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Week Three Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Question(s) from vandyfan1, BarnDore1950, and 92Drummer:

So… thoughts on the quarterbacks?


Was yesterday Mike’s Johnny McCrary/ Larry Smith moment in time and we move on to A J, or is Mike just on a shorter leash moving forward?


Let’s start the Animal House discussion: Will we see a loose Seal at some point, or will the Swan have burned feathers before all is said and all has come undone?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I wrote about this some in the Statistical, but I’ll say it here.

First of all, no, this was not Mike’s Johnny McCrary/Larry Smith moment. For one thing, both McCrary and Smith had had several bad performances before getting yanked. McCrary sucked for the first two weeks of 2015, then had a couple of cromulent performances against Ole Miss and MTSU, then completely shit the bed at South Carolina, which, you’ll recall, was on its way to a 3-9 season and was a week removed from Steve Spurrier saying “fuck this shit” in the middle of the season. And he blew a winnable game by throwing three interceptions. That’s a moment when you unquestionably move on to the new guy. Smith was already living on borrowed time through three weeks and then had a shitty game against South Carolina, got benched, and that was that.

Wright had one bad game, but that came on the heels of two fine performances, so this is the place where you start asking questions and not where you answer them. He gets to have one bad game. Do we answer that question if he also stinks against Northern Illinois? No, because that’s where you get into the thing I brought up in the Statistical. Do you really want A.J. Swann’s first career start to come in Tuscaloosa? Are you trying to save the program or are you trying to get someone killed? Let Mike Wright take one for the team against Bama and Georgia and then reevaluate.

(As for Seals, I don’t know, I kind of suspect there’s an understanding there that they’re gonna let him finish up his course work for his degree and then let him transfer without burning a year of eligibility, but then he can play in four games without doing that, so... maybe.)

Doreontheplains: The litmus test to compare Wright to Smith/McCrary is how likely it is that the player is to be the reason the team loses versus the reason the team wins then compare players. Even after that horrendous game against Wake, I think it is very unlikely Mike Wright is the guy Vanderbilt fans reasonably can blame for the loss. He can definitely be the reason we look at as why we won with his athleticism. Smith and McCrary were clearly the biggest factor in a number of losses preceding their final game as starter.

For Swann, I am not sure there is enough info to know, but reports from camp said that would be about a 50/50 proposition with him with a very high ceiling but also a very low floor. With the other pieces of the team in place, Mike Wright should remain the starter unless he makes a trend of heavily contributing to losses.

My guess is we will not see Seals unless Wright suffers a season-ending injury. Tom is likely correct about the agreement with Seals. He is here if the team needs him, but his redshirt will not be burned (would have 3 years left if he does not play more than 4 games this season) unless he is going to start a significant number of games. Even then, I think the staff may go straight to Swann.

Cole Sullivan: I’m still not sold on Swann. I think we’ll continue to see Mike start and play until either we are up or down by a million. I think there’s value both in putting our faith in one quarterback and showing that we won’t just move from one to another but also in giving rookies playing time, so for now I think we will and should mostly stick with Mike.

Andrew VU ‘04: The problem with the Smith/McCrary comp is that neither of them ever looked as explosive as Mike Wright did in his first two starts this year. Did Swann look like he has better arm talent that Wright against Wake? Of course he did. I mean, this TD throw alone made me scream “Sweet sassy molassey! You’ve got to get to White Castle before the weirdos show up!”

You know who else has better arm talent than Wright, though? Ken “Loose” Seals. Mike Wright’s secret sauce is in his supreme athleticism and ability to run an option offense.

While I do think Swann is the future, in terms of processing, reading defenses, mastery of the playbook, evading pressure... Wright’s got to be the guy right now.

I can’t remember the exact play when this occurred (nor am I going to rewatch the whole game for the purpose of finding this clip... Patrick can do that), but there was a part during the 4th quarter where I posted the following in the game thread:

For those who might be calling for Swann to start from here on out, watch that last play. He’s clearly talented, and also quite clearly a freshman.

...and it was immediately green’d up, and multiple comments chimed in to agree.

