Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's understandable that Vanderbilt would be a little desperate when it comes to the offensive coordinator's position: they rank 105th in total offense, a year after finishing 109th, a year after finishing 118th, a year after finishing 103rd.
But still, you'd think going through three coordinators in less than a calendar year would be a little much. Not if you're first-year head coach Robbie Caldwell , though, who today demoted previous play-caller Johnny Kiser back to quarterbacks coach and promoted running backs coach Des Kitchings to the coordinator's chair. Kiser was himself promoted just this past offseason at the expense of former coordinator Ted Cain , now the Commodores' special teams/tight ends coach.
That Caldwell has shaken up the usually-staid 'Dore coaching ranks is already on the surprising side. (Previous head man Bobby Johnson stuck with Cain through several disappointing seasons.) But what borders on stunning is that he selected the unproven Kitchings over a staff member with an excellent offensive pedigree and actual coordinating experience: Herb Hand , the current Vandy offensive line coach and a Rich Rodriguez disciple who served as co-coordinator alongside Gus Malzahn at Tulsa. Making the move even more mystifying is that for the past two seasons, Vandy has attempted (and largely failed) to run the same no-huddle, up-tempo attack that Hand had a major hand (heh) in developing with Malzahn for the Golden Hurricane.
That he was passed over in favor of Kitchings is probably a signal that Caldwell intends to scrap the sputtering no-huddle for something more conservative; he even added a "no comment" for good measure when asked about the possibility of such a change. But without a once-in-a-decade talent like Jay Cutler or Earl Bennett on hand -- and though Warren Norman is a productive running back, no such talent currently is -- swapping offensive philosophies at Vandy is like rearranging the proverbial deck chairs on that boat they made the move about.
Which is why Vandy is long overdue in following the lead of fellow academics-first peer Georgia Tech and embracing the triple option. Vandy faces an overwhelming talent deficit in regards to the rest of the SEC and realistically always will; it's past time, then, to turn towards the offensive scheme that has proven itself most able to level an uneven athletic playing field. After four straight years plumbing the bottom-most depths of the country's offensive rankings, it's safe to say that playing musical chairs in the coordinator's chair isn't going to deliver the kind of 180-degree change Vandy needs. With all due respect to Caldwell and Kitchings (who, in fairness, cannot do any worse than his predecessors), it's time to think much, much further outside the box.