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Tuesday Talk: How should we feel about the defense?

Vanderbilt’s defense smothered MTSU, but then last year’s defense did the same thing.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt’s defense held MTSU to seven points on Saturday. Are you impressed, or do you want to see more?

DoreonthePlains: I need to see more. Our defense was not quite as dominant as last year. A defense’s DBs are really stressed by the short, quick passing attack that MTSU employs, so it is understandable that a host of new contributors was taxed a bit. Even more youth was brought into action when Wiley was ejected for targeting. With Zaire Jones suspended about a week before the opening game, Tarver was down his two presumed starters at safety for much of the game. Overall, I am pleased with the performance and saw reasons for optimism, but their offense is also a very different scheme than what we face the rest of the year along with being of lower talent across the board.

Andrew VU ‘04: Though Brent Stockstill has been playing QB at Empty S-U since time immemorial, I need to see more. The Odeyingbros looked solid, and our DBs played well, but I would have liked our hog-mollies up front to have had an easier time pushing the significantly lighter Blue Raider offensive line around. Further, I would have liked to see some more inventive blitzes, but I get that we likely played vanilla against the boys from Mufreesboro (and will likely do the same against Nevada).

VandyTigerPhD: I’m satisfied. They hit a level of doing a few different blitzes so not to be too predictable, but not enough to be completely unpredictable. VU04 is correct that they need to show a little more innovation, and likely won’t see it against Nevada. Perhaps one or two more, but I think Mason is working his way up on that front. Notre Dame is likely the game he’s going all out on. The only concern I really had during the game was speed. If you’re going to blitz, you gotta be faster to the QB. Speed against MTSU is a concern to watch out for once we start playing better opponents.

Christian D’Andrea: I was more impressed with the sudden aggression the team played with up front. Jason Tarver’s gameplan dialed up a ton of blitzes and kept Brent Stockstill backpedaling all evening. Not only did this force a ton of back-foot throws, but it also took the pressure from a safety unit that was missing two starters by the second quarter. I was particularly happy with the play we got from Louis Vecchio, who was a lottery ticket graduate transfer from Penn who is living proof the Ivy is ready for its spot in the FCS playoff.

Tom Stephenson: I have dueling thoughts here. On the one hand, Vanderbilt’s defense more or less did this to MTSU last year and we all saw how that ended. There was still a bit of the 2016 voodoo going on (MTSU got the ball inside the Vanderbilt 40 on four occasions and scored seven points, which doesn’t exactly seem sustainable and was where the 2017 defense got burned.) So this wasn’t the complete shutdown that you saw in 2017. On the other hand, this is what Vanderbilt’s defense looks like without its starting safeties.

I also find it to be a hidden positive that two of the least-heralded recruits in the 2017 recruiting class (Brayden DeVault-Smith and Allan George, both of whom picked Vanderbilt over FCS offers) look like they’ll be at least valuable reserves as redshirt freshmen, which might speak to Mason’s eye for talent on that side of the ball.

Do you think Vanderbilt will continue to use three running backs, or do you think anybody will take the lion’s share of carries going forward?

DoreonthePlains: The carry sharing will continue, but it looks like Blasingame and Vaughn are the 1A and 1B options with Wakefield behind them but still expected to contribute significantly. Within each game, Ludwig will likely go with the “hot hand” mentality as stated. It will take a really competitive game before we see the real plan though. Game one got comfortable in the second half, so it is hard to know if they just wanted to give the less experienced Wakefield more snaps or were riding the hot hand there.

Andrew VU ‘04: I know his numbers were underwhelming, but I was most impressed with Vaughn’s burst. I’d love to see a thunder and lightning approach with Blasingame doing the thumping and Vaughn jitterbugging through the trees. More than anything, I’d like the two of them to be afforded time and carries to get into a rhythm. I’d employ Wakefield when either of the aforementioned two backs need a breather. Seven different Dores got a carry this weekend... which seems... high. I fully expect Ludwig to call either a fumblerooski or The Annexation of Puerto Rico to get the center a carry next week, as well.

VandyTigerPhD: Agree with my colleagues here. RB by committee will continue and seemed to work to our benefit. Vaughn and Blasingame definitely have different strengths, and properly using them will also involve properly using them on passing plays. As always, innovation is the key to Vanderbilt success.

Christian D’Andrea: Derek Mason loves platoons. And since he can’t realistically put one together at quarterback this year, he’ll rotate through the other position in the backfield instead. Besides, the Blasingame-Wakefield-Vaughn trio is different enough to fill whatever role the team needs. I’m a fan.

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, I think this will continue for the foreseeable future. In the modern game of football, giving one guy 25-30 carries per game just isn’t the norm any more, regardless of how Vanderbilt used Ralph Webb for four years. Blasingame has a very different skill set that comes in useful at times, and I think you’ll see Jamauri Wakefield get the ball too.

*Bonus Question: Why do you think former TV Cop McLane Mannix de-committed, only to commit to our week two opponent: Nevada? The Hoover Dam? The dry heat? Legal prostitution?

Andrew VU ‘04: Mannix!


Christian D’Andrea: Reno gave us the music video for Eddie Money’s Take Me Home Tonight. The hell you leave it alone.

Tom Stephenson: Come on man, the Hoover Dam is a full 500 miles from Reno. Mannix wanted to be on the coming reboot of Reno 9-1-1, obviously.