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Week Four Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Wake Forest at Vanderbilt Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Questions from BarnDore1950 & 92Drummer:

If he wants any chance at all to play at the next level Mike needs to convert to wide receiver in the spring. Correct?


Can we convert Wright to a receiver or run him out of the backfield in some way to get his awesome legs in the game? Perhaps punt returns? We need Jimmy’s and Joe’s in the game, and he certainly fits that category.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Sure, if he wants to have a future in the NFL, it’s going to be at Not Quarterback. (I wouldn’t limit it to wide receiver, though. That’s the most likely spot, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question that he could play defensive back.) Then again, we also can’t just sit here and assume that A.J. Swann makes it out of Tuscaloosa and Athens with all of his limbs intact, and Wright is currently the best non-Swann option at quarterback should that happen.

Doreontheplains: bIf Wright’s end goal is the NFL, a position switch is probably necessary this offseason. Nothing will happen before then at the earliest. Part of why Wright came to Vanderbilt was the chance to play QB when most, if not all, other P5 schools wanted him to switch positions. He may well choose to transfer if he sees the door closed at QB here.

As for where he can help the most, it is probably WR. He would be an abnormally tall RB at 6’4” and would need to put on 20-25 pounds to have the requisite bulk at that height to handle the wear and tear. The same topic comes up for DBs since taller players are typically not as agile, even if they can have elite speed.

Cole Sullivan: I think you can ask him if he is interested, and if he says no, then you drop it. I wouldn’t even ask, though. We still need a backup quarterback, and I would rather Mike focus on that.

Andrew VU ‘04: To me, one of The New Bald Coach’s main priorities must be to convince Mike Wright to switch positions to get on the field. He could easily be our Taysom Hill (i.e. some package plays at QB, some H Back/TE type plays, and some slot WR or even split out wide plays).

Wright’s athleticism is off the charts, and he has plenty of time to transition to/learn a new position in his college career to put him in the best position to get drafted and make an NFL roster. This isn’t a Kordell Stewart situation, where he is extremely athletically gifted, and also has a good enough arm to be a starting NFL QB. Wright’s arm is... well... passable given his extreme athleticism, but not in the Kordell Stewart, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, Lamar Jackson, Steve Young, Josh Allen territory. Heck, it’s not even in the Jalen Hurts/Dak Prescott range—in which the arm talent issue can be dealt with by giving him enough weapons to spread the ball around. No, Wright is more in the Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, Randall Cobb, and Julian Edelman category.

But here’s the thing—each and every one of them had great NFL careers. Wright has the potential to turn into a Ward/Edelman type, or he could decide to transfer, stay at QB at all cost, and, at best, become Pat White.

Again, this is not a Randall Cunningham or Lamar Jackson type “he can’t handle the position of QB” argument, as those were and always will just be ignorant racism. Both Cunningham and Jackson had rocket arms to go with their otherworldly athleticism. Wright’s arm talent got flat-out exposed against Wake Forest, and A.J. Swann has looked so freaking good in his place that Wright is effectively a Wally Pipp.

What’s in the best interest of both Wright and Lea is to convince the QB to not just keep his captaincy, but prove he’s a great leader by switching positions to the WR/TE/H-Back/Option QB jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill role this season, and work in the offseason to determine if he should be a full time WR or CB. He can play on Sundays if he commits to the switch. I think he’s got the right type of mindset to listen to such a suggestion without reacting negatively, too. The kid’s a leader, and can continue to lead this team at a different position.

Question from 79Commode Door:

QFTMB: Just to stir things up, what do we think about installing a set of plays where we have both Swann and Wright in at the same time, just to make Bama play both quarterback styles at the same time? Who will throw? Will we throw? What is Wright doing? etc. etc. We’re light on running backs anyway....

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: We’re actually suddenly less light on running backs with Patrick Smith off suspension and Rocko Griffin maybe returning from injury this week. That said, why would we waste that kind of trickery on a game we’re likely to lose by at least three touchdowns even if we play well?

Doreontheplains: Eventually, yes. Now? No. As Tom covered, we have at least Smith back this weekend, and there is no reason to waste that bullet in a game where it will not matter. I also do not want there to be any controvery. This is Swann’s team now barring injury.

Cole Sullivan: I actually have been talking to my friends about this. We should run two quarterbacks out of the backfield. I don’t think Mike Wright should play running back, to be clear, but I do think there is something interesting that could be done with two decent quarterbacks playing at once.

