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Week Seven Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Ole Miss v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Question from VandyStud:

If you were put in charge of Vandy football tomorrow morning, what changes would you make?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I would take all the tickets on the side of the stadium where visiting fans sit and give them all away to local youth groups and the like, with a free black Vanderbilt t-shirt to go with them. Nothing would please me more than Tennessee coming to town and none of their fans being able to get in the stadium.

Doreontheplains: Scheme more for BresnaHANDS and not ever have De’Rickey Wright as the deepest defender ever again. Gavin Schoenwald is doing just fine, and I love seeing his role increased, but Bresnahan could also be used more/better. Wright is a very good defender up around the line of scrimmage or as safety help over man coverage (got both picks Saturday this way if my live assessment was accurate), but he is getting killed as the deepest defender in pure zone looks.

Cole Sullivan: In my version of “Little Big League” I would probably just try and keep things exactly as they are while collecting what I assume is a decent paycheck. I like the direction of the program, and I could use a job like this, although I guess I would just try and hit the recruiting trail even harder. Especially on defense. We’ve got a serious need for speed to contain some of these SEC offenses. So yeah, I would maintain status quo, recruit some defensive players, and hopefully profit.

Andrew VU ‘04: I would install a bookshelf in the locker room with one fake book in it where if you pull on that book, the entire wall rotates and reveals a passageway to a creepy stone staircase. The book would be titled The Road to Perdition, In Praise of Folly, or The Hetwetter’s Guide to the Galaxy (haven’t yet decided).

Question from 92Drummer:

1st half or 2nd half - which is more reflective of who we really at this point in the post-Mason recovery process?

2 weeks to plan and scheme with Wright. Did that thought experiment go well enough that we will see more, or are we FINALLY done with QBA&B possibilities?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The first half, if you’re willing to put aside the score and look at how the team actually performed — it’s a team that can be competitive if the other team is making mistakes, which is fine for the second year of a major rebuild. Vanderbilt did lead 20-17 at the half, but that was with Ole Miss turning it over on downs (because a tight end couldn’t handle a short pass) and throwing an interception. The second half reflected the talent gap, but also what happens when we’re the ones making all the mistakes.

Ole Miss clearly shit themselves when they saw Mike Wright lined up on the field, so yeah, I’d do that again, but probably not more than a once-per-game gimmick to throw the defense off.

Doreontheplains: What do you want? Nocontextcollegefootball memes? We saw the best the 2022 Dores have to offer in the first half then saw a lot less than that in the second half. No, it probably was not the worst this team can or will play, but it looked that way against a Top 10 (theoretically) team with a creative offense. The second half performance is most likely a case of the opposition making halftime adjustments while the talent gap made our coaches’ options limited. You cannot ignore that we had a halftime lead (Without it looking flukey!) against a Top 10 team, nor can you ignore they had little trouble erasing that lead then storming out to a comfortable win.

I thought the Mike Wright package was a bit overdone. Keep the fun stuff to smaller spurts. Maybe we will see a double pass soon. Granted, Swann was also coming off the field holding his left (non-throwing shoulder) awkward, so it may have been somewhat injury caused not just game planning.

Cole Sullivan: It was the best of teams, it was the worst of teams, but if I had to pick then the second half is probably more representative of Vanderbilt football right now. No matter how hard we try, we are still outclassed by the cream of the SEC crop. We played hard and made a few big plays, but there were a few penalties and big missed passes that we may be able to make with another year or two of the Leanaissance.

Wright should just do what I assume all backup QBs do nowadays. Stare into the transfer portal considering the multitude of ways it could improve or ruin his life between just enough practice reps to be ready in case Swann can’t play for whatever reason.

Andrew VU ‘04: I hate to be the fence-sitter guy, but the answer to question 1 is “both.” Our offense can hang with everyone (save NFL teams like Ramajama and Ugga) for a half. On the other side of the ball, we can’t really hang with anyone, and once you get to the 2nd half, opposing teams will just be playing the chuck it deep game. Whereas our offense is talented, but not deep, our defense is neither deep nor talented. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are both halves of one book that wasn’t as good as I remembered it being when I was a child. Like Mr. Hyde, opposing offenses will stomp us to death in the 2nd half if that have even one talented WR who can catch deep balls.

