Monday, August 31, 2009

Larry Smith named Vanderbilt's starting quarterback, and that's the way it should be

At last, Bobby Johnson has named Larry Smith the starting quarterback. It's a big move for Larry, of course, but it's also a big move for Bobby Johnson, and it alleviates these fears that some Vandy fans have harbored about their head coach:

• He's too loyal to upperclassmen: Nope. If Johnson was ever going to be loyal to a fifth-year senior, it would have been Mackenzi Adams, who's played in every game since his redshirt freshman year, starting nine games, and starring in rousing victories over South Carolina in 2007 and Auburn in 2008.

• He's too comfortable playing multiple quarterbacks: Not true. His first season, Johnson named Jay Cutler the starter and stuck with him for four seasons. (OK, he was Jay Cutler.) Then Johnson named redshirt sophomore Chris Nickson the starter and tried his best to stick with him for three years. Of Adams, Johnson said, "We feel equally confident that he could go in the game if needed and execute our offense." If needed. He's going with Smith.

• He wrongly believes that Vanderbilt can win with defense and special teams alone: Nope. Johnson knows he's got to do something about his offense, and he proved this by installing a spread offense in the spring — a spread offense tailor-made for Larry Smith.

• He's accomplished his goal of a bowl victory and just wants to maintain the status quo: No, no, no. Johnson realizes that with an offense marginally better than the one he had, the Commodores could have won 10 games last season, far beyond the wildest dreams of the team's fans. And this season, even with the departure of D.J. Moore and the injury of Steven Stone, he could have a defense that's something special. Starting Larry Smith isn't about maintaining the status quo — it's about improving not just this season, but the next season and the one after that. "He gave us a look at his potential (last season)," Johnson said, "and we want to develop that potential. The best way to develop it is to get him in the game." Amen, brother.

• He's content to stand to the side and let Ted Cain run the offense into the ground: Nope again. Johnson knows that last season's run-first offense didn't work because it didn't have the passing game to set up the run. "Larry's got a very strong arm," Johnson said today of Smith, "and also has the presence in the pocket. He sees the field very well and knows what we're trying to do with the offense." That's the thing that sticks with Vandy fans: Larry could throw the ball downfield. He did it against Wake Forest and he did it again in the Music City Bowl.

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