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Vanderbilt 2020 Football Mail Bag #13: Answers to Your Questions

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

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Nursing Home Puts On Musical Performance While Residents Watch From Windows
If you’re wondering why I chose this picture, it’s because it was the first one that came up on the Getty Images search for “Clark Lea.” I can’t stop laughing.
Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Question from lidore16:

Should I trust ESPN updates? Because one just said it’s going to [be] Lea.

...and a similar question from DakotaDore:

SEC coaching searches have Grumors and Hughmors... can we make Leamors happen?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: We can put all the Leamors to rest, as we now know our next Bald-Head Coach will be Lea, as it was officially announced earlier in the week. However, I will instead pose this to the rest of the group as the epistemological dilemma it truly was intended to be. Should we trust ESPN updates? What is knowledge? Who determines it?

*Note: This is what Leamors look like at rest:

Stanimal: Annnnddd now add Leamors to the AoG lexicon.

Tom Stephenson: No we cannot put the Leamors to rest. Leamors never rest.

Question from Volundore:

If Lea is the guy, what are reasonable expectations in Year 1 and what would you be looking for to give you hope that progress is being made?

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: Next year’s team will largely be foundational. That means that you should not have high expectations right out of the gate. The roster will need to be built up again through recruiting and that will take some time. Tom’s example of Bobby Johnson’s early teams is a good one. That being said, I think steady competitive improvement is what I am looking for in year 1. There are pieces here that can be used. The goal should be to try and beat the middle of the pack: (South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss). If you can start winning those games, you’ve got a solid footing to build on.

Tom Stephenson: Next year’s team reminds me a lot of the early Bobby Johnson era, which ironically Clark Lea was a part of, where they have a good quarterback but the rest of the roster will need a couple of years to get to a point where it’s ready to be competitive in the SEC. That’s assuming a lot of the rumored defections actually happen, of course, in which case you’re talking about a seriously depleted roster... but Ken Seals is Jay Cutler in this scenario. Maybe I’m underrating some of the players here, but next year’s roster just screams 2-10. They should beat ETSU and UConn, but even a road trip to Colorado State is not a gimme, and, uh, what SEC team does this team beat? I suspect South Carolina is in for a rebuild (and will have a new coach who I’m actually less sold on than Clark Lea), and maybe some other SEC team is either mailing it in (Tennessee?) or decides to fart one away against our Commodores. Oh, and the crossover opponent from the West is Mississippi State and, hey, that might be winnable. Still, I can only squint my way to 4-8 or so.

Andrew VU ‘04: Lea is the guy. My reasonable expectations are for Coach Jovan Haye to find a way to put me in contact with HC Lea so I can set up the following interview:

Not for nothing, but Jovan did follow my account right after that tweet...

As for feetball, I expect we’ll go 2-10 next year, +/- one win. Our schedule is brutal, as our OOC games are a road game at Colorado State (what???), ETSU, Leland Stanford Junior College, and UCONN. If he gets us to more than 4 wins, he is officially the New James Franklin.

*Note: These expectations are based on the current roster projections. If we get a transfer-valanche of incoming talent due to the Covid-19 rules, I will up my projected win totals. If said transfer-valanche is only egress, it could get ugly.

Question from Vault Boy:

Given that you will have a new HC soon, who are the candidates on AOG’s list of coordinators for next year?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Man, I have no idea. Personally, I liked what Fitch brought to the table this year, and would want to retain him. Of course, if Lea has his own guy, that’s cool, too. Admittedly, most of my love for Fitch was that his side of the ball seemed much more cromulent that Mason’s, and he did this with a freshman QB and an offensive line that was just 5 guys culled randomly from an Econ 101 class. That and it’s fun to politely request he call certain plays by saying, “Fitch, please” in the comments on game threads.

As for DC, I would bet he’d bring whichever position coach from Notre Dame he has identified as an up and comer. That, or someone he has met at coaching conferences. Just not Todd Grantham, as he resembles an anus both in physical appearance and personality.

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, I wouldn’t hate it if Lea decided to retain Todd Fitch as his OC, especially since it would save the university a bit of money... but he probably won’t go that route. I heard a rumor that he might try to bring along Lance Taylor — currently Notre Dame’s run game coordinator — to be his OC and... I don’t hate it? Taylor’s never been an OC before, though, so who knows how that will go. But if Lea’s been on the same staff as him he should have a decent idea whether he’s ready to be a coordinator on his own or not.

As far as the defense goes, Lea could elect to be his own DC, though I personally wouldn’t recommend it — perhaps he’ll give Jovan Haye the DC title while calling the plays himself. I really don’t know, you should probably ask someone who knows these things.

Question from DenverDore:

Are there any 2020 football stats that should be re-evaluated/looked at differently with 2020?

For example, Ken Seals has had an excellent true freshman season, but can any of those stats be attributed to playing in near empty stadiums when he doesn’t have to deal with crowd noise? And will his natural progression be affected by (ideally) playing in packed houses next fall? Or considering he put up those stats this year with a patchwork OL, it’s a wash?

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: The only thing I can take from this season is that he showed me he can make the throws. There were so many challenges between opt outs and COVID that it’s hard to make heads or tails of where the roster is. The eye test told me that certainly players have SEC ability, the stats tell otherwise, but I think that’s a productive of the team just having to play with a bunch of adversity this year. It reminds me of the Monty Python knight after all the limbs have been cut off (what, am I showing my age?).

