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Vanderbilt at Missouri: Commodores' offense is young and less than explosive

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Pass protection issues, youth, and a revolving door at quarterback have dramatically limited Vanderbilt's offensive capabilities in 2014. Missouri's defense should be able to take advantage of the Commodores' weaknesses.

Frederick Breedon

Close your eyes and imagine the youngest conceivable depth chart you find realistic. Your imagination might not be strong enough to comprehend what Vanderbilt is currently putting on the field, at least at the skill positions.

QB
Wade Freebeck (6'4, 212, Fr.) (34-for-72, 376 yards, 1 TD, 5 INT, 7 sacks, 4.2 yards/attempt)
Johnny McCrary (6'4, 230, RSFr.) (10-for-19, 169 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 8.9 yards/attempt)

Patton Robinette looked pretty poor as a redshirt freshman last year and didn't do much successfully in the season opener against Temple. But he looked decent against UMass and started off well against South Carolina ... then suffered a concussion.

LSU transfer Stephen Rivers was poor against Temple and awful against Ole Miss (Ole Miss makes most QBs look awful), sat out a while, then looked iffy again against Georgia and suffered an ankle injury.

Wade Freebeck looked pretty good against South Carolina but has posted relatively Maukian passer ratings since then. He was 5-for-7 for 20 yards against Charleston Southern and was pulled in favor of Johnny McCrary.

McCrary looked pretty good against CSU after going 0-for-3 with two picks against Temple in the opener.

That's a mess. It appears Robinette is the safest bet here when healthy, but as of Monday, he hadn't been cleared to start practicing again. Technically he could be cleared at any time, but I can't figure the odds of him playing on Saturday are very good. So that leaves Freebeck and McCrary, who are ... unproven. McCrary did indeed have some success against Charleston Southern and might be turning into a reasonably efficient passer. But Missouri's is the most highly rated defense either has faced so far. I figure Mizzou probably wins this battle.

RB
Ralph Webb (5'10, 196, RSFr.) (122 carries, 560 yards, 2 TD; 11 targets, 6 catches, 19 yards)
Dallas Rivers (6'1, 225, Fr.) (26 carries, 106 yards, 2 TD; 2 targets, 0 catches)
Jerron Seymour (5'7, 196, Jr.) (23 carries, 121 yards; 1 target, 0 catches)
Darrius Sims (5'9, 182, So.) (1 carry, 5 yards; 2 targets, 2 catches, 14 catches)

FB
Kellen Williams (6'1, 230, Sr.) (1 carry, 5 yards; 2 targets, 2 catches, 11 yards)

If you're scoring at home, the first and second string in the backfield consist of two freshmen and two redshirt freshmen. For their age, both Webb and Rivers have been semi-efficient, combining to gain at least five yards on 44 percent of their carries. There's no explosiveness here whatsoever -- nobody on the team has a 30-yard run yet -- but you can see what Vandy probably wants to do here: short passes, five-yard runs, move the chains, win field position, hope for turnovers.

Offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell is a pretty straight-forward, pro-style guy, and Vandy's alignments aren't likely to be too tricky. Vandy is just going to try to steal yards wherever you leave them.

WR
C.J. Duncan (5'11, 195, RSFr.) (34 targets, 20 catches, 322 yards, 2 TD)
Chandler Dorrell (6'0, 190, RSFr.) (12 targets, 6 catches, 85 yards)
Josh Grady (5'11, 200, Jr.)
Caleb Scott (6'1, 180, Fr.) (8 targets, 2 catches, 16 yards)

WR
Latevius Rayford (6'1, 192, So.) (30 targets, 15 catches, 140 yards)
Trent Sherfield (6'0, 190, Fr.)
Kris Kentera (6'4, 220, Jr.) (9 targets, 4 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD)
Trey Wilkins (5'11, 210, Sr.) (15 targets, 7 catches, 66 yards)

TE
Steven Scheu (6'5, 250, Jr.) (30 targets, 19 catches, 269 yards, 1 TD)
Davis Dudchock (6'4, 245, Sr.) (7 targets, 3 catches, 49 yards)
Dillon van der Wal (6'6, 252, Sr.) (1 target, 1 catch, 12 yards)
Nathan Marcus (6'5, 238, RSFr.) (3 targets, 1 catch, 25 yards)

Two-deep including the receivers: three freshmen, three redshirt freshmen, one sophomore, one junior, one senior. Of the 12 players above, the first WR spot has combined for 56 targets, the second has 54, and the tight end position has 41. Vandy will spread the ball around, and C.J. Duncan has actually shown some solid explosiveness. Still, Mizzou's biggest issue in the secondary has been youth, and Mizzou's secondary is easily more experienced than Vandy's receiving corps.

LT
Andrew Jelks (6'6, 305, So.) (16 career starts)
Sean Dowling (6'5, 288, RSFr.)

LG
Jake Bernstein (6'3, 305, Jr.) (27 career starts)
Delando Crooks (6'5, 312, RSFr.)

C
Joe Townsend (6'4, 312, Sr.) (29 career starts)
Barrett Gouger (6'4, 305, So.)

RG
Spencer Pulley (6'4, 300, Jr.) (26 career starts)
Kevin McCoy (6'5, 295, So.)

RT
Will Holden (6'7, 310, So.) (6 career starts)
Andrew Bridges (6'6, 285, Sr.) (18 career starts)

The line is a strength for the offense, at least as it pertains to run blocking. Vandy is a decent 68th in Adj. Line Yards, though the 'Dores are an awful 117th in Power Success Rate. There are three 2+ year starters here, and four-star sophomore Andrew Jelks anchors the left side. There's a nice mix of size, talent, and experience here.

Pass protection has been an issue, however (122nd in Adj. Sack Rate), and ... well ... that's not a weakness you want to have in facing Missouri. You have to figure inexperience and shuffling at QB have exacerbated whatever issues the line has, but regardless, Vandy quarterbacks get sacked a lot, just as Mizzou opponents tend to get sacked a lot. If Vandy can't avoid passing downs, bad things will happen.