Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm doing just fine, thank you — and let's hope Derek King is too

Thanks, Greg M, for inquiring about my mental state. No, I'm not in a deep state of depression. I'm having a great holiday season, eating exceptionally well, hanging out with my kids, watching ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries (I got the first volume for Christmas), preparing to do some cooking on the Green Egg, and of course watching some bowl games. (Tyler Bray's kind of a punk.)

In other words, I'm not at work and I'm not trying to kill time. And yes, I'm taking a little break from MV!

But soon I will be.

Oh, and if you've heard we've lost two verbal commitments, don't be too worried about it.

Alex Barr has switched his commitment to NC State. He was a huge kid who'd have been a project much like Andrew Bridges, who redshirted this past seasons. We've got two other offensive linemen, James Lewis and Jake Bernstein, who'll play before he would have, and two other promising projects, Jose Valedon and Spencer Pulley.

Also, QB Damien Fleming has reportedly withdrawn his commitment. We've got another quarterback commitment, Shaun White, who was similarly rated, and this gives Coach Franklin some room to recruit a better QB before signing day in February. If you ask me, Coach Franklin's going hard after a better quarterback and he deciding whether to keep White or Fleming.

Sumler's best offers are from Southern Miss, Memphis and UAB, while Fleming supposedly had an offer from West Virginia (not sure that'll stick with Dana Halgorsen joining the Mountaineers since then) as well as MTSU, Southern and Hampton.

So which recruits should we really want to keep?

Athlete Derek King had offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee and Ole Miss. He's by far our most decorated recruit.

Tackle James Lewis could have been but he committed early with offers from Kentucky, Duke and Illinois, but he almost certainly would have gotten better ones.

The other recruit with an SEC offer was RB Mitchell Hester (Arkansas).

Guys with BCS offers included DE/TE Keith Heitzman (Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana), OL Jake Bernstein (Arizona, Cincinnati, others), DE Conor Hart (Syracuse), WR Courtney Bynes (Illinois, Duke, Cincy), RB JJ Keels (Maryland, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Cincy, Duke) and RB Marcus Sumler (Iowa State).

Happy New Year, everybody.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vanderbilt fans should give James Franklin a chance

So James Franklin is our new coach. I will not be at lunch today with other VU alums plotting to fire David Williams. Some of you will be, and you certainly have that right.

We're Vandy fans. For many, many years, being Vandy fans has made us feel bad, and we don't like feeling bad. What would have made us feel instantly good? Why, getting the offensive coordinator for the best college football team in America. Or getting another big-name coach.

Wake up, people. We're not capable of getting a big-name coach who's going to make us feel instantly good. And that's not David Williams' fault. While he was interviewing coaches and asking them questions about what they plan for the future, they're asking him to explain Vandy's past. It's not an easy task, unless you choose to make fun of yourself and form a blog called Moral Victory!

So there was no way we were getting a big-name coach. Sure, big-name coaches were talking to us so they could more than double their current salaries as coordinators. Instead, we had to find somebody who's good but nobody knows he's good until he turns out to be good.

So is James Franklin good? We won't know until he turns out to be good.

I'm giving him a chance. If I could, I'd ask him these questions:

• Who's your offensive coordinator?
• Who's your defensive coordinator?
• Who are you keeping from Vandy's current staff?
• How in heaven's name do you plan to jump-start the offense?
• What are you looking for in a quarterback?
• Which Vandy players are you most impressed with?
• Which high school players that you were recruiting to Maryland do you hope to lure to Vandy?
• Which current Vandy verbal commitments are you trying hardest to keep?
• Which current Vandy verbal commitments don't fit your plans?
• Do you know how to get to every high school in the metro Atlanta area?

I see a guy who's worked with Aaron Rodgers, who's a highly respected recruiter, who's young and energetic, and who's thought of highly enough to have been the coach-in-waiting for a job considered to be at least a step above the Vandy job. No, I didn't want to hire a coach because he's black, but the fact that he's our first black coach sure doesn't hurt us with recruiting, especially in metro Atlanta.

Right now, some of you want to jump out of a building.

I'm hopeful. I'm looking forward to seeing what James Franklin does on the recruiting trail, in spring practice, in preseason, and when the season starts.

Go Dores!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vanderbilt's stuck with James Franklin, and we'll just wait and see if that's a good thing

Boy, those geniuses at the Washington Post's Terrapins Insider never sleep, do they? Now they're claiming that James Franklin is Vanderbilt's next head coach. You go, Matt Bonesteel.

Of course, I'm sure that it's true. Just the sort of hire we'd make. You know, because we're so smart and we know how to spot a winner. If anybody's flying under the radar, it's Franklin, who's the architect of the 85th best offense in college football and supposedly has a magnetic personality and comprehensive long-term goals.

David Williams told Eric Prisbell of the Post that he met Franklin when he was offensive coordinator at Kansas State: "Even back then, he was put­ting into motion a plan of what it would take to be a head coach. The other thing is, we were aware that he is the coach-in-waiting at Mary­land. Obviously, some­body else has recog­ni­zed some of the same things that we recognized."

OK, so we're not getting our big-name candidate, which is what we needed to feel good about the search between now and September. And isn't that waht we wanted? Isn't that what we as Vanderbilt fans deserve? To feel good about our team for once, even if nothing actually materializes?

When I was writing all that crap about Kiehl Frazier following Malzahn to Vanderbilt, I knew it would never happen because it was great, great stuff that could never be true. Sure, Frazier would have followed Malzahn to Vandy, and I'm sure I'm 100 percent right about that. But I knew that Malzahn in the end would never come to Vanderbilt.

No, we're getting a no-name coach with an upside and a downside and we're going to have to wait months and months — and maybe years and years — before we know whether Williams and friends made the right decision and whether we'll be ready to celebrate.

I'm glad Vanderbilt made a strong run at Malzahn. Now we've got Franklin — who was just as good as the other no-name finalists — and so we'll just sit back and see if he can close the deal on our best recruits and maybe pick up a couple of other decent players and then in spring practice install an offense that doesn't suck and then in the fall field a team that doesn't get destroyed.

And that's about all there is to say about it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The only Gus that Vanderbilt is getting is a field-goal kicking mule: Malzahn slams the door on our ass

Whew, we almost had to change the name of this blog. Yep, Gus Malzahn ALMOST came to Vanderbilt and brought Kiehl Frazier with him. Just like we ALMOST win football games.

If you haven't been a Vanderbilt fan long enough and don't believe me, it's being reported by ESPN, not Matt Bonesteel.

I've spent all morning telling co-workers who went to Auburn the exact same thing I told them in 2001 when we were trailing Auburn 24-21 and driving down the field. Boy, those Auburn fans were nervous! Boy, they were whining!

But I set them straight. I told them not to worry because Vanderbilt would find a way to lose in the end.

That's what I've been telling them today, and it's exactly what happened. We faked a field goal, ran the option to the field goal kicker, and lost Malzahn.

I've heard the sticking point was that we wouldn't let him coach in the national championship. I don't know and I don't care. All I know is, we almost got him and we didn't, just like we almost win nearly every game and we don't.

Now instead of getting the offensive coordinator for the No. 1 team in the nation, we're probably getting the offensive coordinator for Maryland, which ranks No. 85 in total yardage.

The only Gus we're getting is a field-goal kicking mule.

Vanderbilt players go to Facebook to comment on Malzahn

What were Vanderbilt players doing yesterday after rumors were swirling and exactly one news agency was reporting that Gus Malzahn was Vanderbilt's new head coach.

They were on Facebook, of course.

Here's an interchange between Grant Ramsay, a freshman O-lineman who just finished a redshirt year, and Jabo Burrow, who started at guard as a redshirt sophomore:

Grant Ramsay: Gus Malzahn baby! Lets goooooo!!!
Jabo Burrow: I actually heard that ted cain is gonna be the head coach
Grant Ramsay: haha dude really?

And here's Jordan Matthews, the true freshman who caught fire at the end of this season with five touchdowns from Jared Funk late in games:

Jordan Matthews: “We just got Malzahn!! LEEETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! To hype!!!!!!"

Ah yes, to hype. Like Vandy fans, these guys are psyched that Malzahn just may be headed to Nashville. Think they'll be this excited if James Franklin or Greg Roman show up instead?

But the big question is, do these guys know something we don't, or were they surfing the web just like the rest of us?

Unfortunately, I imagine the latter is true.

It's never too late for a Vandy fumble: Malzahn still reportedly mulling Vanderbilt offer

On Sunday afternoon, this was the headline on the Washington Post's Terrapin Insider blog: "Gus Malzahn accepts Vanderbilt coaching offer." It was based on what a source told reporter Eric Prisbell who told the blogger Matt Bonesteel.

By midnight, Prisbell had posted a story with this headline: "Gus Malzahn expected to be named head coach at Vanderbilt."

That was after everybody and their mother had run stories saying that Malzahn had taken the Vandy job, but they all were attributing the Washington Post. For example, USA Today runs the story and attributes the Post, and then somebody else reports that the Washington Post and USA Today are reporting that Malzahn had accepted Vandy's offer. You know, because it's nice to have two sources. Except that there was one source all along, and that was the Terrapin Insider blog.

Now, as if to bring everybody down from the mountain, ESPN is reporting that Malzahn has a Vanderbilt offer. Geez, let's hope that much is true. I'd hope we weren't getting excited about Gus accepting the job when he didn't even have an offer.

Right now, it's the same old same old. Malzahn's mulling the offer and James Franklin will take the job if he doesn't.

Oh, and David Williams plans to make an announcement in the next day or so. You know, so the students can spread the gospel of Vandy football when they go home for the holidays to Dallas, Atlanta and Jersey.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

David Williams tells AP he'll make an announcement about Vandy coach "within the next day or so"

Since the time Matt Bonesteel said that Eric Prisbell said that an unnamed source told him that Gus Malzahn is headed to Vandy, the always reliable Teresa Walker with the Associated Press filed this story:

"NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams says the Commodores expect to announce their new football coach within the next day or so.

