Scouting Vanderbilt: Let’s Hope Temple Does, Too

Hopefully, the Owls' plan includes attacking Vanderbilt's weaknesses, which are the DL and DBs, and staying away from the strengths (LBs).

Hopefully, the Owls’ plan includes attacking Vanderbilt’s weaknesses, which are the DL and DBs, and staying away from the strengths (LBs).

There was so much head-scratching in an underachieving season last year that just about every Temple football fan still has scars on the heads.

From the shotgun handoff on 4th and three inches at Rutgers to the use of a punter to kick an extra point—when you had a perfectly good backup kicker to do it—Owl fans were “wtf’ing” all season.

Play-action brings the linebackers up for run support
and dumping the ball over their heads could create
major run-after-catch opportunities for players like
Herbin and John Christopher. Keeping a dynamic blocker
like Harper in after faking the ball into his gut
can only help P.J. Walker’s protection.

Arguably, nothing compared to the way Temple was perceived to have scouted the opposition. At times, it appeared the Owls never popped in any opponents’ film before taking the field against them. The Owls passed the ball against the worst rush defense in the nation, Idaho, and failed to commit to the run against a FCS defensive line (Fordham) that averaged 247 pounds across the front. The next week, a St. Francis of Loretto back with considerably less talent than any of the top three Temple backs, Kyle Harbridge, gained 297 yards on 29 carries against that same defense. Either the Red Flashes have a bunch of Mensa members on their coaching staff or they just took the Fordham depth chart, put the DL weights into a calculator, divided by 4, and devised a rational game plan to attack the Rams. Since the scouting budget at SFL is minuscule, I’m guessing the latter.

Now game week starts and Temple fans hope things  are different this season.

Vanderbilt is the opponent in a week and its new coach, Derek Mason, likes to play a 3-4 defense and Owl fans can only hope the Owls have spent the summer devising a good plan to attack it. The Commodores return only 10 starters, the second-fewest in the SEC. No SEC returns a smaller percentage of last year’s total offense, so the Owl defense should have a better chance stopping it  than, say, they did a year ago at Notre Dame.

Still, as good as Vanderbilt was under current Penn State coach James Franklin, it lost to Missouri by a 51-28 score and Texas A&M by a 56-24 score. Temple should have beaten a UCF team that blew out Baylor.

The Owls should also look at what UCLA did under head coach Karl Dorrell because Dorrell will serve as Mason’s offensive coordinator this season. Hint: It’s a West Coast offense and probably not a good one (this from Bruins’ Report):

During his five seasons with the Bruins, Dorrell went 35-27, losing six or more games in all but one campaign as his teams largely struggled to execute his version of the West Coast offense. The lone exception was in 2005, when a veteran team featuring running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis posted a 10-2 record.

The Commodores lose Jordan Matthews to the Eagles, but they still have a playmaking wide receiver in sophomore Jordan Cunningham (15 receptions, 123  yards). Other than that, a whole bunch of new guys.

TFF’s keys to the game:
1. Khalif Herbin must have 15 touches (5 runs, 5 catches, 5 returns)
2. Play-action to set up intermediate passes for big RAC opportunites
3. Trust your 2 best players (Kyle Friend and P.J. Walker) on 4th and inches
4. Generate pass rush along front 4

Vandy’s strength is the offensive line, losing only all-conference left tackle Wes Johnson.

Its two top running backs are Jerron Seymour (716 yards, 14 touchdowns) and a scatback-type in Brian Kimbrow (341 yards). Seymour is a very similar runner to Kenny Harper—good for 8-yard bursts in the red zone but lacks the capability of taking a handoff at the 20 and going 80 to the house. A Matt Brown or a Bernard Pierce (and a Khalif Herbin) do have that capability.