As for Wright, it still makes sense for him to be a red zone option, but I’m none too pleased that they didn’t at least try him out at H-Back or slot WR. The fact that when they went with 2 QBs at a time, they had Swann split out wide was, in effect, bringing back Mike Wright, but only playing with 10 players. Don’t do that.

Question from DoreFaninDallas:

If James Franklin was the coach, he would have kicked Lane Kiffin’s butt for running up the score at the end of the game (remember him against UGA?). Many believe that galvanized Franklin’s team that year. So why was Clark Lea polite at the end of the game?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The thing is... I really don’t care about this. Ole Miss scored a touchdown in the final minute when they were up 45-28? That’s fine. Remember this if we ever have a big lead on them and also have the opportunity to score late, but otherwise, who really cares. If Vanderbilt didn’t want to get scored on there, they could have kept them out of the end zone. I’m of the opinion that the winning team has no obligation to stop scoring unless the losing team has communicated that they have no interest in playing football any more, which was not the case.

Doreontheplains: The issue with UGA was pretty directly with Grantham, who was going after a Vanderbilt player. Franklin’s issue was not with an opponent running up the score but with an opposing coach going after his player personally. I do not remember why The Human Anus was going after the Vanderbilt player. I have no doubts Franklin would have been animated after the game. Andrew pointed out that Clark’s calmer approach may be no less impactful.

Cole Sullivan: I assumed the annihilation we suffered in the second half was complete enough that Lea had already moved on a little to the postgame locker room meeting. He’ll remember this, though, and if we’re ever up big you can count on Lea rubbing it in.

Andrew VU ‘04: See, I saw it differently. It seemed Lea was doing the calm, but stern Liam Neeson, “I will find you, and I will kill you” routine with Kiffykins during the end of game shake. What confirmed it for me was how Lane looked legitimately frightened when the sideline reporter asked him about what he and Lea talked about. I can’t remember what Lane said to her—and by now, you have to know I’m not going to do any research whatsoever—but it was some obvious bullshit lie like, “We wouldn’t have run that play, but there was time on the clock.” No, Lane. You kneel. Before Zod.

Question from BarnDore1950:

We are better than last year for sure, but its [sic] obvious we still lack enough speed in the secondary to match up with these elite receivers. Is there hope from what you have seen so far in year 2 with the current crop of youngsters?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I honestly haven’t seen enough from the true freshmen in the defensive backfield to answer this, because the guys getting burned in the secondary are Derek Mason recruits.

Doreontheplains: Maybe? I don’t remember the youngsters being burned for straight speed yet, but they may not have been given the assignments to get caught in the open field like that.

Cole Sullivan: Is there hope in what? There’s no hope that they’ll magically get faster, but I do have hope that they’re a decent enough defense to win us a few more games and that they are a better group than I would have expected from the Derek Ages.

Andrew VU ‘04: There’s always hope in the banana stand...

I mean, no. Not really. Speedy WRs (and even those not exactly know to be burners) are just straight up toasting our DBs. The answer lies more along the recruiting trail and into the unethical wormhole that is the transfer portal than the locker room.

Question from VandyFan1:

Is the problem on defense personnel or coaching?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Personnel and it’s not even close, and that includes (gestures broadly at all the injuries along the defensive line.)

Doreontheplains: Personnel. I have not loved Howell’s attempts to compensate every time, but he has at least seemed to have a plan in each game.

Cole Sullivan: Personnel. We need speed. It’s that simple. And maybe a little bit of size. Once we have that, the coaching staff can take that and run with it. Maybe they defense will be able to catch them then.

Andrew VU ‘04: Personnel. I won’t know if there’s a coaching problem until we have DBs who can run with WRs. We do not currently have them.

Question from Force10JC:

After next week we will have run into 3 consecutive top 10, undefeated buzz saws. It seems likely we are destined to be blown out of the 3rd one at UGA. These games being the extreme, I realize it can be difficult to judge just how much we have improved from last season (if at all). Despite mostly being non-competitive (at least in final score) in these three games, there seems to be marked improvement in the potency and consistency on the offensive side of the ball. With the Defense appearing to simply be what it will be, is the offensive improvement enough to carry us to an SEC victory this season to end our streak?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes. Whatever you think of the defense, the offense is probably good enough to outscore at least one of what pass for offenses at Missourah, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida.

