We're one week into the season and seemingly zero weeks closer to figuring out the solution to Vanderbilt's quarterback problems. The Commodores entered 2014 with the task of replacing veteran starter Austyn Carta-Samuels behind center, but a talented troika of passers looked set to move this team into the future. Even though Patton Robinette was named the team's starter for the team's opening night against Temple, Vandy fans got to see all three quarterbacks drop back and lead this team against a non-conference foe.
It wasn't good.
Vanderbilt's three QBs led their team to zero offensive points and stalled out in a 37-7 whooping at the talons of the Owls. Now, first year head coach Derek Mason will have to choose a starter to take on the #17 Ole Miss Rebels this Saturday. Without a clear leader in the clubhouse, there's a chance that the Commodores could see three different players taking snaps for the second week in a row.
So what is Mason and offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell working with? Let's take a look at how the 'Dores performed at quarterback last week:
First Quarterback: Patton Robinette
Stats: 4-6, 38 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, five carries, -14 yards, 4.9 QB Rating.
Most Memorable Moment: Earning announcer concern for his mental condition after Derek Mason pulled him early in the second quarter. Robinette didn't have time to do too much else on the field last Thursday.
Observational Analysis: The SEC Network announcers faulted Mason for pulling Robinette after just six passes but the truth is that he looked like the same quarterback he was in 2013 in that limited span. The sophomore took too much time to watch plays develop and continued his bad habit of being a step behind the team's windows of opportunity downfield. By the time he gets the ball out of his hands, opposing defenses have had the chance to adjust and stop big gains before they can happen.
He may have had more in the tank, but he wasn't given the chance to show it last Thursday. He'll have to improve his reads and deliver quick, crisp passes downfield in order to be a viable option to lead this team's offense. Robinette can bounce back from this. This kid beat Tennessee - do you really think that an early hook in a non-conference game is going to rattle him if a swaying Neyland Stadium couldn't?
Second Quarterback: Stephen Rivers
Stats: 12-25, 186 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, three carries, -9 yards, 23.7 QB Rating.
Most Memorable Moment: Getting sacked and "fumbling" in a momentum-shifting play that put Temple in control of this game.
Observational Analysis: Rivers looked like the man for the job on Thursday night...in stretches. He was able to string together three solid drives that showed off his ability to improvise in the pocket, create time for his receivers to get open, and identify opportunities downfield. Unfortunately, he couldn't make those drives count and petered out at or near the red zone before the 'Dores could score any points.
Still, that was the most success that any Vandy QB had moving the ball against Temple, and inconsistently good is still better than consistently bad.
Third Quarterback: Johnny McCrary
Stats: 0-3, 0 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 0 carries, 0 yards, 0.0 QB Rating.
Most Memorable Moment: Finishing his first quarter of NCAA play with two completed passes - both to Temple cornerback Tavon Young.
Observational Analysis: The first interception was excusable. McCrary got hit as he was stepping forward, taking some heat off the ball and allowing Young to run under it. The second was much less encouraging. McCrary stared down his receiver for several seconds, allowing the Temple cornerback to make an easy read, jump the route, and end the redshirt freshman's night. McCrary may have the most pure talent of the three passers in Vandy's stable, but he's also got the steepest learning curve right now. He'll have to power through these growing pains before he can become a legitimate option at quarterback for the Commodores.
The AoG Pick at Starter: Rivers showed on Thursday that he gives this team the best chance to win in its current state. Robinette, however, still has the tools to be an effective quarterback against Ole Miss. McCrary will loom in the background, but he looks like he needs more seasoning before he jumps into SEC play. The best move for Mason right now is to insert Stephen Rivers as the team's starter, but to keep Patton Robinette warm on the sideline in case the LSU transfer fails to overcome a slow start against the Rebels. However, none of Vandy's quarterbacks will be especially effective against a Southeastern defense if the team's offensive line can't improve on its performance from last Thursday's contest.