"Williams declined to comment when asked Sunday if Vanderbilt has offered the job to anyone. The Commodores have been searching for a new coach since Robbie Caldwell resigned Nov. 27, and they wanted to announce the new coach before students leave for their winter break later this week."

Wow, so Williams is timing his announcement for the students? Then maybe he'll stoop scheduling the Tennessee game when the students are away on Thanksgiving break.

Who is Matt Bonesteel and why is he the only person on earth saying that Gus Malzahn is heading to Vandy?

ESPN SportsCenter just told us (1) that Urban Meyer has health problems, (2) that Will Muschamp, as a reminder, is headed to Florida and (3) that Bobby Petrino has signed a big contract at Arkansas. Then on to NFL football.

In other words, they're NOT reporting that Gus Malzahn is going to Vanderbilt. Why? Because it's not been confirmed.

Instead, a bunch of web sites are quoting the Washington Post. As in, Gus Malzahn is the next head coach of Vanderbilt, the Washington Post reports.

Um, it's not Woodward and Bernstein on this one.

No, in a blog entry on Terrapins Insider entitled "Gus Malzahn accepts Vanderbilt head coaching offer," some guy named Matt Bonesteel quotes some guy named Eric Prisbell who was told by somebody with no name that Malzahn has accepted Vandy's offer.

As soon as Matt Bonesteel finishes filming his latest adult movie, he'll update us on the story.

In the meantime, let's don't start celebrating yet. Nobody has confirmed this.

Is Gus Malzahn really headed to Vanderbilt? Remember, at Vandy it's never over till the foghorn sounds

We're not gonna run a giant BREAKING NEWS: MALZAHN IS VANDERBILT'S HEAD COACH headline. Not gonna do it. Yes, the Washington Post's Maryland blog is reporting that Malzahn has agreed to take the Vandy job, so James Franklin has probably told them he's not a candidate. And Greg Roman is allegedly no longer a candidate. And Petrino has signed his big deal with Arkansas.

Sounds like the pieces are in place. If they are, we've come a long way since Ivin Jasper, haven't we?

Kind of like when we were beating Georgia 17-0 in the fourth quarter in Nashville and we called a fake punt. Or we scored a miracle touchdown against LSU to make the score 7-6 and lined up for the two-point conversion and the win.

Feel free to insert your own Vanderbilt pull-defeat-from-the jaws-of-victory story here.

I'm not saying it's not going to happen. But don't forget this is Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt has never gotten its first choice for a head coach. Malzahn was our first choice, and the first choice of a whole bunch of people.

I feel like I'm standing in the bitter cold at the Music City Bowl watching the seconds tick off the clock and not believing it.

I'm waiting until the clock reads 0:00 and it's over.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Only one SEC job available for Gus Malzahn

Earlier this week folks were speculating that Malzahn could become the head coach of:

• Arkansas, if Petrino bolted for Florida.
• Miss State, if Mullen bolted for Miami.
• Ole Miss, if Nutt got canned.

Well, it looks like Will Muschamp is about to be named the coach at Florida, Miami has narrowed its search to Golden, Edsall and another guy, and Nutt still has a job.

That means there's one SEC job open for Malzahn: Yes, Vanderbilt.

Would Kiehl Frazier follow Gus Malzahn to Vanderbilt?

Will Gus Malzahn take the money and the Vanderbilt job? That's the big question right now.

But here's another question: If the answer to the above question is yes, then would Kiehl Frazier be coming to Vanderbilt?

Frazier is the fourth-best high school quarterback in the nation, a big strong guy who can run and throw. He's committed to Auburn, presumably to play for Malzahn, who coached at his high school Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark., before moving to Springdale HS.

Frazier is the perfect quarterback for Malzahn's offense, and as we all know because Vandy lost five of its best recruits this time last year, nothing's official until signing day in February.

If Frazier chose Auburn because of Malzahn, he could without question follow him to Vandy, provided he hasn't already taken $180,000 to come to Auburn.

Maybe James Franklin and Greg Roman will be better head coaches than Malzahn, though we wouldn't pay them $3 million to find out and I'd bet that Malzahn in his first year could do more with our current "talent" than those other guys could.

But the big difference would be in recruiting. Caldwell and friends have put together a remarkable class considering the uncertainty of the past six months, but as usual it's still the worst class in the SEC. Malzahn could change that.

If he took the job (Bobby Petrino has reportedly just signed a 7-year deal with Arkansas) and Frazier joined him, then Frazier would be Vanderbilt's highest rated recruit ever, by far. It would be an unbelievable coup for us, on par with getting Malzahn. He'd likely be the starting quarterback from Day One, and you'd probably see Larry Smith graciously accept a utility role similar to the one given to Auburn's Kodi Burns when Malzahn arrived in Auburn.

You could also see a couple of four-star wide receivers and maybe even a big running back jump ship to come to Vanderbilt. And while we're at it, we desperately need linebackers, as well as some SEC-sized linemen on both sides of the ball.

All of a sudden, guys like two-star running back Mitchell Hester, who's said he's not sure if he'll come to Vandy after all, may not even have the option.

And them's the breaks. We got Jordan Rodgers because Mark Mangino got fired at Kansas and new coach Turner Gill rescinded the Jayhawks' offer to Rodgers.

Malzahn would be keenly interested in his quarterbacks, and Vandy recruits Damien Fleming and Shaun White may or may not meet his standards.

Athlete Derrick King and offensive linemen James Lewis and Jake Bernstein are definite keepers, and so are running back J.J. Keels, tight end/defensive end Keith Heitzman and defensive end Conor Hart.

If Frazier didn't follow Malzahn to Nashville, then it wouldn't be the end of the world. When he arrived in Auburn Malzahn took Chris Todd, a senior quarterback and JUCO product coming off shoulder surgery and a confidence-shaking season, and got these results:

Todd before Malzahn: 86-156 (55.1%), 903 yards, 5 TDs, 6 INTs, 106.6 rating
Todd after Malzahn: 198-328 (60.4%), 2,612 yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 145.7

At Vanderbilt, Malzahn would have a senior quarterback coming off another confidence-shaking season (Larry Smith) and a JUCO product coming off shoulder surgery (Jordan Rodgers).

He'd also have a bunch of all-purpose running backs in Norman, Stacy and Keels and a big, raw back in Wesley Tate. Oh, and a ton of young wide receivers. And an All-SEC tight end in Brandon Barden, and a couple of redshirt freshmen, Blake Gowder and Chris Boyd, with the potential to play H-back.

Hey, it's a start.

But without a doubt, getting Malzahn would give Vandy a huge initial boost that it wouldn't get from the other candidates.

With him, we're talking about which of our recruits are GOOD ENOUGH to play for Vandy.

Without him, we're talking about which of our recruits are WILLING to play for Vandy.

That's a big difference.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 reasons Gus Malzahn should take the Vanderbilt job

1. $3 million
2. The opportunity to prove he's a genius by winning at Vanderbilt.
3. $3 million
4. Cam Newton's leaving Auburn after this season.
5. $3 million
6. $3 million
7. $3 million
8. $3 million
9. $3 million
10. $3 million

Back up the Brinks truck! Vanderbilt tries to lure Gus Malzahn with cold hard cash

Jeff Lockridge just slipped into one of his blogs that Vanderbilt has supposedly offered Gus Malzahn $3 million to coach the Commodores. Ah, blogs! That nifty invention that enables journalists to serve up information not quite cooked enough for a so-called real news story.

Still, it's nice to see that Vandy's at least rumored to be making a last-minute run at Malzahn, which would of course take truckloads of cash to pull off. Like a lot of people, I'm just not sold on James Franklin. When Maryland fans say they hope he leaves to go to Vandy because they hate the Terrapins offense, well, that's a little bit disconcerting.

And in case you're wondering, if somehow we did lure Malzahn to Nashville, he'd be the SEVENTH highest paid coach in the nation.

Let's just say Malzahn wants to take the money and also accept the challenge of proving he's the best freaking coach ever by actually winning at Vanderbilt. What would stand in our way?

Urban Meyer. Meyer's departure opens the door for Bobby Petrino to do what he's so good at and jump ship to Gainesville which would open the door for Malzahn in his home state of Arkansas. Oh, and Arkansas currently pays Petrino $2.7 million. Bet they could cobble together another 300 grand.

Anyway, here are all the coaches who currently earn $3 million or more per year:

• Nick Saban, Alabama: $6M
• Mack Brown, Texas: $5.2M
• Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: $4.4M
• Urban Meyer, Florida: $4M
• Jim Tressel, Ohio State: $3.9M
• Les Miles, LSU: $3.9M

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vandy holds out hope for Ken Niumatalolo — or the next Urban Meyer

Late last night, FootballScoop reported that Franklin and Roman are Vanderbilt's head coaching finalists, which was enough to send shock waves through Vandy fans. What, no Jon Gruden? Hey, maybe Urban Meyer would be available!

In this morning's Tennessean, Jeff Lockridge says the Commodores are waiting until after the Army-Navy game to talk to Ken Niumatalolo, the triple option guru. So the rumors started with Navy's OC and have spread to its HC. Now we're cooking with gas!

Lockridge also reports that:

• Wisconsin OC Paul Chryst has interviewed. The Badgers' DC, Dave Doeren, has already talked to Vandy. Maybe we can interview their trainer and their cheerleader advisor too.

• Vandy has interviewed and is still considering Tulsa's HC Todd Graham and nearly every OC in North America not named Gus Malzahn — Michigan State's Treadwell, Nebraska's Watson and of course Franklin and Roman.

• Speaking of Malzahn, Gus has kept the lines of communication open which I suppose means his agent picks up the phone when we call, but he hasn't shown any interest.

