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Conversing with the Enemy: Previewing South Carolina at Vanderbilt with Anchor of Gold

I got together with KingJamesIV of our network's Vandy blog, Anchor of Gold, to chat about this weekend's game. His insightful answers to my questions are below. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he may not be able to provide me with questions so I can return the favor, but if he does, I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, check out his blog for coverage of the game.

1. Despite having a veteran QB, Vandy continues to struggle in the passing game. Why is that the case?

I think the biggest factor has to be the limited depth we have on our offensive line this season. That's not to say that Larry Smith hasn't held on to the ball a little too long when he has had decent protection, but for the most part he doesn't have the time to make good decisions and to get rid of the ball with good form. Certainly he needs to understand this and learn how to deal with it. Not that I'm predicting similar development by the time he graduates, but Larry Smith is dealing with some of the same things that Jay Cutler had to face in his first three seasons at the helm. Hopefully the growing pains will help Larry mature later on down the line in a similar fashion.

2. Everyone knows about Robbie Caldwell's shining moment at SEC Media Days, but most of us don't know a lot about the guy as a coach, other than that he did a fine job prepping offensive lines under Bobby Johnson. Tell us a bit more about him. How's he doing this year, and do you guys want him to remain the coach after the season ends?

Really, I don't know too much about Coach Caldwell. I'd met him a few times prior to this season (and the announcement) and really I think what you see is what you get, though he's much smarter than he portrays himself publicly. He's kind of like Andy Griffith (and Matlock) in that regard: thick-southern-accented-good-ol'-boy that uses that public persona and the typical stereotypes that people associate and naturally assume about those types of people to sort of trick them into lowering their guard a bit.

I think most Vandy fans are pretty mixed about whether or not he should get another full season after this one. Obviously, people were somewhat excited after the Ole Miss win earlier this season, but the UConn game and the UGA game have people a bit apprehensive at the moment.

Considering a lot of the problems we have that he inherited (low OL numbers, for example), I'm not sure how fair it would be to say that he just isn't cut out for the job. Most recruiting services have regarded our last few classes as some of the best-ever for Vanderbilt (and Coach Caldwell has played a big role in that). We are extremely young and inexperienced. I think the jury's out right now if simply a season of maturation (plus the addressing of areas of needs - OL especially - in our 2011 recruiting class) plus a full offseason under his watch would get us back on track or set us behind for another 2008-type season.

I like him personally, and certainly I would love him to succeed and for us to keep him. But if in the end it just doesn't look like he's going to get it done, I'd rather go ahead and make the change than to delay the inevitable. Hopefully we're less on the fence, one way or the other, by the end of the season.
3. The Vandy-USC series has had some exciting games over the past few years. What's your favorite memory from the series?

I guess it's a toss up for a few things: 

  • the VU win in 2007 when USC was #6 because it felt so "out-of-nowhere" that it was almost bizarre - especially since if I remember correctly it was a pay-per-view game in Nashville and therefore instead of commercials during the media timeouts they cut the video feed to a camera with a wide-angle view from the top of the stadium and kept the audio feed of the announcers who were enjoying their break. It was just so strange. I still can't even think of the last time before this that Vandy beat a top 10 ranked team on the road (much less one in the SEC).
  • the VU win in 2008, mainly because it helped us become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. I really don't remember much about the game, other than the fact that USC was ranked and it was the first time I can also remember beating the same team in back to back seasons when they were ranked in both years. Yes. We haven't had a lot of football success since the 1950s. Sigh.
  • the VU game in 2005 when Earl Bennett caught 16 passes for 204 yards and a TD. I was at a friend's wedding and completely unable to watch the game on tv, and was following the score on a cell phone. We didn't end up winning, but this was really Earl Bennett's coming out party as a freshman.
4. Vandy has struggled a good bit since its promising win over Ole Miss. Are Vandy fans fired up about the opportunity to get back on their home turf and get their season back on track with a win over South Carolina?

I'm not sure. The thing about Vandy fans is that as a defensive mechanism a large number of them will mentally switch over to basketball once things start to go south. Now that practice is underway, I'm curious to see how many are throwing in the towel and how many are still holding out hope. 

You would think the fact that a Vanderbilt win would put the Commodores in the driver's seat in the SEC East (which is mind-boggling to think about) would be a huge motivation heading into our homecoming game. I guess we'll see.