Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.
For this week’s blog exchange, Swamp Things turned to Jeff Lockridge. Jeff covers Vanderbilt for the Tennessean, and you can read more about Vandy on his blog.
1. How will the loss of running back and return specialist Warren Norman affect the team?
For starters, it takes away the team’s primary home-run threat. Norman was capable of breaking any run or returning a kickoff for a touchdown, as he did three times last season. Now an offense that was already struggling with Norman becomes extremely handcuffed. No. 2 back Zac Stacy will get the bulk of the carries, with reserves Wesley Tate and Kennard Reeves taking on bigger roles. Eric Samuels becomes the main kickoff returner.
2. Florida started relying on a no-huddle offense last week vs. Georgia. Has Vanderbilt faced teams like that this year, and if it hasn’t, how can the Commodores prepare for that?
Vanderbilt runs a no-huddle offense itself, so the defense sees it every day in practice. South Carolina and Arkansas also ran some no-huddle – with a good amount of success – against the Commodores the last two weeks. Familiarity isn’t an issue and fatigue during those drives shouldn’t be in the first half. For the most part, the breakdowns have come in the second half after the defense has spent most of the game on the field due to the offense’s inefficiency.
3. With two of the top punters in the SEC in this game, how do you see it playing out?
Richard Kent, a former walk-on, has been a pleasant surprise for Vanderbilt. He’s kept several games closer than they might otherwise have been thanks to the swings in field position. His specialty has been dropping punts inside the 20 – something he has done on 23 of 60 kicks. The downside is the Commodores have kept him entirely too busy. He is on pace to break the school record for punts in a season (ironically set last year by Brett Upson).
4. Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten Florida in a long time. How do the players approach a game like this where they’re not expected to win?
Hey, let’s be honest here. Vanderbilt is rarely expected to win any SEC game. So the approach is no different than the last three weeks, when the Commodores have been a significant underdog to Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas. If anything, I think the players go into this game more optimistic than any Florida game in the last several years based on the Gators’ losses over the last month and the lack of an invincible aura without Tim Tebow.
5. Florida needs this win in order to go to the SEC championship game. Have the Commodores embraced the role of spoiler to try to prevent that?
I can promise you no one on Vanderbilt has given that the first thought, particularly with four games remaining. This team is in a bit of a freefall having lost its last three games by a 113-21 margin. It just lost Norman for the season and changed offensive coordinators last week. Coaches are scratching to keep their jobs for another year. So I doubt the word “spoiler” comes up. Right now the catch word is “survival.”