clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Week Nine Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Vanderbilt at Missouri

Question from Dinard’oh:

Was this just an inevitable case of a freshman getting the yips, or do we think the previous three game meat grinder has impacted Swann’s decision making? I was listening on the radio, and I was hardly surprised when they said the interception was targeted at Sheppard. Even the radio guys noted Swann had developed tunnel vision, and the Statistical bore this out in brutal fashion.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: This seemed like much more the inevitable Oh Right, We’re Playing A True Freshman game than anything. I noted this on Twitter, but the “locking in on Sheppard” thing isn’t unique to Swann; in fact, all three quarterbacks who have played for us under Lea have done it. (Also, the Statistical didn’t even count Sheppard as having been targeted on the interception, since they typically don’t put that in the box score.)

Doreontheplains: I “cheat” because I watch the game again. These were generally not bad decisions. Swann was inaccurate against Missouri. He did look like he threw off his back foot a few times unnecessarily, but there were other throws he looked to be in rhythm and just missed.

The tunnel vision on Sheppard is not just about the QB or even Sheppard. The offense seems to have a lot of lock-on plays where the whole play is meant to get one guy open, and the QB needs to get him the ball. The best WR obviously gets most of those balls. Those accounted for probably a third of #14’s targets. I think the other big factor is not having a true WR2. McGowan is great in the run and screen game but is not a great receiver downfield yet. Carter has flashed a few times, including the 80 yarder, and Skinner has made some plays. Schoenwald and Bresnahan have also been useful pass catchers. None of them have really stepped into a #2 role though.

Cole Sullivan: It’s hard to know off one game, but I’m leaning it’s just a lack of experience. It’s his first year playing college quarterback, and I expect him to get better as time passes.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’d like to have a definitive answer for this, but I just don’t. I saw so much promise in Swann early this year, but the Missourah (spits) game was just horrid. The offensive game plan? Horrid. The execution? Horrid. It’s as if one side of the ball decided that it needs to be terrible every week, and this week was the offense’s turn. Beyond that, Swann was reportedly injured. So... I got nothing.

Questions from VeroBeachman & WestEndMayhem:

Will The Bald One ever decide to hire a real Offensive Coordinator? Lynch couldn’t coach Soddy Daisy’s Jr. Varsity.


We need a new OC- good observation, or great observation?

What do you make of our inability to be competitive, much less win, when the talent gap is not heavily skewed in our favor?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: See I haven’t noticed Lynch being a big problem, but I’m just a dumb idiot who never played football. The issues seem to revolve around Ray Davis going from a consistent 3-5 yards per carry (in which case, the offense works just fine) to 1-2 yards per carry (in which case the offense sputters.) But somebody smarter than me needs to explain what we’re mad about here, because the last few weeks it was the defensive coordinator that was the problem.

Doreontheplains: I made a Twitter comment mid-game about Lynch doing the reverse Ludwig. The 2016 to 2018 teams seemed to be boring early and get creative late. The offense was creative early in the year, even after the switch to Swann, and has stagnated. The Ludwig seasons are probably more about Mason taking the reigns off as the seasons went on and times got desperate, so maybe something similar happened here.

BUT I do think the Missouri game was mostly about execution. Re-watching the game makes me much less angry at Lynch and more exasperated that our QB decided to play a terrible game in CoMo again, much like Shurmur in 2016. I’ll have more detail in Lessons, but the offense sputtered largely on missed passes than they did on being put in tough spots by the OC. Granted, I still think Lynch did not do enough to go back to the old Wright offense when he got pulled into action by the injury to Swann.

Cole Sullivan: Whoever is calling plays just seems like they’re overthinking things. Pre-snap motion, play-action, trickeration, et cetera et cetera are all great things but you can use too much of them. We saw that on the “Not a QB Sneak” play where there was way more going on than any of us would have decided. There’s plenty of other times where I’ve felt the same way. Some of that may just come from the QB switching we’ve done, and we may be able to adjust our offensive plan to be a little less goofy without switching OCs. I generally think coaches and coordinators deserve a longer leash than they normally get, but I am not against getting a new OC. Depends on who is available I guess.

Andrew VU ‘04: Auto-rec for “The Bald One.” I’ve just been calling him “The New Bald Coach,” but I like your moniker, as well. I thought prior to SEC play, the offense looked interesting, the play calls bordering on inspired, and the young weapons looked pretty well coached up. Then... well... the meat grinder. In short, I get the desire to fire the OC after the Missourah game (spits). I really do. You hate it when a young QB looks like he’s regressed, and then is replaced, and then the plays don’t make a damn bit of sense considering the new personnel. Of course, Missourah (spits) has a perfectly cromulent defense. That said, Lynch’s seat’s about as hot as any coach in the league not named Harsin. Hell, our DC’s does not exactly have a cold seat, himself (though this week’s game made him look the best he’s looked all season). Has The New Bald Coach reached the point of his Vandy tenure where he has to fire both sacrificial lambs? If so, he’s going to have to start writing a note for the new guy sooner than he had planned...

