Question from Westboundnup:
What should cause me (the prototypical VU football fan) to lose all hope (such as it is) in the team for the season?
Answers from AoG:
Tom Stephenson: This question implies that you had hope in the first place.
Stanimal: My teams seem to have defensive minded coaches who can’t coach defense, so let’s go with that. Hell as long as they know that the receiving team can recover an onside kick before it goes ten yards they’re already better than one pro team I can think of.
Doreontheplains: The offensive line. If you’re used to scraping together hope for Vanderbilt football, that position group and quarterback inexperience are the two places that are in especially bad spots. OL failures are basically impossible to mask, much like the DL struggles we have seen recently.
*Editor’s Note: Impossible to mask? So we’ve got an O-Line full of Karens?
VandyImport: The lack of any non-conference games as confidence builders or any runway to develop cohesion. At Aggie, home to LSU, and then Cocky’s hex-riddled presence (no wins since 2008!) and then you’re 0-3 and playing arguably the most winnable game on the road?
Andrew VU ‘04: (Gestures vaguely.)
Questions from Andrew VU ‘04 and VandyImport’s Evil Twins:
So, what do you see our record being this year (assuming all 10 games are actually played). 0-10, or are you an optimist?
What defines success for Vanderbilt football in 2020? One win? Three wins? Mason fired and no one permanently injured?
Answers from AoG:
Andrew VU ‘04: 0-10 for the first question; “Mason fired and no one permanently injured” for the 2nd. If I squint, I can see 2 wins, but I don’t think I’ll be squinting. No sunshine here. If you want sunshine, see DOtP and his patented Sunshine Pump (though I’d be shocked if 2020 didn’t gunk that bad boy up to his eyes).
Doreontheplains: 2019 definitely provided enough gunk to bury me. I have found some sunshine in the defense and skill positions outside of QB though. I’ll predict 1-9. If there is anything resembling a functional offensive line, I would immediately add a second win to the prediction with hope for a 3rd. As such, true success would be 3+ wins. Avoiding serious injuries is huge, too, since everyone can be back if they choose.
Tom Stephenson: I will optimistically project that we go 1-9. I am an optimist that if Watson Brown could win an SEC game in 1990, then damnit, Derek Mason will be the beneficiary of a Mississippi school or possibly Missourah farting away a sure win.
As far as what defines success for Vanderbilt football in 2020, it’s (a) win a game and (b) know who your quarterback is going into 2021.
Stanimal: 1-9 and success for me is that Ken Seals and/or Mike Wright have a few nice games that we can build off of in the future.
VandyImport: For myself? Success is “nobody dies and nobody is permanently hurt, and Kirkland Hall doesn’t use 2020 as an excuse to just run it back without evaluating the state of the program.”
Question from Auric Goldfinger:
Which area of the team should we feel most confident in? The least?
What should we know about Todd Fitch’s past teams to anticipate what the offense looks like in 2020?
Answers from AoG:
Tom Stephenson: Strangely, I am most confident in the defensive line, which has Dayo Odeyingbo along with a bunch of useful guys, some of whom are over 300 pounds. Anyway, the bar here is really low, because while I’m not especially confident in the defensive line, the other position groups are mostly varying degrees of dumpster fires. In the opposite direction, the offensive line inspires zero confidence thanks mostly to a bunch of projected starters opting out of the season.
Well, we know that Todd Fitch has been an offensive coordinator before, which was more than you could say for last year’s offensive coordinator. Therefore, we can anticipate that the offense will appear to have something resembling a game plan better than “run Ke’Shawn into the line twice, then Riley Neal throws a pass horribly short of the line to gain to set up a punt.”
Stanimal: There’s an area of confidence? I can honestly say this is the least confident I’ve been in a football team ever, and that’s really saying something. Show me absolutely anything to inspire confidence anywhere. I suppose this answers both confidence questions.
I will say that despite our self-destruction of last year I am very pleased with the Fitch and Roof hires. Ted Roof was a terrible head coach at Duke but the guy was actually quite good as a defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. As for Fitch, he coached a Thursday night special Conference USA offense that was top 50 in the nation, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. That team looooved throwing the ball. I do think our OL and QB situations will mandate quick hitters, even though I think we’ve got enough on the outside that we could go vertical. I just don’t know that we’ll have time......kind of like when I try to hit Bed, Bath and Beyond on a Saturday after Home Depot with my wife and screaming kids.
Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll go least confident first: the offensive line. If we go without catastrophic injuries to three or more QBs this year, I’ll count that as a win for our line. As for the best... hmm... (double checks the transfer portal to make sure a few of them are still on the team)... that’s our DBs (which is not exactly uncommon for our feetball Dores in this century), with our LBs in a close 2nd (*Editor’s note: Since writing this, Anderson has entered the transfer portal—Boo-urns).
As for the new OC:
Fitch better have my money he’s going to want to throw it on every down. Man, this would have been a hell of an offense last year had Mason not burned Shurms Mckenzie’s shirt his freshman year. (Screams into pillow.) This year? Did you see the Eagles get pasted by the Washington Feetball Team in week one because their all-injured OL couldn’t block for shit, and their OC dialed up deep passes most plays? Well, that team has Carson Wentz. We do not have Carson Wentz. (Screams hard enough to blast a hole through screaming pillow.)
Doreontheplains: My immediate reaction to “most confident” is the running backs because we have 3 backs that can be very effective, but since I have no confidence in the OL, they will probably not look very good. The defensive backfield should be very good. There is a lot of depth there, even with the transfers. Frank Coppet is a backup.
Fitch’s history suggests he is smart enough to recognize the problem of having a weak OL. Expect a lot of 3, 4, or even 5 wide sets to spread opposing defenses then try to hit on quick throws with the running game based on deception with motion and counter concepts. Short passes to RBs out of the backfield will probably be an extension of the running game, too.
VandyImport: I mean...assuming that Ted Roof is competent, there’s enough talent on defense to maybe get into that Woodyball mode where you steal a win, maybe two, and keep Vegas from winning on the over or covering these ridiculous spreads. This may be that odd year where you root for a bend-but-don’t-break defense just to keep the offense off the field and the quarterback free from harm.
Question from WilySnowPena:
So... will the team be fun to watch at QB?
Answers from AoG:
Andrew VU ‘04: No. Hate to be the downer in the preseason mail bag, but no. I cannot imagine any QB, short of the Virginia Tech version of Michael Vick or Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, being any fun to watch run for their lives behind this offensive line. Calling this line “patch-work” is an insult to patches. Think beginning of his career Jay Cutler as the high watermark for Vanderbilt QB success behind this line. (*Seals beats someone about the head with a blue security phone for good luck.)
Tom Stephenson: Do you draw any joy out of watching a quarterback run for his life while being pursued by multiple defenders? If so, then yes. If no... well, I can sort of see Ken Seals giving you hope.
Stanimal: So YES, maybe! I am optimistic about Ken Seals and Mike Wright. They are going to get pounded this year unfortunately, but if I can see any spark from either it’s an improvement. (I can’t believe I’m the optimist on this blog.)
Doreontheplains: If he can have more than 2 seconds to throw most downs, I think Seals (my projected starter) will be effective. The odds are that he is going to get treated like Jay Cutler in Chicago. I just hope he survives and does not develop bad habits from this season if the OL expectations come true.
VandyImport: Think David Carr with the Texans in 2002. It pains me to say it but we might have to play all four QBs just to distribute the beatings.