Friday, June 18, 2010

Bobby Johnson's quarterback dilemma: Maybe win now or probably win later

Let’s assume Larry Smith really is Vandy’s best quarterback right now. I believe he is. But does that mean he should get every meaningful snap this season, providing he can stay injury-free, which is of course a long shot?

As pigskin prognosticators and even Vanderbilt’s own fans are predicting, 2010 should be a rough season for the Commodores. SEC games are won in the trenches, and Vandy’s offensive line is unbelievably inexperienced, having lost seven starters or part-time starters to injury, graduation and academic ineptitude. Oh, and the receiving corps is still far from SEC caliber. Sure, the running backs are good, but they’re not enough to save us this season.

What does that mean for Larry Smith?

It means trouble.

But let’s say Larry gets all the snaps and survives the season and the boo birds who’ll be quick to pin all the blame on him. Then he’ll deserve to take the field in 2011, when he’ll have those same fine running backs but also an improved offensive line and receiving corps, and an extremely talented defense and kicking game.

And let’s say Larry becomes the player we’ve always suspected he could be and he leads the Commodores to a winning season and a bowl bid. That would be great, huh?

But then 2012 would be here, and we’d have a dramatically improved, veteran offensive line and receiving corps, the same fantastic running backs, and a killer defense led by our best defensive line in many years.

And a green quarterback — either redshirt junior Charlie Goro and redshirt senior Jordan Rodgers or perhaps a talented redshirt freshman we haven’t recruited yet.

See the dilemma? Fans are worried, and maybe rightfully so, that Bobby Johnson will stick with the most experienced quarterback and ignore the development of the younger quarterback and the transfer quarterback. (See: Kovalchek and Olmstead, and Walker and Funk.) But that’s exactly what Bobby tried not to do with Larry Smith, whom he chose over senior Chris Nickson in the bowl game and senior Mackenzi Adams last season.

When it became clear, in the face of a staggering list of injuries, that 2009 would be a rebuilding year, Bobby left Larry in the lineup to gain experience and be ready for 2010. But 2010 may be the same deal. And while 2011 could be a rebound year like we had in 2008, we could be building toward a special team in 2012, one that will need an experienced quarterback.

I think a lot depends on what the administration is telling Bobby.

• If Bobby’s got a couple of years to get back to a winning season: He redshirts Jordan Rodgers, lets Larry start early in the season, and finds some meaningful snaps for Charlie Goro, whom I believe will be a pleasant surprise. Then he’s got a three-horse race in the spring of 2011, and while he has a shot at a winning season, he still works in two and maybe even all three quarterbacks into the game plan so he’ll be ready in 2012 after Larry graduates to make a serious run at Vandy’s best season ever in the modern era.

• If Bobby’s got to win now, or win no later than 2011: He burns Rodgers’ redshirt, starts Larry and then pulls him as soon as he struggles to hit shaky receivers behind a shaky line, puts in Jordan Rodgers, and then when he struggles pulls him for Jared Funk, who's been in the program for 50 years, and then play Goro when Funk struggles. Then if he survives the season he lets Smith, Rodgers and Goro battle it out again in 2011, and then in 2012 he’s got only Goro and a redshirt freshman to be named later as the quarterbacks of an otherwise outstanding team.

I believe Bobby has enough credit to register one more bad season because he’s signed and is developing plenty of young talent. So I think he:

1. Redshirts Rodgers and lets him learn the system and travel with the team.
2. Has a heart-to-heart with Jared Funk to see if he’d like to leave or stay on the team for another year of covering punts.
3. Names Goro the backup, gets him some meaningful snaps — maybe in running situations — and if Larry goes down then he sticks with Goro and names Funk the backup for the rest of the season.

In other words, try to win with Larry but keep an eye to developing the guys who’ll be behind center in 2012.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think you have to play for the present. You never know who will unexpectedly emerge (see freshman Earl Bennett) and who will surprisingly falter (see junior Chris Nickson). CoBoJo's got to put whoever is playing lights out on the field first and worry about mop up minutes for developmental purposes second. I do agree with your QB scenarios (specifically Rodgers RS if he can win job), but the closer the season gets the more I wonder if the "go goro" guy might be right.

Anonymous said...

*meant to say Rodgers RS if he can't win job

Dimon said...

This site and the guys who comment on it, expecially the Go Goro Guy, are the only ones who are even considering Goro as a possibility. I really believe he'll get a shot this season, probably after Smith gets injured.

chris said...

I think we need Larry in there this season. He has the potential to be something really special. I know our O line is banged up to the core, but I think with Larry's speed and experience he will give us our best shot to win ball games.

I do think that you need to redshirt Rogers and make Goro the backup for the experience. Our first two games of the season (Northwestern and LSU) will be a huge test on how the durability of Larry Smith will hold up. If we can make it out of the LSU game with minimal to no injuries we might have a suprising season.

I think we can win 4 games but we could possibly win more if we keep the injuries down.

As the season gets closer I would love to see you break down our schedule and give us a prediction on what you think will happen in each game.

Keep up the great work Dimon.



Yes, we should stick with Larry, though I do like the idea of getting Goro some big-game snaps in specific, predetermined sitations such as short-yardage.

If Larry Smith arrived on campus as a true freshman, everybody would be yelling for him to be the starter. People forget that he's talented and that he was thrown into a difficult situation last season.

Thanks for reading. I'll breakdown the schedule before the season starts, maybe several times.


Oh, and you're exactly right that we may be surprisingly good if we have relatively few injuries coming out of the LSU game.

Will said...

Since Bobby does not allow me to attend any of his practices (and I ask every year), I have to believe that Larry Smith is as good as Bobby and his staff believe he is...if not, we need to get a new set of talent evaluators, not get rid of Larry long as he is Bobby's guy, he is my guy, and now we need to get Kyle Fisher's dad a place on the O-line staff, and help build us a mean O-line (I sat by his dad at the spring game....class guy)!!


Did Fischer's dad say whether his son is in the doghouse? I think he's one of our most talented linemen and he's never in the opening day starting lineup or even the spring starting lineup (listed as a backup to Jabo Burrow!).

Will said...

Kyle's been on my fav chart since his redshirt year....anyone who is his size that "puts down the steps" with either the band or the pre-recorded, is my kind of guy!! He must get it from his dad, who watched intently....but also, had a great smile, and very gracious when I told him with honesty and sincerity that Kyle has always been my mention of Bobby's doghouse! Kyle always blocks to the whistle, finishes plays away from the ball, and hustles!! Somehow he needs to find a little nasty to add to the mix!! Bobby needs to find a different way to motivate Kyle...maybe if he took away his dancing until he gets at least one pancake block per game!!


Thanks, Will. So he needs to get nastier. I think Kyle will have a big year...