In short, Swann’s just not seasoned enough, and I fear he’d become what the Texans did to David Carr if we put him under center against Ramajama and Ugga. Can we not do that? Please?

Could Swann be our next Cutler? Possibly, but do you remember what it was like to watch Freshman Cutler? Or “beats someone over the head with Blue Emergency Campus Phone” Cutler?

Not for me. Let’s roll with Wright and see if he can’t turn back into the Platonic Ideal of Chris Nickson.

Question from TheTrialist:

Despite the score are there reasons for continued optimism?

Can you rank the SEC fan bases by level of anger? Texas A&M at the top? I’d put Kentucky fans at the bottom as I assume the party in Lexington is just winding down.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, we knew this was going to be a long rebuild and we’re not there yet, but there’s no reason to kill your optimism.

As far as ranking the SEC fan bases by level of anger:

  1. Tennessee. It is not, in spite of what you may have heard, 1998.
  2. Texas A&M. They’re currently realizing they just paid north of $100 million to go 8-4 every year. If that.
  3. Auburn will remain in the top three until Harsin is fired or beats Bama. (They are not beating Bama.)
  4. Florida. I mean, Year One, but they don’t usually take losing to Kentucky well.
  5. South Carolina, who’s currently discovering that there was a reason Spencer Rattler got benched at Oklahoma.
  6. LSU, who’s coached by a Yankee.
  7. Bama, because even though they probably shouldn’t have, they got out of Austin with a win.
  8. Missouri, because throwing four interceptions in a row seems like something to get mad about.
  9. Kentucky, because the shooty hoops team lost to Saint Peter’s.
  10. Arkansas, which doesn’t really have a reason to be angry about anything right now.
  11. Vanderbilt, because are we even capable of being angry any more?
  12. Mississippi State, because baseball natty.
  13. Ole Miss, because more recent baseball natty than Mississippi State.
  14. Georgia, because you can’t make 1980 jokes any more.

Doreontheplains: Yes. As I mentioned in the QB question, it seems very unlikely that Wright will be a main reason we lose a game. He was Saturday. His 3 turnovers resulted in an easy 21 points for Wake. That game would have been a close one if he just plays clean.

Outside of Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida, and LSU, I really don’t see a lot of anger. The Big 8ers in Columbia, MO are probably pretty mad after being drubbed by the former Fightin’ Bill Snyders. Tennessee fans are still drinking dollar store knockoff Kool-Aid. Bama fans are sure it as just a flukey game where the refs showed their hatred for them.

Cole Sullivan: That goal line stand in the beginning of the game pumped me full of sunshine, let me tell ya. I would never have expected a Vanderbilt defense to hold Wake Forest back there. I’m still as optimistic as ever. As for anger, that’s gonna be 1)Texas A&M 2)Bama 3)Florida 4)Auburn (grew up in Alabama and Weaglers are default angry) 5)South Carolina 6)Vanderbilt 7)Mississippi State (mostly just cranky from staying up late) 8)Georgia (because Alabama didn’t actually end up losing) 8)LSU 9)Mizzou (I just assume they kinda accept what comes) 10)LSU 11)Ole Miss 12) Arkansas 13)Orange School 14) Kentucky.

Andrew VU ‘04: It’s aTm by a mile, then the Gumbo Bengals, then another mile, and then the rest. Jimbo’s about to find out what cults do when the cognitive dissonance breaks, and LSU fans are readying the gumbo pot for Brian Kelly’s big ol’ Irish fat-head. The rest, save for us, are just angry because there’s a black mermaid in a movie or something.

As for Vandy, we’ve got to be close to #14 (though Ugga’s got #14 on lockdown right now). Are we angry right now? I’m certainly not. I’m watching a rebuild that looks about right on track.

Question(s) from BarnDore1950 & WestEndMayhem:

With only one or two exceptions, I didn’t think Wake had superior athletes to ours. They just have a good system and they know how to execute it. They are a mature team right now and we are not there yet. What do our writers think?


Fielding a 5th-year-NFL-bound-potentially-first-round-QB seems like a prettttttttty big exception though, no?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, that’s the goal, and notably Clark Lea used to be an assistant under said coach with a good system that they know how to execute.

