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Week 4 Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Georgia v Vanderbilt Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Question from RocketCityVandy:

What does “hope” look like for this Vandy team, and importantly we fans? With such terrible losses already this season, what’s our actual metric here? I obviously forgot to save my syllabus before the season started, but I also figure it’s changed somewhat. I’m assuming that win-loss plays only a partial role now.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: At this point, the most likely outcome is 2-10. Beat UConn, and then Vanderbilt is probably a heavy underdog in the seven games after that. So what does “hope” look like? It looks like those losses being competitive ones instead of blowouts. It looks like underclassmen who haven’t been playing much early making their way into the rotation and playing well. It looks like Ken Seals reverting to the 2020 version of himself instead of whatever the hell it is we’ve been seeing for the past few weeks. Okay, and maybe it looks like somehow, some way winning an SEC game. But if you’re looking for hope in the win-loss record you’re probably not going to find it this season.

Doreontheplains: Have fun, hope to be competitive. Except against UConn. If we do not comfortably cover, abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Paul: To me, “hope” means that it can’t possibly get any worse than 62-0. Bring on the rest of the SEC. To quote former DT Nifae Lealao, “Bama, you’re next!

Andrew VU ‘04: As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” For us, it looks like this:

Question from WestEndMayhem:

I have a friend (don’t we all) who works tangentially with Vandy athletics. Before our first kickoff, I texted him and asked what to expect for our ETSU opener. To my surprise, he predicted a loss. I wrote that off as well-developed pessimism, yet here we are.

With four games into HCCL’s tenure, and the prognosis not looking good, a few users here have begun to write him off as Derek Mason 2.0. I don’t blame them, because wow we are looking bad.

In your way too early opinion, how are we trending? I’ve been vocal in Lea’s favor if only because I believe him when he says “total rebuild,” with emphasis on total.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The distinction I can draw between the first few games of Clark Lea’s tenure and the first four games of Derek Mason’s is this: Derek Mason followed up the Temple loss with a few more turds. I mean, he threw Stephen Rivers to the wolves in a 41-3 loss to Ole Miss, needed freaking UMass to miss a field goal to just barely prevail against an awful team, then he lost by two touchdowns to South Carolina in spite of Darrius Sims returning two kickoffs for touchdowns.

And... I’m not really seeing the same cause for concern here. For one thing, we knew going in that this was going to be a rebuilding year (unlike 2014.) For another, the ETSU loss, as bad as it was, wasn’t followed up with equally awful performances until the Georgia game, which is explained by the fact that we’re not even in the same ballpark as them talent-wise. If you want to be negative, fine, but it’s less backed up by the facts than it was in September 2014.

Anyway, as I’ve been saying in the comments for a while, this is mostly a talent issue. The problems on defense are basically the same ones we’ve been having since Zach Cunningham and Adam Butler left, and the offensive line can’t block anyone. But some people just bought in too hard to the “mAsOn Is A dEfEnSiVe GeNiUs” thing that they can’t accept that the problems weren’t going to be fixed simply by having a different guy running the show.

Doreontheplains: My advice is basically to ignore the UGA game. They appeared to be following the fan base's idiotic vitriol about last season's cancelation after the 4th down attempts in FG range. When a national title contender wants to run up the score on a bad team, that's what happens, especially with the two turnovers deep in our own half.

Paul: I had the (mis)fortune of being at both the 59-0 Bama loss back in 2017 and Saturday’s 2021 beatdown against the Dawgs. While the former game was a testament to how good Bama’s team was, what I saw on Saturday was an indication of just how bad this Vanderbilt program has become. I have never seen such a disparity in talent. Clark Lea can’t be this incompetent, and I truly believe he just doesn’t have any more than 15 D1 caliber players on his entire roster. I’ll reiterate - this is not the players’ fault. They’re just the best we have on campus right now.

Andrew VU ‘04: You have a friend, eh? “Don’t we all,” eh? I, for one, will not stand for such blatant attacks on Parlagi.

