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Vanderbilt 2020 Final Football Mail Bag: Answers to Your Questions

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

USPS Christmas Delays Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Question from VandyFrog:

Settle and argument between myself and a friend. Clark Lea looks more like:

A) bald Tom Hardy

B) Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: C) A young Dr. Evil.

Tom Stephenson: Dr. Evil.

Stanimal: Vigo

DotP: D) Bane


Question from Tom Stephenson:

With the news that the Birmingham Bowl has been cancelled, how does it feel to know that James Franklin’s second straight 8-4 team got offered a bid to the same bowl that this year’s 0-9 team apparently was?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Meh. It feels very meh. I reserve my outrage for past Andrew.

Tom Stephenson: If we had held out we could have gotten the Liberty Bowl.

Stanimal: Thought the Gator Bowl crap was garbage then. It still is garbage, and this only reinforces it.

DotP: Completely on brand.


Question from Rubber Hell:

With the exception of 2008, where our lone TD in the bowl was a fumble recovery in the endzone, competent-to-excellent QB play correlates to Vandy success. Should our OC be a QB whisperer in the spirit of Joe Brady/Lane Kiffin/Sark/Lincoln Riley, and why is the answer yes?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: The answer is yes for two reasons: 1) QB is the most important position on the team, and 2) We have at least one keeper at that position.

It is wise to bring in (or retain) someone who can maximize Seals’ potential for the next three years. I’m fine with keeping Fitch. I also like the idea of Neuheisel (a former employer who reached out to Lea on the twatters). Give me a QB whisperer who can scheme up something fun from time to time.

Tom Stephenson: I mean, isn’t this why you have a quarterbacks coach? What do position coaches even do?

Stanimal: I loved Clark Lea’s press conference on this in that he mentioned wanting to create mismatches off of motion and shifts. You’ve seen some really successful NFL teams turn good QBs in to great QBs simply by playing the numbers game and creating mismatches so that players are in space (see Rams, 49ers, 2016 Falcons). A QB like Seals can really thrive in that sort of offense. I’m not sure that makes the OCs you mentioned “QB whisperers,” but the ones you’ve highlighted understand the importance of one-on-one matchups that give you playmakers the advantage. In that sense, and since Clark Lea seems to relish the idea of playing chess against his own offense, I think we’ll end up with someone good.

DotP: So, yes, every team wants to have a QB whisperer on staff, whether in the OC or QB coach. The problem is that guys with those talents are very sought after and often have big offers to be at big programs. Trying to identify one of those guys before others is going to rely on a small sample size that will always beg the question as to whether the coach made the QB or the QB made the coach.


Question from VUAllDay:

How many of the opt-outs are back for next year? Do you think any of the folks that entered the transfer portal, exit that portal and decide to stay? What about 6th year covid-seniors? Is HCCL’s first recruiting activity going to be directed at the former players with eligibility left that can return?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: No earthly idea. Will cede the floor.

Tom Stephenson: Some, but not all. A few of the opt-outs were in their fourth year in the program and those guys in the recent past have often grad transferred somewhere else. One way to read opt-outs in general is that they’re guys who in the past would have transferred after the season but played out the string anyway, but the NCAA just gave them a free pass to not play this season and keep their scholarships. Maybe some guys will be convinced to come back with the coaching change, but I also can’t see them being popular with the other players in the locker room.

Stanimal: I think some of them will come back, but not a lot. I think the seniors for the most part are out. This entire team next year will be foundational and expectations should take that into consideration.

DotP: I have no idea. I would hope some of the opt-outs return, but it depends on whether they opted out for healthy reasons or just as a way to start use this to try to be eligible for their destination next season. I would not rule out getting a player or two back who entered the portal, but it is less likely. I don’t think it was the first effort (hiring announced just before early signing period opened), but it will be an important one.


Question from ComradDore:

Do you think the one year transfer rule change will hurt or help us for next season? The optimist in me thinks the combination of 1) a new coach, 2) the SEC/Nashville/Vanderbilt trifecta, 3) potentially significant immediate playing time, and 4) a cromulent QB could position Vanderbilt as a desirable transfer destination. Of course the beaten down Vanderbilt fan in me assumes we will be screwed by this.

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: I think it will help us, but mainly with the type of player looking to boost his degree credentials for future employers, or to have grad school paid for. In other words, it will likely help with depth, but not with acquiring stars. There will certainly be a plethora of such players calling up our Bald-Head Coach in the coming months.