Doreontheplains: Time allows you to build depth that fits what you want to do. Clark Lea’s recruiting appears to have a solid plan, but they are also probably taking some characters that fill the hole they want to fill. It is probably a bit like that video of the shape identifier toy where it turns out all of the shapes can go through the square hole if you turn them the right way. Vanderbilt’s roster has such big holes that some oddly shaped pegs might be used to fill the hole. If Lea is successful, he will start attracting more pieces who perfectly fill more complicated shapes. Wake is there.

Cole Sullivan: It’s the head coach’s ninth season with the team coming off an ACC Championship Game appearance. There is a continuity there that Vanderbilt just doesn’t have yet, and I think you can see that with the high-level execution of their transmeshonal whatever the heck scheme. Our game at Wake Forest next year provides us another excellent benchmark for progress year-to-year that I don’t know that we really get when we’re banging our head against the wall of an SEC East schedule. And yeah, Hartman is good or whatever.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yeah, it’s that follow-up question that gets you. I thought the talent seemed about equal, but they were a veteran, well-coached, system team that have a future NFL clipboard holder lining up under center. Oh, and they had us on depth for sure.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

I’m not too upset. I still think this team is building a passionate culture, developing fundamentals (we’re tackling more often than not now!!), and finding its identity. Losing to a ranked team (while actually scoring- not a shutout!!) just seems like part of the process.

Am I in denial?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: No, we’d tell you you were in denial if this were Year Seven of the Derek Mason Era and we were still losing to ranked teams at home like that, but you were fine feeling like that when Derek Mason hung with Ole Miss in his second year.

Doreontheplains: Nope. More than just whether it was a non-shutout loss, I doubt 1 out of 1,000 Commodore fans would have pegged the two fumbles and a pick 6 as why the Dores lost. When problems become repetitive and systemic is when you should worry about the process.

Cole Sullivan: No. The culture is there, we just don’t have the scheme, talent, and practice around it yet. Did you see that goal line stand? This is a team that would have been able to finish off the 2018 Mizzou game or the 2021 South Carolina game. Vanderbilt cares.

Andrew VU ‘04: Not in denial. I’m with you. See my “fanbase anger rankings.” Of course, lose to the Husky Boys weekend, and I’ll still claim to be calm, but this will be my tone:

Speaking of Husky Boys, time to re-watch season 1 episode 9 of Detroiters so as to fill my cup to the brim with NIU-based insults.

All right, Chuck, we’re gonna walk you through the commercial here. Now, as you know, the camera is gonna be the point of view of the little Husky Boy shopper, so we open on: he enters the store. The camera pans up. He looks to Mom. It comes back down. We see a bunch of fat little boys in suits.

Husky boys.

I’m sorry?

We don’t call ‘em fat. We call ‘em husky.

Oh. Okay, sure. Then we see some tennis outfits being worn by a couple real chunkers.

Husky boys. I’m sorry?

Again, we call ‘em husky boys.

Oh, you’re not just objecting to “fat.” You don’t like any of the terms.

Question from OtherAndrew:

I’m going to try to turn this into a question. I think I heard Mike Wright say in an interview asp in the past week that he wasn’t a big believer in momentum, something to that effect...Sup? Should I convert to the Church of Momentum? I love a reactive god and, like most of the AoG commentariat, I’ve been looking for a nice cult to take me in & give me a pretty girl’s name.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The Church of Momentum definitely sounds like one of those shady churches in what was clearly an old K-Mart in a strip mall that demands that you donate $200 monthly in order to unlock God’s plan for your life, so no, that’s not the nice cult you want to take you in.

Doreontheplains: Momentum may not be real, but confidence is. The reason really good teams can stop momentum is because they do not lose faith in themselves, so even if the other team is playing at their best, the opposition is ready to match it. Bad teams have momentum overcome them since they are more likely to lose faith. So, no, do not join another cult based on false promises.

Cole Sullivan: I am a huge believer in momentum on every level of the game. If you complete a pass, you’ll be more likely to make the next one (within reason obviously). If you score on a drive, you’ll pick up a few extra yards than expected on the next drive. If you come out hot early, you’ll put the game away before the fourth quarter even gets going. If there is a Church of Momentum, I am its bishop. Come into the fold, my lost child, and work with me to convert Mister Wright and make him whole so that he may go on to convert others who may go on and convert others and so on and so forth in the way of Momentum.

