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Vanderbilt Football Mail Bag #4

You ask, we answer.

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NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Vanderbilt
Where there’s smoke...
Sarah E Howell-USA TODAY Sports

Question from DoreJam:

Any idea how much Mason’s buyout is? Asking for a friend…

Question from BarnDore1950:

What will it take for Malcolm Turner to pull the trigger on Derek Mason and change football coaches? Personally, I think 3-9 with no SEC victories might do it. How impactful will Bryce Drew’s buyout be in the decision on Derek Mason?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t know what his buyout is, but it’s not something that you will raise on Gofundme. It’s also probably an amount that John Ingram can write a check for if that’s the direction Vanderbilt wants to go. The point is it doesn’t matter.

As far as what it will take, I don’t know. There are rather persistent rumors that David Williams basically assured Mason that he would get 2020 right around the time his name came up in connection with the Colorado job, and that was (I’m guessing) a reason why he didn’t take that job. Personally I’d agree with you that 3-9/0-8 in the SEC is a fireable offense.

DotP: Not sure about the buyout at all. I think 3-9 gets it paid though. A 4-8 season might keep him if the win is over UT or a ranked opponent AND the other games are one-score or less. I cannot see even me endorsing the retention at that point, but it would somewhat understandable, especially if that win is in the Swamp against a Top 15 Gator team whose only other loss was LSU.

Andrew VU ‘04: I have no idea what Mason’s buyout number is, but I have to assume it’s at least one year of his salary. Seeing as we’re a private university, Vanderbilt does not have to release official contract details with its coaches. Our best guess is Mason is making north of $3 million per year. We know when his contract was extended in 2017, The Tennesseean reported he got a raise over his previous base salary of $2.5 million per year. We also know that his contract was extended yet again in February of 2019. Details of that extension are even more cloaked in mystery.

Long story short: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As for BarnDore1950’s question, I have to assume 3-9 would be enough for Turner to go coach shopping. It’s been 6 years of this, and even though Turner has just been around for a bit, you have to assume he was smart enough to do his homework on his coaches’ previous seasons. I’m not sure 4-8 would save him. As for the impact of Bryce Drew’s buyout... well, I don’t know his athletic department budget, but Vanderbilt is not exactly hurting for money.

Shawn: I’m with you fellas, 3-9 is enough to show Mason the door. I am always curious, though, who can we replace him with? Who wants this job? Who wants to the recruiting challenges, the Department challenges? The Conference challenges? I am compiling a list and waiting to drop it when the time comes, but let’s just say, if you think Lane isn’t on it, you have another thing coming.

Question from A Dore in Dallas:

After the Ole Miss loss, it looks like there is no way VU goes to a bowl game this year. So why don’t we play Deuce Wallace so he can get some experience and be better prepared next year when he is the quarterback?

Does Jason Tarver have a clue as to what is going on?

And why do you think Gerry Gdowski is such an unimaginative play caller?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: So here’s the thing: I don’t think Deuce Wallace is the future at quarterback. If you’re going to bench a starting quarterback for a quarterback who’s actually worse, that doesn’t make any sense unless you really do think the backup has a real future. Now, if Jamil Muhammad were still around, my opinion might be different. But the way I see 2020 playing out is that if Deuce Wallace is the starter, he’s only going to be a placeholder until the coaching staff is comfortable going to incoming freshman Ken Seals. Hell, I would not be shocked if Seals wins the starting job out of fall camp. Ergo, what exactly are you accomplishing by replacing Neal with Wallace?

As to the other questions, I don’t know about Tarver. I just don’t know if the defense is a scheme issue or a players issue. And as for Gdowski, well, there’s probably a reason he hasn’t been a coordinator anywhere bigger than a MAC school.

DotP: I am going to start with Tarver. I think this season is a LB and S personnel issue more than anything. Last season, there were too many complicated “games” along the DL that, when not perfectly executed, left GAPING holes. This season, the DL is doing a pretty decent job of eating up blocks and stuffing gaps. The next level is not quite doing their job behind them. Big plays are hurting us, often due to RS FR safeties making poor decisions or tackles. Those guys were expected to backup Frank Coppet and Tae Daley who have been varying levels of banged up.

After Ole Miss, it appears Gdowski was possibly trying to protect Riley Neal from himself. Still, the man is also the QB coach. He should have a better plan of attack because Neal does have some skills. If not, then he should have recognized that and gone with a heavily option-based attack and probably used Deuce — though Neal has shown he can be an effective, if not speedy runner. Overall, Gdowski is likely just not tactically advanced enough to understand how to help his QB while still attacking the weaknesses of defenses.

When it comes to Neal vs Wallace, Deuce at least needs a shot. Neal has shown some qualities that severely handicap this team, even if his arm talent is higher than Wallace’s. In watching the Ole Miss game back, Riley only really stepped into a handful of throws. When he does, he is effective (see: the last 3 plays of the first half to setup a FG). The problem is that most of the time, Neal is getting caught with his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage because he either sits at the back of his dropback OR flushes backwards instead of stepping up in the pocket, which has been there on about 80% of his dropbacks. Then he misfires, whether by being inaccurate or not getting enough “zip” on the ball and giving the DB a chance to make a play on the ball.

I have no idea what Deuce Wallace can do. We have only seen him in garbage time. The stats are not good, BUT he has shown to be doing things that Neal will not do. He steps up into the pocket and is willing to make the throws. We have weapons. They cannot make plays if our QB refuses to give them a chance by holding the ball too long and delivering passes that are uncatchable. Wallace SHOULD also give us a running threat, but Gdowski apparently refuses to give him the chance. A game against UNLV is the perfect chance to give Deuce a chance to play with the starters. Some guys look great in practice when they are not worried about a pass rush then wilt in games while others may not have the pure talent but embrace and enjoy the game environment in a way that makes them more effective.

Also, ditto on Tom’s comment about Muhammad. He is also right about next season.

Andrew VU ‘04: Why stop at Deuce? I, for one, welcome the undead corpse of Stephen Rivers, and/or Piece of String. If we’ve got to lose, why not lose via hilarious chest-passes?

Question from William G.:

My dad and I both played football at Vanderbilt. My dad played during a golden age of Vanderbilt football. My Grandparents in Nashville lived and died with Vanderbilt University and also the football program. My Grandfather never got over the fact that Vanderbilt had a chance to go to the “Rose bowl” but blew it by a loss to a heavy underdog Alabama team. Now my question: how much money does Vanderbilt receive yearly from membership in the Southeastern Conference?

Thank you. VU ‘64. My dad VU ‘38.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Probably about $40 million a year. Where that money goes, no one is quite sure.

DotP: As the Hired Auburn Man, no one cares about the SEC checks. It is alllll about what the bag man can provide. Deal with it.

Andrew VU ‘04: That is one heck of a VU football legacy. Mine is that I once organized a tackle football game between the two all male floors of my freshman dorm. I got a concussion playing QB on like the 2nd play, and another guy shattered his leg in multiple spots a few plays later. Oh, and there was once a snow football game on the quad where one of my tackles tore a friend’s knee ligaments right up, and another dude accidentally broke a young lady’s jaw going up for a catch. And the name of that young man was Robert Penn Warren.

As for your question, the best I can tell is they get the regular SEC school payout, which is just north of $40 million per year now.

Shawn: That SECN is legit. And it’s going up. The University loves the funds and sees football as a necessary evil. We’re good in so many other sports, so football is just the thing to keep the checks coming in and the Department afloat without sullying the ivory tower. Maybe that’s cynical, and I hope I am wrong. Otherwise, I see no reason why they haven’t gone all in with financial investment the way Duke—a comparable school—has.

Question from VUlnerable:

For years I’ve said: “If Vandy just had a good punter and a consistent kicker, we would win more games.” Well, it appears that we have those this year, but we’re not winning games. So, it’s proof that I don’t know anything. That’s OK, I’m also a Vandy fan. Guilty as charged...I don’t know anything. The question, though, is do you agree that our kicking game has improved or is it just that our other facets are so terrible that even a bad kicking game looks good?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, it’s improved. Harrison Smith is a good punter, and Ryley Guay is no longer randomly shanking 30-yard field goals, so that’s definitely an improvement.

DotP: The field goal kicking could not have performed better, with Guay making all 6 FG attempts and Rice chipping one in during his absence against NIU. Harrison Smith has been launching balls while also getting a lot of them downed in good areas. Of his 36 punts, 14 have been downed inside the 20. Smith is giving our defense long fields to defend most of the time.

Andrew VU ‘04: Our kicking game has improved—especially our field goal kicking game #GuayPride. However, we have had kicking success in the past. Carey Spear once came down from Geatland to cave in the bone-cage of Cordarelle Patterson and render him to wound-slurry (*Note: Yes, I am currently teaching Beowulf).

I’ll double down on your “I’ve always said” with one of my own—I’ve always said that if I were an NFL caliber high school punting prospect, I would sign with Vanderbilt. With our offensive woes, you’re going to have way more opportunity to show off your leg than at Ramajama. Hell, punter Brett Upson was the damned MVP of the ‘08 Music City Bowl.

Question from ComradDore:

Why wan’t my question picked last week?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Jeff Green Traveled.

DotP: Because communism is bad.

Shawn: Two drinks turned to too many.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t because we did not have a mail bag last week (though we most certainly did not). You know what you did.