Tom Stephenson: The key here is what the NCAA does with the 25-man initial counter limit, which effectively puts a cap on the number of transfers you can take. If that rule is relaxed for 2021, Vanderbilt can go crazy on the transfer market. Then again, they have to, you know, get admitted to the school and that’s never a given.

Stanimal: I don’t think transfers will ever hurt, but they are dice rolls each and every time and come up snake eyes more often than not, no matter the program.

DotP: I think it can only help since we had so many guys already deciding to leave. Anyone with the urge to leave is probably already gone.


Question from Tinioril:

Why does Tom hate the idea of us running the triple so much? I know now that we’re not going to under Lea, and I’m happy with the hire, but I would’ve been stoked if we’d hired Jeff Monken.

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll let Tom answer this directly, as it was addressed to him directly.

Tom Stephenson: I’m less opposed than I probably let on, but I am also less convinced it’s the magic bullet that certain national media writers think. Plus even Monken kind of tacitly admitted he’s not married to the triple and might scrap it if he’s not at Army (where there are very real limitations on who you can recruit).

Stanimal: You know.......the triple option can really level the playing field when you have less talent to work with (DotPPP!!!!!)

DotP: I am going to borrow one of Andrew’s screaming pillows (after properly laundered because COVID) and let Tom answer also.


Question from VU1970:

Which bowl bid should Vanderbilt accept in 2021?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Seeing as we’re currently quite unlikely to get a New Years bowl game, I have to assume you’re asking about next year. We will not be bowling next year, barring the physics and engineering departments collaborating on a new Flubber.

Wait... is this question assuming that 2021, like 2020, will be so riddled with Covid that the NCAA allows literally any team to go bowling, regardless of win percentage? (Rolls up newspaper) Bad VU1970! (Hits him on the nose). Bad!

Tom Stephenson: The Independence Bowl, because of course.

DotP: Whichever one is in the nicest location from the list of bowls needing to be filled by a 5-7 team.

Stanimal: DotP nailed it.


Question from WestEndMayhem:

Why the FLIP is a two win SC team getting a bowl berth? Why is Tennessee getting a bowl? Why is 9-2 Army left out over bottom barrel SEC husks??

...and a similar question from ConquerAndPrevail:

Is it Vanderbilt’s patriotic duty to call the SEC, strong-arm the B’ham Bowl to take us, so as to give Army someone to play? Or did Birmingham decide a year in oblivion was better than a year hosting VU?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: So I’m actually convinced that Vanderbilt opted out of playing in Birmingham but didn’t say it out loud.

Stanimal: This question is now moot because of Tennessee dropping out.

DotP: It all worked out with Tennessee opting out of the bowl after a slew of COVID positive tests then being replaced in the Liberty Bowl by Army. I know most folks hate the conference tie-in bowls, but the intention is, at least for the SEC and their bowls, to maximize revenue by ensuring bowl games that should be accessible for fan travel. Vanderbilt definitely opted out of a bowl, even if there was no public announcement.

Andrew VU ‘04: What the plainsman said.


Question from WestEndMayhem:

How would Auburn fare in SEC play running the triple option?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: About the same as they did this year.

Tom Stephenson: Probably as well as Bryan Harsin will do.

Stanimal: Oh man I love this question. LOOVE IT. I think they probably do about as well as Paul Johnson did at GT, which means they would be successful. Maybe more successful than Malzahn or Chizik.

DotP: Worse than they did with Gus Malzahn. Probably about like Chizik in 2012.


Question from VandyImport:

Bama and Clemson, then Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, $SEC_SECOND_BEST. Never mind the Group of 5 teams with a beef (Cincy and the Fancy Murder Chickens are right to feel hard done by), how long are people prepared for college football to consist of six teams? And don’t think expanding the playoff to 8 is any kind of solution; all that will do is ensure that none of the six ever have to be left out. Seriously, when a six-win Ohio State gets free-rolled in, what’s the point of even playing the season any more?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Because if your Blue Chip Ratio is high enough, it doesn’t matter.

Stanimal: Ironically, I hear people calling for COMPUTERS to solve the problem, as if we didn’t change all of the sh*t up for that. Funny how life works.

DotP: I am not sure much has changed. People just care less about regular bowls for some reason with the 4-team playoff than they did with the 2-team BCS Championship Game. Not sure why that is.

Andrew VU ‘04: Wait... there was supposed to be a point to this clusterfuck of a season?