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Vanderbilt 2020 Football Mail Bag #5: Answers to Your Questions

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Letters... we get letters... we get sacks and sacks of letters...

Russian Post’s Vnukovo logistics centre in Moscow Region Photo by Gavriil Grigorov\TASS via Getty Images

Due to the SEC-Big XII match-up of Vanderbilt versus Missourah’s postponement, this is an unprecedented third mail bag between games. Huzzah?

Question from Westboundnup:

Since VU doesn’t play this week, my question is about Them. If They arrive on West End on Nov. 28th with only 1 more win (i.e., 3) then they have now, which is entirely plausible given the remainder of their schedule, is Pruitt playing for his job at that point? If VU defeats UT, is that the catalyst for UT to fire not only Pruitt, but perhaps also Fulmer?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: (crosses fingers; blows out birthday candles; pulls out eyelash; sees shooting star)

Tom Stephenson: While I don’t 100 percent believe the narrative that Everybody Is Safe From Firing Because Of The Pandemic (because, like, have you met SEC boosters?), I think in this case, Tennessee is absolutely going to use it as a pretext for keeping Pruitt. After all, he did just sign an extension after last season. See, we’re not the only ones who sign coaches to really stupid contract extensions.

Stanimal: Aren’t THEY still paying Butch to be Saban’s intern? I might be two years too late. Don’t think THEY will make a coaching change but the seat gets way hotter.

DoreonthePlains: Pruitt’s extension runs through the 2025 season and is worth $4.2M per year. The details of a potential buyout have not been released to my knowledge. Even at 50% of his remaining salary (a low estimate for such an early termination), the “school” would owe him $10.5M. Asparagus Boy is likely safe unless he goes 2-8, but going 3-7 with a lot of blowout losses down the stretch might let him join Butch Jones in the “paid not to work” line. They did finally pay Dooley off though, right?

Question from Force10JC:

I have heard of something called “football”. Many of my old high school friends who attended various large state colleges in the South are always talking about this with a group of teams called the S-E-C. These friends also constantly make fun of me for knowing nothing about football and tell me it could never be played at a school like Vanderbilt. Can you tell me more about this “football” and whether it is viable for it to be played at Vanderbilt?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: I believe we call it “Soccer” in the Colonies. And no.

Tom Stephenson: From Wikipedia:

Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal.

I am assuming based on our kicking game that it is not viable to be played at Vanderbilt.

Stanimal: (Snoring on the couch).............wah wah? Do I still write for Vanderbilt Sports Line? Is James Franklin still the coach?

DoreonthePlains: I am not sure anyone can argue against the viability of a program that won the SEC regular season championship 2 years ago and won its division last season. How are you unaware of Haley Hopkins, Madison Elwell, and company? It is not like the recaps of the games go up at really weird hours...

Question from Dore31:

What type of coach do you prefer to replace Mason? Head coach at a G5 program, successful OC, successful DC, or top recruiter from a major program but potentially not a coordinator (Dabo is the only guy who immediately comes to mind where this worked), Nadia Harvin, or something else I’m not thinking of. Also would you generally prefer an offensive or defensive-oriented coach given both our roster and and what the other SEC teams are doing?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Give me Nadia Harvin, Jamey Chadwell, or some young up-and-comer (they could be a head coach at a small school, a successful OC, or even a lower level staffer who interviews well, like when Andy Reid was GB’s QB coach, or Jon Harbaugh was the special teams coach in Philly before taking their first HC jerbs). Mainly what I want is someone with a detailed plan, who thrives in a challenge, and who can talk anyone into running through a wall for them. I want them to be smart, maybe even a little arrogant, with a level of pride approaching hubris. Perhaps a bald fellow trying to get out of the sizable shadow of someone like a Ralph Friedgen—just off the top of my head...

Tom Stephenson: So, I’ll preface this by saying that I think Vanderbilt should hire the best coach they can find and not insist on somebody checking a bunch of arbitrary boxes. That said, I would prefer someone with an offensive background. I do not think Vanderbilt can land a coach who’s been a successful coordinator before piloting his own G5 program (read: Billy Napier), so really the choices are between a good P5 coordinator who’s looking for his first head coaching job and a guy who’s currently at a G5 school (or even FCS) and has grinded his way up the ranks. I would prefer the latter, and the correct answer is Jamey Chadwell. As an aside, I do not understand the love that many Vanderbilt fans have for Will Healy, mostly because Jamey Chadwell is basically a more successful version of Will Healy, and why would you have the less successful guy as your first choice?

Stanimal: To answer it simply, with the offensive talent being what it is, I want a coach with a solid offensive approach. I’m going to reserve names for now.

DoreonthePlains: But Tooooooom! We could have Club LIT!

Okay, now that I am done rolling my eyes, I am a little surprised Tom does not think we could get Billy Napier. Maybe he is right. Napier could be in line for much bigger jobs this offseason or next. Right now, he is probably at the top of my list with Jamey Chadwell second. The SEC swinging to having so many high-powered offenses means the hire probably needs to be an offensive coach, but it is possible that an aggressive defensive coach could get my interest IF he can convince me he is willing to let an offense do its thing AND has options already in mind for his staff that make me believe him.

(Similar, but more pointed) Question from Barndore1950:

In all likelihood Derek Mason stays for 2021 regardless of how this season plays out. Outside of marked improvement in 2021, I think even Vanderbilt will cut ties with him.

Auburn fans are yet again on the warpath wanting to get rid of Gus Malzahn. His buyout this year is over $20 million. If I read the reported terms correctly, at the end of 2021 Auburn would owe him something around $15 million to go away. Who knows, they might pay it. These big programs don’t seem to mind throwing crazy money around.

