Vanderbilt Football 3 Keys: ETSU


The Clark Lea era begins in Nashville on Saturday as the Vanderbilt Commodores look to break a 10 game losing skid dating back to the end of the 2019 season by defeating East Tennessee State Buccaneers.

By Steve Wright

Here is a look at the three keys:

1 – Confidence for Ken Seals

Ken Seals is a far better quarterback than the one that looked disjointed at times as the ‘Dores went 0-9 last campaign. One of the big issues was that with a schedule of just SEC games there was no chance for Seals to bed in and get his year started in a confident place. That changes here as he faces an ETSU side that is comfortably the worst he will have played against at the college level. Seals threw for almost 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, but he will need to bring down his interception number (10) for Vanderbilt to be more successful.

2 – Beware a strong start

ETSU last played on April 10 as the FCS school played a spring schedule in 2021 instead of a fall 2020 slate of games due to Covid-19. The Buccaneers finished that season 4-2 and they should theoretically be in better football shape than a Vandy team that hasn’t played a game since losing to Tennessee back in December. Tyler Riddell threw for 575 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks for ETSU – numbers that would have been higher but for the fact he only played three of their six games.

3 – Defensive focus

The Lea hire should see Vandy become instantly more solid on the defensive side of the ball. The offense couldn’t score last year, but even if they could the defense was basically giving away points for free. Look for changes in scheme and personnel against an ETSU side that is solid – they can run the ball fairly well – but that lacks any sort of explosion. Vanderbilt won’t need to score many points here as the defense will hold ETSU in check and foundations will be set for greater threats to come.

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