From the other sideline: Vandy

In this edition of "From the other sideline" VandyMania.com's Don Yates joins Gamecock Anthem to preview South Carolina's upcoming opponent. Look inside as Yates breaks down the Vanderbilt game.

Don Yates is the Publisher of VandyMania.com. Yates joins Gamecock Anthem for this week's edition of "From the other sideline" to preview the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game.


1. Franklin appears to have very quickly changed the culture at Vanderbilt and has generated excitement around the program. What has he done to make that happen so quickly?

I think there is still a lot of work to do but Franklin understands that good players make coaches look good. After being named head coach he virtually disappeared from the public scene until National Signing Day. It was then that Vandy fans learned he had been furiously working the recruiting trail. The Commodores landed a couple of 4-star prospects in the 2011 recruiting class, a rare occurrence for VU. More recently, the 2012 recruiting class is ranked ahead of multiple BCS programs. One commit, 4-star running back Brian Kimbrow from Memphis, already has over 1,000 yards rushing during his senior campaign.

Franklin, who has a degree in psychology, also brought a level of enthusiasm to the program that no other Vanderbilt coach has even come close to. Recruits, players and fans are mesmerized by him. He's younger and more energetic than the previous Commodore head coaches. He's innovative tactically and isn't afraid to roll the dice.

Also, something that hasn't been commented much on, the Commodores seem to have greatly improved their strength and conditioning. Franklin brought Maryland's strength and conditioning coach with him, Dwight Galt. I had heard that Galt was a very competent strength coach but then I found out that several of his former assistant strength coaches were now serving in similar capacities with NFL teams. The hiring of Galt seems to have paid dividends for Vandy. Players are stronger and appear to be bigger and fit. Unlike years past, Vanderbilt is winning the fourth quarter (31-15).

2. Scheme-wise what differences have you seen from the offense and defense this year compared to what the old staff ran?

Franklin says his team is multiple. He'll do whatever he feels his team has the ability to execute successfully. Franklin isn't aren't afraid to throw it deep or pull a trick play like the Statue of Liberty play his team ran against Ole Miss in a 2nd-and-long situation. It's a fairly balanced offense as far as running and passing is concerned. Vandy will no longer be punting on 3rd-and-1 at their opponent's 30-yard line.

3. Who are the players no one is talking about that have played a big part in the Commodores' 3-0 star and deserve some recognition?

Offensive guard Chase White is a redshirt freshman that has started the past couple of games for the Commodores. He hasn't won any awards but he's serviceable at that position. Redshirt senior Kyle Fischer, an offensive tackle from Columbia, S.C., was solid in the win over Ole Miss as well. Except for veteran Chris Marve, linebacker was a big concern before the season started. However, Chase Garnham and Tristan Strong have played well and given Vanderbilt a chance. Young players in the secondary like Andre Hal, Eric Samuels, Steven Clarke and Karl Butler have also played well.

4. Vanderbilt's secondary has gotten off to an incredibly fast start and leads the country in interceptions. Is that a statistical anomaly or has the pass defense been just that good?

Vanderbilt has a deep secondary. I think part of the success has been the very aggressive scheme that new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has brought to the team. Vandy has always had a well-coached secondary (last year's secondary coach was quickly hired by UCLA) but they tended to be more focused on being conservative and just keeping the opponents from scoring without taking chances, a more of a bend but don't break defense. Shoop preaches a more aggressive strategy: Go after the ball. It also helps that the defensive line has played well. Vanderbilt leads the SEC in sacks with eight. Most of those have come from defensive tackle Rob Lohr and defensive end Tim Fugger.

5. Marcus Lattimore leads the country in rushing but Vanderbilt has been very good at stopping the run so far. How do you see that match-up playing out this week?

Vandy hasn't faced any back near as big or good as Lattimore. My best guess is that they'll continue to do what they've been doing. Be aggressive and not passive. If early on that doesn't appear to be working they will probably adjust their strategy.

6. General question: What is the mindset of the team and fanbase heading into this game after one of the best starts in recent memory?

Most Commodore fans are in heaven right now with the direction of the program but some are holdouts who still aren't sold on the recent success. Vanderbilt did start 3-0 two of the previous six seasons (2005 and 2008) so it isn't the first time it's been done. There were thousands of empty seats for the Ole Miss game. Some of that might have had to do with the early start. That said the Commodore crowd that was there was loud and boisterous. Most Vandy fans aren't expecting to go to the SEC Title game this season but some are thinking that if recruiting continues to click they might actually have a shot at doing something like that in a few years. For now, most Vandy fans believe the Commodores have a decent shot at playing in a minor bowl game this season. If the ‘Dores can pull off a stunner on Saturday then things might be moving along quicker than expected.

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