The Vandy defense returns only three starters, all linebackers, so Temple would do well with play-action fakes and rollouts and dumping the intermediate passes over the linebackers’ heads. Those three starters are Kyle Woestmann, Caleb Azubike and Darreon Herring. Play-action brings the linebackers up for run support and dumping the ball over their heads could create major run-after-catch opportunities for players like Herbin and John Christopher. Keeping a dynamic blocker like Harper in after faking the ball into his gut can only help P.J. Walker‘s protection.

Vandy’s special teams will struggle without Murderleg (Carey Spear), whose days are numbered at Eagles’ camp because he cannot even beat out Dead Leg (Alex Henery).

Khalif Herbin will be able to do serious damage on punt and kickoff returns, if he is given the chance.

Hopefully, while scouting Vanderbilt, Temple coaches will remember that Owl name—and the name of St. Francis of Loretto’s Kyle Harbridge—as a reminder (to quote Andy Reid)  that they need to do a better job at not only scouting foes, but taking advantage of their weaknesses.

Time’s yours.


22 thoughts on “Scouting Vanderbilt: Let’s Hope Temple Does, Too

  1. I watched the SEC network preview of Vandy last night and Seymour appears to be better than you seem to think he is. Other than that, there was not anything good said about anyone else. The overarching theme was that graduation killed them and that they are not going to win one of their SEC games. if TU plays up to its talent and the coaches coach, this could be a win.

    • I saw film on him and he fits into the category of hard-runner type. Let’s put it this way: He’s somewhere below Montel Harris on the talent scale and slightly above Kenny Harper (and I like Kenny Harper a lot). I just think Kenny is more suited to playing a fullback type and opening holes for more elusive types like Gilmore and Williams.

  2. Herbin is indeed the kick returner

    • thanks, Josh … and I assume Praise and Sharif are the starting DEs and Matt I. and Averee Robinson are the starting DTs. After Nate D. Smith and Tyler Matakevich at the LBs and Sean Chandler at one of the corners, still a lot of good battles going on that side of the ball.

  3. Nice review Mike. I lived in Nashville some time ago and one of my friends who is a Vandy fan told me the line favors Vandy by 16. A lot of that probably has to do with Temple’s record last year. With a new coach, losing Mathews, not many starters back and few high level players, this could be a good opportunity for the Owls. Their QB is quick and could present a problem. Again, it comes down to game-day coaching as you said Mike. Let’s hope the Temple coaches have cleaned up their act. I was at the game in Nashville in Golden’s first year. It followed possibly Temple’s worst season ever and even for Vandy the sports writers there were smirking and laughing (for once) that it would be an easy Vandy win. Well this time let’s hope the Owls bring their A-game and start the season off right. I’ve told my friend that Temple has some players, its the coaching that is suspect. Go Owls.

  4. I believe the talent level of this Temple team is a lot higher than what the national experts think. Coaching? Even though my body is in Pennsylvania, I’ll remain from Missouri (the show-me state) until 11:59 p.m. or so on 8/28).

  5. Vandy’s defensive line will consist of Vince Taylor at nose, who started 11 games last year. Adam Butler, an absolute terror who started 5 games after flipping over from offensive tackle, and Nifae Lealeo, a US Army All American freshman who weighs in at a svelt 315. As for the secondary Vandy returns Paris Head who had as many picks last year as the entirety of the Temple defense and Andrew Williamson who boasts two picks and a wealth of experience. You’re spot on on the question marks at wr and the last 2 spots of the secondary, but top to bottom this will be the most talented Vandy roster in history, albeit not the most experienced.

    • Nice! Temple fans are underestimating Vandy and are overly-optimistic about the Owls. Temple needs to keep their composure and hang around hoping for a break.

      • Not underestimating Vandy at all here. Don”t see how the Owls get within single digits in the fourth quarter here, particularly when Vandy returns a pretty good qb in Patton Robinette and a good tailback in seymour. if they had a new qb, it might be different.

    • Paris Head. Most definitely my favorite NCAA name this season.

  6. Starting a new QB, it will be vitally important that TU sets the tone early on D and doesn’t let him get comfortable. Last year’s anemic defensive pass rush just won’t cut it.

