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Week 3 Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

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You ask, we answer.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Vanderbilt
Unfortunately, the season is over for Re’Mahn “The Hypothesis” Davis.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Question from McCaffreyFan:

Our friends to the east are really struggling on the recruiting trail.

Our recruiting pitch is: The City, The Degree, The SEC.

Maybe they should come up with a slogan too.

What would you all recommend?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I yield to Patrick.

Doreontheplains: I cede my time to Stan.

Stanimal: See Andrew’s very accurate slogan.

Paul: The Facilities. McDonald’s aplenty. Lose to ‘Bama every year by Twenty.

Andrew VU ‘04: The Funnel, The Franzia, The bUTt.


Question from VandyFanBR:

I’m the only one who is starting to see serious limitations in Ken Seals game? Seems like he always make the same throws, his ability to read defenses after the snap is pretty limited. Don’t know how much of this is on the play calling or in thee OL that is mediocre at best, but his limitations are starting to worry me (although he is probably the best passer in the team), but Mike Wright is pretty fast and undoubtedly he could be a excellent weapon in this offense with the poor OL and surprisingly good running game, so is time to give him a full time starting opportunity?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, I think we’re starting to see why Seals was a three-star who most of the big football schools passed on. That said, I don’t think Wright is a better option at this time. There might be more upside there, and he’s a better runner, but right now I see a lot of Johnny McCrary there and that needs to change before I am comfortable sending him out there.

Doreontheplains: Let’s not forget that before his TD pass, Wright threw a should-be interception. One DB tipped it up, and another dropped it. If you are worried about Seals reading defenses, you do not want to see Wright as more than a change of pace option. In the spring game where Wright looked so good, almost all of his throws were just deep throws to Sheppard and other large WRs. Trying to throw deep consistently with this OL is not going to be a winning strategy.

I am a bit concerned though that Seals does not look any better than last season. He is trying to go down the field a bit more, I think. The offense wants to attack all areas of the field, but the line has made that difficult. The adjustments for the OL have led to seeing a lot of the same types of throws. The offense looked to be finding a groove early against Stanford before not being able to get going after Re’Mahn Davis went down, which is a much bigger concern for me than Seals not getting off to a hot start to the season.

Stanimal: I just haven’t seen enough bad to pull the plug. With a new coaching regime, you sort of have to trust the coaches that they know what they are doing, and hope that if the eventual outcome is as you expect, that they will put the best 11 players on the field on both sides of the ball to eventually get over the hump. While I love Mike Wright, I’m not sure your result would be all that different.

Paul: Everyone is hyping up the Mike Wright train, myself included, but people have to keep in mind that he looked so fast and capable late in Saturday’s game because it was in garbage time against Stanford’s walk ons. Seals has started to worry me, though. It seems like if the first read, a slant over the middle, isn’t open, then there isn’t much hope in him completing a pass unless its a Chris Pierce jump ball.

Andrew VU ‘04: That is one hell of a run-on sentence. Grammar aside, there’s also the old adage: “The most popular guy on a losing team is the back-up quarterback.” Now I like Mike Wright, and think we could use him more as a change of pace guy, but really, he would be perfect as a slot receiver. As for Ken “Loose” Seals, while he has been up and down this year, I have to think a lot of that is on the O-Line. I still think Seals is Kyle Shurmur with better arm talent and better legs, though obviously not as polished as Shurms was at this point in his career. Of course, very few young QBs have a father who was a QB coach for Andy “Big Red” Reid during your elementary school years, an NFL OC in their middle and high school years, and a Head Coach in the NFL when you were preparing for the draft. In fact, given those specific requirements, Ol’ Crazy Legs Shurms McKenzie is quite literally the only person with said advantages. I’ve still got big hopes for Loose Seals... I just hope he doesn’t get completely David Carr’d this year once SEC play starts up. We should put him in one of those giant inflatable orbs when we play Ugga this weekend.


Question from BarnDore1950:

Given the fact we have a drop back passing scheme that is often under pressure, what changes does the coaching staff need to make to give Seals more time? I have my own thoughts, but would love to hear yours.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It starts with kicking a defensive lineman in the nuts.

