Back Shurmur Finding Consistency

Back To SEC

Shurmur Finding Consistency

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

When Kyle Shurmur is on, he is on -- but, when he didn’t have it last year, he didn’t have much at all.

When Kyle Shurmur is on, he is on -- but, when he didn’t have it last year, he didn’t have much at all. And when Shurmur doesn’t have much, Vanderbilt doesn’t either.

Five times, in 2017, the Commodores’ signal caller posted a passer rating over 150. Five times he went under 120. There wasn’t much in between. Suffice it to say, consistency was an issue.

Even so, the blame can not entirely be pinned on him. People talk about quarterbacks improving those around them, but it often goes unsaid the fact that they, too, are a product of their surroundings.

“Kyle has had to deal with a myriad of things: changes every year, the departure of three offensive linemen a year ago was big, especially in this conference,” explained Head Coach Derek Mason. “Playing Alabama showed us that we didn’t have enough depth, and definitely not enough balance, which put more on Shurmur. He’s had to do more, not with less, but probably with more against him.”

The head coach does believe that there is reason for optimism and increased consistency, though.

Mason continued, “For him to be able to stand tall, be big, start to rely on his sense and his ability to throw the football, I think we’re more talented now than we’ve ever been. I think the line is better. I think our run game is going to be better. I believe our receiving corps, with Kalija Lipscomb, has big play ability. So, this dude is primed to have success. Now what we have to do is keep him upright and let him continue to grow in the game.”

Consistency is a bit of an abstract concept, at least as it pertains to the idea of improving upon it. It’s not like trying to get stronger or faster.

“We talk about winning days, especially in the offseason,” Shurmur shared. “Putting good work in on top of good work to sort of make success a habitual thing as opposed to a here and there thing. We talk about winning every rep and taking things one step at a time. We talk about being 1-0 every week, and that just comes from taking things one step at a time and putting your full focus on the here and now. I think just trying to create habitual success and winning days.”

That mantra, with some help from his teammates, is a recipe for success, and, as Mason mentioned, this could be one of the deepest, most talented Vanderbilt offenses in recent memory.

That will start up front with a group that, a year ago, was easily the best pass blocking unit of Mason’s tenure.

“I would say the key to our success was just making sure we understood everything about the defensive line. And just looking at the full picture of the defense, just seeing how guys are moving around. And thinking what we should expect and what we should expect. We are returning all five of the offensive line, so my expectations are high. We just have to take it one day at a time, one week at a time, and just go from there. There are playmakers all around the board, so we got to do our job protecting the holes and letting them do their job,” said senior offensive lineman Justin Skule.

As far as the playmakers that Skule mentioned, Shurmur, himself, is confident in the young collection of athletes.

“One of my focuses this year was building chemistry with some of the younger receivers,” he stated, “because we had a few guys graduate. So, trying to be in the film room, trying to throw a little bit extra after practice and trying to build chemistry with some of the newer guys while also building chemistry with the older guys that have had experience here.”

Mason understands that his team’s fortunes, may not live and die, but heavily rely on the play of their field general. As such, he has made a special effort to dedicate more time to that very thing.

“I’ve spent more time with Kyle in the last four-and-a-half months than I ever did in his first three years,” he told the media in Atlanta, “and it’s been about helping him understand how to undress defenses, how to see the game even faster, how to get it out of his hands faster. Being around Brett Favre, when I was in Minnesota, and seeing what he went through -- the full field reads, how he saw defenses, we’ve been able to cover a lot of ground.”

“Coach Mason has been awesome. I have been very fortunate to have had one head coach the whole time I’ve been at Vanderbilt. With Coach Tarver coming in as a defensive coordinator, Coach Mason has been able to spend a little more time with the offense,” Shurmur confirmed, “so we have watched some film together, and I have gotten to see the perspective of the defensive mind and analyzing how defenses think, as opposed to just an offensive perspective. It has been great.”

Mason may be right that the blame for perceived inconsistencies from Shurmur were rooted in inconsistencies elsewhere. In any case, he clearly has the full support of the team and coaching staff.

Safety Ladarius Wiley glowed, “I think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. I face him every day in practice, and he’s made us better as a defense. Playing against some of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, I’m able to compare them to him. I think he’s one of the best.”

Skule expanded, saying, “Kyle has been a great leader for our offense. He doesn’t get too high, and he doesn’t get too low, plays with a lot of emotion. But it is a very calming presences for our offense, which helps. He always wants to get the best out of us.”

And Mason, perhaps more excited than even his players, believes, “Kyle Shurmur is one of the most improved quarterbacks and one of the most dynamic passers in this conference that people are not talking about. That's okay. I don't need people to talk about Kyle Shurmur. I know and I understand his pedigree, and I have seen his development of when he was a freshman and where he is now. I've seen him with weapons, without weapons, with an offensive line, and without an offensive line. His growth and maturity is really beyond his years. He believes in this team. This team believes in him. And in this conference, it all starts with the quarterback position. If the quarterback can play well, you got a chance for success.”

“I’m excited for this dude,” he concluded. “This dude is going to play his best ball in 2018. Let’s sit back, relax, watch the dude play, and enjoy the ride.”

If the best version of Kyle Shurmur shows up on a week-to-week basis, quite a ride that will be.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP