clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Continuity is the key to Vanderbilt's hopes for offensive improvement

New, comments

Unlike in 2015, the Commodores retained their offensive coordinator, and the presumptive quarterback of the future won't be learning a new system.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Vanderbilt Commodores featured an offense that could be fairly described as "putrid."  The Commodores averaged 4.5 yards per play and 15.2 ppg.  Things look even worse when you remove the Austin Peay game (because a game against an 0-11 FCS team shouldn't really count): in the eleven games against FBS opponents, Vanderbilt averaged 4.2 yards per play and 12.3 ppg.

But regular AoG readers probably didn't need numbers to tell them that Vanderbilt had a bad offense last year.  You saw it, after all.  But the numbers do suggest that the 2015 offense might have actually been worse than the 2014 offense, and we all remember (unfortunately) the 2014 offense:

So if Vanderbilt's offense might have been worse than an offense in which Stephen Rivers played a prominent role, what hope is there for 2016?

Well, for one thing, the offensive coordinator is back.  That's not to suggest that Karl Dorrell returning in 2015 would have been a good thing for the offense, but Vanderbilt's offensive players won't have to learn a new system again.  A year in Andy Ludwig's offense should make a difference.

For another thing, the quarterback situation is a lot more settled entering 2016 than it's been the last couple of years.  There's some degree of irony in the fact that if Kyle Shurmur had redshirted last season, we probably would be more excited about his potential than we are after watching his growing pains after his redshirt was burned midway through last season.  But there is a good argument that his struggles last season were just that: growing pains, and not "this guy actually sucks, let's see what Wade Freebeck has in the tank."  If you're an optimist, Johnny McCrary's decision to transfer can be read as him seeing the writing on the wall: Shurmur was going to be the starter going forward, and McCrary wasn't very confident that Shurmur would fail to lock down the starting job.

(If you're a pessimist, McCrary's transfer was a result of the coaching staff mishandling the situation, and now if Shurmur doesn't lock down the job the alternatives are Wade Freebeck, Shawn Stankavage, and true freshman Deuce Wallace.  But you don't come to AoG to read about things other than sunshine and unicorns.)

What's more, there aren't a lot of losses on the rest of the depth chart: five of the top six rushers return, which includes the entire running back rotation (McCrary was the team's third-leading rusher last year.)  So, too, do six of the top seven receivers, which includes basically the entire wide receiver rotation (TE Steven Scheu, obviously, does have to be replaced.)  Starters Spencer Pulley and Jake Bernstein are gone off the offensive line, but that's mitigated a bit by Andrew Jelks returning from injury and promising rising sophomore Justin Skule having some experience under his belt.

You can't talk yourself into Vanderbilt having a great offense in 2016 unless Shurmur just improves by leaps and bounds over last season.  But you can talk yourself into Vanderbilt having a decent offense in 2016 that, when paired with a top-shelf defense, could ultimately be good enough to get to a bowl game.