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AoG Mailbag: Mississippi Aftermath

Now with basketball questions!

Vanderbilt v Mississippi Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

We’re a little late getting this out this week, and that’s all on me. Fortunately, there’s a bye, so extra content Friday is a good thing! As a reminder, I do have to enforce that deadline I list when I post the call for letters. I got a few notes after the fact and I just couldn’t include them. If you’re an hour or whatever late it’s not a big deal, but much past that and it becomes an issue. The reason for this is because in order to get answers from all of us, the questions need to be up long enough for us to be able to make time to write.

In short, if your question was submitted late and not answered, that’s why. It’s (usually) nothing to do with the content of the letters themselves.

In other news, VandyImport has been found, alive and well!

Has either the Vanderbilt administration or boosters (do we have any??) ever taken a deep, active interest in our football team? Every other SEC school seems to have weekly news about their athletic departments taking active steps to ensure that they do better, unlike Vanderbilt. Is my impression correct, and is this one of our major hinderances as a SEC contender?

Tom Stephenson: I mean, are you asking if Zeppos gives a shit? Probably not. I think Gordon Gee really did and it showed.

That said, the administration does seem to make a lot of “business decisions” like a cheapo pro team owner who’s content to cash the revenue sharing checks and season ticket holder deposits while mostly just keeping up appearances of trying to compete. Maybe noted Jets fan VandyTigerPhD can tell you more about that. But there are real concerns that the football program is a money pit, at least if you want to do the things to make it competitive.

VandyImport: Never, ever, ever, ever try to keep pace at the pub with three Irish-Australian women, two of whom are your age. If I hadn’t trained with #HashtagRehab I’d’ve been dead as a rack of ribs. Somebody said something about football?

Oh. This.

I stand by Coach Guepe here: in 2017, there’s no way you can be Harvard six days a week and Alabama on Sunday. As long as we are in a conference with multiple national powers that can fill 100,000 seat stadiums and not worry about keeping kids in the classroom or off the police blotter, we will always be at a competitive disadvantage. A previous coach said we’d need $500 million dollars of investment to get competitive, and I actually agree, because that represents the cost of fifty-something years of leaving the program lying fallow between CAG and the Brigadoon era.

So I don’t think it’s not that they don’t care about football, I think it’s that they don’t want to take the program out of the SEC but they don’t have a loose billion lying around to get us as up to speed as we can legally get. I genuinely think they’re waiting for door number 3 to magically open up and shaking off signs as long as they can.

VandyTigerPhD: Yes, Tom, I can certain go on for hours about a team who’s run by VERY FINE INDIVIDUALS who don’t care at all about putting a quality product on the field. Well, that’s what I choose to believe because it’s far better than assuming the Jets FO is actually trying to get a good team together, but has not drafted a good QB since Ken O’Brien.

Anyway, I think the fact that the off campus stadium was even considered tells us a lot about where the school sees athletics. They see it as beneath them; moreover, the professors at Vandy largely seem to as well. I may have been wrong about my previous impressions about VCDW though, he may just be in a really difficult spot. But the fact is Vanderbilt is very likely looking for a time where they can bulldoze Dudley for any number of stupid things. Thankfully, we managed to avoid that for now.

I couldn’t name for you one big donor for Vanderbilt Athletics other than Ingram, but I have to assume there are other “big donors”. Hell, we’re getting more from former pros now! We know that Price helped for the new baseball facilities for example. In fact, I think that any growth that comes out of our athletics are going to come at that level. Jordan Matthews is another person who clearly has an interest in helping Vandy succeed. Other schools definitely have advantages on this front, but it does FEEL like things may be changing a tad. In the end though, no, I don’t see Vanderbilt administration lifting a finger to do it.

Shittu/Garland/Langford: Does Bryce Drew get none, one or two or all three?

You didn't think I was going to ask a football question.....

VandyImport: Jeez o flip, thank God they sell ibuprofen with codeine without a prescription over the counter in Galway. I think that last drink came from some guy in a bog in Connemara with a still and a jug. The South didn’t invent anything that the Celts didn’t have first, kids...

