The Vanderbilt Hustler Quarterback Competition Roundtable

With Week One steadfastly approaching, The Vanderbilt Hustler gives its endorsements for QB1.

Vanderbilt+loses+to+Florida+in+football+on+Saturday%2C+October+13%2C+2018.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FClaire+Barnett%29

Claire Barnett

Vanderbilt loses to Florida in football on Saturday, October 13, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Barnett)

Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Staff

Vanderbilt football is just nine days away from opening its season against Texas A&M, but unsurprisingly, head coach Derek Mason has yet to name a starting quarterback—at least, not publicly.

Last season, the Commodores struggled to find consistent quarterbacking. Riley Neal, Deuce Wallace, Mo Hasan and Allan Walters all saw time under center, but the quarterback carousel just kept spinning.

With all four of last year’s quarterbacks graduating or transferring, the Commodores have a clean slate in 2020. This season, fans are optimistic that one of the four candidates will catalyze improvement in Vanderbilt’s offense. As Coach Mason and first-year offensive coordinator Todd Fitch are tasked with picking the quarterback of their future, The Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Staff selects its favorite candidates before the season kicks off.

Who do you want to start at quarterback in 2020: Ken Seals, Mike Wright, Danny Clark or Jeremy Moussa?

 

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Candidate: Mike Wright

Vanderbilt’s offense was painful to watch last season. And unfortunately, with the graduation of Vanderbilt’s three best players (running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney), a gauntlet of a conference-only schedule, a new offensive coordinator, four veteran offensive linemen opting out due to concerns over COVID-19 and uncertainty at the quarterback position, I don’t see it getting much better. In fact, if it wasn’t clear from the aforementioned laundry list, I actually think it will get worse. Much worse.

With that in mind, I think it would be asinine to start either of the junior college transfers (Jeremy Moussa or Danny Clark). It’s time look toward the future; in order to build for the next four years, Vanderbilt must carefully select its quarterback of the future. If you asked me who I think will start, I’d say the guy who has picked up one preseason recognition after another, despite not officially being named starting quarterback: Ken Seals. But the question at hand is who I want to start. I want to see a quarterback that can actually improvise under pressure (and with a patchwork offensive line, there will be plenty of improvising). I want to see a mobile quarterback who can add another dimension to Vanderbilt’s offense. And of course, I’m slightly biased, having written an article on Mike Wright. Let’s stop writing off dual-threat quarterbacks as inconsistent, let’s stop suggesting they play other positions. Let’s give Wright a chance to turn around this offense.

 

Immanual John Milton, Editor in Chief

Candidate: Ken Seals

Ken Seals is my pick. Quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) walk into the lion’s den, playing teams like LSU and ‘Bama on a weekly basis. Seals is someone who has proven he can fight through that adversity and come out on the other side victorious. Reading his feature, Seals walked into a 0-10 and walked out carrying his team to their first playoff game in 12 years. He seems able to change a losing culture, and that is something that the Commodores desperately need.

 

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

Candidate: Ken Seals

Ken Seals is the future of Vanderbilt football, and he should be the one trotting out on the field for the opener against Texas A&M. With the NCAA’s recent ruling to give all athletes in fall sports an extra year of eligibility regardless of whether or not they play this season, Seals can start for the Commodores for five years. Imagine not having to worry about the quarterback position for half a decade. Seals will have a tough first year under center with a ten game SEC slate, but this season would provide invaluable experience for him to build on over the next four years of his Vanderbilt career.

First-year offensive coordinator Todd Fitch runs a spread offense that would slightly favor freshman quarterback Mike Wright and his mobility. However, Seals’ arm talent is hard to ignore, and he is more mobile than most pocket passers. Seals ran for nearly 500 yards and seven touchdowns as a high school senior last year. Seals is just a freshman, but he’s already the future for a program that’s still looking for a replacement for former quarterback Kyle Shurmur two years after he played his final game. It surely doesn’t hurt that Shurmur is back on campus as a volunteer quarterback coach to guide Seals.

 

Alyssa Muir, Deputy Sports Editor

Candidate: Ken Seals

For me, personally, Ken Seals is the guy I want lining up behind center for the first snap against Texas A&M. In a year with so much uncertainty combined with an absolutely brutal schedule for the Commodores, this season (or as much of the season as we get) should be all about building for the future, especially on the offensive end. Because of that, I think it is important that the starting job be given to a freshman so they gain as much playing time as possible during this strange season. I give Seals the slight edge over Mike Wright because he has a bit more collegiate experience. Seals enrolled in the spring so he had a little extra time to familiarize himself with Todd Fitch’s offense before students were sent home. Additionally, he inherited a 0-10 team back in high school and helped lead them to the playoffs two years later so he has a first-hand understanding of how to turn a struggling team around. His arm talent has been touted by both Fitch and Mason and, after last season, this Commodore offense really needs someone who is able to sling it down the field. Seals has been the quarterback that Mason and his staff have had their eyes locked on since Kyle Shurmur’s departure and I am very excited to see how he will perform under the bright lights this season.

