Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fewer quarterback draws, and other things Vandy fans can feel good about

With three games until the season opener with Western Carolina, here are some things Vandy can feel good about:

1. The team plans to run the quarterback less:

In Monday's press conference in which he announced Larry Smith was starting, Coach Bobby Johnson said this: "We’re probably going to run the quarterback less this year than we ever have." Good.

He continued: "We’re gonna try to run the running backs more and throw the ball a little bit. When you depend on the quarterback running more you increase the chance of getting him hurt and having to run them back and forth. That probably was a big thing with our situation last year." Isn't that what we wanted to hear? A little bit of self-awareness that Johnson likes to run the quarterback but realizes it may have led to some of our problems.

2. Larry Smith is the starter, and he'll only be replaced if he gets injured or melts down:

On Monday, Johnson was trying to be gracious and praise Mackenzi Adams and Jared Funk after he named Smith the starter, and one reporter misunderstood him and asked Johnson to confirm that he was saying he could play any quarterback at any time on any given Saturday. To which Johnson, thankfully, said: "No, I didn’t say that. Larry’s the starter. He’s going to play." The next day, Johnson told a radio station of Smith: "He knows he's gonna be the guy."

3. Larry Smith is not going to melt down:

The team was wowed by his coolness under pressure in the Music City Bowl. Remember that he threw a huge third-down pass to George Smith to set up the winning field goal. "You walk out there and make that call and you’ve got 10 other sets of eyes looking at you," Johnson said. "There are lots of guys out there with great arms and big and strong and can run, (but) quarterback is making good decisions, taking advantage of things you see, and we feel like larry can do that for us."

4. The secondary is in good shape, and Casey Hayward is a rising star:

Hayward's been a star at cornerback in spring and preseason practice. Johnson says: "I think Casey Hayward’s gonna be as good as myron and D.J." He's also impressed with Jamie Graham at nickleback, and he says, "We've got a couple of freshmen we feel really good about." Three true freshmen are on the depth chart in the secondary: Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster at corner and Eric Samuels at nickel.

5. The offensive line is no longer a liability:

Johnson said the O-line should be vastly improved. The reason? He says the "younger guys" are "coming up and pushing" the returning starters. Already, redshirt sophomore James Williams has beaten out redshirt junior Reilly Lauer at right tackle, so Lauer moved to guard and nearly took redshirt senior Eric Hensley's job at right guard. But everybody's looking over his shoulder at redshirt freshman lineman Ryan Seymour.

6. The team believes they can win:

Bradley Vierling's been saying that this will be the best team in Vanderbilt history. When told about that, Ryan Hamilton said, "Yeah, I’ll hop on board with that one."

OK, we will too.

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