Doreontheplains: This is why we don’t just talk about final scores though. Vanderbilt lost to Ole Miss by more points this year than last year, but Ole Miss looks better than last year. The halftime lead was also not something just lucked into on Saturday. The third quarter was just begging for one spark play from the offense to get that game going our way again. It never came. Georgia and Alabama deciding how badly they want to murderdeathkill a team year to year makes judging just on final scores a fool’s errand.

Cole Sullivan: While it may be difficult for us to observe improvement, I assume that there is a lot of learning that comes from playing a worldbeater team. I think we can still win against Mizzou, South Carolina, Florida, and maybe Kentucky. Heck it may even help if we go into those games with the SEC once again doubting us following a thorough trouncing from Georgia.

Andrew VU ‘04: Our schedule this year is just so tough, and both Missourah (spits) and The South Cackalacky Game Penises (swallows) have been better of late. If we get a win, it will be either against the aforementioned teams, against The Jorts in a low scoring affair, or against Kentucky if Will Levis is hurt for that game as he was against The Penises this week. We honestly can lose out and still show a great deal of improvement over the past two years. Frankly, we already have.

Question from VU1970:

We are 3-3 at midseason. Right?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Are you questioning whether we actually won those three games?

Doreontheplains: Why would you tempt the fates?

Cole Sullivan: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: (spit take) No. Just no.

Question from RocketCityVandy:

So I’m going to be at a wedding next Saturday, and will therefore miss the Georgia beatdown game. How many lucky stars should I thank for this?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’d personally be madder about missing Tennessee’s hopes getting dashed when Bama comes to town. Or the MLB playoffs.

Doreontheplains: All 4 of AJ Swann’s stars.

Cole Sullivan: There’s only three stars: the one representing West Tennessee, the one representing Central Tennessee, and the one representing East Tennessee. The middle one is obviously the lucky one, while the easternmost star must be avoided at all costs. While I think missing any Vandy game is unlucky, if you do thank a lucky star just make sure it’s the correct one. Hail Starman.

Andrew VU ‘04:

Questions from DoresFor7 & WestEndMayhem:

Will Clark Lea look to the transfer portal more this off-season and bring in some corners that can better compete in the SEC?

Seems to be our biggest issue.


Was it the Jimmies and Joes after all?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I thought we had pretty much settled the question of whether it was the Jimmies and Joes in the first game of the 2021 season when we were losing in the trenches against East Tennessee State, but yes, it was the Jimmies and Joes.

As far as the transfer portal question, I am fundamentally against using the transfer portal more than absolutely necessary mostly because I hate what it has turned college sports into, but do whatever you have to, I guess. God I hate the portal.

Doreontheplains: Maybe? Hopefully, he can get at least one. Then work really hard on coaching up the younger guys who do not look like they are playing in molasses.

Yes. But, when you have been head coach for seven seasons, the status of the Jimmies and Joes is on your head.

Cole Sullivan: He would be stupid not to look at all, and I think for one or two pressing needs like our secondary he may end up finding someone, but generally I expect him to avoid the portal.

Andrew VU ‘04: He damned well better. When you go into the emergency room with a sprained thumb, a massive bleeding head wound, and an upset stomach, you hope the doctors don’t focus on the thumb and stomach. Fix the damned massive bleeding head wound that is our secondary. There are two ways to do so. Do both.

Question from Parlagi:

How about that commentariat betting performance?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I simply do not understand how you were stupid enough to pick Auburn.

Doreontheplains: I saw this question and knew it was bad. I did not realize HOW bad until I got to the tabulations. I love it SO much.

Cole Sullivan: This is what the commentariat deserves for being a hive of scum and villainy consistently stooping so low as to engage in gambling on the outcomes of physical competitions between teenagers and twenty-somethings. Hats off to y’all, my dear degenerates, and may your horrible luck persist.

Andrew VU ‘04:

Let me begin by quoting what Patrick wrote in this week’s Pick ‘Em post:

You did it, you crazy bastards. You found a way to go 0-fer. Somehow, with all of the collective widsom (or lack thereof) the Commentariat dropped the first no-win results of this seasons Pick’em. Group think went 0-9 in Week 6.

I mean, that about says it all, doesn’t it?