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, I actually think Seals’ performance looks even better when you consider he was behind that offensive line all season. Then again, Keyon Henry-Brooks averaging 4.1 yards per carry is probably more a function of said line than anything else; sample sizes and all, but how did walk-on Mitchell Pryor have a better yards per carry average?

Andrew VU ‘04: What do I look like? Some sort of math/analytics nerd? Ask the guy who gave our new RB from Temple the nickname Re’Mahn “The Hypothesis” Davis. Wait... that’s me...

Question from Stress Fracture:

Who is more upset: Georgia fans on the cancellation of Saturday’s game or MSU fans over the unlimited baseball scholarships CTC hands out?

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: Oooooooh good question. It’s MSU fans, but the Georgia fans are doing an excellent job of trying to rationalize why they have the high ground on the fact that they can’t beat up on a roster of 35 guys.

Tom Stephenson: It’s Georgia, but that may just be because I can’t hear the MSU fans over the Whistler.

Andrew VU ‘04: 11.7 from Column A; 11.7 from Column B...

Question from Gawquon:

What can we expect from Clark Lea’s recruiting efforts this year and in the future?

I remember people talking about Derrick Mason focusing on familiar territory in the west and starting a Polynesian Pipeline. Does Clark have a home recruiting area?

Did he even do much recruiting at ND or is the day to day left more to position coaches?

Speaking of position coaches, our current recruiting class feels decent at least compared to when Franklin ran off with Trace McSorley and company. Some players cite close relationships with current position coaches for staying committed so far. Do you think we can expect some position coach holdovers for this reason, or will we have a clean house?

What does Clark need to do differently from Mason to close the Jimmies and Joes gap? Or did Mason do as best as Vanderbilt realistically can in that area and we instead need better development of players/imparting of great defensive knowledge?

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: I THINK it’s official that we’re keeping Jovan Haye (I say that because Tom doesn’t seem confident), and I think that’s huge because MAN he did some magic on DL recruits this year.

Tom is right about the national outreach of Notre Dame being a plus, but I don’t think we should discount Lea’s local ties either. Not only is he a Vanderbilt alum, but he’s a Nashville native. Winning battles in other states is a must if we’re going to win, but keeping local talent home is something Lea should be able to do as well.

Tom Stephenson: So the good news is that as a coordinator at Notre Dame, Lea’s already used to recruiting nationally, which you basically have to do at Vanderbilt since you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get local recruits into school.

I think the biggest thing Lea needs to concentrate on is the trenches — that’s probably where the gulf between Vanderbilt and the rest of the SEC was the biggest under Derek Mason, and it all started with recruiting. Trying to recruit to a 3-4 was, well, not a great idea here, and perhaps switching to a more conventional 4-3 will help since 4-3 linemen are much easier to find and recruit. As far as the offensive line goes, well, that seems to be getting fixed in the last couple of classes, and honestly I’d love it if he retained offensive line coach Peter Rossomando who seemed to be a major improvement. (I’d recommend the same for defensive line coach Jovan Haye, but considering he and Lea played together at VU, I’m just assuming that will happen.)

Andrew VU ‘04: No clue. Read this article from The Athletic by Joe Rexrode.

Question from JAinTX:

Lea is a Vanderbilt guy. I’ve seen a few former players being tossed around as position coaches.

Does the Anchor of Gold staff have any preference on whether or not there are any other former players players added to the staff? Do you think it would help with recruiting having someone who once was on the receiving end of the Vanderbilt living room pitch, or do you simply want the most qualified guy possible?

First names that come to mind (I’m sure I’ve left off a few)

- Chris Marve (LB coach at Florida State)

- Jovan Haye (DL coach at Vanderbilt now, former Lea teammate)

- Larry Smith (WR coach at UAB)

- Eric Vance (Assistant Director of Football Operations at Miami)

- Carlton Hall (Defensive Coordinator at Millikan, some D1 coaching experience)

- Chris Reinert (Special Teams coach at Colorado)

- Adam Smotherman (Asst. Strength Coach at Clemson)

- Chuck Losey (Asst. Strength Coach at Penn State)

- Mike MacIntyre (Memphis defensive coordinator)

- Shelton Quarles (Director of Football Operations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

- Corey Chavous (Not an actual coach, but might as well be considered one)

Local high school head coaches:

- Rahim Batten (Ensworth High School)

- Justin Geisinger (Pope John Paul II High School, Lea teammate)

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: Other than Haye, the two I would point to are Marve and one you missed: Austyn Carta-Samuels. Those guys have developed reputations as good assistants at all their respective stops. It has less to do with the fact they played at Vandy, and more to do with they’ve shown they know how to coach the game. The fact that they played at Vandy just means that they are (theoretically) invested in the program in a unique way.

Tom Stephenson: I mean, I really don’t love the idea of focusing on bringing in nothing but guys who played here... but, yes, he should absolutely keep Jovan Haye.

Andrew VU ‘04: I thought Vance was with Vance Refrigeration.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

How do you think a triple-option Vanderbilt would truly fare in the SEC?

Answers from AoG:


Tom Stephenson: Aw jeez, not this shit again!

Andrew VU ‘04: Banned.

Question from JesseCuster44:

If you could compare VU’s recent HCs and/or Future HC Candidates to Santa’s Reindeer, who would match with what Reindeer?

Answers from AoG:

Stanimal: I have no clue.

Tom Stephenson: Derek Mason, obviously, is Dancer.

Andrew VU ‘04: I still don’t know why I said yes to this. Ted Cain is “run three times and punt, the reindeer.”

Question from RocketCityVandy:

With football for this weekend cancelled, will we still have a mailbag happen?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: (gestures vaguely)