Changing the Offense Within the Structure

When news broke that offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell had been relieved of his duties last week many, myself included, were looking forward to a whole new offensive approach. We were completely done with seeing unimaginative play calling and play design in an era where offenses are spreading the field and throwing with impunity.

It seems though, according to reports out of the program that the next hire will be cut from the same pro style cloth.

This probably shouldn’t be all that surprising for anyone who has followed the thought pattern of head coach Derek Mason. It has been clear from all his hires to date that he trusts his guys, his system, and that stepping outside of his comfort zone is not something he is willing to do just yet. He was part of an incredibly successful series of seasons at Stanford with offenses that stuck to pro philosophies, so he knows it can work.

Just who he hires to be his guy on offense has not been decided they, but here are three tweaks to the system which we need to see in 2015.

1 – Less reliance on the tight end

Through a mix of scheme, quarterback issues, and offensive line failures, Vanderbilt got stunningly little production from the wide receivers this fall. Steven Scheu was the only tight end in the SEC to lead his team in receiving, while tight ends accounted for more than 40% of the ‘Dores receiving yards and seven of the 13 touchdown catches.

One way to look at this of course is that the tight ends are really good and that the scheme put in place by Dorrell was outstanding at getting them open. The other way is that the wide receivers, the guys that stretch the field and allow a running game to be effective, were just not targets enough either by scheme or by an inability to get open.

I am convinced that Latevius Rayford can be an important part of this offense. He is never going to be Jordan Matthews, but every time I see him play he seems to be finding ways to get open and could be a real contributor if the ball was thrown his way more often. If the Commodores can find a compliment to him on the other side of the field then the offense would be much more dynamic and much more likely to put up the points needed to win games in the SEC.

2 – More variety in play calling

The biggest problem Vanderbilt had offensively this fall was a play calling system which seemed designed to win by putting opposing defenses to sleep. The ‘Dores were masters of the three and out by stacking unimaginative pass play after obvious run play, with seeming no ability to formation or scheme their opponents into bad matchups defensively. In a season decidedly lacking in spark, this was probably the biggest frustration for fans.

I think a lot of the problems here stemmed from the offensive lines inability to stop the pass rush on a consistent basis. It seemed that more often than not the Vandy quarterbacks had to avoid hits before routes were completely developed. That allowed opponents to use their safeties aggressively, further stacking the deck against the ‘Dores. If the offensive line is improved at all in 2015, and if certainly should be, then there better be a wider variety of plays and formations if Vanderbilt wants to reverse what happened this year.

3 – Find a quarterback

My worry with the quarterback situation is that Derek Mason was spoiled at Stanford by having the best pro style quarterback in perhaps the last 20 years under center. Andrew Luck has gone on to become perhaps the most valuable commodity in all of American sports and his play at Stanford allowed the offense to flourish where lesser quarterbacks would not have been so successful. In addition Luck was mentored early in his career by Jim Harbaugh, a coach known to be one of the best quarterback teachers of this generation.

Can Mason recruit a guy like that to Vanderbilt? It is not out of the realm of possibility, especially given that you need an inherently smart guy to run all the facets of the pro set properly, but it is going to take some luck. The more immediate problem would seem to be that the two most college ready quarterbacks on the roster, Patton Robinette and Johnny McCrary, are not that style of passer.

The one thing that absolutely cannot happen is for 2015 to be another year of revolving quarterbacks with no clear direction for the program. Direction is perhaps the one thing that this program needs more than anything. Making that happen within the hire is the biggest test Mason has had to date in Nashville. Top Stories