Go to Vandy football message boards, and you'll read angry missives about how our lousy quarterbacks, lousy receivers, lousy offensive line, lousy head coach and especially lousy offensive coordinator led to the demise of this year's team.
Give me a break. And listen up, people: WE LOST TOO MANY KEY PLAYERS THIS SEASON.
Oklahoma was supposed to lose zero games this season and compete for the national championship. The Sooners lost quarterback Sam Bradford and have lost four games — four more than expected.
Vandy was supposed to lose, say, five or six games this season. We've lost an unbelievable number of players, and we're going to lose probably 10 games — four more than expected.
We've played almost the entire season without SEVEN starters (five of them on offense) and four key backups, and another EIGHT starters (six of them on offense) have missed at least one game. In fact, Bradley Vierling was the only preseason offensive starter not to miss a game this season. (That's if, like me, you'd projected Wheeler, Jeffers-Harris and Cole to start at receiver.)
Now we're facing Tennessee without NFL cornerback prospect Myron Lewis and probably linebacker Patrick Benoist.
Here's another thing: Even with our improved depth, we can't reload as quickly as other teams when we lose key players.
Consider this partial list of losses:
MISSED ALL OR MOST OF THE SEASON:
• Terrance Jeffers-Harris, starting receiver: Academically ineligible
• Justin Wheeler, starting receiver: Career-ending knee injury
• James Williams, starting offensive tackle: Broken leg
• Jared Hawkins, starting running back: Foot injury
• Austin Monahan, starting tight end: Knee injury
• Steven Stone, starting defensive end: Broken foot
• Ryan Hamilton, starting safety: Torn pectoral muscle
• Nate Campbell, backup linebacker: Dismissed from team
• Tristan Strong, backup linebacker: Knee injury
• Alan Strong, backup cornerback: Transferred to TSU
• Jay Fullam, backup safety: Injured hand
MISSED AT LEAST ONE GAME:
• Thomas Welch, starting offensive tackle: Injury
• John Cole, starting wide receiver: Broken hand
• Ryan Custer, starting guard: Injury
• Jamie Graham, starting defensive back/receiver: Concussion
• Larry Smith, starting quarterback: Torn hamstring
• Zac Stacy, starting running back: Ankle injury
• Sean Richardson, starting safety: Injured hand
• Myron Lewis, starting cornerback: Knee injury
• Eric Samuels, backup defensive back: Injury and a possible team issue
For the love of Dan McGugin, let's stop talking about who should replace Bobby Johnson. This is not "Same Old Vandy." If Johnson had experienced this kind of attrition his first season, he'd have been losing games 70-0 by the end of the season.
Sure, this has been a nightmarish season because of all the players we've lost. But the fact that we can still hang tough with bowl-bound teams like South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky is a testament to our depth, especially our defensive depth.
And consider this: Because of this one bad season, we'll be deeper and more experienced than ever next season.