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Vanderbilt Football Mail Bag #5

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You ask, we answer.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Question(s) from jeturn:

1. What key characteristics, experience and/or traits do you believe are most important in the next Vandy football coach?

2. What coaches (who might just be available IF there was a head coaching vacancy somewhere) might best fit those key characteristics?

3. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Question from WestEndMayhem:

Who next?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: This is probably going to sound trite, but the most important thing here is always going to be fit. That doesn’t mean that coaching acumen or salesmanship are unimportant, but the basic reality of the Vanderbilt job is that Kirkland is going to do what Kirkland does, and the football coach (or any coach of a sports team) just has little control over that. You’re not going to get everyone you want through admissions, some athletes are going to be scared off by the academic workload, and the sooner you accept that Kirkland’s idea of college athletics is very different from that practiced at most of the Power 5 (possible exceptions: Stanford, Northwestern, Duke), the more likely you are to succeed, because Kirkland isn’t changing its tune any time soon.

As far as the candidates, who fits the bill? Willie Fritz at Tulane is a good offensive coach and a winner who’s also spent some time working at a university that functions a lot like Vanderbilt. I would also take a long look at UAB’s Bill Clark. If you insist on a coach with Power 5 head coaching experience, you might consider Mike MacIntyre, the former San Jose State and Colorado coach who’s now the DC at Ole Miss — and who also, well, just happens to be the son of George MacIntyre (and a former VU player, though he graduated from Georgia Tech.) Notre Dame DC Clark Lea also has VU ties, though his resume looks so similar to Mason’s that I doubt Vanderbilt would go this route. I don’t follow coordinators a ton, but maybe you can find one who runs an offense that puts up points.

DotP: I want aggression. A lot of people want an offensive guy. I do not care which side of the ball on which the next HC has made their name. They need to be aggressive. The margin of error at Vanderbilt is tiny. The best way to help yourself is to tilt the odds whenever you can and to take whatever chances exist to help yourself or put the other team on their heels.

The other area where, by stubbornness or lack of connections, Mason failed that our next coach MUST succeed is in building a staff. How you evaluate that skill is probably beyond the ability of anyone who does not at least have a number of discussions with the potential coach. A Vanderbilt football head coach needs a great coaching staff behind him (sorry, no, it will NOT be Nadia Harvin) to help him overcome the other hardships of the job.

One weird move that ADMT should look into involves LSU. Go offer Steve Ensminger, the current LSU OC, the head coaching position with the requirement that he brings Joe Brady, the passing game coordinator who has been hailed for modernizing LSU’s offense, in as his OC. Hell, I would have them both in and make them sign the contracts at the same time to make sure it happens because Ensminger has been mostly “meh” without Brady. Some will say to just offer Brady the HC job, but he is only in his 7th year of coaching and only been a position coach for 3.

By the way, I keep hearing about Willie Fritz’s offenses. The odd thing is that his coaching history before being a head man, while oddly limited, was as a defensive assistant. Not that it really matters to me. I wonder what the offensive assistants have looked like. Maybe they are need to come with him.

Shawn: I echo Tom’s sentiment about fit. To be more specific, I think he needs to be a CEO type, willing to build a staff of both coaches and support to do their jobs. So maybe the trait is someone who is organized and identifies talent well. Looking at the most successful coaches in the Power 5, I see two types- the strategy savant and the CEO. Lincoln Riley is the former where Dabo is the latter.

At VU, we need a CEO. I don’t think we can attract the types of athletes necessary to run the high concept, high powered offenses that Riley does.

On that note, I would prefer an offensive minded coach to a defensive minded coach. Call it a hunch, but CFB is moving the way of the NFL with devaluing defensive play. You have to score.

Candidates? Idk. Can we get Lane? Hey-oh!

Andrew VU ‘04: The following characteristics are needed: 1) She must be able to be both the head football coach and her own administrative specialist.

End of list.


Question from VU1970:

After the original het wettening, Mason and Vandy eventually pulled out of the dive to the extent of losing by only 24-17 to some people in funny orange clothes, giving some of us a ray of hope that the football program was not completely coma toast. But this year’s het wettening II came in game six, not game one. Putting aside all the outrage, and assuming no decent human being ever wants Vanderbilt to lose (no matter who is coaching the team), do you think this year’s team and its coaches are capable of “pulling out of the dive” by season’s end?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: No. In theory it’s possible, but most of the issues with this team simply aren’t getting fixed within the next six games.

