Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can Vanderbilt fans handle the truth about their team?

Jess Nicholas (not to be confused with Col. Nathan Jessup) over at has an interesting preview of Vandy. I think it’s important to read what educated fans at other schools say about us. Sure, many Vandy fans would agree that Larry Smith is not a legitimate SEC quarterback. But how many of us would say that Zac Stacy is slower than other SEC running backs or that our defensive backs lack the athleticism of those in an elite program?

And yet, if we dare to fantasize about competing in the SEC we must objectively compare our players with those on other SEC teams (and not just Kentucky and Ole Miss.)

We ask this question every now and then: How many of our players would even get playing time at another SEC school?

I’m not bashing our players. This question is on James Franklin’s mind when he says things like “We have good players here, just not enough of them.”

Yesterday, a reporter asked Franklin what he was doing to improve the offense and he replied that he was recruiting. A few minutes later, he said that Vandy was going to have to run trick plays and take risks in order to compete. Implying, of course, that he won’t have to do this as much when he gets the players he wants. Oh, and if you're wondering why we don't just run a trick play on every down, he was quick to add that you have to wait for the right circumstances to run a trick play even if you're desperate.

I’m starting to see some similarities between Franklin and Nick Saban – apart from Franklin’s superior people skills. Saban said a couple of days ago that Vanderbilt is doing some nice things with the players they have.

Maybe some Vandy fans would be offended by that. James Franklin wouldn’t be.

Anyway, here’s some highlights of what Nicholas had to say about our team. If you find yourself boiling over with anger at his assessment, take a deep breath and realize that he’s comparing us to the team he studies every day, which is getting the kind of results that we can only dream of.

How many matchups does he have us winning against the Tide? Zero. Fair enough.


Overall observations:
• Ranks 116th in passing offense.
• Ranks 117th in total offense.
• Ranks 116th in sacks allowed.
• Wide receivers remain a weakness.
• If Bama contains Chris Boyd, it should have “no problems” containing our passing game.
• The offensive line is “pretty offensive.” (Ha, ha. The truth hurts.) The interior line “is a question mark.” Vandy doesn’t “protect the passer” and run blocking is “scattershot.” D-line “strongly wins” the battle with our O-line. (Duh.)

Notes on players:
• Larry Smith: Not a legitimate SEC quarterback; mobile enough but lacking in arm strength.
• Jordan Rodgers: Has “showed flashes in limited work.”
• Zac Stacy: “Clearly lacking in speed compared to other SEC starters.”
• Jerron Seymour: “Oddly built” but has been a “capable backup so far.”
• Brandon Barden: Likely a “scratch for this game thanks to an ankle injury.”
• Austin Monahan: “Almost as good as Barden” but without Barden our two tight end set is “a lot less effective.”
• Chris Boyd: “Has some homerun ability.”
• Kyle Fischer and Ryan Seymour: “Decent tackles.”


Overall observations:
• Ranks 4th in pass efficiency defense.
• Ranks 11th in total defense.
• Ranks 15th in scoring defense.
• Ranks 25th in rushing defense.
• Has 14 interceptions and ranks 5th in turnover margin.
• No glaring weakness on defense for “the first time since the Woody Widenhofer days.”
• Stout rush defense, which could lead to more passing this week from Alabama.
• Good depth on defensive line. The Tide O-line shouldn’t have “much of an edge” over the Vandy D-line.
• Secondary is “deep” and “opportunistic” but with the “possible exception” of Casey Hayward “lacks the top-gear athleticism” of Alabama’s DBs.

Notes on players:
• Rob Lohr, Colt Nichter, T.J. Greenstone: “Good-sized players.”
• Tim Fugger: One of the SEC’s “most underrated and unknown ends.”
• Johnell Thomas: A “matchup problem” for offensive tackles who “lack good footwork.”
• Chris Marve: “Would easily start for Alabama.”
• Sean Richardson and Kenny Ladler: “Among the league’s biggest” safeties.
• Casey Hayward and Trey Wilson: Have “good size” and “can run.”

• Ranks a “respectable” 27th in net punting.
• Punt and kickoff returns are “middle of the pack or worse.”
• Kickoff coverage ranks in middle of pack in SEC but higher than Bama’s.
• Carey Spear even with Bama’s field goal kicker and Richard Kent is the better punter, but Vandy will struggle to contain Bama’s return game, which is among “the tops in the nation” in both kickoff and punt returns.


Greg M said...

Sounds like a spot on analysis to me. Top notch D, weak O. Agreed.

A.J. said...

Pretty fair analysis. The bigger thing to me isn't being better than Alabama, even at our best position, it is more about the fact that if you read those analyses that doesn't sound like a team ranked 12th in the SEC by Rivals in every category but one (they called our secondary #9 I think).

The real thing is that we are starting to utilize the talent we do have. We were never a 2-10 team talent-wise.

We were never going to start getting 8 win talent when we could only get 2 wins with 4 win talent.

even more anonymous said...

This game could be closer than people seem to think.

even more anonymous said...

Or not.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot people may be depressed about the loss, but I was actually encouraged. We got beat up in the 2nd half but we played with Bama in the first half. I was also really impressed with Rodgers. He seems to have a swagger that LS lacks. He is also much quicker and faster than I realized. I think we should hand the reins to Rodgers. LS is not that much better of a runner and Rodgers maybe our starter next year. He needs the experience now. You would never see those things from the stat column or the score. But Vandy's defense played pretty good except for a few plays in the first half and the offense picked up first downs. Rodgers made some mistake but also showed some ability and confidence. He made a couple of throws that really impressed me with his footwork, timing and confidence.

Also, I am even more excited about Franklin. If you watched the Auburn v AR game, you may not be as impressed with Malzahn. I am not. I think he may have been more of a product of his talent than of his own coaching. Look at how Cam is doing in the league. He never showed that in college. We may have gotten really lucky with getting Franklin rather than Malzahn.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Anonmymous (10:19). I was at the game and thought that we played much better than SC game. O-line played better and maybe Rogers should be given the start against UGA as the offense clearly needs a jump-start. I don't think we will see any team as good as SC and Alabama the rest of the year especially on defense. Offensive play-calling was a little predictable though.

jayden said...

Rodgers is actually a much better athlete than Larry. Honestly, the only reasons people think LS is a better runner is 1) cause hes tall and black, and 2) he's spent his whole career running for his life behind a Vandy OL