Andrew VU ‘04: You already have Pinman, Jobu, and Vocockyteps. Beyond that, like every other writer and commenter here, you have been granted the Holy Name. How many more Gods and cults do you damned Andrews need???

Question from 92Drummer:

Let’s talk D. Lots of impressive man up moments (the goal line stand is a modern day top 10 utils moment for me), but there were still lots of points out on the board by Wake. Was it the Mesh that got us, or some specific shortcomings (e.g. corners) that we will get to enjoy for the remainder of our 13 games?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: First of all, are we not doing phrasing any more? Second of all, yeah, I think there’s stuff there that Wake was able to exploit that like Missourah probably won’t be able to, although we’re going to have to sit and watch the D get killed by Bama and Georgia before we get there.

Doreontheplains: Probably still the defensive line. We actually did okay there, but I think a Daveion Davis or Devin Lee could have turned “shrinking pocket,” which we created pretty often, into “man free to hit QB.” The defense approached the delayed mesh pretty well from my seat. They collapsed the tackles back around Hartman and the RBs, so they had very little escape room. The pressure just could not break through to actually get hits in the backfield enough.

Cole Sullivan: First off, I love the optimism. We are playing a bowl game. Speak it into existence. For the defense? Honestly I was working for most of the game (job is great, by yeah, my work schedule is weird) so I was sneaking glimpses and can’t really speak much on the D. I think we’re still down a few men, and our offense really could have done a better job of keeping the ball in our possession, too. Best defense could have just been a better offense honestly.

Andrew VU ‘04: Our D is basically Anfernee “Lil’ Penny” Orji and a bunch of kids. Jesus... and you thought you were doing phrasing. Again, we’re in the real year one of the rebuild. As long as we’re playing with effort, grit, and the schemes make sense, I’m good. It will take time to get the Jimmys and Joes.

Question from Dinard’oh:

Are we allowed to have some moral victories this year, or is that SOV? Not that I’m pleased with yesterday, but the fight Vandy showed was certainly a new wrinkle. Scoring after that five minutes from hell, getting fired up about the late hit on Wright, and responding to Swann as a shot-in-the-arm instead of a white flag were all welcome changes over the last few years, and even over most other years I can remember. It seems like evidence that the culture is changing, even if the results are not (yet). I’m not asking for permission to feel good about the trajectory of the program. I’m asking if the intelligentsia of AOG share that feeling today. So, do you?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes, we are.

Doreontheplains: First, the phrase “moral victories” can go to hell. Nobody is acting like we won or like this is where we want the program to be. Nobody is saying “at least we were mildly competitive.” Those are “moral victories.” People, including you, are making intelligent observations that the 2022 team is way ahead of where the 2021 team was. Don’t undercut observations of progress by invoking the term “moral victory.”

The general feeling is positive around Vandy Land though. Folks see the progress on the field, and the majority think Coach Lea has a solid plan to move forward.

Cole Sullivan: I feel good. This program is getting better. The Leanaissance is a real force that is transforming the entire Athletics Department from top to bottom. I don’t know if I would call this a moral victory, but I would definitely not call it a total defeat.

Andrew VU ‘04: Okay... repeated questions about my mood and the trigger words “SOV” and “Moral Victories” are tipping me into Walter Sobchak territory. I’m perfectly calm. Calmer than you are, Dude. I’m finishing my coffee. This is not ‘Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

You see what happens? You see what happens, Larry? You see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?!

*The last one was brought to you by the censors at TBS.

Question from ColeSullivan22:

Was the officiating actually that bad, or am I just a homer? If it was actually biased, why do you think that is and what effect did it have on the score? I always try to ask myself that after it feels like the refs slighted us, just to keep myself honest.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Look man, I watched this game on replay at 9 PM on Sunday night, I’m not qualified to talk about the damn officiating.

Doreontheplains: It felt like SEC refs were in play and invoking the “Fuck Vandy” rules to the full extent, but we are pretty used to it.