Andrew VU ‘04: I mean... have to do something to keep us entertained while Bama and Ugga steamroll our defense.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

What will success for this program look like throughout the next three games?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Success for the program against Alabama and Georgia consists merely of scoring non-garbage time points. The scores the last time we faced those two were, respectively, 59-0 and 62-0, so I’m setting the bar accordingly. (I would say something about holding them to a certain amount, but really, either of them might get up 35-0 in the third quarter and say “okay, that’s enough” and leave the final score at that.) As far as Ole Miss goes, they’re a good team but not on that level — though they are capable of completely embarrassing Atlanta to the tune of 42-0 last weekend. As such, I will accept keeping the score within two touchdowns. This isn’t about “moral victories,” but if we’re being realistic... we’re not beating these teams, this year.

Doreontheplains: Fight, scrap, and make each team beat them as opposed to beating themselves. Alabama and Georgia especially have the talent to tear us apart without self-inflicted wounds. Play your assignment and do your job. If the 5* NFL prospect across from you beats you, it is understandable. Do not make it easier for them though.

Beyond that, I really want to see the response from the Alabama game. They get a week off to recover from that game then have Ole Miss at home. The game in Oxford was closer than the score indicated. The Rebels need to leave Nashville wide-eyed at the fight they got here.

Cole Sullivan: We’re going 3-0. Okay, maybe even I can’t be that optimistic. I think the baseline is that we at least cover whatever spread we’re given in all three games. That’s always a good place to start. Aside from that, I want to see a team that comes out playing hard. If they give up in the fourth quarter down 30 against Georgia, I honestly don’t think we can blame them. If they never even show up, though? I think we deserve to be pissed. It’s a gauntlet, but I think we can surprise people with how we handle it.

Andrew VU ‘04: Try not to be completely steamrolled by Bama and Ugga, and put up a noble fight to keep it close against The Admiral Ackbars in between. Oh, and no major injuries, please and thank you. Even against the Ackbars, I can’t see our defense being able to do much but watch them run. However, Swann and the offense should be able to put on enough of a show to make it watchable and give us hope for the rest of the season. I think that’s a reasonable expectation.

Question from Nova_Dore:

Can you rank the second-half success based on the following factors: a rusty red-shirted QB playing like one, the defensive line getting sustained pressure, or the defense coming together as a unit?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m not trying to take anyway from the defense, but yeah, NIU’s backup quarterback suddenly remembering that he’s the backup played a significant role there. Though I did think the defensive line started putting in the work to get more pressure on him, and the much-maligned defensive backfield suddenly did better when the quarterback started throwing wounded ducks into coverage under pressure. Funny how that works.

Doreontheplains: Of the ones you listed, the defensive line (maybe front seven is more accurate) getting pressure was most important. That made the rust redshirt turn back into a pumpkin, so the secondary could do their thing. The bigger gift was NIU’s head coach and offensive coordinator making some really dumb decisions like going for it on 4th down and trying to run in short yardage situations when they had not thrown an incompletion to that point yet but were getting stuffed.

Cole Sullivan: I have not been able to watch the game, so no, I can’t rank the second-half success based on those factors. I can rank it on the fact that we won by 10 after being down 14, so unlike our recruiting classes, I give it five stars.

Andrew VU ‘04: On the defensive front, I have no idea why we were so damned vanilla in the first half in terms of scheme and lack of blitzes. If the answer really was, “Let’s not show our defensive playbook to Bama,” then that’s absurdly dumb with where we are in our rebuild. In the second half, the D decided to actually try, and that was a good idea. I mean, their rusty second string red-shirt freshman QB actually moved the ball on us with ease until we stopped playing like losers.

Question from Jessecuster44:

Just how good of an idea would it be to throw Swann out there against Bama? 1) a 27-26 upset genius idea, 2) a 40-17 loss cromulent idea, or 3) a 59-0 momentum killing, season destroying idea?

Also: What is the over/under for Vawl football punches to an opponent’s helmet for the rest of the season?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I argued last week that they should hold off on making the switch simply because of this stretch; but, now that Swann has gotten his start against NIU (I think what probably happened is that Lea didn’t want to punt on that game for obvious reasons and saw Swann as his best opportunity to improve the team’s win total from his first year) and the cat is out of the bag, well, we’re here.

It’s (2), not because I don’t see a possibility of (3) happening (I mean, still the most likely outcome was that we were going to lose out and finish 3-9 so it’s hard to “kill” the season in that sense) but because going back to Wright at this point would be idiotic. You can’t let it be known that Swann is the best quarterback on the team and then start an inferior player because reasons. Part of the problem here is that while Clark Lea almost certainly knows that the team is going to get drilled by Bama, he can’t exactly say that out loud, and starting the second-best quarterback on the team is a very obvious way of saying that out loud.

Doreontheplains: The move to Swann has to be permanent (barring injury) or at least require a sustained stretch of Stephen Rivers level awful. Stick with the freshman. Let him live and learn. I would have waited until later in the season to make the switch, but it is made now. Realistically, it is option 2.