Stanimal: Honestly I’m not sure there’s much else. All you have to do is look at Seals ypa to see that they are already doing what they can in the passing game (i.e. throwing quick hitters, high completion attempts (or should be high completion attempts). The running game, at least before Davis went down, should open up more play action opportunities, but the problem with play action is that it takes time to develop. Until Seals can get more of a clean pocket, you’re not going to see a whole lot of chunk plays in the passing game.

Paul: Dig trenches at the line of scrimmage to give the defense one more obstacle before bulldozing over our Offensive Line. I think RPO is the only option. We try this, but given that we physically cannot stop these defenses from getting to us, the only remaining option is to get really good at making them guess a 33% chance rather than giving them a guaranteed tackle for loss.

Andrew VU ‘04: The scheme change you could do is go 12 personnel, with one of the two tight ends being an extra O-Lineman. You could also roll Seals out from time to time. Either way, you’re putting lipstick on a pig and hamstringing your offense. There’s not a whole hell of a lot you can do until you have a workable offensive line.

Doreontheplains: I slid myself to the end on this one because my answer involved ideas that Paul and Andrew touched on already. RPOs are going to be important as are other misdirection plays. I really liked the RPO concept used a few times against Colorado State where Cam Johnson came in motion on a play that was basically a triple option with Seals deciding whether to give to Davis or throw to Johnson with a hypothetical “keep” option if niether was open. The problem is that until Seals settles into a groove putting more pressure on him to make snap decisions on RPOs will either give him confidence or overload him.

Andrew is right about rollouts, but the problem is finding ways not to telegraph the rollouts and have Seals roll right into a blitzing OLB or DB. I am not sure how good Seals can be rolling to his left, at least not until he shows it this season. Last season, I remember him throwing some very good sideline throws while moving to his left.

A couple of things worked well against Stanford that should become staples of the offense. Zone rushing schemes, not just on read option, are a good way to help mitigate disaster when the OL is mistake prone because it allows the HB to pick a crease as it opens instead of trying to open up one specific running lane. The other is motion. Motion can expose where blitzers are coming from pre-snap to help Seals and the OL identify them. The misdirection can also help open receiving options early along with creating soft spots for the rushing attack if LBs can be influenced.


Question from Nova_Dore:

With stuffing the run on first down happening frequently, why aren’t we seeing play action throws?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m just going to agree with the answers below.

Doreontheplains: Play action from the shotgun is not as effective, and we cannot go under center for play action. Also, I’m not sure the issue is as bad as you think. Against Stanford, Vanderbilt had 12 offensive drives, but I will toss out the Mike Wright drive to end the game because that is not our typical offense. On the other 11 drives, only 3 started with an unsuccessful (less than 5 yards) running play. Four of them started with successful running plays. The other 4 were passing attempts.

Of all first down rushing plays (again excluding the Wright drive), 9 were successful and 13 were not. It should also be noted that of the unsuccessful runs 2 were for 3 yards and 3 were for 4 yards, so they were not exactly “stuffed” and kept the offense on schedule. The run-pass mix on first down looks pretty good to me.

Stanimal: Again, play action is great and the relative success of our run game does open up opportunities for it, but it takes a lot of time to develop. If your o-line can’t hold pass protection out of straight shotgun, then I’m not sure there’s much to suggest it would be able to hold a play action protection scheme.

Paul: O line already can’t hold it longer than a 5 year old child at Disney world, so I think waiting on a play to develop for more than 3-4 seconds is a large ask for these guys. That being said, I’d love to spread the ball around on first down more. 2nd and 10 is still better than 2nd and 12, right?

Andrew VU ‘04: You want to force this O-Line to hold blocks even longer???


Question from DenverDore:

After a dozen or so games, how would you compare a young Kyle Shurmer with a young Ken Seals? And what does Ken Seals need to do to take that next step?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Seals is a better runner, and I thought he was farther along as a true freshman than Shurmur was in 2015... only, Shurmur made a pretty big jump from freshman to sophomore year and so far I haven’t seen that with Seals. I now am starting to have a feeling that Seals is one of those very advanced freshman quarterbacks who didn’t have a ton of upside beyond that; basically, what we saw with Seals in 2020 is what we’re gonna get, whereas Shurmur did get a lot better over the course of his career at Vanderbilt.

