clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Week Five Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Vanderbilt v Alabama
Yeah, this is about how that game went.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Question from NAME:

Alabama went straight at what everybody knows is our most glaring weakness on defense. So will everybody else we play. What can Vandy do to get better on pass coverage by the time we get past Georgia?

Also, how would you compare our 55-3 loss to Bama to #11 Oregon’s 49-3 loss to Uggums?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Get better players? The problem with the pass defense is part on the defensive line’s inability to get pressure, part on the cornerbacks. The pass rush might get better if and when Daevion Davis returns, but the team’s going to miss Miles Capers (expected to be the starting edge rusher) for the rest of the season. There are a few young players, particularly Trudell Berry, who might be able to cover receivers better than the current cornerbacks, but I don’t see how you fix this problem other than simply upgrading the talent level on that side of the ball.

Doreontheplains: Howell is going to need to be creative with the way he brings pressure. Even with a 4-man rush, the Star can be used to drop in coverage some while sending another LB.

Alabama's athletes are also significantly better than anyone else except Georgia. The gap will exist in other games but might be manageable. The other possibility is that the freshman like Jeffrey Ugochukwu prove enough to get more minutes

Cole Sullivan: We aren’t fast enough not to get beat or outrun in the open field, and when we do get close we don’t always have the agility not to get outmaneuvered or the size and strength the make the tackle. Most other teams will not have the same degree of physical advantage as Bama had over us, except for Georgia of course. We can run speed drills and maybe track work, work out and eat well, and there’s not really much else we can do until we get guys coming into the program closer to that level of athleticism from the get-go.

For the second part of the question, I think we played closer to our maximum potential against Bama than Oregon did against Georgia. While the results were comparable, I think we would probably lose if we played Oregon. It would be close-ish though.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yeah, it’s a Jimmies and Joe’s thing. ‘Croot more DBs that fit the system.

Question from Jeturn:

With seven games remaining would the magic 8 ball predict over or under of 2.5 wins in those remaining seven games?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I would say “under” because even though I believe at least three of the remaining opponents are beatable, the odds that Vanderbilt actually beats all of them are relatively low. Like I could see them beating any of Missouri, South Carolina, and Florida, but beating all three of them... I don’t like the odds. Your mileage may vary on whether Ole Miss, Kentucky, or Tennessee qualifies as beatable.

Doreontheplains: Under. I refuse to expect a win over South Carolina and the chicken curse. I doubt we beat Missouri and two more teams.

Cole Sullivan: I am considering us likely to beat both Mizzou and Ole Miss. After that, it’s hard to say. Ole Miss is obviously good but hasn’t really played anyone yet, Kentucky has a big win under its belt but has looked shaky at times, Florida beat us 42-0 last year but is already 2-2 this year with both of their wins only panning out in the last few minutes of each game, and finally I just really really hate Tennessee and want to watch them burn. So I’ll take the over, because I think we will catch at least one team wallowing in misery following a big loss and/or looking past us towards their worldbeating opponent the week after.

Andrew VU ‘04: Under. We’ve got a 50-50 tossup against Missourah (spits), a 40-60 type game against The South Cackalacky Game Penises, and an “if everything breaks right” type game against Ole Piss left. The others are clearly better than we are. I’ll say we win one more and make the other two close. I’ll reassess if we shoot the moon and take down the Ackbars.

Question from 92Drummer:

We stopped Alabama on their first possession, and I pretty much stood up in my living room cheering for the next several minutes while we broke our scoring drought. Then…

Generally that is the “scripted” series that you would expect a team like AL to just mow over us. What happened? Fluke? Sign of the great things to come from our defense? What was different about that series than much of the rest of the game?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Kind of a fluke, because remember, Alabama set themselves back with a 10-yard holding penalty, and unless you think that’s something repeatable then I don’t see how you draw anything from it other than “it’s good to make the offense go 20 yards instead of 10.”

