Rivers was the obvious transfer choice because he can play immediately at another school and because his time at Vanderbilt was about as underwhelming as it possibly could have been.
Rivers came to the program as a transfer after sliding down the depth chart at LSU. Usually transfer quarterbacks are more miss than hit, but the likes of Cam Newton (Florida to (eventually) Auburn) and Russell Wilson (North Carolina State to Wisconsin) have proven recently that there are situations where a transfer guy can excel.
Just looking at Rivers you get a pure NFL vibe. At 6-feet-7 and 235-pounds, he is the prototype of what an pro quarterback should look like. He also has the arm to match this frame and a bloodline which sees his brother currently quarterbacking the San Diego Chargers. From the ‘Dores perspective bringing in a player like this to replace the departing Austyn Carta-Samuels was a no brainier. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
Rivers was never able to fully understand and break down the intricacies of the West Coast Offense favored by the coordinator Karl Dorrell. This was evident right from the start when Rivers failed to make the most of this opportunity handed to him and parlay his physical skills into the starting quarterback position coming out of camp. When Patton Robinette was named the opening day starter there were some eyebrows raised, but it was assumed it was only a matter of time before Rivers took over.
It is rough to put the blame all on the LSU transfer though. The Dorrell offense (such as it was) with its quick reads and short passes, was not designed for Rivers skill set. The offensive line started the season badly, and never really recovered, and Vandy didn’t have the talent or depth at wide receiver (how he needed Jordan Matthews) to make the system work. Rivers needed to be an a gun slinging offense where the offensive line could give him ample time on five and seven step drops to hit big, fast receivers in the vertical passing game.
All this leads to Rivers final Vanderbilt stat line sitting at 25 completions (with a completion percentage of 38.5%) for 334 yards, with ZERO touchdowns and three interceptions. It will be easy to look at those numbers in a few decades time and just shrug off Rivers as a failed experiment. In truth though a number of factors combined to make Rivers nothing more than a sadly missed opportunity.
Stephen Rivers – Missed Opportunity
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