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Vanderbilt Football Mail Bag #7

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You ask, we answer.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at South Carolina
No, no, no... the field is that way!
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Question from Vandy1Fan:

Did it bother anyone else that Mason didn’t know the status of his starting QB? I mean, he is the head coach. You would think that would be the first question you would ask at half.

“How’s Riley?” Is he available?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Assuming it’s true, this is worse than Bryce Drew attempting to recruit Barry Booker during the halftime interview, but we are discounting the possibility that Mason simply lied to Cole Cubelic. Then again, I am not sure what advantage you would gain from lying to the damn sideline reporter. Are opposing coaches watching that and thinking “oh shit, is Neal gonna play in the second half?”

Shawn: It doesn’t bother me that he didn’t know, but it bothers me that that is how he runs his program. It’s not uncommon for a coach to delegate so much on game day that he doesn’t have all the info on immediately on hand, specifically injuries. BUT in this case, considering the stakes for both he and the program, that probably should have been the first thing on his mind.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yes. Dumbshit things always bother me. I have oft been bothered during Mason’s tenure.

Doreontheplains: Yeesh. I have been of the opinion that people try way too hard to find reasons they are right that a coach is dumb or unprepared. This is not one of those times. A head coach should have, at some point, talked to someone in the medical staff or had SOMEONE check on the condition of a QB that played one series then left injured. If he did not have the full condition, that’s one thing, but Mason should have at least known the staff was putting him through the concussion testing or SOMETHING. Of course, I have not seen the actual comments yet so maybe this was blown out of proportion, too.


Question from AgingDoreFan:

What are the most entertaining sports options available between July and late February for fans / alumni of a university that sucks at (spectator) sports during those months? Roller derby? Arena football? Where do we turn?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t know man, just watch golf, it basically doesn’t have an off-season.

Shawn: I’m with Tom. Golf please. But not any golf, may I suggest the winter month golf played on the other side of the globe and then in California. It starts with the President’s Cup in December. Then when the new year comes, you get two weeks in Hawaii followed by five weeks in California or Arizona. For all the cold weather readers out there, not much is better than cozying up late at night and watching golf in warm climates.

Andrew VU ‘04: May I suggest Sepak takraw, aka Kick Volleyball? It’s one of the most popular sports in Southeast Asia. Pretty sure the ISTAF Sepaktakraw World Cup is held each November.

Here is 2 and a half hours of it (which is approximately the time of a college football or basketball game... just saying).

Doreontheplains: Soccer or hockey. Although, basketball might not be too awful this season...


Question from RancorIsGold:

Given the dumpster fire our offensive play has been this year, how adversely is it impacting on the draft stock of our Three Horsemen? Would it just be better for them not to play and therefore not worsen their career stats? They obviously believed in the team when they decided to return.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It’s an interesting question, because a lot of the problems center around a QB who refuses to throw the ball in Pinkney’s direction and a patchwork offensive line, and any NFL scout watching a Vanderbilt game will probably figure that out. Of the three, Pinkney is the one who may have hurt his stock by coming back, but he’s also of a type where he can get some of that back with a good combine, because guys with his size and skill set do not grow on trees. Vaughn if anything has helped his stock by proving that he actually can carry the rock more than 20 times a game instead of just being a home run hitter you give it to 10-15 times. Lipscomb’s draft stock was iffy to begin with; had he come out last year he would have gone in the later rounds or undrafted. Either way he’s not really in a different position than he was last year.

The only reason to not play would be to avoid injury.

Shawn: I’d like to take your second question into another direction. I think players should sit out whenever they want- particularly non important regular season and bowl games. Vaughn has really proven to be a work horse, but I fear all the touches will make the tread come off the tire at a position that has severely limited life span already. If it’s clear there isn’t anything to play for- or worse, that the coaching staff is so incompetent that it hurts you and does not help the team to play, then sit out. Sure it’s a slippery slope or bad precedent or whatever. But we’re not talking about average players, we’re talking about athletes who will rely on their bodies to make large sums of money during a limited window in their lives.

