Vanderbilt Spring Football: Quarterback Takes Center Stage
When the Vanderbilt Commodores, head coach Derek Mason and new offensive coordinator Todd Finch step on the practice field with the 2020 football team, there will be a few open positions that must be addressed and there are sure to be some tough battled to win those starting positions.
Of all the battles that could take place this week and into the fall, the most obvious, important and anticipated one will come at quarterback where four first-year Commodores are vying for the right to start the first game of the season versus Mercer on Sept. 5.
Two junior college transfers and two true freshmen quarterbacks all have their eyes on stepping into the starting role for the Commodores by that date and all will face the same challenges of getting acclimated to their new city, school, and teammates while learning a new offense.
One of the things that will hopefully make the transition a bit easier is the fact that the offense is new, and the quarterbacks won't be alone in learning the terminology and plays in coordinator Todd Finch's offense as every offensive player will be working through that process together.
Now which quarterback will take the first snap of the season?
1) JUCO transfer Danny Clark: at 6'3" 225 pounds, Clark has the prototypical size and Pro-Style Quarterback from Massillon, OH. has the arm talent to play in the SEC.
The former Kentucky Wildcat has all the physical skills needed to play at this level, and for him to take the next step in his development it's all about being more consistent as a passer. How well, and quickly he picks up the offense will help determine if he can win the position on day one.
Note: Clark has not arrived on campus and is not part of spring practice.
2) JUCO transfer Jeremy Mussa: at 6'2" and 200 pounds, the former Hawaii Rainbow quarterback has made his way from California to Hawaii, back to California via San Bernadino Valley College before landing at Vanderbilt.
A talented passer who can "spin it" and earned national recognition as a MaxPreps/USA Football Player of the Week after throwing for a school-record 517 yards and seven touchdowns in a 56-37 victory over Corona High School in 2017. In that same season, Mussa threw for 3,029 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes.
Note: Mussa is enrolled and participating in practice, but is limited by a left ankle injury.
3) Freshman Ken Seals: The Weatherford, Texas recruit signed with the Commodores after a stellar high school career and he is intent on becoming the starter on day one.
Seals has all the tools, and at 6'3" 203 pounds, he has the size as well and also is a more than capable runner when need be. The nation’s 17th-best pro-style quarterback by Rivals, Seals set a school-record with 5,714 passing yards and 53 passing touchdowns and accounted for 6,426 all-purpose yards and accounted for 65 touchdowns in final two prep seasons. Of that total,3,060 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, and nearly 500 rushing yards and seven scores came as a senior where he was a 2019 Mr. Texas Football semifinalist, won 2019 region MVP and was named a 2018 all-region first team member.
Note: Seals is enrolled and worked with the first team on day one of spring practice.
4) Freshman Michael Wright: The most athletic of the four, Wright has blistering speed and could add an element to the Commodores offense not seen here in a few years.
The 6'4" 185 Atlanta native, Wright recently ran a 10.97 100m in a high school track meet, where track is just a hobby. For reference, Wright's time is just 1.15 sec slower than Tennessee’s Christian Coleman, who set NCAA record for 100m in ‘17.
That's not just speed, that's game-changing speed and Wright brings that to the table along with a more than adequate and accurate arm.
Wright is the most intriguing candidate of the class simply because of his speed. The question is can he do all the other things well enough to win the position.
Note: Wright is not yet enrolled and on campus for spring.
Opening Day Starter
While everything at this point is simply an educated, or maybe random guess, my feeling is that based on what Finch did offensively at Louisiana Tech last season that Wright would be the choice because of his athletic ability. The question is on how he learns the system and can handle the pressure as a true freshman stepping into a Power 5 conference starting role on day one.
Ultimately, however, I'm going with Clark, at least to start though I think both Wright and Seals will push him from day one.
In The End
I look for Seals or Wright to overtake Clark before seasons end and become the starter giving Mason and his staff the chance to have a three-year starter at the most important position on the field.