Interview with Vanderbilt Sports Line

I got together for an interview with the good folks at the Vanderbilt Sports Line. See what they had to say about Thursday's game after the jump.

1. First things first. How did it feel last year finally to see the Dores humble Steve Spurrier? You should know that Kentucky fans are very jealous of you at this point.

VSL: All Commodore Fans, to say nothing of the VSL Masthead, remember Spurrier’s infamous words when he took the Redskins job: “Well, no Vanderbilt’s in the NFL.” If ever a quote rubbed the Vanderbilt faithful the wrong way, that was it. It was all the better that the win came on the road and with South Carolina riding a #6 ranking. With that said, I’m sure we speak for all Vanderbilt fans when we say we’d rather have had Kentucky’s 2 straight bowl appearances than beating Spurrier.

2. Now that that's out of the way, this past week you beat Miami, OH 34-13 despite coming into the game as an underdog. Tell us what you learned about your team during this game and how you would rate their performance.

VSL: This team can score. Vanderbilt’s offense, as you allude to in question 3, was discriminated by graduation. There are no returning starters on the line, we lost Earl Bennett, and senior receiver George Smith is out for the first 4-6 weeks. Vanderbilt fans have come to rely on a stout defense, but it seems the offense has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory time and again for the past 2 seasons. Miami (OH), with 3 linebackers on pre-season watch lists, has a pretty good defense and yet Vanderbilt was able to put points on the board relatively easily. South Carolina’s defense is certainly better, but having that first win, with a little confidence, has been a welcome surprise to Commodore fans early in the season.

3. If I'm not mistaken, you guys return no starting offensive linemen. Among others, you lost first-round draft pick Chris Williams. How did the line perform against Miami, and do you think it will be good enough to win big games in the SEC?

VSL: The line looked pretty good, but definitely had some breakdowns over the course of the game. Fortunately, a few of those breakdowns resulted in Chris Nickson breaking off for a big time run. Is the line ready for prime time SEC play yet? I’m doubtful, but we’ll have a better idea after Thursday night. Commodore fans should accept the reality that our offensive line is going to collapse under the pressure of SEC defenses at various points in the season. The two questions on everyone’s mind should be, (1) When that happens, what can Chris Nickson (and perhaps Mackenzi Adams) do with his feet to prevent disaster?, and (2) Will offensive coordinator Ted Cain finally display some imagination and take advantage of the vulnerabilities in SEC defenses that are forced to dedicate a player to spying Nickson on the run?

4. Heading into the season, there was some talk about a QB battle between Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams. Did Nickson secure the starting job with his strong performance last Thursday?

VSL: Yes. He looked like the quarterback of 2006. We have been going back and forth a lot on VSL about whether or not there actually was a “controversy,” or Bobby Johnson was just playing it close to the vest. After last Thursday’s performance, it’s hard to imagine that Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson were as close as it might have appeared. If they are, I think Michigan would pay good money to get Mac in a Michigan jersey ASAP. If the controversy was genuine, it’s possible that Nickson is just a “gamer.” With that said, when he gets down, his play really does suffer. A few bad series could be all we need to see the “old” Nickson and subsequently a change at quarterback.

5. Tell us how you think this season will go for Vanderbilt. Will you guys make a bowl?

VSL: God we hope so. This team is a largely unknown quantity and the expectations are (don’t laugh) lower this year than in year’s past. Back when we previewed this season, we circled this game against South Carolina game as a “make or break,” if this team was going to go to a bowl. Getting to 6 wins in the SEC is not easy, even with Miami (OH), Rice, and Duke on the schedule. Vanderbilt ends the year at Wake, a team that amazingly, has probably been one of the strongest (if not most consistent) programs in the ACC over the past few seasons. That’s not an easy game. South Carolina looks, at least right now, like Vanderbilt’s only “winnable” home game in conference (Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee are the other 3). While we think Vanderbilt’s always got a chance against UT, that’s a very tough home schedule. With games at Ole Miss and MississippiState, the stakes for this Thursday’s game really couldn’t be higher. That’s all the more true when you look back and realize that six wins on last season’s schedule very well might not have been good enough to go bowling. So, if a bowl berth is the barometer for a successful season, South Carolina is as close to a must-win as there could be on September 4th.

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