• Oh, and Troy Calhoun's staying at Air Force. Dang.

• No mention of Al Golden or Tommy Bowden.

It's kind of funny that Vanderbilt and Florida are looking for a coach at the same time. And educational too. Guys who are waiting around for a big-time coaching job are gonna discover what happens when a really big job opens up. Malzahn, for example, is too good for Vanderbilt but he likely won't get so much as a postcard from the Gators.

This much is clear: We've got to grab a guy who's good but nobody realizes he's good and then we've got to hope he doesn't leave when he shocks the world and wins six games at Vandy.

In other words, Urban Meyer 10 years ago. Yes, 10 years ago Meyer was 34 years old and an assistant at Notre Dame. He turned the Bowling Green program around in two years, jumped to a better job at Utah, where he had an undefeated season and won the Sugar Bowl. Suddenly, four years and two jobs later, he's at Florida. Five years after taking his first HC job and before the age of 40, he's won a national championship.

That's the kind of guy who'd turn our program around. Maybe Roman or Franklin are that guy. But if they're Urban Meyer caliber guys, then they'll be two and done.

We'll see.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

James Franklin and Greg Roman named finalists for Vanderbilt job — but the wait has only just begun

FootballScoop, a well-sourced site specializing in sorting out coaching rumors in college football, is reporting that James Franklin, the OC and coach-in-waiting at Maryland, and Greg Roman, the OC and assistant head coach at Stanford, are the two finalists for the Vanderbilt job.

Sorry if you were hoping to get a big-name coach who could give you an immediate sense of false hope. Whoever we get, I'm sitting back and waiting to see what he does. Really, we're not gonna know if this is a successful coaching search for another two or three years. Vandy fans waited, what, 53 years to win another bowl game? We're used to waiting. I can wait two or three years to see if James or Greg or whoever will pan out.

I can call them James and Greg because both of these guys are under 40 years old. Roman has an NFL background but also knows how to win at an academic-minded university. Franklin has coached at a bunch of levels and has even worked with Brett Farve. He's a high-energy guy and a supposedly fabulous recruiter. Maryland fans think he calls too many screen passes and some of them are kind of hoping he goes to Vandy.

Anyway, he was named Maryland's coach in waiting nearly two years ago and has a deal that will pay him $1 million if sticks with the Terrapins and is NOT named Maryland's head coach by early 2012, which is a possibility because Ralph Friedgen just won ACC Coach of the Year and is pushing for an extension on his contract, which ends after next season.

Friedgen agreed to the head coach in waiting thing because other schools were telling recruits that he was going to retire because he was over 60 — or was going to die, because he tipped the scales at a fifth of a ton. But he went on a crash diet and lowered his weight to a sixth of a ton, and now he's coach of the year and the picture of health and he wants an extension.

Not sure if that's a good thing for Vanderbilt or not.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who are these guys interviewing for the Vanderbilt job?

The Tennessean is reporting that Vanderbilt has talked to six people about its vacant head coaching job. We already know a little bit about Greg Roman, the assistant head coach at Stanford, and also Todd Graham, the Tulsa head coach. But the other four guys? They've only recently jumped onto the radar:

(Pictured above)
When HC Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack after beating Notre Dame, Treadwell stepped in and led the Spartans to two victories in two tries, including a win over No. 4 Wisconsin. A former high school quarterback and four-year starting wide receiver at Miami-Ohio, he’s spent most of his 15 years as a college coach developing quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. As an OC, he’s known for running a balanced offense. He’s around 50 years old.

A college offensive coach for the past 28 years, he’s coached nearly every offensive position, but especially quarterbacks. He was the HC at Southern Illinois for three years, inheriting a bad team and posting a 10-12 record after starting his first season 1-10. He’s 51 years old. Worked for Gary Barnett at Northwestern and Colorado, then became recruiting coordinator at Nebraska, where he was one of only two coaches retained by Bo Pelini after the firing of Bill Callahan.

A rising star at 38 years old, he’s been an assistant coach in Division II, the Danish Football Federation, the FCS, the FBS and the NFL. His FBS teams include Washington State, Kansas State and two stints with Maryland, where he’s currently the offensive coordinator. Has coached receivers for much of his career. Got his current job when Maryland HC Ralph Friedgen gave up playcalling duties. He installed a West Coast offense and is now the head coach-in-waiting at Maryland. Considered one of the best recruiters in college football.

Has coached at Drake, USC, Montana and Kansas before joining the Badgers. Has been the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for about three years and also coaches linebackers. Replaced a veteran defensive coordinator when the Badger defense faltered in 2007, dramatically improving a unit that now consistently holds opposing teams to under 100 yards rushing. Known for being detailed-oriented and business-like. He’s about 38 years old.

And by the way, we're still waiting to hear from Air Force HC Troy Calhoun, Temple HC Al Golden and Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Tommy Bowden appears to have dropped off the radar.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stanford's Greg Roman at the top of Vanderbilt's list

Jeff Lockridge at the Tennessean says Stanford assistant Greg Roman had a good interview with Vanderbilt on Friday. He also lists nine more names he thinks might be on David Williams' list of 10 men to interview: Gus Malzahn, Troy Calhoun, Al Golden, Todd Graham, Bud Foster, Tommy Bowden and a trio of coordinators — Paul Chryst and Dave Doeren of Wisconsin and Don Treadwell of Michigan State.

Meanwhile, FootballScoop says Vanderbilt plans to interview a couple of offensive coordinators, Shawn Watson of Nebraska and James Franklin of Maryland.

Don't get your hopes up over Malzahn, Calhoun or Golden. Graham has a longterm contract with Tulsa that Vandy would have to deal with, and Foster has said he doesn't want to take a job where it's a longshot to win. Hmmm. But Roman sees plenty of similarities between Vanderbilt and Stanford, which right now is the No. 4 team in the nation.

Let's shake out some of the names we've mentioned in recent days:
• Greg Roman, assistant head coach, Stanford
• Todd Graham, head coach, Tulsa

• Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech
• Tommy Bowden, former head coach, Clemson

• Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator, Auburn
• Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force
• Al Golden, head coach, Temple

• James Franklin, offensive coordinator, Maryland
• Shawn Watson, offensive coordinator, Nebraska
• Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin
• Don Treadwell, offensive coordinator, Michigan State
• Dave Doeren, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin

• Mike Haywood, head coach, Miami-Ohio
• Rick Stockstill, head coach, MTSU
• David Lee, quarterbacks coach, Miami Dolphins
• Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
• Mark Hudspeth, offensive coordinator, Miss State
• Mark Whipple, offensive coordinator, Miami
• Paul Petrino, offensive coordinator, Illinois

• Ivin Jasper, offensive coordinator, Navy
• Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida
• Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy
• Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston
• June Jones, head coach, SMU
• Brady Hoke, head coach, San Diego State
• Randy Shannon, former head coach, Miami
• Mike Leach, former head coach, Texas Tech
• Mark Mangino, former head coach, Kansas:
• Phil Fulmer, former head coach, Tennessee:

• Jerry Kill, head coach, Northern Illinois

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bobby Johnson was supposed to replace Tommy Bowden, not the other way around

So Tommy Bowden is a top candidate to become the new head coach at Vandy. Which is kind of funny when you look back to Oct. 13, 2008.

That's the day Bowden got fired from Clemson, and Tiger fans responded by immediately calling for one man to save their program.

That man? Bobby Johnson.

Here's a sample post from a Clemson fan to a Tiger message board:

BOBBY JOHNSON COMES HOME TO CLEMSON!!!! (This has to be the headline the day after Vandy's last game of the season). Former Tiger football player, graduated 1973. Turned Vandy from SEC basement dweller to the team nobody wants to play. BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!

At the time, Johnson's Vanderbilt team was 5-1 and ranked in the Top 25 while Clemson was 3-3 after starting the season ranked in the Top 10. Vandy had recently beaten Auburn, a team that had handled Clemson in its last bowl game, and it had embarrassed Steve Spurrier and the cross-state SC Gamecocks for the second straight year.

We were already trying to psychologically prepare MV! readers for what seemed inevitable: Bobby Johnson was leaving us for Clemson.

Now Bobby Johnson is out of work and Tommy Bowden is a front-runner for the Vanderbilt job.

So what happened?

Bobby Johnson lost to Duke, that's what happened.

He'd just lost his first game of the season to Miss State, which was a let-down but the sort of cowbell-induced let-down that happens to even established SEC teams. Then he suffered a respectable loss to an outrageously talented Georgia team to put Vandy at 5-2. He was still a hot name. But then he got embarrassed by Duke on homecoming. And then spanked by Florida.

Now Vandy was 5-4 and, with a history of losing every game in November, desperate for a win. Fortunately, the Commodores beat Kentucky, but lost to beatable teams from Tennessee and Wake Forest to finish 6-6.

Of course, the Dores finished with a Music City Bowl victory over Boston College, scoring 16 points without a single offensive touchdown. It was a magical season for Vanderbilt fans, and while heartwarming for the rest of America, not particularly impressive to fans and officials from Clemson, which finished with seven victories including a 31-7 win over Duke, and a New Year's Day bowl bid to play Nebraska in the Gator.

So that's what happened. On Oct. 13, Bobby Johnson had five wins in six games. In his next 18 games, he had four wins, counting the bowl victory. And in the 30 regular season games Vanderbilt has played since that Oct. 13, the Commodores have won just five times.