Question from Mauberly:

How long does the $hit [sic] show continue before Admin steps in to offer Clark Lea a long-term, ironclad contract?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Sigh, the entire mailbag’s gonna be this, isn’t it? Fire everybody, that’ll solve all the problems.

Doreontheplains: Probably after the bowl game next season. If you want to be overly assured of an ensuing train wreck, I’ll be overly assured that the process is working.

Cole Sullivan: I don’t know if I understand this question, so I’ll say this: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: The 2nd half of the sentence did not go where the first half of the sentence would lead one to believe. Reversal of expectations non-sequitur humor. Respect. Call-back to the Mason Error. Again, respect. Tis a fine joke, English, but ‘tis no barn.

As for the answer, we’re 2 more years until it’s “but we have to offer him a long term contract; we don’t want to pay the buyout” territory. Process.

Question from Jessecuster44:

Any chance that what’s her name the soccer player has any eligibility left? Betcha she could have knocked home those FGs yesterday.

Seriously, what are the chances of finding skill players /specialists who don’t FAIL when it matters? And yes I know that our punter is good. But he punts too often.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Considering just about everybody in college football struggles to find a reliable kicker, I would say very low that we would find the one guy who doesn’t whiff.

Doreontheplains: If Nick freaking Saban and his detail obsession cannot find consistently reliable kickers, I think judging a college coach on their kickers is probably a bad idea.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt that the “joke” here is a shot at Mason and not at Fuller, but anyone who hates on Fuller is a POS. She got asked to do something for her fellow athletes. Even if it was some desperation Social Justice Warrior ploy by Mason, Fuller was a pawn, not the mastermind. If it was a legitimate shot at finding a viable kicker with the original two injured, she stepped up for her fellow student-athletes.

Cole Sullivan: First off, her name is Sarah Fuller. Second, we need to take the Leanaissance on the road in his snazzy little heLEAcopter to Australia and find guys there. Jokes aside, wasn’t it really windy this weekend? Despite the fact that I think we will win every game by a trillion, I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed fan. Kickers seem like the type who may actually go to college to mess around and play school a little bit, so I feel like we’ve actually got a decent chance of finding above average guys. The issue is really just that no one bats a thousand, and sometimes those misses come at the worst time.

Andrew VU ‘04: I suspect the Watchman just needs a new battery, or forgot to account for Dayight Saving Time. As a side note, I am always baffled by how punters cannot also kick and vice versa. It’s like when poets cannot analyze poetry. No, it’s not that, as the reason poets cannot analyze poetry is all the drug use. Wait... is it the same for kickers and punters?

Question from Jared Rifkin:

First: Any update to Swann’s injury? Second: Do we face the possibility of losing Swann next year to the portal? Third: Why am I so anxious about this?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Robbie Weinstein says concussion, which, with the bye week coming up, he should be back for South Carolina. I don’t think losing Swann to the portal is a realistic possibility just because, when you’re already the starter for an SEC school (even if it’s Vanderbilt, you’re putting out plenty of film of you against SEC defenses for NFL teams to look at), how exactly are you going to improve your lot by transferring somewhere where you might not win the starting job? And you’re so anxious about this because you read the juvenile dunks from Ole Miss fans about how they’re buying players legally now.

Doreontheplains: It probably depends on if he has a history of concussions and how quickly symptoms went away. Vanderbilt has always been cautious about concussions, and I am okay with it as someone who had 4 or 5 of them. I also know that I concealed one from my coaches to play a rivalry game in high school, so sometimes the team doctors and coaches have to protect the player from himself. Swann should be back thanks to the bye week, but we will see.

There’s no reason to think he will leave unless someone else is named the starter over him after he is deemed fit to return to play.

Cole Sullivan: I don’t have any update on Swann’s injury. I think the chance of Swann entering the portal are very low. I don’t know why you’re anxious. If he transfers, he transfers. If he doesn’t, Conquer and Prevail.

Andrew VU ‘04: He’s got the brain scramblies.

Question from VU1970:

I get it that the announcers instructed us to complain about lining up in the shotgun on fourth and inches. Has that already become the generic football equivalent of talking nonstop about the bench locations in Memorial Gym?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: That losing streak in SEC games (now at 25 games) is about to replace it.

Doreontheplains: Personally, I love creativity. There are still times to keep it simple, stupid. The QB sneak is one of them. Granted, I am pretty sure Davis got the first down and was denied by a bad spot AND refusal to acknowledge the logo details as viable spot markers to fix the spot on replay.

Cole Sullivan: You made a mistake bringing up basketball. That is now all I can think about. Our stadium really is special, and no one can convince me otherwise that the unique layout of Memorial isn’t amazing. I think it’s a must-visit basketball stadium for a few reasons even if it is really old.

Andrew VU ‘04: Listen... you have a running QB. You line up under the center. You push forward. You get a yard. Na-i-na-na-ja. It’s not that hard.