Question from DoreFaninDallas:

OK, no one expected Vanderbilt to beat Georgia. Hardly anyone expected it to be close. But with 2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt had the ball in UGA territory and in fact drove the ball into field goal range. On 4th down and 7, HCCL decided not to try a field goal and get a score (certainly two points of view on that) but rather to get a first down and possibly score a touchdown. But the 4th down call was terrible – just a run into the line. So do we now have another HCDM coordinator problem????

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Karl Dorrell was a terrible coordinator hire from the jump, because he hadn’t been an offensive coordinator for 15 years and it showed. But the real coordinator problem with Mason was that Mason couldn’t ever seem to get out of his offensive coordinator’s way, except for when his back was against the wall. Remember when, at the end of the 2016 season, we scored 38 on Ole Miss and 45 on THEM after spending the entire season up until that point farting around? Yeah, that was Andy Ludwig doing what he wanted to do, but outside of that Mason could never seem to figure out that the solution was to just get out of his offensive coordinator’s way instead of insisting on running a ball-control offense in the 2010s.

So uh yeah, Joey Lynch might be a bad coordinator, I don’t know. I don’t know who exactly could make an offense look good with this offensive line, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt here.

Doreontheplains: I have zero justification for the playcall. Lynch has been decent at worst since the last 2 minutes of the first half against Colorado State though. You can do some things to scheme around a poor offensive line, but it requires winning and winning early at other spots. We could not win anywhere against UGA.

I did like the message we were not going to put lipstick on the pig by taking a FG to bust the shutout.

Paul: I kind of loved the move, honestly. It sent a message that with the effort the team had put in for the first 99% of the game, they hadn’t earned the right to put points on the board. It was an attempt to give them one last chance to grit out something for themselves. It failed, but perhaps it was a teaching moment.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m just here to applaud the fact that you were still watching that game with 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter. I’m not sure what I was doing by that point (besides muttering gibberish in the fetal position), but it sure was not paying close attention to our play calling.

Question from Vault Boy:

What are the things a Vandy fan can look forward to in a positive light, when it comes to this football team’s future? Both for this season and the next.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: You can look forward to a trip to Hawaii to open 2022.

Doreontheplains: Ben Bresnahan and Re'Mahn Davis hopefully being healthy.

Paul: 4 hours back on your fall Saturdays through 2022. 10 win seasons when we get demoted to an FCS team.

Andrew VU ‘04: Baseball season.

Question from VandyBias:

Why the hell is Ken Seals still the starting QB? He’s mustered a 23.8 QBR this season and a 0.6 last game. 0.6. That’s atrocious.He’s obviously regressed and unlike Mike Wright, he gives you absolutely nothing on the ground, at least Wright gave Vanderbilt 41 yards on the ground. This seems like poor coaching to just keep throwing the same dude who is super turnover prone and makes really poor reads with the ball into the same situation each week expecting different results.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: My read on this is that the coaching staff views Seals as the best guy for the future, and since this is a lost season anyway you’re better off letting him get more experience instead of throwing out a guy who might be better for this team in a futile attempt to go 4-8.

Doreontheplains: Since you brought up QBRs, Mike Wright's QBR for the season is 14.2, so he is still significantly worse than Seals by that metric. I certainly do not think either of them are THAT bad. I understand the concerns about the offensive line pushing folks to support Wright, but it will only make things worse up front with no real passing threat. Wright should have played more against Jawja. He should not be starting. The coaches do need to use him better and not just for taking Seals out for a drive.

Paul: I had a hard time with the coaching staff’s decision to bring Ken Seals back into the game when Mike Wright had given Vandy our only first downs of the game. Having said this, I do trust the intuition of the coaching staff that Ken Seals is the best option as a passer. Armchair coaches like myself often forget that not only are Clark Lea and his staff professionals at their jobs, (experience wise, if nothing else) they also see these two players throwing passes in practice every day of the week. Mike wright gives a spark plug, but have you seen him do anything with his arm yet that screams long term starter to you?

