Quarterback Competition Continuesby Chad Bishop
Vanderbilt coordinator Fitch keeps teaching during COVID-19 climate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Part of Vanderbilt football’s 2020 spring practice was to include the start of a quarterback battle that would carry over into the fall leading up to the team’s opener Sept. 5 against Mercer.
That battle hasn’t necessarily come to a complete halt, it just wages on in a different manner.
“Everybody has a different motivation,” Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said about that position competition. “Everyone has a different clock that ticks them inside.”
The Commodores started spring practice Feb. 25 looking to see how the team’s quarterbacks could perform. But after the March 10 workout, on-campus activities were suspended due to the global health threat of COVID-19.
And soon after that all spring athletic events were canceled, Vanderbilt University moved to online learning and student-athletes dispersed to their respective homes throughout the country.
Jeremy Moussa is one of two new quarterbacks on Vandy’s spring roster, and even though he was recovering from an offseason injury, the junior was participating as much as he could with his new teammates and coaches – that is until things changed.
“We had a team meeting and they told us spring ball was going to get postponed so the first thing in my mind was that it’s going to be good for me because it gives me more time to rehab and get back to full speed so I can maximize all the spring practices that we we’re going to have,” Moussa said. “Then shortly thereafter, the school sent out an email and said we’re going online for the rest of the semester … It was kind of a shock, but I think everyone is making the best out of the situation right now.”
Moussa, freshman Ken Seals and junior Jack Bowen were all anticipating being able to showcase their abilities during the Black and Gold Spring Game on April 3. Instead, that trio is joining team meetings and handling their academics through online mediums – all while trying to learn a new offense.
Fitch, in his first year with the program, explained Vanderbilt can provide information about that new offense to 2020 signees Danny Clark and Mike Wright while he and his staff can teach Seals and Moussa more directly.
“You try to get as much information that you can get to them as you can,” he said. “The good thing about all four of them is they really like football and they all seem to be very bright. They like to study. They like to talk about it. And especially in this environment we’re working in, that’s important.
“Sometimes guys are a little bit more, ‘Hey, I like to learn on the field and I’ll pick it up as I see it,’ but where we’re at right now, you better like to study a book or video.”
Moussa came to Vanderbilt after leading San Bernardino Valley College to a 9-2 record in 2019 while passing for 353 yards per game and earning co-offensive player of the year honors in the All-American Mountain Conference. Seals began his college career early after graduating from Weatherford High School in Texas where he threw for more than 5,700 yards in his final two prep seasons.
And that duo was still getting acclimated to life on West End when life took an unexpected turn.
“I loved it,” Moussa said about his first couple months on campus with the Commodores. “Even though I wasn’t able to do quite everything (due to injury), all the things I got to do with Coach Fitch, I’ve learned a lot from him so far already. I love the way he coaches – he’s not going to beat around the bush, he’s just going to tell you straight how he wants it and that’s what I like.
“I love (Vanderbilt head) Coach (Derek) Mason as well. He’s a fiery guy, he’s going to put you in check when he needs to and then he’s going to praise you when you do the right thing.”
Fitch joked he’s learning more and more about technology than he ever has in his career in order to stay connected to his quarterbacks and offensive players. He’s able to use video teleconferencing to go over spring film with the quarterbacks who are currently enrolled while sending playbook details, offensive system notes and general messages to Wright and Clark who are expected to enroll later this year.
The assistant coach also noticed how engaged all the members of the current team are when they meet together via video chats and how they are champing at the bit to get back to work on the field with their teammates.
Fitch also projected this current climate could have a silver lining of sorts in helping student-athletes value the opportunity sports has given them in life.
“We do so much for our athletes at this level, but maybe this will make them appreciate it more when it all wraps up. It makes them be a little bit more resourceful and find a way to get things done on their own,” Fitch said. “You’re always trying to find a positive out of a negative and hopefully this is something that will give all of us a feeling of how much we have a great thing here and to appreciate it when we get back to it.”