The aftermost time Notre Dame played an SEC aggregation in a archetypal ambiance (not a neutral-site basin d a ages afterwards the approved division ended), it didn’t go so well, falling to closing civic runner-up Georgia about 53 weeks ago. Vanderbilt, however, is not a affairs of the aforementioned adeptness as the Bulldogs. The Commodores are currently 2-0 with ascendant wins adjoin Middle Tennessee State and Nevada, but they additionally accept not accomplished with a acceptable almanac aback 2013, encompassing all of arch drillmaster Derek Mason’s four-year tenure.
Is this Vanderbilt aggregation different? Are these Commodores able of animadversion off the No. 8 Irish? Let’s ask Adam Sparks of The Tennessean.
DF: Oddly enough, Vanderbilt has captivated my artifice aback I did my aboriginal deep-dive on the Commodores aback in backward July. On paper, article seems to be on that roster. Then again, maybe I was aloof absent by the abstraction of a four-year amateur at quarterback. The aftermost one of those at Notre Dame was some guy called Quinn. How continued accept you been on this beat? Accept you been watching Kyle Shurmur all along?
AS: I’ve been on the Vandy exhausted aback 2014, so I’ve covered Kyle Shurmur aback day one – aback Derek Mason pulled off his QB’s redshirt amid through the 2015 division to alpha him in his admission as a freshman. Shurmur has fabricated abiding advance anytime aback with actual few (if any) credibility of regression. (DF note: Shurmur started bristles amateur in 2015 and has started every d since.)
The son of New York Giants arch drillmaster Pat Shurmur, Kyle has 32 career starts to his name. His acquaintance is obvious. He is additionally efficient, activity 23-of-32 for 258 yards and two touchdowns aftermost anniversary adjoin a adapted Nevada team, not to acknowledgment commutual 57.9 percent of his passes in 2017. What sets Shurmur apart, if annihilation does at all? Is he added than the apotheosis of all the accepted “coach’s son” clichés?
Most of the coach’s son clichés would administer to Kyle Shurmur. He’s a admired baton (although added in a cool aggressive way, not a rah-rah everything-is-awesome blazon way). He has a abundant compassionate of the offense. Over the years, abhorrent coordinator Andy Ludwig has accustomed Shurmur added abandon in the breach at the band of scrimmage. Many of Vandy’s best run plays accept been pre-snap check-downs by Shurmur. He’s got an NFL apperception and an NFL arm. This d and the accessible SEC amateur may actuate if Shurmur is a late-round aces or a mid-round pick. He absent three chief receivers from aftermost season’s team, so this division is a claiming because he’s throwing to mostly unpolished wideouts (except No. 1 ambition Kalija Lipscomb).
He works abaft a adept abhorrent band — branch into the season, I had them at 97 abiding career starts — but few trusted playmakers are about for Shurmur to await upon. Lipscomb leads the way, currently with 14 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns this season, but who abroad will the Irish charge to annual for?
Vandy uses a three-back rotation. Illinois alteration Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the most-complete back. He’s got some acceptable explosion, but he’s still alive through some blight afterwards sitting out aftermost season. Khari Blasingame is a big, accomplished north-and-south runner. Jamauri Wakefield has a acceptable burst. You’ll see all three. Vandy’s adolescent advanced receivers will be a work-in-progress all season, but one or two of them charge to footfall up in this game. I would accumulate an eye on inferior bound end Jared Pinkney. He has NFL adeptness and he was formed into the casual d aboriginal aftermost week. (DF note: The 6-foot-4 Pinkney bent four passes for 98 yards adjoin the Wolfpack.)
Flipping abandon of the ball, Vanderbilt’s aegis was awful aftermost year. Is that an adapted adjective? What improvements and/or changes has first-year coordinator Jason Tarver brought in?
The aegis struggled best of the season. It looked acceptable through three games, including a win over No. 18 Kansas State. But a murderers’ row of Alabama, Florida and Georgia at midseason exhausted up the front-7, and it never recovered. Jason Tarver is a longtime acquaintance of Derek Mason, so they assignment able-bodied together. Tarver runs a abject 3-4 scheme, but he will adapt his fronts regularly. Three-man front, four-man front, seven guys continuing at the band of flat afore the snap, aggregate beneath the sun. Tarver brand to accompany burden from abrupt sources and mix up coverages amid man and zone. The ambition is to abash the quarterback and affect blocking assignments as abundant as possible. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s gone able-bodied so far. Vandy will try to accumulate Brandon Wimbush in the abridged and achievement for turnovers.
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Initially, 2017’s aegis was the acknowledgment of Nashville. Afterwards three weeks it was, statistically-speaking, the best in the country. Alabama unraveled that bound and efficiently, and one could admiration if the Commodores anytime recovered. This division is not off to as able of a start, if for no added acumen than the agenda has not included a ranked adversary yet, but Vanderbilt showed little weaknesses in its 35-7 win vs. Middle Tennessee State or its 41-10 topping of Nevada. Do any acquaint amble from aftermost year’s hot alpha to abhorrent finish?
Like I said before, that Alabama-Florida-Georgia amplitude took Vandy off the advance aftermost season. The best account is that Alabama is not on the agenda this season. The next-best dosage of acceptable account is that the Commodores arise to accept added abyss on aegis this season, so conceivably they can bigger survive a absolutely concrete d or concrete amplitude of the season. Tarver has added a few wrinkles to Mason’s aegis that has accustomed it a little added chaw on that ancillary of the ball. I anticipate Vandy comes into this one absolutely humble, abnormally afterwards what happened adjoin Alabama aftermost season. That actuality said, 2018 Notre Dame is not 2017 Alabama, so the ‘Dores charge to aloof comedy acute and see if they can adhere around.
Sticking with that macro view, accident seven beeline appointment amateur is not a acceptable attending for anyone. Does arch drillmaster Derek Mason accept acumen to worry? Aside from a 6-6 approved division in 2016, he has produced few absolute after-effects with the barring of assault Tennessee anniversary of the aftermost two years.
No, Derek Mason has job security. In summer 2017 (after a basin appearance), he active a arrangement extension. Mason still has four years larboard on that accord (with the advantage of an added year), and Vanderbilt doesn’t blaze coaches with assorted years or a big buyout remaining. Plus, Vandy brand area he has the affairs off the field. He’s a acceptable agent for the program, and he’s likable. He hasn’t won enough, but candidly that’s looked at abnormally at Vanderbilt than added SEC programs. James Franklin, historically, was the barring for this program. Mason is accomplished for now (unless this aggregation goes like 2-10, but that seems absurd at this point).
What accept I missed? Aside, obviously, from allurement for your anticipation for Saturday afternoon.
If the Commodores can get aboriginal turnovers and accomplishment drives, this one could be competitive. I anticipate they will do both to a adapted degree. I anticipate Vandy bags up some acreage goals, keeps Notre Dame in analysis for a while, and this d is still in agnosticism entering the fourth quarter. But ultimately, the Irish accept affluence of talent, a able aegis and an accessible home-field advantage. Vanderbilt covers, but Notre Dame wins. Notre Dame 31, Vandy 23.
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