Andrew VU ‘04: I was all in on Team Loose Seals until this past week. Oddly enough, the reason I switched to Team Jacob (umm... Might Wright) had very little to do with Seals himself, and everything to do with our offensive line. When your offensive line is effectively no different than a matador’s cape, you have to put in the QB with escapability, or risk being charged with capital murder once the lesser mobile QB gets fully David Carr’d (aka Tim Couch’d in the Kentucky/Ohio regional dialect) by the end of the SEC schedule. You could put an in-his-prime statue of a QB like Vinny Testaverde behind this line, dress him up in a Ken Seals jersey, and no one would be able to tell the difference. It’s not about talent anymore... it’s about utilizing the QB who has the skillset to cope best with our deficiencies. The Ugga game slammed that home.

Question from Jeturn:

In what year will HCCL achieve a winning record?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Optimistically, 2023. I don’t think the roster will be fixed to the point that you can beat two of South Carolina/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missourah prior to that. (Granted, they might have to beat three of four looking at the actual 2023 schedule, since one of the four nonconference games is a trip to Wake Forest. Ah, hell, I shouldn’t assume we win at UNLV either, because I remember the last time I assume a win over UNLV.)

Doreontheplains: Probably 2024 with how the schedules work out. Next season's OOC is Charmin Ultra Soft though. Having Bama as the rotating West opponent is the issue there. Well, and limits on how much you believe the issue is actual talent versus how talent was developed.

Paul: 2023 is the only answer that will give me any kind of sanity in the near term, so let’s go with that. The program has gotten to the point where if HCCL’s tenure is as bad as Mason’s I fear the SEC boot by the end of the decade.

Andrew VU ‘04: 2025. That’s when his first real class of ‘croots will be Juniors. The world may well be full in its Mad Max:Fury Road phase by then, so plan accordingly.

Question from Rubber Hell:

Can we check in with Mason and the Auburn Tigers? How is Auburn enjoying their shiny, new defensive genius? As few as they may be, are there any hiccups Coach Mason has encountered since his celebrated return to big college football?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah I’m just gonna defer to the hired Auburn man on this one.

Doreontheplains: He is, from what I have seen, running the same defense with a lot better talent. There have been a lot of busts in coverage. It is very strange.

Paul: I think Derek will continue to teeter between defensive mastermind and borderline incompetency week to week, just as he did for a lot of his career at Vanderbilt. So long as D1 programs will give him the benefit of the doubt, he’ll continue to earn a 7 figure salary, so good for Coach. He was always a good guy.

Andrew VU ‘04: Can’t fix stupid. Even in ‘Barn country.

Question from VanfyFanBR:


Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Who?

Doreontheplains: Because life sucks then you die.

Paul: Because good people don’t deserve good football teams. It’s not how the universe works. The older I get, the more this becomes evident. A 21 year old UGA fan whom I’d never met called me a loser to my face on Saturday. I didn’t have a comeback for him because after a quick glance at the scoreboard I didn’t really disagree. I’ll keep giving to charity and being a nice person, and Vanderbilt football will continue to get worse.

Andrew VU ‘04: Man, I’m in full-on “Why not?” mode. Part of it is the sunk cost of being an alum. Part of it is the perverse pleasure in seeing how far down the bottom truly is (and then, hopefully, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and a moment in which we turn things around again, Brigadoon style). Most of it is writing gallows humor in the game threads (I sincerely enjoy reading all of yours, as well), which builds the best community I’ve ever been a part of. But, if I’m being honest, what the hell else am I going to do with my time? Something productive? Why start now?

Question from ShoogyMgShoogs:

Since Texas and Oklahoma are joining the league, are we forced to recognize Missouri and aTm as members since they aren’t the newest?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: No. Hell I still barely recognize Arkansas and South Carolina.

Doreontheplains: Newest members to what? What did A&M and Missourah join? When?

Paul: The Texas A&M cult will always feel weird as a part of the SEC. Hopefully Mizzou and Vandy can start to bond as the little guys on the block now that we have two more big dogs crowding us out?

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll be deep in the cold cold ground before I recognize any of them as anything other than Big XII cow colleges.