This isn’t a recap of Saturday night’s game, a 38-27 loss to South Carolina that I didn’t watch a minute of. Instead, I watched the Astros win the World Series for the second time in six years, a decision that I have absolutely zero regrets about.
It’s another loss, Vanderbilt’s 26th in a row in SEC play and its 14th straight to South Carolina, a better program than ours, to be sure, but certainly not a program that’s so much better that we should ever lose 14 in a row to them. And yet, that’s the current state of Vanderbilt football.
For the most part, I’ve been willing to give Clark Lea the benefit of the doubt, and I still am, because this is a ridiculously difficult situation to inherit. The progression is there, but it’s not resulting in any wins right now, and that’s frustrating. It’s fine to be frustrated about that, but as I pointed out in the postgame comments, this isn’t really comparable to Derek Mason’s second year, when the leftovers from the James Franklin era were more than enough to cobble together a pretty good defense. Five players from that 2015 defense have played in the NFL, and I don’t even mean that in a “cup of coffee” sense — Zach Cunningham, Oren Burks, Tre Herndon, Stephen Weatherly, and Adam Butler all carved out nice NFL careers for themselves, and that’s before you get into a few more guys who were borderline NFL guys who just didn’t make it, guys like Caleb Azubike and Nifae Lealao and Torren McGaster. There was some real talent on that team that just isn’t there on this one. Anfernee Orji is going to play in the NFL, and I think C.J. Taylor could get there, but after that — well, have you seen the defensive line and the defensive backfield?
Which gets me to where I’m scratching my head.
Clark Lea signed the #32 recruiting class in the 247 Sports composite last season. And that’s already showing up on offense — the team’s starting quarterback (at least, when he’s not injured) and one of the team’s starting receivers are true freshmen.
But on defense, what the hell is the point of watching guys who aren’t going to be on the team next year get shredded week after week? It’s one thing when true freshmen are waiting their turn behind guys who will be playing on Sundays and quite another when the future of the program, guys like Trudell Berry and Ja’Dais Richard and Gumbo Gaskins and B.J. Diakite and Darren Agu, are watching from the sidelines while the guys on the field are giving up 36.9 points per game — and 43.4 ppg against SEC teams.
I could live with a defense that’s struggling as youngsters adjust to the college game, but this isn’t that. Those guys are on the team, but they aren’t playing much. And when the results are this bad, at the very least, try something new.