Here I am again with the second installment of the ShrineDog Awards for the football recruiting class of 2015. Part One took us to the University of Texas with PJ Locke, who flipped from Oregon. Part Two takes us to the state of Tennessee where the Grand Ole Opry takes a backseat to no one.
The common tie between the first ShrineDog of 2015 and the second is that Oregon was pursuing each of them. Locke had verbally committed to the Ducks for several months and waited until the 11th hour to flip to the school closer to home. However, the next ShrineDog Award candidate, Josh Smith, never verbally committed to Oregon. He just decided to stay closer to home.
I know you’re wondering why he would get the ShrineDog Award merely because he wanted to be closer to home. Well, I have one word that should scream “NOOOOOO!” That word is “Vanderbilt.”
That’s right! A 4-star talent actually committed to Vanderbilt. He didn’t stay home to attend the University of Tennessee. Nope. He chose the Commodores. Really?!
If Vanderbilt were not in the SEC, nobody would know that it has a football team. I’m not saying that “Vandy” is a bad team — I’m saying it is a horrible team. Vanderbilt in the SEC is like “Mr. Irrelevant” in the NFL draft.
I understand that under James Franklin as head coach, Vanderbilt was actually competitive. Franklin ended his tenure with back-to-back 9-win seasons in 2012 and 2013. He took that success to Penn State for the 2014 season. That left Derek Mason with some serious momentum to continue great things at the academic all-star school. Mason’s first year did not pan out the way Commodore fans had envisioned.
The 3-9 record on the year was just the beginning of how the season could be summed up. Going 0-8 in conference play could have been expected — but it was the non-conference play that tells the rest of the story. A loss to Temple started off the season — but the scattering of weaker foes was necessary to pick up wins.
Even with a few “W’s,” it wasn’t pretty. The Commodores barely beat the University of Massachusetts by three points in Nashville. Later, “Vandy” eked out a single-point win over Charleston Southern. Finally, they were working on all cylinders and “killed” Old Dominion by 14 points. Does this sound like an SEC football team?
The good news is that Vanderbilt is returning only three of the four linebackers — which will make it easy for Smith to break into the starting lineup. Plus, Smith will be playing some of the toughest teams in the country if he is looking for good competition.
The bad news is that Smith will be playing for Vanderbilt. He will need to get used to winning only a few games each year — if the non-conference games are weak enough. Hopefully, he won’t have to be a part of the bowl game drought that the Commodores suffered through all the way up to 1974 — or between 1974 and 1982 — or between 1982 and 2008.
Only six bowl games in the school’s history will not provoke great odds to guarantee any post-season play. Oh, and Vanderbilt has never played for a conference championship in football.
In conclusion, Smith didn’t select Vanderbilt for football success. If he wanted success, he had many other suitors wanting his services — including an Oregon Duck team that will be in need of experienced linebackers in a few short years. Smith would have fit in nicely in the Oregon defense to help win a ton of games. Therefore, it is easy to give Josh Smith a ShrineDog Award.
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Top photo credit Craig Strobeck