Three Keys Vanderbilt vs Temple

The new season is finally upon us and Vanderbilt will once again be at the forefront of bringing college football back into the hearts and mind of the nation. On Thursday night the ‘Dores host Temple in a game which will see the debut of head coach Derek Mason, a fact which adds extra spice and intrigue to the game.

It wouldn’t be college football season though without a return of the three keys, so here they are in all their new season glory.

1) Domination from the offensive line

The ‘Dores are young, and relatively inexperienced, in a number of places on the roster. With so much of the production from the skill positions gone from last year it is going to be vitally important in these early games that the offensive line, the most experienced group on the offense, steps up. Vanderbilt brings back four starters on the line from last year and even has returning depth behind that. This unit is going to have to stand up and be counted as the heart of the Commodore team.

Part of the reason why the line will need to be so dominant is the style of offense which Mason is trying to install. The philosophy on offense will see a lot of running plays, read plays, and play action passes, so the line will be called upon to block in a number of different ways and open up big holes for the tailbacks. Obviously there will be far greater tests of the line to come as the season progresses, so it is key that they take over this game and show that the hype for the unit is justified.

2) Keeping it simple on defense

The overhaul on defense has been dramatic this offseason with the ‘Dores switching from the traditional 4-3 scheme to more of a hybrid 3-4 front. New defensive coordinator David Kotulski has the pedigree and the coaching experience which suggests this change will be a success, but it is always hard to know exactly what you have until the games begin. There is a school of thought that with the personnel the ‘Dores have on the defensive side of the ball a 3-4 actually fits better, but it has been a slow change over process in camp and Vanderbilt simply cannot afford to slip up against Temple.

The main problem with the new scheme has been that the concepts and reads that the defenders have to make are all new to them. Vanderbilt should be able to run a fairly dumbed down version of the scheme and be ok against Temple, so expect the new ideas and plays to be added slowly to the playbook as the season goes on. What we need to see in this clash is no blown assignments and coverages. If Owl receivers are streaking down the middle of the field uncovered then it is a sign that the adjustment is taking longer than anticipated.

3) Derek Mason as a head coach

This will be Mason’s first game as a head coach at any level. He seems to have taken to the ‘Dore program, and living/recruiting in the south, like a duck to water. Actually putting all the work and preparation to use on game days though is a different challenge entirely.

What we are looking for here is to see how Mason reacts if things don’t go exactly as planned. He is hailed as a defensive guru, so it will be interesting to see just how well the defense plays and also just how much he works with his offense during the game. James Franklin was well known for his game day antics and exuberance, traits which helped pick up the team when needed. Be sure to watch on Thursday and see exactly what coaching style Mason is going to bring to the sidelines.

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