Andrew VU ‘04: At this point, though it hurts me, I can pretty confidently say all three made a mistake by returning for their senior seasons. Of the three, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has at least kept his stock where it was, but still, last year’s RB crop—outside of Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders—was pretty weak. I can’t imagine Vaughn not going in the 2nd or 3rd round last year after acing the Combine. This year? Well, some may see him and still see Alvin Kamara (I more see Miles Sanders now, but hey, that’s still really good!). Personally, I think the class of Taylor, Swift, Etienne, Dobbins, et al is stronger than the 2019 class, and markedly so. Vaughn could be the first one taken... or the fifth. He has stayed healthy/durable (really, the only knock on him last year), so maybe that’s a plus. Still, I think it’s a push.

Most hurt has been Pinkney, as he has been o’erleapt by... off the top of my head... Albert O. of Mizzourah, Colby “Shakes” Parkinson of Stansbury, and Grant “Mathland” Calcaterra of OU. I still think the Pink is worth a mid-round flier, but even if he kills it in the Combine, team workouts, and interviews, you have to think the first question on every GM’s mind will be, “If you really were this good, why the hell didn’t you get any balls thrown your way?” Let’s be honest... it’s not that he’s not featured in this offense, it’s that he’s not even noticeable.

With Kalija “Bisons” Lipscomb... well, he suited up but didn’t play against The Game Penises. No explanation was given. That... uhh... is not a good look.

Doreontheplains: Pinkney’s draft stock is obviously the most interesting due to his complete abandonment on offense as anything more than a blocking TE. When this conversation really took off at my tailgate before the NIU game, I made the same argument that Tom did about scouts theoretically being smart enough to recognize the lack of production is about the offense around him, not Pinkney personally. Andrew’s point about GMs is also valid. So what organization trusts their scouts enough for the GM to defer to them, loves having a big, physical, and athletic TE, AND needs one thanks to retirement? Yep, Pinkney will follow Joejuan Williams to Foxborough as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Unless somebody else snags him first.

As everyone else has said, Vaughn showing the durability has probably helped himself a bit, and he is still having a fine season. He is 4th in the conference in total rushing yards and is at 5.23 yards per carry.

I did not track Lipscomb’s draft talk that closely because he announced that he was staying so early in the process.


Question from Commodore E:

Thanks for all you do in regards to giving us Vandy fans anything to read in our down time. I have followed the recruiting trail as much as possible, but understand we do not have as many spots to fill in next year’s class. With the impending situation at head coach looming, some of us have moved on to the QB situation next year. I see we have Mo Hasan redshirt senior, Walters redshirt freshman, and Deuce Wallace redshirt senior who will be rostered next year. I keep hearing good things about Ken Seals who is currently in our 2020 recruiting class. I understand he is very much tied to Mason. Also Cade Fortin (ESPN 300 QB) the transfer out of UNC had an official visited against Mizzou. I hear he has a relationship with Gdowski who recruited him out of high school. If/when a coaching change takes place at HC/OC which guys at QB are likely to stick around next year and compete for our starting job?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Who knows. There are rumors that Hasan is done playing, and I don’t know if those are true. I do have suspicions that if Mason gets fired, Seals is probably gone. I suspect that if Mason is gone, next year’s starting QB will be Wallace or Walters, or possibly a graduate transfer. This sounds really familiar and I may have heard this story before. It isn’t like 2002 when Bobby Johnson took over and discovered that Woody had left behind Jay Cutler for him.

Andrew VU ‘04: You’re welcome. This has been yet another Anchor of Gold reminder that politeness costs nothing.

Doreontheplains: Losing Seals would be bad. Maybe it is all hype, but the kid has lit it up. He looks like a very good QB from what little I have seen of him on highlight tapes. Relationships are obviously paramount to recruiting, but it would probably depend on the hire. I cannot imagine the Seals family is too excited about playing in an offense that they should be able to see is poorly schemed. Never know though.


Question from Ryan S.:

I absolutely love Derek Mason - his character, candor, and enthusiasm are fantastic. But having said that, can firing OC Gdowski save Coach Mason’s job, and more importantly, should it? How can this offense be so bad, come into this season without recruiting and preparing a real replacement for Kyle Shurmur, consistently fail to use two of its big three weapons, and be so boring and predictable in its play calling and Coach Mason not step in and fix it? Is it normal for a head coach to let things get so out of hand? Is there something going on here that we’re missing? I have to believe Coach Mason can see what a mess this is. Is it just that we can’t recruit well enough at Vandy to not be terrible at at least two or three areas at a time no matter what? (O-line, DBs, QBs, etc.). I know this is more than one question. But I guess what I’m really asking is: Is this an OC failure, a HC failure, or a systemic “we’re Vandy nerds without adequate school support and resources trying to play in the SEC” problem?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’ve said this before, but Mason has already played the “sacrifice a coordinator” card in 2014 when he got rid of Karl Dorrell, and as such that card can not be played again. At a certain point you have to ask just why the head coach has intentionally entrusted his offense to both Karl Dorrell and Gerry Gdowski at various points.