 

Justin Hershey, Lead Sports Analyst

Candidate: Danny Clark

Vanderbilt has two promising, long-term options at quarterback on their current roster. Neither of them should start Week One in College Station. Both freshmen, Mike Wright and Ken Seals will have their time in the spotlight on West End, but starting either of them under current circumstances would be irresponsible. At least four Commodore offensive linemen have opted out of this season due to COVID-19 and shoving an inexperienced freshman behind a makeshift offensive line is not a smart decision. That is why Coach Mason should start JUCO transfer, Danny Clark. Clark actually appeared in two SEC games with Kentucky before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln Community College for the 2019 season and has the experience to remain calm in a difficult Week One matchup. The big lefty has a solid arm and according to offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, “a little moxie to him” that would lend itself well to the Commodores’ need for creativity behind an unpredictable offensive line. Clark has many different experiences playing with many different teammates and despite being new to the program, his adaptability should be favored over the long-term promise of Wright or Seals.

 

Jesse Goldman, Staff Writer

Candidate: Mike Wright

All of these quarterbacks are young and need development, so you do not want to force one of the quarterbacks into a bad situation. This offense is rebuilding, including the offensive line. Clean pockets will be hard to come by with on a conference schedule. Ken Seals may be the more polished quarterback, but Mike Wright fits the situation better. He is more mobile, more explosive, and more capable at making some magic happen when the play breaks down. Let’s see how this line fairs, and if proves to be stable then maybe switch to Seals. But for now, Wright should get the nod.

 

Jack Hollier, Staff Writer

Candidate: Ken Seals

Although he’s young, I’d love to see Ken Seals secure the starting spot in the Commodores’ offense. I think it’s past time that Derek Mason shook things up a bit, and I think a new, talented quarterback may just be the thing to invigorate the team and the fans in a relatively dry time in the sports world. Even without the spring semester he planned for, I’m optimistic that Seals will fit in well. It seems that he’s a quick learner and that he’s already learned a great deal about Coach Mason’s offense from the veteran players. He posted record-breaking stats in his Texas high school career, and I think he showed a lot of promise by turning his winless team into one with a playoff berth in just a few years. I think that if given the chance, Ken Seals could electrify Vanderbilt football and give fans someone to get behind for years.

 

Luke Mukundan, Staff Writer

Candidate: Mike Wright

In the SEC, speed kills. Conference giants like Alabama, LSU, and Georgia have a seemingly endless stockpile of guys with track star speed. Vanderbilt rarely has such a luxury, especially at quarterback. That’s why freshman Mike Wright is such a tantalizing choice for the starting quarterback spot. His ability to blow past opponents and gain massive chunks of yards on the ground will bring so much versatility to one of the worst offenses in college football. Additionally, given the dire state of Vanderbilt’s offensive line, his ability to quickly get out of the pocket is immensely valuable. Wright is no slouch through the air though, as he threw for 2,653 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior at Woodward Academy. If a team tries to go all-in to stop his ability to run, he’s shown that he more than easily can pass the ball downfield to keep them honest.Entering his seventh season as head coach, Derek Mason has yet to field a team as formidable as the teams coached by his predecessor, James Franklin. Part of Franklin’s success was a result of his use of quarterbacks who could open up the game on the ground. Dual-threat quarterbacks like Jordan Rodgers, Austyn Carta-Samuels, and Patton Robinette played significant roles in the most successful modern era of Vanderbilt football. If Mason hopes to get back to that level of success, it might not be a bad idea to replicate that strategy by naming Mike Wright as the starting quarterback.

 

Jaime Perez, Staff Writer

Candidate: Mike Wright

Vanderbilt Football has four options to start at quarterback this season, but none are more intriguing than Mike Wright. Of the group, he is not the highest ranked nor does he have the most experience, but he has a weapon that separates him from the rest of the QBs: his speed. Watch his high school tape. Wright is E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C and he can make plays with both his arms and legs. Without Kyle Shurmur’s consistency and presence, last season’s best QB play came from Mo Hasan’s one game where he was able to run the ball. And with several offensive linemen opting-out or transferring, this team’s quarterback will need to be able to move around the pocket and adjust to chaotic situations. Wright gives the Commodores the best shot at doing just that and at having a more entertaining offense. I do not expect Wright to start the season as QB1, but hopefully he can see some minutes before the end of the year. Regardless of who starts, Wright will be a name to watch the next few years on West End.

 

Bryce Smith, Staff Writer

Candidate: Mike Wright

I would love to see Mike Wright be named starter, and not just because I want my editor Simon to be able to bask in Wright headline puns all season.