DotP: Capable? Sure. Will they? I give it a whopping 1% chance. The 2014 team did not pull out of the dive except for the one game against THEM. It took until the offseason and staff changes to get things moving in the right direction. This team has a ton more talent than 2014 did, but it just feels hopeless and does not even have the benefit of a first-time head coach trying to figure things out. And if the UNLV game was what happens when Mason drew a line in the dirt, it looks like he may be the only one who was on his side of the line.

Shawn: Nope. I don’t think the OL, QB, or Defense is good enough to sustain drives and/or stop drives.

Andrew VU ‘04: No.


Question from DoreJam:

What is the best way to sharpen a pitchfork? I was hoping for a device that would work in a manner akin to chalking a pool cue, but I’m not having any luck finding such a thing. Am I resigned to just using a file or is there a better way? It’s a GroundWork Pro 10-Tine heavy-duty steel pitchfork with a fiberglass handle and D grip design if that makes a difference. BTW, these are currently available at your local Tractor Supply Company for about $65! TIA!

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Take your torch and hold the pitchfork over it.

DotP: The best method is to add to your collection of pitchforks each time you join an angry mob. Then add it to your shrine to all of your enraged mayhem!

Shawn: I like the Dewalt 8-inch bench grinder. It has a 34 horse power induction motor with dual discs that spin up to 3600 RPM! All the pitchfork sharpening!

Andrew VU ‘04: Get yourself a whetstone and honing steel, my dude.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

As someone who doesn’t drink, what would you recommend as a good way to start? Just to make the rest of the season bearable, of course.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: So you admit that you have been in violation of the clearly posted three-drink minimum this entire time? BAN!

DotP: I would advise you not to start drinking to watch Vanderbilt football this season. Just stop watching Vanderbilt football. Otherwise, you will be driven to drink an unhealthy and untenable amount for a novice. The team is making a mess on the field. Do not make a mess of someone else’s property (or your own) when you inevitably cannot stomach all of the alcohol you are compelled to intake to dull the pain and erase the memories.

Shawn: Trulys!

Andrew VU ‘04: My best suggestion is to start with tropical drinks heavy on fresh fruit juice. They’re sweet, juice-forward, and though some can pack a punch, you often don’t taste the alcohol. Perfect for a novice. Further, no one has ever angrily sipped a Mai Tai or Bahama Mama. Maybe you’ll be able to Pavlov’s Dog your way into enjoying this season poolside. Report back with your experience after this weekend.

The rest of us will be drinking bleach.


Question from denverdore:

As a long time Mason supporter, I think we can all agree that the product that’s been on the field this year (especially the last few weeks) has been absolutely embarrassing and most people think that solution is firing Mason. BUT, if at the end of the season Mason decided to fire Gdowski AND Tarver, and plainly admit he missed on both, do you think Malcolm Turner would let him keep his job?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: There is some evidence that Malcolm Turner is willing to work with a coach who’s willing to admit that there is a problem and that major changes need to be made. According to Adam Sparks, this is why Stephanie White still has a job and Bryce Drew does not. So hypothetically, Malcolm Turner could decide to cut Mason a break in exchange for the heads of both of his coordinators.

Except that Mason already did this once, back in 2014, and firing both coordinators is an admission that Mason has hired six coordinators (including himself, as defensive coordinator) in six years and four of them have been busts, and even one of the “successes” oversaw a defense that allowed 31.3 ppg in 2017. So I see two problems here: one, a head coach usually only gets to play the “Sacrifice A Coordinator” card once per side of the ball, and Mason’s already done that; and two, given the hit rates for his previous coordinator hires, the odds would be greater than 50-50 that his replacement hires would also be busts.

DotP: At 2-10? No. And Turner should not even consider it. If, by many miracles, this team gets to 4-8 then maybe but probably not. There would need to be candid conversations with Mason and both coordinators along with the others on staff by ADMT to assess the dynamics that led to these horrendous results this season. However, even if the conversations paint Mason in a positive light, CDM would have to present the alternatives because his coordinator hires have been very bad except for Andy Ludwig. The players are the other consideration. Has Mason lost them and would struggle to get buy-in from them next season OR would Vanderbilt see a significant number transfer away if Mason is retained? If either of those player scenarios are true then nothing matters, not even storming to a 6-6 finish (AHAHAHAHAHAHA).

Shawn: Yes, if the megaboosters (Ingram family) are on board. It may be cheaper to fire coordinators than fire Mason, hire a search firm for the job, and then ink a new deal for said new hire, who is guaranteed to have a whole new staff.

Andrew VU ‘04: It’s a no from me.