Question from 92Drummer:

I believe Lea wants to measure success by “cleaning up” some things. How are we doing in that? Things like penalties, out of position players, wrong routes, miscommunication, etc. Are we playing a “cleaner” game? Only 1 interception in 5 games seems like a good stat.

SOV? Yes, no, not enough info to say?

I’ve asked this question along the way and not gotten a good answer. I think it is relevant now that this season is over: what is the vision for our offense? Do we have a scheme that we are going to recruit players of specific body type and skills to? Do we know what we want the puzzle to look like and are actively seeking specific pieces? Or are we just trying to get enough Jimmy’s and Joe’s on a bus to drive them somewhere and call it camp?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: blah

Doreontheplains: Vanderbilt is T-26 for fewest penalties, and the offense only has 2 picks all year. “Clean” may not be the right word because there are plenty of mistakes to clean up. The team does seem to be doing fewer procedural things to set themselves up to fail. They are failing at the end point, not the start, which is still painful but is a step in the right direction.

So, the “vision” on offense is nebulous but in a good way. The offense with Wright under center looked one way. The offense with Swann under center has been very different. Lynch is largely calling an offense to fit his QB. The plan around the QB is probably heavily predicated on my earlier point about a lack of WR2 to complement WR1 Sheppard. The two TE looks are used to give the offense versatility to run or throw at any time. To circle back, I think the offense is varied (we saw a “Full House” set against Missouri!) as a feature not a bug. I think Lynch’s plan is literally to throw so many things at defenses that the limited talent can make plays because the defense is never quite sure what is coming at them.

Cole Sullivan: I work most Saturdays and haven’t gotten to watch enough football to give the best answer to this. A heavy work schedule these past few weeks and the next two weeks is also why I have not been able to get any standalone articles out. With that said, I would imagine, if we’re running with Swann, we will be looking for big, quick receivers and maybe one or two receiving tight ends since from what I understand he’s not a deep ball guy. I don’t think we’ll be a run-heavy team but we’ll definitely need backs who can get us a first down when we need it, more of a big back than a fast back I would guess? It’s year two and we’re still figuring out quarterback as we filter out old Mason-era players. I think the plan for the team and what the team is and is becoming inform each other, so I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer to your question just yet.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll go with Jimmies and Joes, as I’m not on the coaching staff. Further, though we are clearly Barton Simmons’ Burner Account, we are not Barton Simmons.

If I were Barton Simmons, however, I would recruit around A.J. Swann’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s build a wall of an offensive line, get a few more Will Sheppard types, add some deep speed, and... okay, I’m just talking Jimmies and Joes again.

As for being “clean,” I certainly haven’t seen a bunch of dumb penalties from this team, and A.J. Swann went pretty deep into his first year before throwing his first pick. So... yeah. We’re about as clean as the shave on Clark Lea’s Shine-O-Ball-O Dome.

Question from vandyfan1:

I did not watch the game, but is the critism [sic] I have seen aimed at Clark Lea and the coaching staff warranted?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: blah

Doreontheplains: Some it is warranted. Most of it is anger that Lea has not pulled off a James Franklin-esque immediate turnaround. Keeping Mason too long has also soured a lot of folks because they thought Vanderbilt football was a new beast under and after Franklin. Then, Mason was, until completely falling apart in 2019 and 2020, better than most Vanderbilt coaches since WWII but still well below the Franklin days. Staring down a 5-21 (0-16) first 2 seasons by Lea has the itchy trigger fingers active.

Cole Sullivan: I did not watch the game until the last drive and a half. My kneejerk reaction that a little bit of criticism is warranted because there were a few bad playcalls, but on the whole I think the coaching staff is doing a fine enough job. Our recruiting is going well I’m pretty sure, our confidence as a team has seemed higher throughout the season, and generally we have been better at the small things from what I have seen. I still believe in the coaches for now, but I’m a pretty understanding guy. My biggest complaint, if anything, is it feels like they try too hard.

Andrew VU ‘04: You didn’t watch the Missourah (spits) game? You lucky bastard...

Question from RocketCityVandy:

So, when does Baseball start again?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Game 1 of the World Series is on Friday.

Doreontheplains: I haven’t checked out on Vandy basketball or Preds hockey yet, so I have no idea. Also, I have high school soccer to worry about before real action returns to The Hawk. I love the VandyBoys, but the start of their season will be something I find out about when Andrew says something useful.

Cole Sullivan: I dunno but basketball starts on November 7th, and the next day is election day. Make sure to write-in Pinman for Supreme Leader. Hail Pinman!

Andrew VU ‘04: We had an exhibition game against Samford and Son this past Sunday, and have another against the Arizona State Fightin’ 100% Acceptance Rates out in Vegas this coming Sunday. The Goldfather Fall Classic (think the old Black and Gold game, but everyone wears velour tracksuits and brings printouts of uniform related emails from the head office) is on Nov. 13th at 1pm at home. First game that counts... has not yet been announced, as all we’ve got on the schedule right now is the SEC opener when Ole Piss comes to town on St. Patty’s Day Weekend. Last year, we began on February 18th, so it’ll be around that time this year. Will keep you posted.