Doreontheplains: Shurmur was more polished, which as Andrew already pointed out in answering another question is expected of the son of an NFL OC and QB’s coach. Shurmur knew how to play the position on the mental and technical level that was very high. Both struggle with their footwork to my untrained eye. Young Shurmur often squared up to the field when he felt pressure and put himself off base. Seals has a tendency to get off balance and try moving too much when he feels pressure, which is understandable behind this offensive line.

The next step for Seals is probably a willingness to stand and deliver under pressure. He has the arm talent (more than Shurmur) to make the throws. It is not an enviable position, but he needs to buy into the adage “take a hit to make a play” because it is what this team needs. He honestly has not been hit that much this season, even with the porous OL play. The determination that he is going to make the throw and deal with the consequences later would probably fix most of the misfires. Again, I know that is MUCH easier said from behind a keyboard or in the stands than done on the field. It is his next step because it is what made Cutler, who is the more comparable QB than Shurmur probably, so good.

Stanimal: I don’t think Seals and Shurmur are particularly comparable as young quarterbacks because with Shurmur, the cupboard wasn’t completely bare on the o-line. I think talent wise they are similar, but Seals is more mobile. The second question is a little easier to answer. Seals has very little margin for error given the limitations that surround him, and so he must win the film room and improve his reads. I don’t think he sees defenses the way Shurmur did. Shurmur was very good at that out of the box. Ken Seals next step will require him to improve his QB intelligence, take what the defense gives him, and not turn the ball over. Worry about shot plays when the offensive line can give him greater protection.

Paul: If you look at Shurmur’s stats by year, he didn’t really take off until his Junior year, and it was a large step, going from 9 TDs and 10 INTs as a sophomore to 26/10 as a Junior and then 24/6 as a senior. Wow, we took him for granted. In retrospect, Shurmur benefited from weapons maturing alongside him (Pinkney, Lipscomb, etc), so it will be fascinating to see how Seals does in the latter half of his career. I’d say Seals needs to do better at following his progressions in the pocket, but that doesn’t really seem possible at the moment.

Andrew VU ‘04: See above answer to VandyFanBR, as I basically compared them by saying they’re quite comparable. Shurms was more polished (really the most polished young QB I’ve ever seen at Vandy), but Loose Seals has better arm talent. Seals can actually move a bit, too.


Question from WestEndMayhem:

Based on what you’ve seen, who has the higher ceiling: Seals or Wright? In game 1, I personally was more impressed with what I saw from Wright. If HCCL plans to utilize a dink-and-dunk offense due to personnel limitations in his early career, why not have the mobile guy throw the short passes while also being a dual threat with his legs?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Wright, but that doesn’t mean that he should be playing right now.

Doreontheplains: Really not sure what Wright’s ceiling is, but I think Seals can definitely be a borderline NFL arm with the right development.

To answer your second question, it is because the mobile guy is not particularly reliable even on the short throws. Mike was 4/9 for 49 yards against ETSU. Seals was 20/35 for 195 yards. Wright’s arm strength is good to very good. His accuracy is the issue. Those short throws, especially when teams know you are not throwing deep because you cannot do so, require a lot of accuracy.

Stanimal: I do think Wright’s ceiling is higher than Seals but only if I see more evidence of what Wright can do in the passing game. The old saying is that you can’t coach speed, and clearly Wright wins that category. However, Wright isn’t Michael Vick and isn’t going to be able to do one read then run. Wright’s best work would come if he demonstrated comparable passing ability to Seals, and again, I have to think the coaching staff feels that Seals is further ahead in that than Wright.

Paul: We haven’t seen not only enough of Wright but also the package that we plan to run him in to give a proper answer to that question. I’ll pick the fun answer and say Wright. The quickest way for Vandy to start to close the gaps on some of these teams is to run a successful hurry up scheme that spreads the ball around. Think Nick Marshall/Auburn in 2013. That team had no business being in the national championship, but they were able to fool teams with a successful scheme and athlete at QB.

Andrew VU ‘04: Seals. Wright is always going to be tempting, as he’s the superior athlete (and when your offensive line is more of a suggestion than anything, the allure of the mobile QB gets even higher). Still, Seals, if he puts everything together, has a slightly higher ceiling than Shurms McKenzie, and Shurms is currently on the Practice Squad for the Washington Feetball Team.


