Moving to the next level

Vanderbilt's football program has now officially moved from perennial doormat status to a position just short of being a winning program. What will the staff and administration need to do to get the program to the winning plateau? Here are some ideas.

COACHING

 

The Vanderbilt staff has done a great job obtaining fast, athletic players.  The team has come a long way since the Woody Widenhoffer days when these types of players were few in number on the Commodore teams.  This staff has done a super job finding hidden talent missed by the big schools.  

 

Special Teams

 

Something has got to be done about Vanderbilt special teams.   The breakdowns on kick/punt returns continue.  The missed kicks continue.   How many games are we going to have to blow because of special teams?    Vanderbilt needs a true special teams coach badly.  If for some reason a special teams coach can't be gotten, head coach Bobby Johnson and Warren Belin should take trip over to Virginia Tech to watch their special teams practice for their BOWL game.   The Commodores need a strong special teams game to win more games.  This is something that must be fixed.

 

Offense

 

Simply put, the offense didn't score enough points.  The failures on offense cost Vanderbilt a bowl, not the special teams.  A team with five senior offensive linemen, a returning 2,000 yard passer, a starting running back and two starting receivers including one who would became the SEC's all-time leading reception leader should be able to score more than 20 points a game.   The team should have easily been able to score 27 points a game even with the backup quarterback taking over in the middle of the season.   To move to the next level the offense has to be fixed.   Is there enough innovation?  Is Vanderbilt being too conservative?    Are the right coaches running the offense?  These hard questions need to be answered by Bobby Johnson.     

 

ADMINISTRATION

 

Band

 

Get the Spirit of Gold to all the road games.  Other SEC teams often bring their bands to road games and Vanderbilt is an SEC team so they should act like an SEC team.  The band can do lots to help fire up the team on the road and compliment the small throng of loyal Vanderbilt followers who go to road games. 

 

Stadium

 

With the disappointing finish of the 2007 season the Vanderbilt administration should announce plans for extensive improvements to Vanderbilt Stadium.   The stadium is 26 years old and it's time to give it a facelift and make it more appealing for both fans and players.  A timely announcement will give Bobby Johnson's staff more ammunition to use in recruiting to show the commitment of the university to the football program.  Once plans are announced, give each coach a set of blue prints and before and after photos/simulations to show recruits.  While nobody is predicting the team will experience the success that the baseball team did after their stadium was rebuilt, these renovations are bound to help attract better players and more fans.  

 

Attendance

 

Vanderbilt marketing has done well getting fans to non-SEC games.   Something has to be done to get more Vanderbilt fans in the stadium for the conference games.  To many times we've seen Vanderbilt stadium crammed over half full of opposing fans.  The result is SEC teams are more fired up in our own stadium than in their stadiums.   What could be done to fix this problem?   Simple: sell more tickets to Vanderbilt fans or non-opposing fans.   Yes, winning would go a long way towards that goal but here are some more ideas.   After the season ticket deadline is over don't just immediately sell the remaining tickets to the opponent's hoards.  Keep a few thousand.  When a Vanderbilt basketball fan orders season tickets why not offer him two tickets to the Vanderbilt-Tennessee football game for $15 each?    That fan might not be interested in going to all the Vanderbilt football games but might take in the VU-UT game or other SEC home contests.   Sure some might sell the ticket to opposing fans but we have to try something.

 

Here's another idea.  When the Commodores play Rice on November 1st 2008 Vanderbilt marketing will likely offer reduced priced tickets to the game.  At that game sell $15 tickets to the Florida game, which is the following weekend.  Sell these tickets until 30 minutes after the Rice game only.  These side walk fans obviously jumped on a cheap ticket to the Vandy-Rice game.   They'd probably jump at a chance to root for Vandy against the Gators the following weekend.  

 

Another idea for reducing opposing SEC fans at VU home games includes having a high school band day.   Instead of selling 1,000 more tickets to opposing fans invite 15 middle Tennessee bands to perform a combined halftime show.   Vandy won't make as much money off opposing fans tickets but they'll have less of the opponent's fans in the stadium and will possibly even be able attract some future Commodore fans in the band members and their parents.   A local junior pro football team day is another option.   The Vanderbilt administration should make it a goal to put at least 1,000 less opposing SEC fans in the stadium for all four SEC home games next year.    

 

Senior Day

 

Something has to be done differently.   The senior day festivities are not making the Vanderbilt team more successful.  The Commodores haven't won on a senior day since 1982.  The team ought to be kept together at least the last couple of hours before the game.  Very often the team captains are seniors and they shouldn't be separated from the ones they lead before the game.  It might be more appropriate to do a ceremony after the game.  Then career highlights could be shown on the jumbotron.  Each senior could make a few comments.  Or just do a more abbreviated ceremony before the game.    Somehow the team has got to be kept together the last couple of hours before kickoff. 

 

It's been 25 years since the Commodore Nation enjoyed a bowl game.  It's time to end that streak and start a new winning tradition at Vanderbilt.   Hopefully the administration and staff will take the steps needed to facilitate getting to that next, winning, level. 


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