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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason is looking for another quarterback once again, and he's thrown open the competition even more in his search for someone who can help the Commodores score points.
The Commodores are 0-2, have yet to score an offensive touchdown and have been outscored 78-10. They needed nearly three quarters to cross midfield in last week's loss to Mississippi. Stephen Rivers got a chance to play a whole game against Ole Miss after Mason rotated three quarterbacks in an opening loss to Temple.
Now Vanderbilt has Johnny McCrary listed first followed by Patton Robinette, Rivers and freshman Wade Freebeck as the option at quarterback.
Mason said Tuesday if the Commodores are going to go through growing pains, at least they're going to grow together. That's why they're looking at all the quarterbacks available.
"We should have done a better job of using those guys' skill sets, getting the ball in playmakers' hands, and we didn't do a good enough job," Mason said. "Schematically, we made some changes to help with that. But now ... it's open to the guy that has the best arm, who's the most talented guy who can get us on track."
The Commodores started fall practice with six quarterbacks before whittling that down to Rivers, Robinette and McCrary. Robinette was benched after he tossed only six passes and was sacked three times against Temple. McCrary threw only three passes and was picked off twice.
Rivers, a transfer from LSU, got his first career start against Ole Miss but was 6 of 25 for 60 yards with a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Mason already has played 28 freshmen counting redshirts compared to only 16 playing all last season when Vanderbilt went 9-4 and won a second straight bowl game. But the offense ranks 122 out of 124 FBS teams averaging 222.5 yards and only five points a game.
McCrary of Decatur, Georgia, may get the chance to start Saturday against Massachusetts (0-2). He traveled with the team last year and wound up with a redshirt season. Mason said they need a quarterback who can extend plays by moving around a bit and get the ball downfield accurately. That means also looking at Freebeck from Davie, Florida.
"We need a jumpstart so we can get this thing started," Mason said.
Whoever gets the next chance at quarterback has an equally inexperienced group of receivers to work with. Sophomore Jordan Cunningham was the top returning receiver with a total of 15 catches, and he now is tied with Latevius Rayford with four receptions each. The receivers have combined for 13 catches for 174 yards.
The poor play has brought plenty of criticism of Mason as a first-year head coach along with his assistants. One fan was spotted by a reporter throwing his Vandy hat and T-shirt onto the field during the Ole Miss loss, while not one, but two different websites have been started wanting Mason fired.
Mason said he's learned in his career to tune out any criticism and focus on the task at hand.
Center Joe Townsend, one of the team captains, said the schemes are new but the coaches aren't the problem.
"Blame us," Townsend said. "Blame the players. The coaches are the ones that put us in the best possible position to win games. It doesn't matter if you're running a wing-T offense ... We have to execute more consistently. Coaches can only do so much."
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
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