I would like to think this game is close enough for some of the trick play ideas listed above such as a Mike Wright option package ala 2020 or a two-QB formation could make a difference. It will not be though. We need to see Swann look like a QB who can handle the pressure. He is going to make some mistakes, and some of them will probably be massive —though he is on a short list of QBs with 5+ TD passes this season and no INTs.

Cole Sullivan: I am leaning closer to the first option than any of the others. I think we are closer to Texas than we are to Utah State and Louisiana-Monroe, and I also think we are throwing Swann out there regardless of what we expect the outcome of that to be.

Expect 1 a game, except instead of helmet-punches they actually just tie a mustard bottle full of cement to the end of a stick and use it as a club to mow down opponents until every single player, coach, and fan of the Knoxville State V********s is banned from all college sporting events for life.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll go with option 2. Once they started Swann against NIU, there had to be no going back. Regardless, Bama is an NFL team. We are... not.

I’ll set the Chugger Helmet Punch line at 2.5 and take the over.

Questions from Dinard’oh and Askthedoctor:

How would you rank the SEC East after yesterday? Is this the year we finally beat the Game Penises? If you were to pen a song about our Freshman QB, would you do it in the style of Stephen Foster or George Gershwin?


Seconded. But I’ll add a follow-up: What do you think every East Teams’ divisional record will be by the end of the year?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It goes Georgia, Tennessee (surprise!), Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Vandy. (No, I am not ranking a Big 12 team.) If you make me guess records, I will be very, very surprised if Georgia takes a loss before the inevitable SEC Championship Game against Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky at 5-3, Florida at 4-4, South Carolina at 2-6, us at 1-7, and Missourah at 0-8. Yeah, I think they’re that bad.

Doreontheplains: Georgia (8-0), Tennessee (6-2), Kentucky (6-2), Florida (4-4), South Carolina (2-6), Vanderbilt (1-7), and Misery (0-8). No, I’m not sure those records are possible since I didn’t look at the cross-divisional rotating opponents.

Cole Sullivan: This is how I think it stands right now, but I think by the end of the season it will be slightly different. I’ll explain as I go. 1)Georgia (undefeated, duh) 2)Kentucky (loss to Georgia) 3)Tennessee (losses to Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt because I can’t not pick us to beat them even if they are maybe possibly the better team) 4)Florida (Losses to Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, and, because I think they are going to collapse down the stretch similar to last year as Anthony Richardson fails to deliver in big games, Vanderbilt. While they may be 4 right now, I am starting to feel like maybe they’re fluky and can’t sustain it. We play them week 11, so they could have given up by then) 5)Vanderbilt (I’m a madman, I know. We may end up fourth in the SEC this year when it’s all said and done if Florida collapses.) 6)South Carolina (losses to everyone but Missouri and maybe Florida in week 10 if the collapse is early and atrocious; South Carolina is bad and will get exposed eventually) 7)Mizzou (No wins, duh)

Andrew VU ‘04: I can answer the first one. The divisional record exercise would take more time that the one off period I’ve got per day affords me.

  1. Ugga
  2. Blue Balls
  3. Chuggers
  4. Jorts
  5. Vanderbilt
  6. Game Penises
  7. Missourah (spits)

Of course, even that ranking doesn’t indicate just how much better Ugga is than the pack, or how close the Dores, Penises, and Unrecognizables are to one another. Think Ugga as an NFL team, the Blue Balls as a potential New Years Bowl team, the Chuggers and Jorts as Bowl teams, and the Dores, Penises, and Unrecognizables as interchangeable “Maybe Next Year, Kid” teams.

Oh, and no songs. Only this:

Question from Force10JC:

How much effect have injuries and ‘unavailable personnel’ had on Vanderbilt’s game planning through the 1st four games, and how much effect has that had on our results?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It’s most obviously affected the defensive line. There aren’t a lot of things I know about this team, but one thing I do know is that Daevion Davis and Miles Capers would almost certainly be starting for this team if healthy, and neither of them have played a snap (and Capers will definitely not.) It’s one thing to have a bunch of depth guys unavailable and have to play your starters more, or play third-stringers on the snaps that a second-stringer would normally get, and it’s another thing to actually be missing starters. And that all has quite likely had an effect on the defense’s ability to pressure the quarterback, though this seems to be less of a problem as Darren Agu and B.J. Diakite adjust to college ball. The depth at running back has been a problem, too; I like Ray Davis, but running him ragged is not the optimal situation for this team. (Every week when I do the Statistical, I notice that as the game goes on, Ray Davis is just getting 3-4 yards every play with zero explosiveness and I’m pretty sure that not being able to rotate backs effectively is causing that specific problem.)

There have been some other areas hit, too (the offensive line needs Julian Hernandez to be healthy, and it would be nice to be able to rotate in a guy like Trudell Berry in the defensive backfield) but those two areas are the most obvious places.