Cole Sullivan: I dunno if I should answer the question that I asked, but I would like to share a conspiracy theory. The calls were unfair and the refs knew it. They were paid off by the ACC front office to hoist up the conference. Maybe if the teams look better, everyone will want to join the ACC instead, and the conference will survive. I’m not saying we would have won even with perfect officiating, but I am saying the score would have been closer.

Andrew VU ‘04: While officiating did not effect the outcome of this game, it was beyond egregious. In fact, this sequence ought to tell you all you need to know:

I mean, calls that bad are not just tipping the scales, and it makes no sense that Wake would get the “Fuck Vandy” preferential treatment commonly associated with the blue bloods of the SEC (seriously, eat shit and die, refs who threw a flag on Earl Bennet for “dancing,” and countless other examples that have led to apology letters and no change whatsoever). I mean, it looked like how the NFL refs used to let opposing defenses flat out abuse Randall Cunningham, but throw flags if a defender so much as blew on an eyelash of pocket passers with significantly less melanin.

  1. Hartman was still in bounds; Wright was clearly out of bounds.
  2. Hartman was basically rough hugged to a soft landing; the Wake defender went for Wright’s head, and could have given him a serious concussion. They should have been debating targeting with Wright. That not a single ref reached for a flag is damning.
  3. Consult 1 and 2.

Question from VandyFanBR:

It’s crazy to think that some of the SEC competition we’ll face is more beatable than Wake Forest?

Also, how much of the AJ Swann performance is actually related to his talent and how much is just a product of the Wake Defense playing laid back?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: No, because I’ve watched Mizzou.

It’s part talent, part Wake had its backups in.

Doreontheplains: Definitely. Missouri is the obvious one, but I might include Florida, too.

Two-thirds talent and one-third defense. It was not necessarily “laid back” though, as he was pressured on 42% of his drop backs. The coverage was just very bad.

Cole Sullivan: We’ll beat Mizzou. Now that I got the no-brainer out of the way, I looked at the SEC scores and the remaining schedules and think we may have a few more chances. My boldest prediction is that we could have a chance at Kentucky. The most important game on the Kentucky calendar is the Georgia game the week after we play in Lexington. Kentucky could be the real deal this year, and if they are then that game could end up determining who makes the playoffs. I’m not really a firm believer in trap games, but if there ever was one I think that would be the game. Other than that, South Carolina is very winnable because Spence Rattle is not that good and they have allowed about 250 rushing yards a game so far, including 200 to Georgia State, whose quarterback completed 7 of 29 passes, so it’s not like they were even running it on every play. I don’t want to get to into the weeds here as to why I think this, but South Carolina is a far worse team than the score of either of their games so far lets on. So no, it’s not crazy to think that we could win a few SEC games. I also still think we will win against Knoxville State because I can’t think any other way, but I do understand that they look scary. Anything could happen though.

As for AJ, I think I need to see more? It’s hard when you want to get him playing time but don’t want him to start. We’ll have to wait and see.

Andrew VU ‘04: I mean, if I were to recognize Missourah (spits), I’d say it was them.

Question from YourUncleMike:

We blaming the new logo now?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: When did we ever stop

Doreontheplains: Duh.

Cole Sullivan: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: I actually kind of like it on the football helmets (ducks away from thrown garbage).

Question from Parlagi:

Everything went to pieces shortly after Bulovas’ wimpy arm-tackle whiff on that 3-0 kickoff.

Vertigo, God of Insanity, clearly rolled over underneath Dudley Field at that point, its anger kindled from unslaked bloodthirst and a SPEEEEEEEEEEEAR.

Do you blame this for everything that subsequently happened?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes.

Doreontheplains: No. This loss is squarely on the new logo.

Cole Sullivan: Absolutely. I will be offering up the still fresh corpse of Texas A&M as tribute at the Parthenon in hopes of appeasing His Dizziness.

Andrew VU ‘04: No. It was Mike Wright’s Carson Wentz impersonation which resulted in a TAINT and just took all of the wind out of our respective sails. We had the look of a team heading towards 3-0, and then... not.