It was unthinkable on Oct. 13, 2008, that Vanderbilt football would be in this state, and even more unthinkable that Tommy Bowden would be considered as part of the solution.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who'll be the next Vanderbilt head coach? Here are eight good candidates

I heard somewhere that Vandy's looking at interviewing about eight coaches. Right now, there are literally hundreds of names flying around. I have no idea who we're looking at, but I'd start with these eight:

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Auburn
Age: 45
Upside: One of the elite offensive minds in college football; as a high school coach, landed a job as the Arkansas OC in a package deal with two of his blue-chip players, left for Tulsa after Nutt wouldn't let him take the wraps off his spread offense, then became the OC at Auburn, where last season he exceeded expectations with one of the SEC's worst quarterbacks and this season has taken the nation's best quarterback and catapulted a team with a shaky defense into the nation's No. 1 team.
Downside: He's the hottest name in college football right now and is being connected to openings at Miami, Colorado and jobs like Ole Miss that aren't even open.
Bottom line: Vandy would have to pull out all the stops — and all its wallets — to land Malzahn. By all accounts he's a steady, reliable guy who just might find a niche and excel at Vandy. But after having Cam Newton, would he really want to work with the likes of Larry Smith?

Current job: Head coach, South Florida
Age: 46
Upside: Amassed a 34-23 record at pre-FBS UConn, then led East Carolina to four bowls in five seasons before jumping to South Florida, where his Bulls have a 7-4 record and are headed to a bowl; an overall record of 79-54 in 11 seasons; learned the coaching ropes from Bobby Bowden at Florida State and from his father Lou at Notre Dame and South Carolina; knows what it takes to be an underdog in the SEC; a drawing point for going to USF was the chance to play and beat Florida
Downside: Is biding his time for a bigger job, and while he might jump to Vandy for a chance at coaching in the SEC, he'd be even more likely to leave for a better job; a good recruiter, but can he spot a Vandy kid after recruiting at EC and USF?
Bottom line: A winner who's ready to coach in the SEC, but he knows better than most people how tough it is to win there.

Current job: Former head coach, Clemson
Age: 56
Upside: Never had a losing season in 12 years of coaching; went 18-4 with a bowl victory in two seasons at Tulane, then went 72-45 at Clemson; only season at Clemson without a bowl was following a fight with South Carolina when both teams declined a bowl bid; knows how to win at an academic school, taking the Green Wave to a Top 10 finish in his second season as a head coach; he can recruit, which is why he got fired at Clemson — he got blue-chippers that led Tiger fans to believe they'd be national champs in two years
Downside: Has been out of coaching for two years; coached at an academic school in Conference USA, not the SEC
Bottom line: Stop saying he was a loser at Clemson because he's never had a losing season, ever; in fact, he may have better results with scholar athletes than with blue-chip players, as evidenced by his results at Tulane; plus, he'd probably finish his career at Vanderbilt if given another chance to coach

Current job: Head coach, Northern Illinois
Age: 49
Upside: A winner at four programs, starting with a 49-25 record at Division II Emporia State and Saginaw State, then taking a terrible Southern Illinois team in the FBS from 1-10 to 12-2 in six seasons and amassing a 33-32 record, then taking Northern Illinois from being ranked in ESPN's Bottom 10 to three bowls in three seasons; overall record of 127-71 in 17 seasons; this year's team in 10-2, undefeated in the MAC and ranked in the Top 25; a hard worker and the first member of his family to attend college; cancer survivor
Downside: Was hospitalized this season for dehydration; looks older than 49 and lacks the CEO polish of other SEC coaches; has coached at state colleges with lower academic standards than Vanderbilt
Bottom line: This guy's a winner wherever he goes; his teams score boatloads of points and rack up tons of yardage. He wouldn't be a big-name hire, but he does have a cool name. He'd be a great pick for a program like Indiana, but he'd be a rock-solid pick for Vandy too. He deserves a shot.

Current job: Head coach, Temple
Age: 41
Upside: After inheriting a winless football team, he led the Owls to one win in his first season, four wins in his second, five wins in his third, and last season to nine wins and a bowl game; has eight wins this season heading into a bowl game; this year his Temple team won 30-16 over UConn, which clobbered Vandy 40-21; has an overall record of 27-34, but 26-23 if you take away his first season as a head coach; has a master's degree in sports psychology; the former defensive coordinator at Virginia; was a strong candidate for both the UCLA and Cincinnati jobs but took his name out of contention
Downside: A former Penn State player, he's thought to be a front runner to replace JoPa when that day finally arrives; is known more for defense than offense; has never beaten a MAC team with a winning record.
Bottom line: In his first head coaching gig, led a winless team to a bowl bid in less than four years. He's a polished leader who can build a winner from scratch and who'll think hard about leaving. Case in point: He has been contacted by Vanderbilt and has apparently taken his name out of the running, but you never know.

Current job: Head coach, Tulsa
Age: 46
Upside: By season's end, he'll have taken two small private schools (Rice and Tulsa) to four bowl games in five seasons; has a combined record of 42-23; inherited a 1-10 Rice team in his first season as a head coach and led the Owls to a 7-6 record and a bowl berth; hired Gus Malzahn as Tulsa's offensive coordinator (as well as Herb Hand, Vandy's current offensive line coach)
Downside: Left Rice after one season, which inspired the Owls band to create a halftime routine called "Todd Graham's Inferno," in which the coach was forced to pass through the various stages of hell for snubbing them
Bottom line: Graham can quickly build winning programs at small, academic schools that are perennial losers, he can sustain success, and he knows offensive coaching talent when he sees it. So why is his name not being mentioned by other media? But if he wins at a place where winning doesn't come easy, he has been known to jump ship as soon as possible.

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Navy
Age: 38
Upside: A master of the triple option who's learned from Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo and has helped sustain the incredible run at Navy begun by Johnson and now sustained by Niumatalolo; a great recruiter and magnetic personality who knows how to spot scholars who are also good athletes; the only black coach in the mix (outside of far-fetched suggestions like Tony Dungy)
Downside: He has no head coaching experience and he's at a lower-level college; oh yeah, and he's not a household name.
Bottom line: People scoff at the idea of getting Navy's offensive coordinator, but there's a lot to be said for running the triple option at a school that can't get top athletes; Johnson and Niumatalolo aren't coming to Vandy, so why not take a shot at their protege? Plus, can you imagine him pitching Vanderbilt to black prospects in the Atlanta area? I can.

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
Age: 39
Upside: He learned the run-and-shoot and maybe a few things about pirates from Mike Leach at Valdosta State and Texas Tech, left to turn Case Keenum into a top QB at Houston, and in one year at Oklahoma State has established himself as one of the top offensive coordinators in America; has tweaked Leach's system, adding more of a running emphasis.
Downside: How's this for a guy who's ready for another job: He lives in a hotel. He also strikes me as a free-spirited guy who speaks his mind and doesn't have time for bureaucracy, which may or may not work at Vandy.
Bottom line: I don't think we want Mike Leach and his baggage. But Holgorsen has learned many of his tricks and would undoubtedly bring offensive improvement to Nashville in a hurry. Plus, he's young, tough-minded and would probably relate well to kids, though not sure about academic-minded kids.

Other names being bandied about include:
• Mid-major coaches: Mike Haywood of Miami-Ohio, Rick Stockstill of MTSU, Niumatalolo of Navy and Troy Calhoun of Air Force, Kevin Sumlin of Houston, June Jones of SMU, Brady Hoke of San Diego State
• Former BCS-conference coaches: Randy Shannon of Miami, Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Mark Mangino of Kansas, Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee
• Assistant coaches: Greg Roman of Stanford, Mark Hudspeth and Manny Diaz of Mississippi State, Bud Foster of Virginia Tech, Mark Whipple of Miami, Paul Petrino of Illinois, David Lee of the Miami Dolphins

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks, Coach Caldwell — now let's go get an offensive innovator

Robbie Caldwell has stepped down as Vanderbilt's head coach, effective after tonight's Wake Forest game.

A press release posted on the official Vandy athletics site
announced that it was a mutual decision between Caldwell and Vice Chancellor "I'm not an athletic director but I get to play one" David Williams.

We all know that means Williams — probably under pressure from alumni — has decided to go in a new direction but allowed Caldwell to first come to that realization himself. Caldwell said "after a lot reflection" he realized "it is time for me to step aside and let someone else pick up the hard work and efforts of our staff."

That sounds like he's saying that another head coach needs to lead this staff, but that's not going to happen.

Williams clarified: "The bulk of our coaching staff came here in 2002 and during that time our program has improved," Williams says. "Under their leadership, we won a bowl game, scored some memorable victories over formidable opponents and helped put us in a position to add new facilities. I appreciate what Robbie has done here, and we all wish this staff the very best."

It's sad to see these guys go, but I agree that it's time to start over. Under the direction of Bobby Johnson, they proved you can win big games and even bowl games at Vanderbilt. And because of the Music City Bowl victory, the new coach will start with more talent than Johnson did.

Bobby Johnson proved we need an offensive-minded coach at Vanderbilt. As we proved this season, a good sneaky defense can keep a game close — unless the offense is so bad that the defense never leaves the field.

Unfortunately, we'll probably never see another season when Florida, Georgia and Tennessee had so many problems. If we could have moved the ball, we'd have at least avoided losing to those three in such embarrassing fashion.

I'd like to see us hire either a successful D1 coach from a non-BCS conference or a top BCS offensive coordinator.

That would include the head coaches at Nevada, Hawaii, Northern Illinois and SMU, as well as Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

Beware a quick fix. A lot of fans will start throwing around big names. We've got to do this the right way, by getting somebody under the radar — a guy with Bobby Johnson's character but also with the kind of offensive mind that can implement an elite offensive system using solid players instead of a solid system using elite players.

Because, you know, we're not going to get many of those.

In closing, I'd like to thank Coach Caldwell. He was given an impossible situation. He wanted to win, not to lose games by a narrow margin. If UT wins today and he beats Wake tonight, every one of his losses would have been to a bowl team. We were not and never were going to be a bowl team.

Would Bobby Johnson have lost nine games by such great margins? Probably not.

But would he have won more games than Caldwell did? I don't think so.

