Kentucky week is firmly in the rearview window, and now we and the Florida Gators have a homecoming to celebrate. The Vanderbilt Commodores are coming to town after winning an instant classic against Connecticut last week.
Tom Stephenson of Anchor of Gold answered our questions to learn more about this year’s Vandy team.
Derek Mason is out after seven years in Nashville, and in comes former Notre Dame defensive coordinator and Vanderbilt alum Clark Lea. What are the early opinions of the Lea era and is he the right guy for the program?
The early opinions of Lea range from “he inherited a busted roster and needs more time before he can be judged fairly” (me) to a small, but very vocal, subset of fans who thought that Will Healy should have been hired because they were looking for a hype man more than a football coach and think the East Tennessee State game was enough to conclude that Lea is a bad coach. You can probably sense my opinion on these people; suffice to say I would think more of them if Jamey Chadwell were their go-to for who should have been hired, which at least would be defensible.
Now that I’m off that tangent, it’s pretty obvious by now that Derek Mason left behind a roster that’s both undersized and lacks speed. I don’t know why anyone would think they know anything about Clark Lea on the basis that he can’t win in the SEC with a small, slow team
A lot has been made of Vanderbilt’s struggles, but what are some things the Commodores have been doing well so far?
Uhhhh ... the kicking game?
In seriousness, when Ken Seals actually gets time to throw, Vanderbilt has some wide receivers who can do some things.
Note that “when Ken Seals actually gets time to throw” is a hell of a qualifier. More on that in a minute...
On the flip side, what are the biggest issues with this team?
Where do I start?
I mean, Vanderbilt’s offensive line got pushed around by East Tennessee State.
The defense has struggled all season to generate any sort of a pass rush and also is the same Random Big Play Generator it’s been since 2017. And they start slow every game. I don’t know what it is, but it takes them about a quarter to wake up every time out, and the good news is that they’ve only fallen behind 35-0 once.
Who’s one player on each side of the ball who Gator fans should know about?
On offense: Will Sheppard made his debut with a ridiculous catch against Florida, ironically, and now as a sophomore he’s developed into Vanderbilt’s leading receiver; he’ll be targeted early and often in the passing game.
On defense, middle linebacker Ethan Barr is the star, the team’s leading tackler and one of the few sources of havoc plays on the defense.
What would have to go right for Vandy to keep it competitive on Saturday?
I’m simply at a loss to figure out how Vanderbilt’s offense will score on Florida’s defense, so this is gonna have to involve some really stupid stuff like an Emory Jones pick six, maybe Florida fumbling in its own end zone. I mean, we kind of needed UConn to beat itself so you can tell what kind of a season this is.
How do you see Saturday playing out and do you have a prediction?
As a Vanderbilt fan, I predict pain. Florida 42, Vanderbilt 6.