Any chance at all that we replay 2011 and go after Malzahn after next season assuming Auburn cuts him loose?

Your thoughts?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: No. Generally, it’s not a good idea to go after a coach who currently has unlimited resources and talent (crootin’ a plethora of 4 and 5 star kids, and actually getting them to campus), but who repeatedly squanders it, and then giving them fewer resources and talent, but keep them in the same conference. Would he be better than Mason? All but assuredly. Would he leave the second he got any success (even one bowl season)? Without a doubt. Still, as I said above, give me Nadia Harvin, Jamey Chadwell, or some young up-and-comer over Ol’ Gus.

Also, if he did express interest, it would only be to use our offer as leverage for his next employer. We’ve been down this road before.

Tom Stephenson: No, because why would you want to coach Vanderbilt when you can go join Nick Saban’s army of analysts and collect a buyout check?

Stanimal: Malzahn’s not going to be a fit under this administration. They’ll want something more Corbin and less Franklin.

DoreonthePlains: Gus Malzahn would be worse than Mason. I would literally rather keep Mason than hire Malzahn. The flaming tire fire that has been the Gus Bus since the magical 2013 season is 64-33 (35-25) at Auburn. He has only matched Franklin’s 9-4 mark 3 times in 7 seasons and looks to be on his way to fall well short of that in year 8. The talent gap between Auburn and Vanderbilt is much more than the difference in results in 8-4 (5-3) and 5-8* (2-6), even if you account for the SEC West being more challenging than the SEC East most seasons. Hiring Malzahn would make me check out because I know what a cluster would be coming.

*Mason’s average season is actually 4.5-7.8 (1.7-6.3). The bowl seasons twisted the averages a bit, along with landing right at 4.5.

Question from Tinioril:

If Athletics wanted to kill the Spirit of Gold, what would they be doing differently? If you were in charge of the Spirit of Gold, how would you make them better?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Replace all their instruments with Theremins. Both answers.

Tom Stephenson: If they wanted to kill the Spirit of Gold, they would have the opposing team’s band play the halftime show at Homecoming. Oh, you said “differently”? Well, I don’t know the answer to that. Anyway, the answer to make them better is to send them to more than one road game a year because why sign up for the Spirit of Gold if not to get to take road trips to football games?

Stanimal: They’re not dead yet? Last I recall most of the Spirit of Gold didn’t go to Vanderbilt, but I could be wrong here.....

DoreonthePlains: Fire the new band director that is apparently getting loads of praise from those associated with the band. Doing so might be the only thing left Vanderbilt could do to make the band less important and kill it.

Question from DenverDore:

Based on what we’ve seen from the first 4 weeks, what now seems like the most ‘winnable’ game(s) remaining on the schedule? Also, what strategy would you employ to win said game?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: My answer is either team from Mississippi, as Mizzourah is the last game of the season, and I can’t see us having enough healthy bodies to compete against the Big XII’s finest. That they whooped Yellow Shoe doesn’t help. Oh, and I don’t expect us to beat either Admiral Ackbar or Clanga—they’re just the only teams we could catch slipping.

Tom Stephenson: Mississippi State has scored one offensive touchdown in the last two weeks, so I feel confident that Vanderbilt might be able to dick-trip their way into winning 14-7.

Stanimal: I agree that Mississippi State is the most likely. I’m still not FULLY convinced about Missouri, but I’ve been wrong about just about everything this year, so if you’re looking for a legit opinion you’re probably in the wrong place.

DoreonthePlains: State is the immediate thought. I am starting to eye THEM though because they look ready to completely implode. Also, keep an eye on Ole Miss’s COVID situation. There’s a chance that game gets postponed, but, if not, we could have them considerably weakened. Theoretically, our coaches and players have three full weeks to prepare for Ole Miss. I know the physical practices have been limited for some, but it opens some interesting scheme and gameplanning. I would still say State is first with Ole Miss second and an eye on a Knoxville Sinkhole.

Question from Parlagi:

What were/are your favorite AOG garbage posts? I liked when TSK did a power poll, and we’d have a group ballot and make stupid comment suggestions.

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: You’re asking the wrong person, as all of my posts are gold. If I had to pick one that I love that didn’t get the attention it deserved (as it was ostensibly an April Fool’s prank), I’ve got to go with this one. *Note: That was written well before Stackhouse (nee the reincarnated from of Anton LaVey) was hired.

Tom Stephenson: Personally, my favorite was this one trying to rationalize Vanderbilt’s decision to retain Bryce Drew, which was published approximately half an hour before he was fired.

Stanimal: Hell I’m pretty amazed by all the posts on here of late. I’ve really enjoyed reading all of these guys stuff.

DoreonthePlains: The Corbin-LaVey April Fool’s post was incredible. The idea of Corbin saying those things to children had me crying laughing. My favorite garbage posts are Saturday Predictions when all or most of us go brain dead and actually have optimism for a win. And a real one, not just a moral victory.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

I just started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Where has it been my whole life?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: The show’s been on the air for like 20 years now. I don’t know how to answer this. HBO? Some of them are in my DVD collection (back when that was still a thing to collect)? Either way, enjoy. It’s pretty pretty pretty good.

Tom Stephenson: I don’t know. I’ve never watched it.

Stanimal: (Insert Larry David internal struggle over good and bad.GIF)

DoreonthePlains: Never seen it. I don’t watch much TV unless it is sports related. The only two non-sports shows that I can say I have made appointment viewing are Supernatural (RIP) and Agents of SHIELD (also, RIP).