Question from Dore31:

We haven’t generated a lot of pressure and I think have only 1 sack through 3 games. Is this a talent issue, scheme issue (not bringing 5 or 6 guys very often), or both?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Talent. Our defensive line is undersized.

Doreontheplains: Talent. Without having recorded it all, I think we are bringing a decent amount of pressure. It is just being picked up too easily because no one can get off a block.

Stanimal: It’s talent. Our interior defensive linemen are actually pretty decent, but we have nothing on the edge right now. If we still had Dayo you’d see much greater production than what you have right now. But there’s no one right now who’s shown anywhere close to that potential, so your pass rush is largely going to be a recruiting endeavor.

Paul: Talent is the easy answer. Coach Lea’s Notre Dame defenses hovered around #30 nationally in sacks per season, so I trust his schemes enough to get the job done with the right talent.

Andrew VU ‘04: It’s mostly a talent issue.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

So here we are, staring 2-10 square in the face. I honestly feel a little better about that than I expected to. However, I am extremely worried about our attrition rates going into SEC play; hopefully we can keep everyone uninjured and simply try to get everyone through to next year healthy and with more experience under their belts.

That said, what do we think of the upcoming Hawkeye series? Looks like it’ll be good, and a good reward for making it through this slog of a season of Vanderbilt Football. Any recommendations for other shows to watch?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The what?

Doreontheplains: Your hopes have already been dashed. I am not the guy to ask about anything TV/film related because if it is not sports then I am probably not watching it.

Stanimal: The Witcher, Cobra Kai, and hell I basically cycle through the John Wick movies every three months or so.

Paul:

Andrew VU ‘04: I was worried about 0-12 after ETSU, so I’m not apoplectic (prettiest Denny’s waitress effect). I’m going to assume Hawkeye is one of those comic book things, as that and singing competitions where you don’t know what the singer looks like are pretty much the only things being filmed right now. If so, you’re asking the wrong guy. I have been rewatching my old Kids in the Hall DVDs, though. 5/5. Would recommend.


Question from VU1970:

I have my own strategy for enjoying Vanderbilt football even when they’re not winning, honed over many decades. What’s yours?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Booze.

Doreontheplains: Drinking heavily and trying to overanalyze things to find cause/effect and reasons for optimism.

Stanimal: Mine is the same as it was in college. It’s miller time.

Paul: Put $10 on the “Dores covering. Vegas is still pretty good at making lines despite how bad Vanderbilt may be at football, so that will give the game a bit of spice.

Andrew VU ‘04: Writing gallows humor on this very blog. Possibly whilst sipping on some bourbon.


Question from Lsmsrbls:

If Vanderbilt had to give up football, how would you trade those 85 football scholarships for other sports?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: We know that Pinman would simply claim all 85 scholarships for women’s bowling. OO.

Doreontheplains: Ignoring how giving up football would implode our athletics department, men’s soccer (which only gets 10 when there are 11 players on the field LOL), men’s lacrosse, and ... I have no idea after that. The lacrosse one was just a goofy addition anyway to lean into the “rich kid school” stereotypes. Does the NCAA sponsor polo?

Stanimal: The SEC money is inextricably linked to football, so the overall athletic program is going to hurt badly if we decide to call it quits in football. My view, from an administrative perspective (not from a fan perspective), has always been that we should be using the resources we have better across all of our sports with the understanding that football will be a slow and painful climb with a likely glass ceiling. That’s not the same as basketball and obviously we see how baseball is doing. That being said, I am excited to see the fruits of the Vandy United program. We desperately needed to rebuild our foundation if we were ever going to have a future in athletics, and it appears we are doing it to the benefit of all sports, including football.

Paul: Give all 85 scholarships to baseball so that the other SEC teams can complain even further about the unfair advantage we have once Corbin brings home is 3rd title in 2022.

Andrew VU ‘04: Here’s the thing: if we ever gave up feetball (note: I don’t see it coming), it would be the death knell of many women’s sports. Rather than adding more men’s sports, we’d just cut 85 schollies worth of women’s sports and get 170 more full tuition paying students. That’s about $11 mil a year more in revenues, and it would take the sting out of losing that fat SEC/ESPN check. In doing so, you’re basically choosing to be The University of Chicago. Nothing but D-III/intramural sports, Fermi Labs, and the color maroon. THE COLOR MAROON, PEOPLE!!!