Four months ago, Bobby Johnson knew that (1) this team was going to fall hard and (2) his staff didn't deserve to lose their jobs. In leaving when he did, he just prolonged the inevitable. Yes, Caldwell should and probably would have gotten the job full-time if he'd won five or six games. But that wasn't going to happen.

So thanks, Coach Caldwell. You had an impossible job, but you kept your sense of humor. Furman would do well to hire you now as its head coach and to bring along the rest of your staff.

Well, Coach Hand can stay in Nashville and assist Coach Malzahn. At least, that's what I'd like to see.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No, Vandy-Wake is not the worst game this weekend

I'm sure you've realized by now that if you weren't a Vandy fan there's no way you'd even think about watching Saturday's Wake Forest game. After all, the Dores and the Demons are each 2-9 on the season.

And like me, you may have wondered if there's a worse game scheduled for this weekend.

Why, yes there is, and I'm glad you asked.

On Saturday, Buffalo (2-9) travels to Akron to play the winless Zips. Buffalo lost to Eastern Michigan, which got manhandled by Vandy earlier this season.

So yes, there is a worse game.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For Vandy redshirt juniors, if you play, you stay

Going into senior day, it's always interesting to see which players with eligibility remaining are being honored.

Vandy has 15 players who are academic seniors but have at least one year of eligibility remaining. Of those, eight are returning:

• Brandon Barden, TE: 36 games, 29 starts
• Kyle Fischer, OG: 36 games, 24 starts
• Udom Umoh, WR: 36 games, 21 starts
• Chris Marve, LB: 35 games, 35 starts
• Tim Fugger, DE: 30 games, 17 starts
• Jamie Graham, DB: 27 games, 15 starts
• Larry Smith, QB: 22 games, 21 starts
• Austin Monahan, TE: 20 games, 7 starts

These guys have all started at least two-thirds of the games, after their redshirt year, in which they've been healthy enough to play. The guys with the fewest starts, Jamie Graham and Austin Monahan, have battled injuries throughout their careers. All of these guys fit into our plans for 2011, either as starters or major role players.

Here are the guys who are leaving a year of eligibility on the table:
• Ryan van Rensburg, FB/TE: 30 games
• David Giller, SN: 30 games
• Tray Herndon, WR: 15 games, 1 start
• Reece Lovell, RB: 11 games
• Duane Vaughn, DB: 1 game
• Charlie Byrge, WR: No games
• Elvio Tropeano, S: No games

Ryan Van Rensburg and Tray Herndon are the only scholarship players in the bunch. RVR never fit into the Commodores backfield but became a valuable special teams performer and backup tight end. Herndon is the only one of these guys to start a game. Neither of them played more than Giller, a walk-on who became a fixture at long snapper.

Here are the guys with no remaining eligibility who are being honored on senior day:

Redshirt Seniors:
• Kennard Reeves, RB: 45 games, 3 starts
• Nate Campbell, LB: 39 games, 7 starts
• Adam Smotherman, DT: 37 games, 23 starts
• Teriall Brannon, DE: 34 games, 2 starts
• Turner Wimberly, WR: 32 games, 4 starts
• Joey Bailey, OL: 29 games, 11 starts
• Jared Funk, QB: 17 games, no starts
• Chris Aaron, OL: 11 games, no starts

True Seniors:
• John Stokes, LB: 47 games, 23 starts
• Theron Kadri, DE: 44 games, 11 starts

While we're on the subject of senior day, here are some scholarship players who might leave a year of eligibility on the table this time next year:
• Taylor Loftley, DT: 7 games, no starts
• Al Owens, S: 13 games, no starts
• Akeem Dunham, WR: 15 games, no starts
• Micah Powell, LB: 17 games, no starts
• Josh Jelesky, DT: 22 games, no starts

They've all gotten minimal playing time this season, though some of them play in every game on special teams, and will be getting major competition from redshirt freshmen next year.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tennessee-Vanderbilt lineups dominated by true freshmen

If the pregame depth charts hold up, a whopping 11 of the starters in today's Tennessee-Vanderbilt game will be true freshmen.

• WR Jonathan Krause
• WR Jordan Matthews
• C Logan Stewart
• FS Kenny Ladler
• NB/CB Andre Hal
• KO Carey Spear

• QB Tyler Bray
• FB Channing Fugate
• C James Stone
• OT Ju'Wuan James
• S Brent Brewer

Who should be Vanderbilt's football coach next year?

We've had some good, spirited debate lately about the coaching situation. There are several schools of thought which stem from our general frustration as we appear headed to, at best, a 3-9 record:

1. We're playing terrible because our coaches are terrible, and they must go.

2. We're playing terrible because our players are terrible, and the coaches need time to get better players or we need to find some coaches who can.

3. We're playing terrible because our best players are young and inexperienced and they just need to be developed, either by these coaches or some new coaches.

So the consensus is that we're playing terrible, with the majority of fans seeming to want a new coach and a new start ("Wipe the slate clean," comments Ex-Player), while some think Caldwell deserves a full year, including spring practice, to show what he can do, while others say we should wait and see how the season plays out. (Though it seems to have played out enough already.)

Everybody seems united in the opinion that we need an overhaul among offensive coaches.

As for a new head coach, we could go in one of several directions:

1. The big name head coach. Yep, many fans are convinced we could get Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy or maybe a reincarnated Knute Rockne. Why don't we add Nick Saban to the list?

2. A former big-time college coach who's fallen out of favor with the establishment. Think Mike Leach, Terry Bowden or any other Bowden.

3. A coordinator from a hot college team. Think Gus Malzahn from Auburn.

4. A head coach from a so-called lesser FCS team (is there a lesser FCS team than Vanderbilt?) or a head coach from a successful FBS team. Some names bouncing around are Ken Namemimolulu (my spelling not his) from Navy and some Mickey McMickey guy from James Madison which isn't having a great season but did beat Va Tech.

5. Some people have even suggested Mr. Hand, our offensive line coach. There's an original idea. Hey, let's wait till the last minute and then give the head job to our offensive line coach.

What do you think?

Oh, and I think we really get blasted today by Tennessee. Hope not, but I think we do. It will be interesting to see the comments to this post pre-blowout by UT and post-blowout by UT.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

For Vandy coaches, there's losing and there's losing

Does it matter that these days Vanderbilt is losing every game by four or five touchdowns instead of one?

I think it does, and apparently so does David Williams, Vanderbilt’s Vice Chancellor of Athletics But Not An Athletic Director Because We’re Too Progressive for Those Sorts of Things.

"There's losing and there's losing," Williams told the Tennessean recently. "To be down 41-0 at halftime (to Florida last week), that wasn't one of my happiest days."

Williams has also said he’s evaluating Coach Caldwell based not only on his win-loss record but how his team plays in games they lose.

Um, that’s not so good for Caldwell.

This season Caldwell has had the good fortune to face the worst Florida and Georgia teams in recent memory. But whereas Bobby Johnson and even Woody Widenhofer would barely lose to the Gators and Dawgs when those schools had Top 10 teams, Caldwell has lost to much weaker versions by a combined score of 98-14.

Oh, and on Saturday Vandy plays one of the weakest Tennessee teams in recent memory. Can’t wait to see how that turns out.

Remember back in 2002 when Bobby Johnson inherited a terrible team and lost his first game 45-3 to unranked Georgia Tech? He finished that season 2-10, but if you spotted him seven points in his losses, he would have finished 6-6. Spot Robbie Caldwell seven points in his losses and Vandy would be 3-7 right now instead of 2-8.

Johnson finished his career with a winning percentage of 30.5%. But spot him just three points and that jumps up to 47.4% and bowl eligibility in five of his eight seasons. Spot him seven points and he wins 59% of his games and has only two losing seasons, his second and his last.

I can hear some of you screaming right now that a loss is a loss is a loss. But wouldn’t you feel better about the future and about Caldwell if the Dores had lost by a field goal to Georgia and a touchdown each to Florida and Arkansas?

I sure would.

Here’s how Vandy coaches since Watson Brown rank in winning percentage, and, just for kicks, if you spot them a field goal and a touchdown:

1. DiNardo: 19-25 (43.2%), never bowl eligible
2. Johnson: 29-66 (30.5%), bowl eligible once, one bowl victory
3. Widenhofer: 15-40 (27.3%), never bowl eligible
4. Caldwell: 2-8 (20%)
5. Dowhower: 4-18 (18.9%), never bowl eligible
5. Brown 10-45 (18.9%), never bowl eligible

1. DiNardo: 22-22 (50%), twice bowl eligible
2. Johnson: 45-50 (47.4%), bowl eligible five times
3. Widenhofer: 23-32 (41.8%), bowl eligible once
4. Brown 17-38 (30.9%), bowl eligible once
5. Caldwell: 3-7 (30%)
6. Dowhower: 4-18 (18.9%), never bowl eligible

1. DiNardo: 27-17 (61.4%), four times bowl eligible (in four seasons)
2. Johnson: 56-39 (59%), six times bowl eligible (in eight seasons)
3. Widenhofer: 26-29 (47.3%), bowl eligible twice (in five seasons)
4. Brown 25-30 (45.5%), bowl eligible twice (in five seasons)
5. Dowhower: 8-14 (36.4%), never bowl eligible
6. Caldwell: 3-7 (30%)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

At least we're using our weapons

I like the fact that we gave the ball to Eric Samuels on our first drive of the first half and just gave it to him again early in the second half. I like the fact that Brandon Barden, a high school quarterback, just threw a pass. It shows we're trying to use all our weapons.

But we just surrendered a long TD to Randall Cobb.

Samuels just got another nice gain. You know, Eric was more highly rated as a high school running back than either Zac Stacy or Warren Norman.

Vandy offense looking good at halftime

In the preseason, I predicted Vandy would beat Kentucky 20-14. Looking good right now, because we're winning at halftime 13-10.