Doreontheplains: The penalty, somewhat caused by bringing 6 rushers, along with some swarming tackling got the stop. My guess is Alabama did not expect to get THAT much cushion.

Cole Sullivan: I hate to admit it, but a lot of our more successful-seeming drives were products of penalties. I loved the game, though. I was on my feet for a decent part of the first quarter and was fist-pumping every time AJ Swann and the boys made a play, which did happen on occasion.

Andrew VU ‘04: I mean, what was already said. Also, see the axiom regarding how often broken clocks are right.

Question from Chasrad:

Based on our play so far, would you say that this Vandy team is at the level of a good Division 2 football team? Or a second tier mid-major Division 1 team?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I would say we’re a typical bottom-tier Power 5 team, which is an improvement from the last couple of years when we were one of the worst teams in FBS. We beat Elon, an average FCS team, fairly easily (in spite of the heartburn late in the game, that was a 35-10 game early in the second half, and that was before we switched quarterbacks.) We demolished Hawaii and beat a decent Northern Illinois team (by more points than Kentucky did, and on the road.)

Doreontheplains: I feel like you don't realize FCS is still Division 1. This Vanderbilt team would probably win the FCS national championship. They would go undefeated and outscore opponents by like 50 points per game at the D2 level.

They already knocked off the reigning MAC champs, too. This is an elite G5 or bad P5 team.

Cole Sullivan: I think we would win Division II handily. I think we are a lower-tier Power 5 team, and a middle-of-the-pack FBS team overall. I think we’ve played our way out of the basement even if we struggle against the big dogs, but even the big dogs (Oregon, Oklahoma) struggle against the biggest dawgs (Georgia, Kansas State).

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m with Tom on this one. We already beat a good mid-major team in NIU. We’re at least a good mid-major to bottom-tier Power 5.

Question from RocketCityVandy:

Given our performance against NIU, and then Kentucky’s performance against self same team, can we draw any reasonable conclusions about how our matchup against Kentucky might go?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: We can reasonably conclude that we’re capable of competing with Kentucky. I don’t know that I’d go farther than that and say that we’re capable of beating them, but if Northern Illinois can hang with them, we definitely can.

Doreontheplains: Maybe? Kentucky has underwhelmed so far, but they are getting Chris Rodriguez back soon. The Dores might have a shot in that game, or they may get mauled in the trenches.

Cole Sullivan: Eh, was Kentucky really ever at risk of losing? I didn’t watch the game, so I don’t know. I think it’s hard to judge Kentucky before they play Ole Miss next week. That will be their first real challenge, because I am starting to think Florida is actually just a not good team this year. I do think there’s a chance against Kentucky, but we’ll know more next week.

Andrew VU ‘04: We can make inferences using the transitive property, but really, being able to hang with UK this year will come down to line play. I think they’ll be able to push us around in the trenches. If I’m wrong, then we can make a run at winning that one. I don’t suspect I’m wrong here, though. Think what Wake’s potential NFL backup QB did to our corners and then realize UK has a potential NFL starting QB who will likely go in the top half of this year’s 1st round.

Question from 92Drummer:

Now that we have some time to put knew [sic] things in and muffed a return on the 1 yard line, can we consider Mike Wright for punt returns? Or is he off the table for anything because of his red shirt.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: He’s not off the table, but “Jayden McGowen making some freshman mental mistakes in the return game” is pretty far down the list of problems I’d like to solve by putting our backup quarterback at risk of injury.

Look: I get that it’s frustrating and sort of dumb that one of the best athletes on the team is languishing on the bench. However, let’s also not pretend we didn’t see A.J. Swann get sacked five times at Alabama. No, not every team has Alabama’s defense, but... uh...

(glances at schedule)

Right, he might get killed at Georgia. And guess what happens if he can’t go.

Doreontheplains: Y'all severely underestimate how easy it is to do things like field a kickoff. Freak athlete or not, Wright has not trained to do any of that. Stop the madness. He might be a wildcat/change-of-pace QB, but that's the extent he plays barring injury.

