These days, one is surprised when his team isn’t facing an opponent who lines up with at least four receivers stretched from sideline to sideline.
Such is the case Saturday when Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) plays host to Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC) and its pro-style offense, something of a throwback now in the college game. It’s a scheme new Commodores head coach Derek Mason brought with him from his time at Stanford, one that features a variety of “heavy” sets that often feature three tight ends instead of the typical army of receivers a defense typically sees.
“It's a challenge,” Stoops said. “I go back to my time at Arizona. Just the great respect I had for the Stanford program. Very fundamentally sound. Very tough at the core of who they are.
“They do a lot of creative things with big sets. That was helpful for them against South Carolina. You could see they're starting to build more and more into their package. They create some big problems from the run and pass with big sets. That's really new now because not too many people are doing it.”
Stoops said he expects the Vandy staff will throw some additional wrinkles in the gameplan for this week, and that UK's young linebackers, in particular, will face a big test.
Don’t let the extra big bodies fool you, though. Stoops warned the Commodores are not merely a ground-oriented attack.
“There’s more to it than just lining up with an extra big body in there and an extra tight end and things like that and thinking it’s just about power,” the UK boss said. “They’re creative in what they do, in creating extra gaps. There’s most definitely some very effective play-actions off that. That was evident this past week.”
Vanderbilt saw a 14-0 lead slip away last week in a 48-34 loss to the Gamecocks, but film revealed a team that looked much more comfortable than it did in its first two games under a new coaching staff.
The Commodores lost their opening games against Temple and Ole Miss by a combined score of 78-10, but have posted 34 points in each of the last two weeks against UMass and South Carolina. They're trying to build on an offense that is currently ranked last in the SEC in total offense at 283.5 yards per game, showing progress last week with 379 against Steve Spurrier's squad.
“We see them improving,” Stoops said. “We see a hungry football team that played very inspired this past week, so we need to continue to improve and look forward to the great challenge of playing Vandy here this week.”
There’s been some lingering questions about what Vandy quarterback the Wildcats will see this week. Sophomore starter Patton Robinette suffered a concussion against South Carolina. His status has been uncertain this week. Freshman Wade Freeback, who played well in relief of Robinette last week, is listed No. 2 on the Commodores’ depth chart.
“It doesn’t matter,” Stoops said. “Their offense doesn’t change much… They’re both good players.”