NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason believes it's tough for an opponent to prepare for his team if they think the Commodores will play two quarterbacks with different styles.
It worked out for the Commodores last week, and Mason strongly hinted he might use two QBs against No. 18 Houston on Saturday night.
Johnny McCrary started the first six games for Vanderbilt (3-4), then freshman Kyle Shurmur started last week's 10-3 win over Missouri with McCrary coming off the bench. That was Mason's first Southeastern Conference win in his 12th game.
"We're going to look at what are Johnny's strengths and what are Kyle's strengths, and we're going to play to those," Mason said Tuesday. "Well, really, is there enough time to game plan all of that when you look at it defensively? I mean, it's really tough. Are you game planning spread, or are you game planning West Coast offense?"
Shurmur, the seventh true freshman quarterback to start in Vanderbilt history, was 10 of 20 for 89 yards passing against Missouri. Shurmur's strength is seen as a passer in the West Coast offense, and his father, Pat, was Cleveland's head coach in 2011 and 2012 and currently is the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator.
"As soon as (Kyle) came in, he was calling and texting me and asking me, 'When can we get some work?' " Commodores wide receiver Trent Sherfield said. "And I think that sets him apart. His dad being the OC with the Eagles, I think that has something to do with (his early success) as well. His dad instilled into him that the work has to be behind you."
More importantly, Shurmur didn't throw any interceptions. That's been a problem for McCrary who has thrown 10 — now tied for the most in the Southeastern Conference with Mississippi's Chad Kelly.
McCrary is considered a dual threat, and he completed 7 of 8 passes for 47 yards against Missouri. The sophomore also gave the Commodores a running threat with a 14-yard gain on a keeper that gave Vanderbilt a crucial first down on a drive that led to Tommy Openshaw's 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Shurmur played in nine possessions against Missouri and McCrary was in for five and finished the game.
Center Spencer Pulley said they have a plan, so the Commodores have a plan with the quarterbacks. Shurmur and McCrary do have different styles.
"It's really not too big of an adjustment. I practice with all the quarterbacks every day," Pulley said. "It's nothing new to me."
The Commodores will need more from each quarterback to keep up with Houston (7-0) from the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars are averaging 47.6 points, while Vanderbilt currently is scoring 18 points a game. Mason said practice will decide who starts Saturday night.
"We'll continue to look at the best option . and who's had the best week of practice and managed the game will be out their first," Mason said. "To be honest, I think Johnny's helped Kyle and Kyle's helped Johnny. These two guys have developed probably an unlikely friendship because it's very competitive at the quarterback position."