Cole Sullivan: “Hey Mike, I was wondering if you were interested in trying out another position on top of being our backup quarterback. Maybe return specialist? No? Okay yeah that’s fine.”

Andrew VU ‘04: Like I said in last week’s mail bag, Clark Lea needs to convince Mike Wright to contribute in some way. I don’t think returning punts is it, as I’d be shocked if he’s ever practiced that skill (certainly not in the last two years). Catching a punt is a lot more difficult than it looks. Many receivers even have trouble with it if they don’t practice the skill routinely.

No, the argument has to be, “Hey Mike, want to be a Swiss Army Knife offensive weapon? We’ve got a bye week to practice...”

It appears Clark Lea agrees:

Question from WestEndMayhem:

Our glaring lack of TE utilization has gone from Anchor of Gold comment section complaint to talk track for the TV announcers (Jordan, if you’re reading this: LOL locked out of the locker room!!!!). Future recruiting classes are still emphasizing strong TE talent too, and I doubt a 3* TE wants to play football strictly as a supplement to the O-Line.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: So the weird thing about this is that it doesn’t seem to be hurting TE recruiting, like, at all. We have a 6’7” true freshman in Cole Spence who they’re probably saving for the last four games so he can redshirt, and we currently have a commitment from three-star TE Ka’Morreun Pimpton. (Did I mention that just so that I could say the name “Ka’Morreun Pimpton”? I will let you, the reader, be the judge of that.) And while it’s true that Ben Bresnahan has disappeared since Clark Lea took over, it’s also true that Lea has gotten more use out of Gavin Schoenwald than Derek Mason ever did. So ... I don’t know the answer to this. I do know, however, that Jordan Rodgers blocked the AoG Twitter account and he is therefore dead to us.

Doreontheplains: There have been some plays designed for TEs. Some misfires early, but I think they'll get good run down the stretch.

Cole Sullivan: We have used TEs before to great effect. Maybe these tight ends just better serve the team as blockers than as receivers. I think this is something to think about in the long term. The situation could evolve as Coach Lea brings in new recruits and transfers, but I don’t think it is really something we can change in the short-term.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m not sure how much stock I would put into what Jordan Rodgers says—save for sex tips involving Velveeta. I’d say the main reason Wright didn’t involve the TEs was he was running instead of looking for the safety valve, and Swann has leaned on WRs Sheppard and McGowan (really just Shep) thus far, and other than against the Gumps, to great effect. He’ll need the security blanket against SEC teams, though, so it’s certainly something to work on in practice.

Statement from WestEndMayhem (from a different thread that I’m including in this Mail Bag anyway):

All of my absent optimism from the Alabama game has returned with a vengeance for Ole Miss. I want to believe.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, if Tennessee fans can believe they can beat Bama, damnit we can believe we can beat Ole Miss.

Doreontheplains: Go for it. College football rarely makes sense. Might as well embrace the insanity.

Cole Sullivan: I always believe. AJ is the second coming of Jay Cutler. The receiving corps is a bunch of studs. The team has a fire and a passion for the game we haven’t seen in years. I really do truly believe. We’re winning out the rest of the season. Book your tickets to Atlanta now, and maybe grab some tickets to Dallas or New Orleans while you’re at it. I’ll see you there.

(This sunshine pumped here as part of “Cole Sullivan’s Weekly Mailbag Answers” brought to you by our carrier, Anchor of Gold.)

Andrew VU ‘04: Go ahead and believe. Not “we’re going to kick their asses” believe, nor “coin flip game” believe, nor even “2 in 5 chances we’d win” believe, but still, there are reasons for optimism. With how we played on offense against NIU, how Ole Piss barely beat Tulsa, and the fact that we’ll have the bye week to practice and watch tape on Ole Piss... yeah, I’m saying there’s a chance.