We've had a better half offensively than most of our games this year. Consider this:
- 242 yards total offense
- 9 first downs
- Zero turnovers
- Kennard Reeves, filling in for Stacy and Norman, has 53 yards on nine carries.
- True freshman Jonathan Krause has 110 yards on three touches, including a 52-yard reception, a 45-yard run and a 13-yard reception.
- Larry looks pretty good running and passing.
- The offensive line is actually holding its own.

On the downside, on our first two drives we had 2nd and goal on the 1-yard line and 1st and 10 on the 11 and we came away with six points instead of 14.

But as the second half begins, there's a big "if." We can win this game if we make second half adjustments.

And that's a mighty big "if."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Derek King commits to Vanderbilt: Commodores keep losing games and gaining athletes

I was just about to post my weekly don't-kill-yourself-if-we-get-blown-out-on-Saturday piece. Though we're not facing a team with the talent of Florida or Georgia, we could get ours handed to us this week by Kentucky. After all, we'll be without our top two playmakers, running backs Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, and maybe even their backup, Wesley Tate.

Of course, our strength was our running game, and now that's gone too. If we had Kentucky's team and they had ours, we'd be jumping up and down right now.

So don't kill yourself if we get blown out on Saturday.

But you can jump up and down because Vandy just got a verbal commitment from Derek King of Brentwood, Tenn.

King, a 5-10, 185-pound athlete with a 36-inch vertical leap and a 4.4 40 time, has offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee. How often does Vandy get a player with four other SEC offers? Not often, my friends.

This was a huge get. King is a playmaker who could line up at running back or maybe even receiver but is probably best suited as a cornerback who can be a difference maker returning punts and covering on special teams. Oh, and Ted Cain got him.

King's our best recruit in this class, and frankly, it's a miracle that he's committing to us on the heels of another blowout and as fans are howling for Robbie Caldwell's firing. The big job will be to keep him in the fold until February's signing day.

Don't underestimate the job that Caldwell and his staff have done on the recruiting trail in the middle of a miserable season in which their jobs are in jeopardy.

The day Bobby Johnson quit, Vanderbilt had TWO commitments, compared to 14 on the same day a year earlier. They were Damien Fleming, a two-star dual-threat quarterback, and James Lewis, a three-star left tackle.

That's it.

Enter Robbie Caldwell and more uncertainty than you can shake a stick at. Here's what's happened since then:

1. Right after he knocked ’em dead at SEC media days, Caldwell wrapped up defensive end Conor Hart, who runs a 4.5 40 and whose grandfather won a Heisman at Notre Dame.
2. At the end of August, with Vandy predicted to win one or two games this season, Caldwell got commitments from consensus three-star players Jake Bernstein, a hulking offensive lineman, and Keith Heitzman, who can play defensive end or tight end.
3. The week after narrowly dropping the season opener against Northwestern, Caldwell landed Spencer Pulley, an offensive lineman who got three stars from Rivals.
4. The week after falling apart in the fourth quarter to LSU, he picked up a pair of promising running backs, Mitchell Hester and J.J. Keels, each of whom got three stars from ESPN.
5. The week after shellacking Eastern Michigan, Caldwell landed huge offensive lineman Alex Barr, who's got three stars from Rivals and ESPN.
6. The day Vandy played hard but lost to South Carolina, he got a commitment from Jose Valedon, another offensive lineman with three stars from Rivals.
7. Following miserable blowouts at the hands of Arkansas and Florida, Caldwell somehow manages to land Derek King.

Meanwhile, Lewis, the tackle who committed to Johnson in the spring, has gained more than 20 pounds and is pushing 300 pounds. Word is, his family's making him stick to his word. Good for them, and good for us.

Fleming appears to be having a good season in his first full year as a starting quarterback. He's an athletic, dual threat project, who's supposedly an extremely accurate passer who doesn't mind pressure in the pocket.

Last year's class, built on the strength of the Music City Bowl and then stripped down a bit after we crashed back to earth, had nine consensus three-star players. This year's has four so far, more than any in recent history.

Here are the consensus three star players (Rivals, Scout, ESPN) in the past six classes:

2011: OL Jake Bernstein, TE Keith Heitzman, CB Derek King, OT James Lewis
2010: S Karl Butler, HB Blake Gowder, CB Andre Hal, OL James Kittredge, WR Jonathan Krause, DT Jared Morse, OL Grant Ramsay, DT Vince Taylor, DE Kyle Woestmann
2009: WR Brady Brown, OT Wesley Johnson, TE Mason Johnston
2008: LB De'Andre Jones
2007: OG Kyle Fischer, FB Ryan van Rensburg, QB Larry Smith
2006: QB Jared Funk

Why do you want a bunch of these guys? Because not all of them pan out. The so-called gem of the 2006 class, Jared Funk, has zero starts in five seasons. Ryan van Rensburg (2007) is in the wrong offensive system, De'Andre Jones (2008) looks great in the airport but hasn't come close to starting a game yet, and Brady Brown (2009) plays receiver, one of our worst positions, but hasn't seen a down this season.

But the class of 2010 has already burned the redshirts off five of the nine consensus three-stars, as well as another eight guys — CB Steven Clarke, LB Chase Garnham, S Kenny Ladler, TE Fitz Lassing, WR Jordan Matthews, S Andre Simmons, PK Carey Spear and C Logan Stewart — who weren't as highly touted.

The guys who aren't playing right now — WR/TE Blake Gowder, OL Grant Ramsay, DT Vince Taylor, DE Kyle Woestmann — could easily crack the depth chart next season. Expect Taylor and Woestmann to make the biggest splash, on the defensive line.

Anyway, just wanted to give you some good news. And if we can steal a couple of victories in the next three weeks, we may get even more pleasant surprises on the recruiting trail.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Things get tough before they get easier for Vandy

At the beginning of the season, we predicted Vandy would lose to Florida 31-14. No way we score two touchdowns. Call it 31-7.

Meanwhile, don't forget that Florida has one of the best secondaries in the nation. If you thought our passing game looked bad against Arkansas and Georgia...

It'll be a long night. Let's just don't lose a bunch of players before we enter the next three games, all of which we have at least a reasonable chance of being competitive in and maybe even winning.

Stay strong.

I'll be watching my brother's 10-0 Division III SUNY-Maritime team face Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Yes, that's the deaf school, where they beat a drum so the players can feel the vibrations and know when the ball's being snapped.

Hey, it'll be more interesting than the game at Dudley Field.

Have a good Saturday, friends. Go Commodores.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Charlie Goro suspended for being a college student

We told you last week that Charlie Goro wasn't on the sideline in Arkansas.

So what happened?

"Sorriness" happened.

"Charlie Goro was suspended for sorriness," Coach Robbie Caldwell told the Tennessean.

And the definition of sorriness? "Not getting up and going to class," Caldwell said. "I apologize if that's a little strong, but there's no reason why anybody can't get up and go to class. None whatsoever."

No, actually, Coach, there are plenty of reasons a young man in his second year of college can't get up and go to class, and most of them are related to whatever he happened to be doing the night before and how late he happened to be doing it.

Such a thing may have even happened to me when I was a Vanderbilt student. But I didn't play football and so my parents didn't have to read about it in the newspaper. Which was all well and good.

So young Charlie will miss the Florida game and return for the Kentucky contest, but it sounds like he'll be in the doghouse until, oh, the middle of February.

As I said before, I certainly understand what happened. The kid's 19 years old and living on a great campus in a great city. But c'mon Charlie! Vandy was getting blown out on Saturday, Larry was demoralized, Funk had just thrown a pick-six and it was still early in the fourth quarter! Perfect time to insert the third team quarterback.

Except the third-string quarterback was apparently back in Nashville, hopefully catching up on his sleep. Hope you get another chance, Charlie.

Speaking of my days as a Vandy student, I just realized it's been 22 years since I was a junior watching the Commodores whip the Gators and Emmitt Smith, which was the last time we beat Florida.


One other thing: True freshman Logan Stewart has apparently supplanted senior Joey Bailey as our starting center. Bailey has returned from an ankle injury but is working at left guard, where we've been alternating between redshirt sophomores Jabo Burrow and Caleb Welchans. Here's hoping Stewart develops into an All-SEC center and starts 43 more games. (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wake Forest, and the next three seasons, all with bowl games.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Warren Norman out for the season

So the Tennessean is reporting that Warren Norman has a dislocated wrist and will have surgery, and after that heals he'll have knee surgery. In other words, he's out for the season.

That hurts, of course. But let's get Warren healthy for next season. In the meantime, let's resist the urge to ride Zac Stacy like a rented mule. We don't won't to send him off to the surgeon too.

This means Wes Tate should get a lot more carries, which will only help us next season. And let's not forget Kennard Reeves, who's been running hard and has earned the right to tote the rock.

Warren's injury just reinforces what we've been saying for the past two years: It doesn't matter how good our running game is if we can't throw the ball. Maybe this will force us to figure out the passing game.

November always unkind to Vanderbilt football

For the past month or so, I've been saying we should keep Caldwell if he wins two games in November. That would probably mean beating Wake Forest, which looks at least as bad as we are, and then beating either Kentucky OR Tennessee.

Some people don't like this. Some people think we should win our last three games and probably beat Florida too.

People, do you know the last time Vanderbilt won two games in November?

It was 1995. That was 15 years ago.

Bobby Johnson won three November games in eight seasons as Vandy's head coach. Why should we expect Robbie Caldwell to do the same thing in one season?

In a great post from earlier today, Andrew04, wrote this:

"All you can expect from the coach is to put out the best and most ready team he has, and all you can expect from the players is that they give a maximum effort."

If we win two games in November — and yes, finish 4-8 — then Caldwell indeed put out the best and most ready team he had and all our players gave maximum effort.

And if they do that next season, then we'll have more than four wins.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hey, where was Charlie Goro?

Maybe you noticed it too. There on the sidelines, sending in various signals and dubious playcalls, were three quarterbacks.