    • from everything I heard, Sharif Finch and Praise Martin should improve the pass rush significantly. I believe in Averee Robinson, but he wasn’t getting any help from the edge rushers last year and, if he does, watch that pocket collapse.

  7. Mike,

    Forgive me for being such a skeptic, but I just don’t see the rationale for such optimism. This squad was so awful last year that they’ve earned the lack of respect from bookmakers.

    The coaching performance was the worst we’ve seen since Ron Dickerson patrolled the sidelines, arguably even worse. Yes, the players performed slightly better as the season wore on and Walker gives us something to rest our hopes on, but chances are that he might just be a reincarnation of Henry Burris.

    As you said yourself, I’ll believe it when i see it. Come 9:15 on Thursday, I’m pretty sure I’ll have convinced myself that the Owls will shock Vandy, but in the back of my mind, I kinda figure it won’t take too long before I’m ready to strangle Phil Snow.

    • I hear you. Any objective person who saw Ron Dickerson patrol the sidelines and this group on game days last year can definitely draw comparisons. It was like a Chinese Fire Drill at times last year. That’s all on the head coach. Have you ever seen him yell AT Phil Snow? Too nice a guy for that. I’ve seen Bruce Arians yell at Nick Rapone and Nick is 100x the defensive coach Phil Snow can ever hope to be. Bruce was a nice guy, too.

      • Nailed it. Snow once called a time out last year over Rhule’s head during a game because a defensive player was out of position. This was after a time out. Ask yourself, why is the kid out of position? Defensive coaching an issue? Rhule never ever pursed his lips. I would have ripped Snow a new one, and then fired him.

        Rhule has to get rid of the nice guy image if he wants to succeed at this level.

  8. JoeFa: I wouldn’t agree that the team was awful last year given that they were in all but a few games and would have won most of those with better coaching. If there isn’t a 1000% percent improvement in the coaching in the first four games, Rhule should be fired immediately.

  9. Just listened to Coach Rhule’s press conference today and he said that the kicking game is still not settled and that he may rotate kickers during the game. This certainly is a worrisome sign because much of last year’s debacle stemmed from the kicking game. I know as a fan how depressing it was when we scored a td and missed the extra point or shanked a makable field goal, It had to be worse for the kids who thought they tied the score or took steps in making a comeback. Hopefully, one of these kids steps up and plays up to their supposed talent.

  10. I would just put Austin Jones in there and hope for the best.

  11. I guess i am always optimistic, which is why i can still root for Temple and the Phillies. But at least Rhule is saying the right things this year, such as having to establish a running game early in the season. They have recruited to fill spots, especially in the defense. But you guys are right that it will come down to game day coaching. This idea of rotating kickers in a game sounds bad to me, but I just think they have to be better than last year.

    • If Rhule is excited about seeing what Jahad Thomas can do in a game situation, then so am I. I was very impressed with Zaire Williams as a true freshman was Jamie Gilmore was very good against Memphis, so if Jahad is significantly better than those 2 guys we should be OK. Still think Herbin should play the Matty Brown role and we need to recruit the next Bernard Pierce, if Jahad isn’t of that quality.

  12. Nice pregame show script! I enjoyed the in-depth analysis, smart observations, and interesting keys to the game. The bitter losses to Rutgers, Houston, UConn, Fordham, UCF, SMU, and Idaho should have provided an incentive for the Owls in the weight room in the off-season. Rhule is gearing up for 9/27 against UConn. The Vandy game is a nice warm-up and payday. I do not see the Owls winning this game, but a good showing is important.

    • agree. this one is probably a 10-point (or so) loss but the Navy game will be a knock-down drag fight like the 2009 game in Annapolis where the Owls came out on top of a 10-4 team. No Bernard Pierce this year, though, and that’s why the Owls might find themselves 0-2. Herbin takes a kickoff to the house against Navy (not Vandy), re-visiting the role James Nixon played. You read it here first.

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