New look for Vandy offense

When the Tide travels to Nashville Saturday to face conference rival Vanderbilt, they'll be facing a familiar foe in a familiar setting. But having changed coaching staffs in the off season, the Commodores will sport a brand new offense. <br><br>"Every thing they're doing is different," said Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush.

Woody Widenhofer is gone, and new coach Bobby Johnson has brought in entirely new schemes. "Their offense is totally different," Torbush said. "It's a completely different coaching staff and philosophy. Last year they relied on the pass. This year they're basically relying on the run and mixing the pass in with play action and bootlegs.

"It's night and day between last year and this year."

With tight end Tom Simone (84) blocking, quarterback Jay Cutler (6) runs the football. (Associated Press)

Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione noted earlier this week that Johnson was in the process of remaking the Vanderbilt team in his own image, a process that takes some time. Torbush commented, "What they've tried to work on this year is getting their philosophy and their ideals down and their techniques and build a program from the foundation up. And I think they've done a good job of that."

Last season Vanderbilt would empty the backfield, spreading the field with four and five wide receivers. But this time around Alabama's defense will face a different challenge. Torbush explained, "They like to take time off the clock, shorten the game. They want to be in the game late in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win. They've got a very solid football team.

"Coach Johnson in my opinion is doing exactly what he needs to do at Vanderbilt to give them the best chance to win week in and week out."

Franchione talked about the Commodore offense. "I think our biggest concern going into the game is that they are a time of possession offense. They can limit your offensive opportunities. They can hold on to the football and keep your offense off the field. Our defense has got a challenge to play a little more disciplined style, a little more assignment style than maybe some weeks versus the option. It's important to cover their passes off the option as well, which they do a good job with."

Vanderbilt will hardly be the most talented unit Torbush has coached against this year, but they won't lack for coaching. "They're one of the most thorough and well-coached offenses around," he said. "They understand what they're doing with the option. They mix it up well. If they know where you're at technique-wise and know what coverage you're in, they can really be successful."

New head coach Bobby Johnson has completely revamped the Vandy attack. (Associated Press)

Averaging more than 205 yards per game, the Commodores rank fifth in the SEC in rushing the football. "Their option is a little bit different," Torbush related. "They're built more out of a true two-back set than a one-back set. There are similarities (to Alabama's option). But we probably run ours with more multiple schemes than they do.

"We're going to have to nail it down, because this is one of the few teams we'll face all year that will base a lot of what they do on the option attack."

Vanderbilt has sometimes struggled this season, especially early on. But they lost to Ole Miss by only a touchdown, scoring 38 points on the Rebel defense. Torbush said, "If you look at their film they've made improvement week after week. They started slowly, and I understand why. But each week they've gotten better. Some of their best offensive outputs have come against Georgia and Ole Miss. They had over 400 yards of offense against Ole Miss and kept them on the ropes the whole game. Basically what Ole Miss did was outscore them.

"Ole Miss was very fortunate to win that ball game."

Vanderbilt is 2-6 on the year, 0-4 in the SEC. But Tide fans know what's in store for them in Nashville. "They've got a belief that they can beat Alabama," Torbush said. "A lot of the games have been close, and Alabama has been very fortunate to win.

"I know last year's game was close." (The Tide won 12-9, avoiding overtime when a late Commodore field goal attempt sailed wide.)

True freshman Kwane Doster will start at tailback. (Associated Press)

Jay Cutler will call the signals for Vanderbilt. Not counting sacks the junior quarterback has gained 437 yards rushing, while passing for more than a thousand yards. "They've got a nice young quarterback in (Jay) Cutler that is really good for their system," Franchione said. "He's a good athlete who throws the ball well."

"I've been very impressed with their quarterback," Torbush agreed. "He throws the ball well. He's got a great future ahead of him."

Earlier in the season Vanderbilt lost its starting tailback to a broken leg, but redshirt freshman fullback Matthew Tant and true freshman tailback Kwane Doster are carrying the load. "Their two freshmen running backs are really good players," Torbush said. "I've been impressed with them on film."

Averaging 5.5 yards per carry, Doster is a dangerous scatback type. "The tailback is going to be an outstanding player in his career there," Franchione said. He's already got three 100-yard rushing games under his belt. (He's) doing a good job.

"They had 230 or 240 yards rushing against Georgia, so you have to take note of anybody that runs the ball that well against those guys. We certainly didn't do that."

Alabama native Grant Brigham returns punts and is a reserve receiver for the Commodores. (Associated Press)

In Dan Stricker and M.J. Garrett, the Commodores have two tall, physical senior receivers to throw at you. "Those are two really good receivers in (Dan) Stricker and (M.J.) Garrett that are certainly quality players that you have to make note of," Franchione said.

"There's no doubt that Stricker is a big-time receiver," Torbush added. "He'll probably end up as the all-time receiver in SEC history for yardage gained. He catches the ball well."

After playing an emotional game last Saturday versus the Volunteers, Torbush has worked hard this week in practice to keep his troops from being flat. "I hope there won't be a letdown," he said. "I think that's our responsibility as coaches to make sure that we don't have a letdown. I don't know that it will be as emotional a game, but I do know that we'll be prepared."

Torbush listed Bama's defensive keys versus Vanderbilt. "We're going to have to do a great job of tackling. We're going to have to be disciplined on the option. And we've got to run to the football.

"It'll be key that we don't give up big plays on either run or pass."


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