One. I’m gonna say we get Garland as a karma of the whole Ron Mercer debacle of years gone by, but that’s all, because we can’t have nice things. If we get all three, you’ll know the world is about to end again. (I still maintain we’ve been in Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge territory since the Cubs won the World Series. Prove me wrong. You can’t. God, where’s that bag of ice)

Tom Stephenson: I’ll say that he gets two. As of right now, we only have two scholarships available, so three is off the table (we think)... and I have to think, if the staff were confident about landing Romeo Langford, they probably wouldn’t have taken a commitment from Aaron Nesmith (who’s secretly good, by the way.)

But, and keep in mind I have my black and gold tinted glasses on here, I think we’ll get Garland and Shittu. Garland has seemed to be leaning toward Vanderbilt since the late summer and actually officially eliminated Duke, though he’s taking his time with his decision. As far as Shittu goes, he’s down to us and UNC, and while I normally wouldn’t like our odds, UNC might pick up Darius Days later this week. So... yeah.

VandyTigerPhD: See, I’m so out of BB recruiting I didn’t even know we only had two slots left. That’s not to say we couldn’t voo doo magic ourselves a third, but let’s also throw in some Vandy hijinks in the there, and assume two. If I were a betting man, I’d put hard money on Garland. He seems to be taking his time, but part of that may be machinations in the background (see pay-walled content on other sites for more there).

Why can't this team tackle? They either hit too high and don't wrap up, or play like they are on ice, and aren't in good position.

And if Mason is such a great defensive coach, what the heck is wrong this year?

VandyImport: Look, I tried to stream some of the last game on my phone from the snug at the Merry Ploughboy, but I couldn’t focus on which of the sixty-six guys on the field were Vandy players, so it was just a hell of a mess all around. Thank God for international business class on British Airways because the Dreamliner is a very hangover friendly aircraft with its LED lighting and dimming windows and humidified air that doesn’t take anything from the engine bleed system. Anyway, we have a hell of a great defense and I don't know what the prob—FIFTY SEVEN POINTS? THE HELL DID I DRINK LAST WEEK, EMBALMING FLUID? WHAT THE WHOLE ORGANIC CHICKEN FRIED FU-

(ed. note: VandyImport has been placed in quarantine for his own safety and will be returned to active service after a prolonged Keith-Richards-blood-change detox and repeated screenings of the 2012 SEC Tournament title game.)

Tom Stephenson: In a lot of ways, this is a talent issue. The defensive line lacks an Adam Butler to occupy multiple blockers, and the linebacking corps lacks a Zach Cunningham to clean up misses. I think probably what we didn’t notice last year was that those two were just so, so important to the defense and without them, it just isn’t the same. Plus you’re running a 3-4 defense with a line that’s undersized by SEC standards. There’s only so much you can do elsewhere if you’re having to bring five or six guys on every play just to generate any sort of a push.

I think the tackling issue has gotten beaten to death, but it’s the kind of thing that somehow isn’t a problem when you’re winning the battle in the trenches. What you’re seeing is that this unit has to make a lot of open-field tackles because too many runners are getting into the second level of the defense, and that’s just a lot harder to do. Anybody can look like a good tackler when you’ve got three or four guys getting to the ball carrier.

VandyTigerPhD: I feel like Tom is correct to say that we’re hurting a lot more than we expected to without Butler or Cunningham. Butler was a great NT and frankly, in a 3-4, he was exactly what we needed. You always need a NT that can take two men off the OL, and I don’t think we have that now. Cunningham was, well, everywhere. We’ve not had people step up enough. Also, seriously, look back at the other games. Our DL is obviously undersized against the OLs we’ve gone against. I know that’s been a common fallback this year, but it’s the reality.

The other issue that I want to add to Tom’s comment here is that once a RB has gotten to full speed (i.e. once he reaches the LBs) it’s a LOT harder to tackle. Add to it that we are facing good RBs that can evade and it’s just worse. Our tackling needs to be improved, sure, but a lot of these complaints go away when you win games.