1. Jared Funk — or Larry Smith, when Jared was getting the opportunity to get on the field and throw an interception.

2. Jordan Rodgers, who's likely redshirting after struggling with a shoulder injury.

3. Matt Casas, the walk-on who'll play in the event that hell freezes over.

Which begs the question, where was Charlie Goro?

I have no idea. Charlie's been on the sidelines doing the hand-signaling business in games past, but his No. 7 was nowhere to be seen on Saturday night.

Which means the rumors will start flying once again that he's transferring at the end of the semester. And unless he's in Nashville strictly for the academics, he's got to be wondering why he's here. He's a quarterback on a terrible offensive team that's desperate for a change. So what's he waiting for... to throw his first pass three years from now when he's a redshirt senior?

So Jared Funk lost the game for us?

Why is it that when a team gets their butts handed to them in a football game, their fans want to pinpoint the exact moment or the exact person that cost them the game?

In the case of Vandy's 49-14 loss last night, it apparently all boils down to the moment Jared Funk took the field.

Greg M. even blasted me for saying I loved the idea. Well, I do love the IDEA. I love that somebody in our coaching brain trust was planning for the game and said, "Hey, we're having trouble scoring. Larry Smith can't even get a freaking pass out of his hand before he's on his back. Maybe that's because he doesn't have time but maybe it's also because he's not reacting quickly enough. Jared Funk's been moving the ball in practice. So let's let him play the third series of the game."

When you score once out of every 30 drives or whatever, and you go three-and-out on 25 of them, it's not like you're throwing away a sure touchdown by substituting your quarterback for one drive in the first half. Fans have been wondering for the past two seasons why Larry hasn't gotten a breather here and there and a chance to settle himself down.

So we plan to do that. And yes, I love the IDEA of doing it and planning for it. In fact, when I saw Funk enter the game, I wondered if perhaps Larry hadn't performed so well precisely because he knew he'd have two series before he came out. And Caldwell practically said as much after game.

Now would I have ACTUALLY pulled Larry after the Dores opened the game with two touchdowns? Probably not. But if you tell Funk you're going to play him regardless of Larry's performance but then you wait for Larry to screw up before you make the substitution then you're sending the wrong signal to both guys.

And it wasn't Jared's fault that Barden couldn't catch the ball.

Bottom line, we didn't lose the game because Jared replaced Larry on the third series. If Larry had taken us to two more scores, we'd have lost that game 63-28. Petrino called off the hogs early in the fourth quarter.

It's like last year's Georgia Tech game. We put up a surprising number of points early, which only served to jump-start the other team's offensive machine. We weren't going to outscore the Razorbacks in a million years.

We used every bullet in our holster on those first two drives, while getting lots of help from Arkansas in the form of poor tackling and stupid penalties.

We were outmanned and we were going to lose that game. But the reason things went downhill so fast? (1) Our coaching staff failed to make adjustments on offense. (2) We lack game-ready SEC linemen on both sides of the ball — we couldn't get past their mammoth offensive line to pressure Mallett, and we couldn't stave off their mammoth defensive line to protect Larry. We were outweighed by 30 or 40 pounds on either side of the ball.

Sure, we lost by 35 points because Jared Funk played one series in the first quarter. If that makes you feel better about having the inferior team, then go ahead and believe that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Commodores return to reality by halftime against Arkansas

Halftime and Commodores down 32-14.

Still, you gotta love the fact we came out and scored two touchdowns out of the gate. I know a lot of fans are going to whine about:

1. Funk coming in after Larry's two scoring drives and throwing a pick.
2. Larry fumbling in the end zone for a safety.
3. Our secondary surrendering 259 yards passing and three touchdowns.

I'm not whining about that. I love the idea of letting Larry sit for a series and watch the game, especially when he knows it's going to happen and is psychologically prepared for it. (But wouldn't it be nice to have a QB who doesn't have to be psychologically prepared for everything?) Barden dropped Funk's pass and it popped into the hands of a Razorback DB. Oh, and Mallett has no pressure. He'd torch any secondary when the D-Line isn't pressuring him.

We simply have zero error for margin. Our four-man rotation at defensive line, on average, gives up 30 yards to each Razorback offensive lineman. Thirty pounds! Eric Samuels rips off a great kick return and it's nullified by a bone-headed penalty from Josh Jelesky, who did a similarly stupid thing against Northwestern.

Yeah, Larry needs to unleash the ball sooner, but he's not getting much time. Mallett, as Caldwell likes to say, is eating a sandwich back there before he throws a pass. Our O-Line is missing a ton of assignments.

On the bright side of things, the Razorbacks are going to be sore after this one. Sean Richardson is laying the wood to those guys. Granted, he does it after they've gained 15-20 yards, but he's making them think twice about it. Marve is a beast, too.

And we're smarter than they are, too. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas' backup quarterback, was named the scholar-athlete of the week... for his 2.9 GPA in sports management.

A 2.9? In sports management? At Arkansas? Are we supposed to be impressed?

Hey, don't quit your day job — which apparently is playing football.

Vanderbilt scores two touchdowns in the first quarter for the first time since...

When's the last time the Commodores scored two touchdowns in the first quarter?

Glad you asked.

It was almost two years ago, on Nov. 15, 2008, against Kentucky, when D.J. Moore grabbed a couple of TD passes from Chris Nickson.

The Razorbacks just scored to cut their deficit to 14-13 and everybody on both sides is kind of bracing for them to explode and win by 40, but you've got to love the plays Des has been calling. He's stuck with our best playmakers and brought Larry along slowly.

Warren carries and then Jonathan Krause takes it to the house, and then Zac and Warren run and then Larry hits Barden a couple of times, the last time for a TD.

So far, so good.

Two touchdowns against Razorbacks would be an improvement for Vandy

Well, here I am once again posting at the last minute with today's Vandy pick. And once again, we're checking out our preseason pick. Hmmm, let's see. We picked Arkansas to beat Vanderbilt 38-27.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

If Vandy scores 27 points against a huge Arkansas defense, then we should make Des Kitchings offensive coordinator for life, unless the defense scores all three or four TDs.

We're going to need Mallett to have an off game. I was going to say get hurt, but did you see the numbers that Wilson, his backup, put up against Auburn?

Anyway, call it 31-14 Razorbacks.

I'm being optimistic. We've scored four touchdowns in four SEC games, or one TD in three games if you throw out the Ole Miss contest, which we most certainly aren't going to do.

But I'll be interested to see how young Des does tonight and if he makes any difference. It's at 6 p.m. central time on Fox Sports South.

Go Dores.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vandy quietly building a talented, deep offensive line

Every now and then, a Vandy fan complains about how the coaches have let the offensive line fall into such disrepair. I disagree.

Fate has dealt the Commodores a cruel blow in the past year, with starter Reilly Lauer leaving school, starter James Williams an academic casualty, potential starters Chris Aaron and Justin Cabbagestalk suffering season-ending injuries and substitutes Richard Cagle and Rob Ashabranner leaving school. That’s six guys suddenly gone from your two-deep.

That’s why we’ve already burned the redshirts off two true freshmen offensive linemen this year.

But the coaches are not standing idly by. The recent verbal commitment from Jose Valedon — an underrated prospect with quick feet, long arms and the ability to play either tackle position — gives us a complete offensive line from our 2011 signing class:

• James Lewis, 6-5, 295, Arlington, Tenn., 3 stars from ESPN, Rivals, Scout
• Jake Bernstein, 6-4, 276, Crystal Lake, Ill., 3 stars from ESPN, Rivals, Scout
• Alex Barr, 6-7, 285, Fayetteville, Ga., 3 stars from ESPN, 2 from Scout
• Jose Valedon, 6-4, 270, Oak Ridge, Tenn., 2 stars from ESPN, Scout
• Spencer Pulley, 6-5, 277, Cordova, Tenn., 2 stars from ESPN, Scout

And this nicely complements the complete offensive line from our 2010 signing class:

• Grant Ramsay, 6-5, 280, Marietta, Ga., 3 stars from ESPN, Rivals, Scout
• James Kittredge, 6-4, 260, Ramsey, N.J., 3 stars from ESPN, Rivals, Scout
• Logan Stewart, 6-4, 270, Boiling Springs, S.C., 3 stars from ESPN and Rivals, 2 from Scout
• Andrew Bridges, 6-6, 245, Atlanta, Ga., 3 stars from ESPN and Rivals, 2 from Scout
• Chase White, 6-6, 260, Plano, Texas, 2 stars from ESPN, Rivals, Scout

What does this mean? It means that we’ll have a deep line in 2011:
• Redshirt senior: Kyle Fischer
• Redshirt juniors: Ryan Seymour, Jabo Burrow, Caleb Welchans
• Redshirt sophomores: Wesley Johnson, Mylon Brown, Justin Cabbagestalk
• Sophomores: Logan Stewart, James Kittredge
• Redshirt freshmen: Grant Ramsay, Chase White, Andrew Bridges
• Freshmen: James Lewis, Jake Bernstein, Alex Barr, Jose Valedon, Spencer Pulley

And an even deeper line in 2012:
• Redshirt seniors: Ryan Seymour, Jabo Burrow, Caleb Welchans
• Redshirt juniors: Wesley Johnson, Mylon Brown, Justin Cabbagestalk
• Juniors: Logan Stewart, James Kittredge
• Redshirt sophomores: Grant Ramsay, Chase White, Andrew Bridges
• Sophomore: James Lewis
• Redshirt freshmen: Jake Bernstein, Alex Barr, Jose Valedon, Spencer Pulley

Not bad, huh?

Just remember that more than any other position besides maybe quarterback, offensive linemen must make the biggest adjustments physically and mentally to the college game. That's why Myron Lewis, D.J. Moore, Warren Norman and Earl Bennett play as true freshmen, while Chris Williams, Thomas Welch, Brian Stamper and Justin Geisinger don't.

