Vanderbilt’s quarterback revolving door

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Vanderbilt’s quarterback revolving door

Vanderbilt defeats Missouri 10-3 at Dudley Field on October 24, 2015. (Bosley Jarrett)

Vanderbilt defeats Missouri 10-3 at Dudley Field on October 24, 2015. (Bosley Jarrett)

Vanderbilt defeats Missouri 10-3 at Dudley Field on October 24, 2015. (Bosley Jarrett)

Vanderbilt defeats Missouri 10-3 at Dudley Field on October 24, 2015. (Bosley Jarrett)

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Vanderbilt Football has taken a number of leaps forward during head coach Derek Mason’s second season at the helm of the team. The defense looks a lot better, and the Commodores boast a phenomenal one-two punch at running back in Ralph Webb and Darius Sims.

However, one storyline seems awfully familiar: the quarterback position is in flux yet again.

For the second season in a row, Vanderbilt has used multiple quarterbacks, even though they didn’t intend to do so at the start of the season.

Last season, Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers, Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck all split time at the position. This time around, McCrary has ceded some playing time to freshman Kyle Shurmur, and as Shurmur runs through concussion protocol this week, Freebeck could see the field for extended time this weekend against Florida.

All of this comes after Mason promised not to create a circus at quarterback again, instead relying on one man behind center. At Media Day this year, he said, “I want to play one quarterback. There will be a starter, there will be a backup, and that’s clear.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Mason defended his decision to shake-up the quarterback position, saying that the circumstances led him to give playing time to both Shurmur and McCrary.

“It’s not a change of mind,” he said. “What’s happened is in looking at the quarterbacks, we couldn’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. At the end of the day, it’s about not turning the ball over and giving us the chance to be in ball games. Whatever quarterback gives you the chance to do that, that’s who you’re gonna play.”

Mason also said that the injury to Shurmur will make a big difference as to what we see on the field on Saturday in Gainesville.

“Kyle suffered an injury this Saturday,” he said, “It really makes it a next-man-up scenario. [Freebeck] has to be the next-man-up behind Johnny.”

When asked if he was planning on playing one quarterback this weekend, Mason added that if all goes well, he will end up only sending one guy out there.

Offensive players claim that the man under center makes no difference to them, and that they will play behind whoever comes into the field.

“It doesn’t matter who’s back there,” wide receiver Kris Kentera said. “We’re all going to rally around that guy, and he’s going to play his best for us.”

Even if the players feel comfortable around any quarterback, the numbers paint a much bleaker scenario. The Vanderbilt offense only has two passing touchdowns in their last five games, both of which have been from McCrary. Meanwhile, they have eight interceptions in those five games, split between McCrary (7) and Shurmur (1). Turnovers have been a serious problem, which could stem from the fact that the team is unable to build chemistry around a single quarterback.

Quarterback controversies are nothing new in the SEC. Vanderbilt’s opponent this weekend, the Florida Gators, have split time between Will Grier and Treon Harris under center due to Grier’s suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Mizzou had to switch to Drew Lock at quarterback after Maty Mauk fell out of favor and was eventually suspended indefinitely. However, those situations are due to extenuating circumstances surrounding the team.

As the season enters the final stretch run, it seems clear that the Commodores want to solve the quarterback question in order to solve their team’s offensive woes. Based on what Mason said, a revolving door of quarterbacks won’t cut it.

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