Doreontheplains: Davis and Capers have had the biggest impact by their absence. They are probably are two most disruptive guys in terms of getting into the other team’s backfield. Without them, DC Nick Howell can either choose to live with whatever pressure the current options can generate OR bring more bodies than he would like. Especially against Wake, they might have caused real problems for the long mesh system while allowing more bodies to stay in coverage.

Cole Sullivan: I couldn’t find a recent injury report, but as I understand it the biggest issue has been defensive depth. I assume the game plan hasn’t been much different on that side of the ball, except maybe we could have had fresher feet at the end of the Elon game to hold the score down a little bit better. On offense, we’ve been missing Rocko and Julian (this is an amazing duo name; if I have twins I will name them this) which may mean we have had to scale back on certain rushing plays as well as aim for shorter ball releases. I don’t think any of these injuries have necessarily broken any of our games, but I think we could have held Elon off a little longer as previously mentioned, and maybe found another field goal’s worth of value or two on offense throughout the season. Every little thing matters, but I don’t think our season is at risk because of injuries if that makes sense.

Andrew VU ‘04: I mean... some effect? Not enough to change the outcome of any games, though.

Question from Ask_thedoctor:

So is AJ Swann definitely the starter going forward? Or (as I mentioned in the game thread yesterday) is Wright going to go out there and get slaughtered against Georgia and Alabama? (I have more confidence of having at least a cromulent showing against Ole Miss.)

How many points will we score against ‘Bama? I set the O/U at 6.5, and I’ll take the under.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes, A.J. Swann is definitely the starter as long as he’s healthy and effective. See above answer, but you can’t just bench your best quarterback against Alabama.

I will take the over on that, but the answer might be 7, and it might be in garbage time.

Doreontheplains: If he is not, Clark has failed miserably to either A) point out Wright did not start against NIU due to injury or B) handle the changing of the guard with any intelligence.

Going over on the total points. Shutouts really are rare, especially garbage time scoring.

Cole Sullivan: AJ has to be the starter going forward. None of this flippity-flopping nonsense. I feel like that would be confusing on the field and off it. But what do I know? I’ll take the over, and I’ll add at least a field goal. I think we get at least 10, maybe more.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yes. He’s not just the starter, he’s the guy you make sure has a few NIL deals, and let him know that your plan is to make him an NFL QB, and maybe even a Heisman contender in the next 4 years. He really is that talented. Think a Jay Cutler without the flat, apathetic affect and the Blue Emergency Phone.

Question from VU1970:

How many times will Saban watch the sweet Jebus video on endless repeat this week? More times than all of us together? $97 million and he still needs to chase goats?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: What the hell does this question even mean.

Doreontheplains: None. The players may see it on Twitter though. Saban is the best because he is intent on finding any and every advantage.

Cole Sullivan: You know what’s better than 97 million dollars? 98 millions dollars. Saban ain’t in it for the money, though. He’s in it for the football. He’ll watch the sweet Jebus video (whatever that is) on repeat, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if he thinks it would be the best use of his time for improving himself, his team, and his chances of winning on Saturday.

Andrew VU ‘04: Thrice.

Question from Parlagi:

Please attempt to explain what Colorado was thinking with their head coaching hire, or with an OOC schedule of TCU, at Air Force, and at Minnesota.

Edit: I’d like to imagine there’s a poster on their SBN site named ColoradoCommodore who tried to warn them it was a bad idea.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The most honest explanation I heard was from Steven Godfrey the other day, who basically said that Mel Tucker left so late in the cycle that they couldn’t conduct a “real” coaching search, or at least that most candidates who would normally be interested in the Colorado job weren’t under the circumstances. With that said, I still don’t know how you land on Karl Dorrell. “Let’s hire a guy whose only college-level experience in the last decade and a half was as the guy running the 2014 Vanderbilt offense” is something that has to be explained by marijuana being everywhere in Colorado.

As far as that OOC schedule, well, somebody’s probably cheap and only scheduling home-and-homes. They’re probably going 0-12.

Doreontheplains: Panic hire and a lucky 2020. Dorrell went 4-2 (3-1) in the year of COVID, so they only have one year of terribad to justify a firing. I hope they are getting paid for some of those whippings.

Cole Sullivan: What new logo? Oh, sorry, I just always expect that to be one of the last few questions. Ummm I don’t know much about the Colorado situation, but much like the ref who officiated the fifth down or Malcolm Turner at any point during his tenure as athletic director, I would assume they weren’t thinking. At all.

Andrew VU ‘04: Let me take the time to remind you that Colorado was one of the earliest adopters of Marijuana legalization. It’s one of the best states in the union, but their decision making process is clouded.