a major running threat his first few years in black and gold.
Let's just pray Big Wade doesn't take as many hits as Smokin' Jay did while here.
VU04: We both thought the players and the coaching staff showed a lot last week. A lot. However, have they shown enough that you're willing to predict a victory over an SEC team this year?
VandyTigerPhD: Yes. And the one I’m most comfortable in calling is the one tomorrow. ? Absolutely. The improvement of these guys really have shown me that they have the key ingredients to get at least one SEC win, and possibly one of those patented "games we shouldn’t".
Kentucky gets little respect, much like Vandy, so I don’t say these things easily, but I think they’re our best chance for an SEC win. I had UGA as a loss before the season started, as well as Mizzou, and even with Mizzou’s hilarious loss to Indiana, I stand by that. I did not have State as a loss, but I’ll say we’re not ready for them just yet. Maybe that’ll change in the next months. That leaves us UF and UT if UK isn’t a win for us. Florida is a possibility, and I can’ t believe I’m saying THAT.
Yeah, Florida went toe to toe with Bama, and should have won. That’s however the power of Will Muschamp. Who knows? UF may decide to replace him midseason because they just hate him that much.
Then we’re left with Tennesse, which I’m just not looking forward to. Why? Because Tennessee fans think we’ve enjoyed our two wins too much, the irony of which seems completely lost on them. When we lose to them (and I don’t know when that will be), they will make every effort to make us lose by triple digits. That said, I will place my stamp of "rivalry game magic" on it, and say that who the hell knows what will happen.
VandyTigerPhD: The crowds at Vandy from Franklin's arrival and beyond have been obviously better since our time there. Right now, the fans seem much more invested and actually seem to care if we lose. If we revert to a record like we're used to seeing (1 or 2 wins total) where do you see the fans, particularly the students falling? Do you think they'll be forgiving of the situation, or will we see a return to the indifference that pervaded the student body for far too long?
Andrew VU'04: I don't give a shit. Casual/sidewalk fans will ebb and flow based on the record, especially if the record stays constant for a few years in a row. I care only about improvement, and seeing enough from the coaching staff to hang our hats on going forward. I don't care how many hats are hanging.
However, I do predict a return to Robbie Caldwell levels of fan support this year. It's inevitable. Whatever.