Coach For A Day: East Tennessee State
The East Tennessee State University Buccaneers visit Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday afternoon to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in the final home game of the season for the Commodores.
It is a game that the Commodores, 2-8 on the season will be favored to win despite ETSU (3-8) entering the game with more wins than Vanderbilt.
Bucs head coach Randy Sanders is a veteran of the SEC, having spent many years as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee and also in the ACC at Florda State. Facing the Commodres in Nashville will not be an issue for him.
So as the coach of ETSU for a day here is what I would attempt to do against Vanderbilt.
Redshirt sophomore running back Quay Holmes leads the Bucs rushing attack and considering the issues the Commodores have had against the run it would seem logical that ETSU will try to run the ball and control the clock. Averaging 201.5 yards per game on the ground, the Bucs must lean on Holmes and his offensive mates to do their heavy lifting.
Sophomore quarterback Trey Mitchell and the Bucs passing game averages just 167.7 yards per game, meaning they are an average at best passing team against their schedule. Vanderbilt's secondary will likely be the best they have faced this season, so the passing game will need to be a compliment to the rushing game and give ETSU at least some production through the air.
Of course all of that is conventional thinking, but given the Bucs struggles in the passing game this season, it doesn't seem feasible to try to reinvent the offense in one week and do something that they ahve struggled with all season.
THe Bucs defense is solid yet not spectacular, and have some players with next level potential, but for the season they have struggled as a unit agains the run, allowing 235.6 yards rushing per game. Vanderbilt should want to run the ball with Ke'Shawm Vaughn after seeing that stat.
Knowing that, ETSU will stack the box to stop the Commodores from running crazy againt them. The Bucs have to put the game on the shoulders of Riley Neal and his receivers if they are to have any chance.
Forcing Neal to win through the air considering the struggles the Commodores offense has had there, despite the fact that the Bucs secondary is not a strength. Neal has been a trainwreck this season and even with Kalijah Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney, the passing game is an issue of its own.
This is a game Vanderbilt must win, not because of bowl implications or such, but because of the fractured fanbase that exists around this program currently. Consider ahtletic director Malcolm Turner giving his support to Derek Mason and stateing Mason would return next season, this fan base has been in a free-fall since that announcment, and even if getting a win over ETSU isn't something to get excited about, let the Commodores lose and see where things go.