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Across Enemy Lines: Q&A with Anchor of Gold

We talk USC-Vandy with a Vandy fan.

Frederick Breedon

We got together with SB Nation blog Anchor of Gold to chat about the game. Here's what they had to say to our questions. Questions are in the boxes.

1. Vandy was expected to take a step back this year, but I don't know anyone who expected such profound struggles to open the season. In your view, what's Vandy's biggest problem right now?

If we're being broad, then it's the offense; basically everything other than redshirt freshman tailback Ralph Webb. Vandy's quarterback situation has been a mess, and while Patton Robinette steadied the ship long enough to eke out a win over UMass last week, several questions still remain. Derek Mason is still threatening to use Robinette and true freshman Wade Freebeck (1-3, 1 INT in his debut last week) as a tandem against South Carolina. That's a combination that lies somewhere near "gin and milk" on the bad combination scale. We'll see if it pans out.

Additionally, Vandy's passing offense has been non-existent, but Robinette was able to find CJ Duncan and Latevius Rayford at times last week. Former top 150 recruit Jordan Cunningham was conspicuously absent from the team's passing game, but I'm going to ignore the game tape and just assume that UMass had him triple-covered all game. So, despite a few bright spots, the Vanderbilt offense has been a wreck in 2014.

2. What's the attitude towards Derek Mason like among the Vandy fanbase right now? Is he taking a lot of heat or do most Vandy fans view the team's current struggles as part of a transition process that Mason can successfully lead the program through?

Mason could have skated through a 1-2 start under the guise of rebuilding had the Commodores not looked so awful this fall. There have been calls for his head from fans that aren't willing to even give him a full season, but that's a vocal minority of the fanbase. Most Vandy supporters are cautiously waiting to see what comes next and instead directing their vitriol to offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell. One look at this team's playcalling should explain why.

Mason won't get dragged out to deep water if Vanderbilt loses to USC, but if they lose like they did against Ole Miss then any goodwill he bought by squeaking past UMass (ugh, I just typed that) will dissolve. The 'Dores have to at least show SOME competency on offense against a high-level SEC team before he can start moving forward as a head coach.

3. Vandy has promised to use a two-QB system against Carolina this weekend, with Patton Robinette starting but true freshman Wade Freebeck also getting snaps. Do you think this is a wise strategy? What are each quarterback's strengths and weaknesses?

Two QBs is right on average for this team (6 QBs in 3 games, four of them unique), so I wouldn't be surprised to see something stupid on Saturday.

Robinette Strengths: Strong leader. Mobile quarterback. Can complete midrange passes. Good rapport with receivers.

Robinette Weaknesses: Hasn't shown great arm strength. Limited deep-ball passer. Tends to throw the ball a second behind his windows of opportunity downfield.

Freebeck Strengths: Technically solid passer who can work well in a West Coast offense.

Freebeck Weaknesses: Is a true freshman. Was stymied by UMass. Not as mobile as Robinette. Wasn't even on the team's depth charts until last week.

4. What's your take on how the transition to the 3-4 defense is going?

Vanderbilt has adapted well to the new defense despite their struggles to keep opponents from scoring. Vandy's defensive struggles have mostly spurred from a young secondary that has had to replace all four starters from 2013's 9-4 team. Up front, players like Caleb Azubike (DE to OLB to DT) and Stephen Weatherly (DE to OLB) have adapted to their new positions and been effective in weeks two and three. The Commodore pass rush has looked as good as fans had hoped it would be, but that young secondary has struggled, especially when the team's offense has done them no favors when it comes to finding rest time on the sidelines.

5. Prediction?

South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 17. Let's hope that Patton Robinette is actually healthy, or that Wade Freebeck and Johnny McCrary grow up in a hurry.