Wright, who flipped to Vanderbilt from UCF on signing day, has always carried a bit of mysteriousness. But I love the skillset he brings to the table: a dual-threat with elite speed (4.69 40 yard dash), a live arm and solid size (6’4, 185 lbs). Last season, Mo Hasan was able to open up a dismal Commodore offensive attack against Missouri by running around a bit, and Wright would be much better in that regard. Add in the fact that the Vanderbilt offensive line has been decimated by opt outs and injury, and Todd Fitch is going to need a guy who can move. Gimme Wright in Fitch’s new spread system.

 

Jake Schwartz, Staff Writer

Candidate: Mike Wright

We need so electricity down in Music City. Mike Wright is the answer. His speed and mobility in the pocket paired with his dart like throwing ability will add a new facet to Vanderbilt’s offense that we haven’t seen before. With increased first team reps in practice, the true freshman has seen a lot of improvement and development throughout the summer.

A full conference schedule will not bode well for a young, rebuilding Vanderbilt squad unless they look to change up their scheme a little. Wright has a knack for the end zone through the air and on the ground, so Coach Mason can trust him to improvise on broken plays. Vanderbilt needs Mike Wright under center, no questions asked.

 

Sam Curtis, Writer-in-training

Candidate: Ken Seals

It just makes sense for Ken Seals to get the nod. Unless you’re Oklahoma and can crank out three Heisman Trophy winners/contenders (Mayfield, Murray, and Hurts) in rapid succession, having considerable turnover in the quarterback room does not often equate to success. This season is a chance to give valuable experience and playing time to a possible four-year starter in Seals. Though he’ll face significant pass rush pressure with an all-SEC schedule, Coach Derek Mason can use these games to learn what works and what doesn’t for Seals. Worst case scenario, he struggles against good teams, and no one can blame him. Best case scenario, he lights up the field, and Vanderbilt’s future quarterback situation becomes a beacon of hope that will attract plenty of talented, new recruits for Coach Mason and the Commodores.

 

Nathan Coad, Writer-in-training

Candidate: Ken Seals

Ken Seals should be the starting quarterback this season. He has no experience as a true freshman, but he is clearly talented. Seals is the future of the Vanderbilt football program at the quarterback position, and Derek Mason should let him play immediately in order to get as many reps as possible. Vanderbilt probably will not win many games this season regardless of who is at the quarterback position, so Mason might as well let Seals gain game experience early on. Let the young guy play and learn on the fly.

 

Jordyn Perry, Writer-in-training

Candidate: Mike Wright

I would like Mike Wright to be the starting quarterback in this upcoming season. I want him to be the starter because he is a dual-threat quarterback, unlike Ken Seals who is pro-style. Personally, I just think that it is much more interesting to watch dual-threat quarterbacks because of their versatility. For example, I would much rather watch Lamar Jackson outrun defenders than a player like Matthew Stafford who, for the most part, stays in the pocket and looks to throw. In addition, I will always root for a Black quarterback because so often Black players are denied the opportunity to play the quarterback position. For these two reasons, I would like to see Mike Wright win the starting quarterback role.

 

Jeremy Roseman, Writer-in-training

Candidate: Ken Seals

I want the starting quarterback to be Ken Seals. While juniors Danny Clark and Jeremy Moussa missed time in quarantine, Seals saw the benefit of continual training and increased reps in practice. Fellow freshman Mike Wright was alongside Seals during said time. However, I believe Seals is the freshman that is more game ready at this time. Seals was named True Freshman All-American by 247Sports and has an impressive set of high school accolades. Both Seals and Wright are listed at 6’3 but Seals is 218 pounds to Wright’s 187. Seals will be able to sustain more hits and be a better presence in the pocket.

Vanderbilt has seen lackluster output from the quarterback position for years. I see now as the time to work on the future. Ken Seals has the talent, the size, and familiarity with the system to go out there in week one. Why not see what he can do against a top team in Texas A&M? If he makes mistakes, he will learn from them, and if he lives up to his potential, he may give Vanderbilt its best shot at a win.

 

Bowman Talbot, Writer-in-training

Candidate: Danny Clark

Danny Clark should be the starting quarterback for the Vanderbilt Commodores this season. The only quarterback on the roster who’s been on an SEC roster, Clark knows what is expected of him. While only playing in two games for the Kentucky Wildcats as a redshirt freshman, Clark showed promise, scoring against Murray State. Clark then transferred to Copiah-Lincoln Community College, where he threw for 2,166 and 18 touchdowns in only nine games. He also took great care of the football, throwing only five interceptions in 306 passing attempts.

Danny Clark, the only Vanderbilt quarterback with Power Five experience, is the best bet for the Commodores this year. With offensive weapons Cam Johnson at wideout and Kenyon Brooks in the backfield, Clark will have plenty of opportunities to get the ball into the hands of playmakers. Clark has the motivation to succeed following his years at Kentucky and his excellent season at Copiah-Lincoln. Danny Clark is the man for the job, now he just needs the opportunity to prove himself against Texas A&M in College Station on Sept. 26.