Our freshmen, even the ones who've been thrown into the fire, are still far from where they'll be in a couple of years. And with Herb Hand and Robbie Caldwell coaching them up, I'm confident the offensive line is going to improve dramatically during each of the next two seasons.

Walker May makes a move on Vanderbilt's depth chart

Only one noticeable change to the latest Vandy depth chart: After catching everybody's eye since spring practice for his nose for the ball and motor, Walker May has cracked into the depth chart and has made second team, supplanting Teriall Brannon, a redshirt senior who started the season opener.

This is perhaps a small, unimportant change, but I believe it says volumes about (1) the young talent we have, and (2) the mindset of this coaching staff.

For the longest time, we've rewarded hard-working student-athletes by putting their names in ink on the depth chart, even when the team continues to struggle.

Early on, Jonathan Krause booted Turner Wimberly out of the starting lineup and Jordan Matthews bumped out the likes of Akeem Dunham and Brady Brown. Now Matthews needs to get more touches. He's got one this season, for 35 yards. Oh, and he needs to replace John Cole or Udom Umoh in the starting lineup.

Did you know John Cole has touched the ball more than any other Commodore except for our quarterback and two running backs. Why?

Krause needs to get the majority of Cole's touches, which come mostly on punt returns and against weaker competition because the guy can't get open deeper than three yards downfield against an SEC defense. And Umoh's caught nine passes in seven games.

It will be interesting to see who gets the ball this week as Des Kitchings takes over as offensive coordinator.

On the offensive line, freshman Logan Stewart may have been on track to replace senior center Joey Bailey by season's end but Bailey missed Saturday's game with injury, precipitating Stewart's baptism by fire. Caldwell, who's never been terribly impressed with Bailey, said Stewart struggled but did some things better than Bailey does. Expect Stewart to improve dramatically this week.

Lots of "or"s in our starting lineup:
• Norman or Stacy at running back: Those guys are co-starters anyway.
• Bailey or Stewart at center: Bailey not expected to return this week from injury.
• Greenstone or Nichter, Smotherman or Lohr at defensive tackle: Also depends on upperclassmen's ability to return from injury.

In addition to May, lots of young guys are making a move on defense:
• Chase Garnham began the season stuck behind five redshirt sophomores at linebacker, but now he's the fourth- or fifth-best linebacker on the team behind upperclassmen Marve, Stokes and Campbell, and even with sophomore Archibald Barnes.
• In the secondary, true freshmen Steven Clarke and Andre Simmons are on the move and getting more playing time on defense. Kenny Ladler has replaced Jay Fullam as the starting free safety.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robbie Caldwell shows he's no Bobby Johnson and pulls the plug on his offensive coordinator

It took Bobby Johnson seven years to demote his offensive coordinator. It took Robbie Caldwell seven games to demote his offensive coordinator.

Caldwell announced today that running backs coach Des Kitchings will replace Jimmy Kiser as OC, with Kiser focusing on coaching quarterbacks.

Kind of makes sense, huh? Caldwell said he thought long and hard about naming Herb Hand to the position, but Hand's got his hands full coaching a young and woefully inexperienced offensive line. Meanwhile, our quarterbacks, especially Larry Smith, need a ton of attention, and now Kiser has the time to do that.

Who needs the least amount of attention? Our running backs. And who should know best how to get those running backs, who also happen to be our best playmakers, involved in our offense?

The running backs coach.

Also, have you noticed that all the old white coaches never leave, but the young, up-and-coming coaches, who happen to be black, are gone after a couple of years to better jobs? Kenny Carter left for Florida and Warren Belin is now at Georgia.

Let's let a young guy call the shots for once. The kids have to like the change, and it certainly can't hurt recruiting, especially if the offense turns around and Kitchings looks like a keeper at OC.

At any rate, I applaud Caldwell for pulling the trigger on this.

So Vandy should get the ball to our playmakers... but who are they?

Coach Robbie Caldwell is pledging to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers. Which of course begs the question: Who exactly are our playmakers? Let’s answer a question with some questions (and the answers to those questions):

Who’s touching the ball right now?
1. QB Larry Smith, 230 times (164 passes, 66 rushes)
2. RB/KR Warren Norman, 97 times (66 rushes, 20 kick returns, 11 catches)
3. RB/PR Zac Stacy, 62 times (50 rushes, seven catches, five punt returns)
4. WR/PR John Cole, 29 times (15 catches, 12 punt returns, one rush, one pass)
5. RB Wesley Tate, 27 times (26 rushes, one catch)
6. TE Brandon Barden, 21 times (21 catches)

Who’s got the most yards?
1. QB Larry Smith, 2000 yards (1,005 passing, 195 rushing)
2. RB/KR Warren Norman, 1001 (496 return, 395 rushing, 110 receiving)
3. RB/PR Zac Stacy, 336 (297 rushing, 27 receiving, 12 return)
4. WR/PR John Cole, 325 (211 receiving, 113 return, -1 rushing)
5. TE Brandon Barden, 247 (247 receiving)
6. WR/PR Jonathan Krause, 207 (148 receiving, 55 rushing, 4 return)
7. WR Udom Umoh, 166 (166 receiving)
8. DB/KR Eric Samuels, 120 (120 return)
9. QB Jared Funk, 114 (112 passing, 2 rushing)
10. WR Turner Wimberly, 103 (103 receiving)

Who with 10 or more touches has the most yards per touch?
1. WR/PR Jonathan Krause, 12.9 yards per touch
2. TE Brandon Barden, 11.8
3. WR/PR John Cole, 11.1
4. RB/KRWarren Norman, 10.3
5. QB Jared Funk, 8.8
6. QB Larry Smith, 08.7
7. RB/PR Zac Stacy, 5.4
7. RB Kennard Reeves, 5.4

Who has big gains on less than 10 touches?
1. WR Jordan Matthews, 35.0
2. DB Eddie Foster, 21.0
3. WR Turner Wimberly, 20.6
4. WR Udom Umoh, 18.4
5. DB/KR Eric Samuels, 17.1
6. WR Tray Herndon, 11.2

Who with 10 or more touches has the most touchdowns per touch?
1. TE Brandon Barden, 1 TD per 10.5 touches
2. QB Jared Funk, per 13 touches
3. WR Jonathan Krause, per 16 touches
4. RB/PR Zac Stacy, per 20.7 touches
5. RB/KR Warren Norman, per 24.3 touches
6. QB Larry Smith, per 28.8 touches
7. WR/PR John Cole, per 29.0 touches

Who else scores when they touch the ball?
1. WR Udom Umoh, two TDs on nine catches
2. DB Eddie Foster, one TD on one interception return
3. TE Mason Johnson, one TD on one reception

Who hasn’t touched the ball yet who should?
1. DB Steven Clarke
2. DB Andre Hal
3. S Andre Simmons
4. QB Charlie Goro

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Robbie Caldwell agrees his offense stinks and he's not going to take it anymore

Did you hear Coach Robbie Caldwell’s press conference last night?

None of that stuff we’ve heard the past seven years from Bobby Johnson about lack of execution.

He said three things I’ve been waiting to hear:

1. The offense played terribly and something’s going to change.

2. The playcalling was terrible and something’s going to change.

3. Nobody’s making plays and somebody’s got to step up.

Here’s some excerpts:

On the offense in the second half: “They made some adjustments, shut us down. I’m very disappointed in that aspect of it. Very poor performance second half offensively. That’s very disappointing. We’re gonna have to do some things. We’re prepared and ready to go.”

On what changes he has in mind: “I got several things. You’ll see them next week hopefully. We’ve got to do something different. We gotta maintain some clock, do some things — we’ll make some adjustments.”

On whether the problem is the offensive personnel or the playcalling: “It’s a little bit of both but we’ll talk about that when I’m ready — not right now.”

On true freshman Logan Stewart starting at center: “He did a good job considering he’s a freshman but it didn’t work out. A little complicated for him in there, the game got too fast.”

On the difference between Vandy and South Carolina: “It’s a difference in playmakers. You gotta have some people who can make plays. Were working toward that. We gotta have somebody step up. Right now on offense our playmakers are our running backs and they can take that away by loading the box. We haven’t been able to compensate with the passing game yet.”

On redshirt freshman Walker May, who got a boost in playing time at defensive end: “We need a spark, we need somebody to strike the match, light the fire. And he’s done that on special teams as a defensive player. What’s he weigh? 218 pounds soaking wet?
Man, what a motor he’s got… He’s gonna be something special — he is something special.

On the need to make changes: “When I jumped into the seat, things were already laid out but now it’s had time; we gotta make some tweaks. We still got some great opportunities ahead of us. The season’s not over by any means. We got some good young talent and that’s what it is, we gotta get ’em ready to go.”

So what kind of changes will Caldwell make?

1. Somebody new calling the plays. Herb Hand? He’s sure got his hands full with his line.
2. Stick with the veterans on offensive line. True freshmen James Kittredge and Logan Stewart are great prospects for us but way over their heads right now. But who’ll play center if Joey Bailey can’t go?
3. Play the best skill players, regardless of age. Jonathan Krause started over John Cole, which is a start. Cole, Umoh and Wimberly are great guys with great work habits but they are not SEC receivers. Barden’s got to step up. Matthews has got to learn the dang playbook fast. What else? Tate in the slot? We’re lining up Zac wide but he’s not really a burner out there.
4. Keep throwing young defenders out there. Walker May looked sharp. Steven Clarke is a man out there, too, and got a ton of minutes last night.
5. Think he’ll do something at quarterback? Charlie Goro? Probably not.

Should be interesting. I like how Caldwell’s reacting. He’s going to make a change. He wants to be head coach and he’s not afraid to piss off some of his buddies if that’s what it’s going to take.

This week’s Sporting News magazine says that Vandy may have “found a keeper in Caldwell.”

The jury’s still out, but I sure haven’t given up on him yet, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.