Shawn: Can I vote all three? The OC is bad as evidenced by the QB situaish and the play calling. Mason’s post game interview after the Missorah game showed me that maybe he doesn’t know the problems or erroneously believes his process can fix them. And the SEC is very difficult. The margin for error is small and those fissures can be exacerbated over the course of the season. But shouldn’t six wins be the minimum expectation? I think that is possible, but it will take a special coach to do it and hopefully one who would stay here. Maybe Dave Clawson would want to move from Wake Forest?

Andrew VU ‘04: There’s an old tale about a new football coach being hired, and finding three envelopes in his desk written by the previous coach, with instructions to open each after a major setback. Within envelope one is a note which reads, “Blame your predecessor.” Envelope two: “Blame your coordinators.” Envelope three? “Get three envelopes.” That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Doreontheplains: At most schools, there is no chance that Mason could save himself by sacrificing another coordinator. However, he probably will here. Malcolm Turner seems to be taking the route that he wants to prove that Vanderbilt is going to throw resources into the football program BEFORE making a coaching change. It makes sense, but next year could be 2-10 levels of ugly. Yes, 3-9 would be gross, but a win over a then-ranked team puts some shine on this season. The only hope is that Mason can actually find a competent OC willing to take the job.


Question from ComradDore:

What is the protocol for increasing the drink minimum for the remainder of the football season? Can we change the site rule to: (Drinks minimum) = (# of quarterbacks that have played during the season) +1 (# of out of conference games lost)?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, three drinks is just the minimum, we always recommend more than that just for your own good.

Andrew VU ‘04: I asked my drinkin’ buddy Johann Bernoulli, and he warned me if we adopted this new drink minimum, many of our readers would have to go to L’Hôpital.

Doreontheplains: I am just wondering why you have a 1 in the equation. Unless you intend for that number to be 10 through 18. Which, yeah, that sounds like the amount needed. And might also might be the number of shots I did after the SC game. I...yeah, it was bad.


Question from Your Uncle Mike:

First question: After Mason is let go, are we going to be stuck with Willie Taggart as our only option?

Second question: Is it time to retire the vest? It’s not working any more.

I’ll hang up and listen.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Now why on earth would Willie Taggart want to deal with this dumpster fire when Florida State is going to pay him $17 million to go to Nick Saban’s School for Coaches Who Can’t Coach Good?

And I would retire the color gray on the uniforms before I would retire the vest. One of these things is a national treasure; the other should be thrown into the fire with the money being paid to Bryce Drew to not coach the basketball team.

Shawn: As a Nole, firing Taggart sucked because everyone liked him. He just was too overwhelmed with the job. But $17m will help make inadequacies seem small. In other news, Clemson’s Co-Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliot could be a great hire. Offensive mind, been in the Clemson organization since 2011. And apparently everyone who interviews, works with, comes in contact with raves about him. He’s whip smart, highly organized, a great communicator. It’s always a gamble to hire someone who hasn’t been a head coach before, tho.

Andrew VU ‘04: Not while Nadia Harvin remains criminally underemployed at Temple.

Doreontheplains: No. Vanderbilt should have some other options who are similar to where Taggert was before Oregon hired him. It depends on what other dominoes fall on what options Vanderbilt will really have.

What is the vest’s record? I think the original vest that Mason has gone back to wearing is still above .500.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

So… Doreontheplains said something about a gatling-style pitchfork gun? Has he made the plans available? Or is this something we’d have to hit his Etsy account for?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I am fairly sure those will be banned after the 2020 election so you may want to stock up on them now.

Shawn: I hear he’s more of a Craigslist guy [Editor’s note: We assume Shawn meant Backpage].

Andrew VU ‘04: Oh you best believe we’re making the Hired Auburn Man open an Etsy account for that expressed purpose.

Doreontheplains: Why did I just get labeled as the guy who would use an escort service? Also, the plans are still in the works. Ironic that the President of the Masonic Order of Sunshine Pumpers would be the one with the plans for the riot gear.

Yes, I AM very proud of that word play. Sue me.