Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Week in the Dawg House: Vanderbilt Offense

There are a few things that stick out regarding Vanderbilt's offensive prowess. If you told me two months ago that their numbers would be better than Florida and LSU's, I would have laughed in your face. That is the precise situation, however as Vandy ranks 9th in conference in total offense at just a touch over 350 yards per game. The 'Dores are a far better rushing team than passing, as they average about 172 yards a game on the ground and 179 yards a game through the air- good for 7th and 11th in the conference respectively. They are ceratinly a rush first team, averaging about 50% more rushes per game than passes. Now that you've been fully inundated with mostly meaningless stats come Saturday, lets get into the positional breakdowns.

# 10 Larry Smith returns for his junior season with ten starts under his belt. Last year he started nine games and completed 47% of his passes for 1126 yards, 4 TD/ 7 INT, and also ran for 213 yards. This season Smith has accounted for 793 passing yards completing 56.3% of his passes, 5TD/ 3INT, and a 121.11 quarterback rating. In terms of a running threat, Smith is very comparable to Aaron Murray. Smith's backup #12 Jared Funk (no doubt the grandson of the legendary Terry Funk) has only seen very limited action, where he has completed 3/5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

The Commodores have at least a serviceable quarterback in Larry Smith. He isn't anything spectacular but seems to do what the coaching staff expects of him, pass the ball when needed and not turn it over very much. His numbers are thusly not spectacular, and is ranked 10th in the SEC in passing.

Running Backs:
This is where the Commodores really excel. Electric sophomore #27 Warren Norman and backup #21 Zac Stacy are both averaging over six yards per carry, with Stacy at almost seven per tote. Norman has 53 carries for 327 yards and Stacy has 35 for 241. Norman was named SEC freshman of the year last year as a true freshman and is also very versatile, serving as VU's kick returner as well. As a KR, he is averaging a little over 30 yards per return, which is good for second in the SEC behind Florida's Jeff Demps.

The Commodores realize that running the ball is their bread and butter and appear to do it very well with their talented sophomore backs. This will probably be the most talented rushing attack that we've seen all year, Crackolina included. I know some will argue that these two aren't anywhere near the quality of Lattimore and Co., but they aren't featured every down like him and you can't argue with stats, where he is only averaging 4.29 YPC. I know some people will think this is crazy, but I am far more worried about Vanderbilt in this area than I would be USCe.

Offensive Line:
This is where Vandy runs into some trouble. They only return 7 total starts from 2009 and 19 career starts overall, which is the 5th fewest in D-1 football. We all know how much this means to the success or failure of a line, though. The most experienced starter is junior, #72 LG Kyle Fischer who has 7 starts along the left side of the line. Fischer was named to the All-SEC freshman team two years ago. The only other starter with experience is senior, C #71 Joel Bailey, who made 5 starts at RG during his redshirt freshman year. Other starters include #67 RT Wesley Johnson, Fr., #62 LT Ryan Seymour, So., and #78 RG Caleb Welchans, So.

This is a very inexperienced line as you can tell, but they are somehow opening holes for Norman and Stacy. They have allowed 14 sacks of Larry Smith, which is, coincidentally, the same as our line. As far as tackles for loss allowed, it's also almost exactly identical, with Vandy allowing 34 TFL this season. As far as I can tell these guys seem to be a little bit ahead of us when considering the rushing totals. I don't know if it's attributable to the quality of the RB's or how the line has performed, so I'm going to err on the side of the big uglies. As much as I hate to say it, despite the youth, VU's line looks a little better than we do thus far.
GRADE: C+ (Because they are playing way above their head right now.)

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
The leading receiver for the Commodores isn't a receiver at all, he is #6 TE Brandon Barden. The leading actual receiver is sophomore #83 John Cole with 13 rec. for 172 and a touchdown. Junior, #23 Udom Udoh has 8 receptions for 145 and 2TD. Freshman #17 Jonathan Krause, via South Gwinnett HS, is third among receivers with 8 receptions for 112 yards. #81 Turner Wimberly, #87 Jordan Matthews, and #14 Tray Herndon provide depth at the position. 
As far as the big TE Barden, he was second on the team last year with 29 receptions for 367 yards and a TD. He and receiver Cole look to be 1a. and 1b. in terms of Larry Smith's favorite target. Barden has very good size at 6'5 250 and is very agile with good hands. These guys are 10th in the SEC in receiving yards and do not have a big play threat at these position.

The cupboard is pretty barren here. There is not a receiver on the team in the top-20 in the conference. Vandy is also a run first team with a very mediocre QB, so this group suffers a bit from that. When your leading receiver is a tight end, there are some problems that exist with the guys that are outside of the hashes. Barden is good, but he is really the only shining spot in this group. I expect the Dawgs to play A LOT of man because of this, and because of the quality of their running backs. 

With #48 Ryan Fowler now handling th place-kicking duties, #39 Carey Spear has handled the kickoffs. He is next to last in the conference at just under 64 yards per boot and has 3 touchbacks. 

Projected Starting Lineup:
QB #10 Larry Smith
RB #27 Warren Norman
LT #62 Ryan Seymour
LG #72 Kyle Fischer
C #71 Joel Bailey
RG #78 Caleb Welchans
RT #67 Wesley Johnson
TE #6 Brandon Barden
WR #83 John Cole
WR #23 Udom Udoh
WR #17 Jonathan Krause

K #39 Carey Spear

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