Friday, September 20, 2013

Questions and Answers with the "Anchor of Gold" Blog

Christian D'Andrea runs the excellent "Anchor of Gold" blog. He and I swapped question and answer
sessions relating to tomorrow's game.

Christian is a Rhode Island native and will attend the game at Gillette. Thanks to him for helping out with this interview.

#1. Vandy had to open its season with two tough teams: Ole Miss and South Carolina. How will the two opening losses impact the Commodores' chances of winning the SEC East? Is the West Division the stronger division this year?

Winning the East is still possible with two SEC losses, but that's going to take a lot of work. Not only would Vandy have to beat Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida (all in a three week span!), but they'd also have to hope that a very good South Carolina team would lose two more league games. It's technically possible, but I'm not holding out much hope for it.
The West is certainly the stronger division, though the East is still very good. Georgia/S. Carolina/Florida could make up the upper tier of most of the other BCS conferences, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that Alabama/Texas A&M/LSU is the tougher triumvirate at the top right now.

#2. How will losing Chris Boyd affect Vandy's offense? Any info on his replacement?

Boyd was an excellent player who took pressure off of All-American wideout Jordan Matthews in the passing game. Without him, an already shallow receiving corps has had to ask a pair of role players to step up. Jonathan Krause is an excellent punt returner who can fill in as WR2, but he's not a consistent threat like Boyd was. Jordan Cunningham, a true freshman and high four-star recruit in 2013, has also gotten the call to take Boyd's snaps. he's shown flashes of the ability to get open and make plays, but he's still learning the game. Unfortunately, neither one can provide the combination of good hands, great size, and red zone awareness that Boyd brought to the table.

#3. Tell us about the offense in general. Jordan Matthews looks like he's going to have an All-SEC year. The Commodores seem to practice running backs by committee. Is that right? Who else should we look for?

Matthews has 100+ yards in all three Vandy games this season, and he'll likely add to that total on Saturday. That's not a knock against your secondary, it's just a testament of how good Matthews has been this year. Teams are double and triple-teaming him in coverage and he's still coming down with the ball in key situations.
The running back stable is a committee of players who are trying to replace record setting tailback Zac Stacy. Wesley Tate is the power runner and presumptive starter, Brian Kimbrow has the most pure speed, and Jerron Seymour, despite having to sit on a phone book to drive a car, is a combination of the two, running like a pinball caroms off bumpers. It's a talented group, but no alpha dog has emerged from that fray yet.
Otherwise, the offense has been...nondescript. Steven Scheu seems to be the team's biggest weapon at tight end, but he's underused. Austyn Carta-Samuels is a perfectly competent quarterback who does many things well but is a master of none of them. And we've already covered the non-Matthews receivers in question 3.

#4. Both UMass and Vandy play 3-4 defenses. The Commodores have given up 79 points in their first three games. Does that reflect the quality of the opponents or problems with the defense?
It's a little of both (but hey, we did hold Austin Peay to three points two weeks ago!). Vanderbilt has been garbage against mobile quarterbacks, and Ole Miss and South Carolina exploited that in big scoring efforts. The absence of captain Chase Garnham (lower leg injury) amongst the LBs is also troubling, as he was the fastest linebacker we had and big part of this defense's ability to pursue runners. The 'Dores have a solid secondary and the players to put together a very effective front seven, but they get caught off guard too easily, and they can be exploited by smart offensive coordinators.
#5. Looking at the Commodores' game notes, it seems as if special teams are a real strength for the team. Comments?

Carey Spear is our lunatic kicker. He can make 54-yard field goals and he can do this: Darrius Sims, a true freshman, has also been electric on both sides of the ball as a gunner and kick returner. Special teams have been a bright spot in what has been a disappointing season so far.

#6. Obviously, this has been a tough year for Vandy fans. However, the Commodores have an excellent recruiting class coming in. Do Vanderbilt fans still believe that Commodores are on track to be a power in college football's toughest league?

Absolutely. James Franklin turned a group of Bobby Johnson recruits - mostly two and three-star guys - into a nine-win squad last year. Now, he's got his hand-picked players coming in - guys in the high three to high four-star range. His playcalling isn't airtight, but his ability to get his players to believe in themselves and put together great performances is. I have faith that this season can still turn into an eight-win campaign, and that the sky is the limit in the future. After pulling together the things he has on the recruiting trail and coaxing a once-in-a-century season out of Vanderbilt, I'm pretty much forced to believe in Franklin until he gives me a reason not to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read an article on Friday about Umass coach Emasinsan talking about how you the defense is and that they are still playing with half D1aaa kids. That show you the mindset of the entire coaching staff, first off that is a piss poor excuse to be losing like we are. Last year Emasinsan put his had through a wall at halftime during the Michigan because he is unable to control his emotions, isn't this the same guy who should be teaching our players to not let their emotions get the best of them on the field which will lead to stupid plenties.
Also this is the worst we have ever played under any coaching staff! By the way , all of Maine players are D1aa players!