By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE – In the days before Kyle Shurmur’s father, Pat, was officially named head coach of the NFL’s New York Giants on Jan. 22, the younger Shurmur had trouble deciphering fact from fiction. His father had kept his coaching future close to the vest while serving as offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL playoffs.
But through all the noise, Vanderbilt’s quarterback eventually landed official confirmation from the source himself.
“I heard a lot of speculation from the news,” Kyle Shurmur said. “Then I heard the final [decision] days after the game, the Vikings-Eagles [NFL playoff] game, when he actually got hired, from my dad. But through all that speculation, I didn’t hear from him and he didn’t tell anybody in our family.”
Shurmur might not be well-versed in NFL coaching rumors, but his experience within Vanderbilt’s offense is hardly in doubt. The senior will enter next fall as one of the most seasoned quarterbacks in the SEC with 30 career starts at Vanderbilt. Last season, Shurmur set a new program single-season record with 26 touchdown passes. With 2,963 more yards and 20 touchdown passes this fall, Shurmur would finish as Vanderbilt’s career leader in both categories, surpassing former Commodore great Jay Cutler.
That’s the impact Vanderbilt’s senior quarterback should have in 2018, said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
“He’s grown immensely, like basically a fourth-year starter should,” Ludwig said. “He’ll have the keys to the car. He’s got to run the offense, he’s got to get us in the best protection, the best run plays. We’re going to lean on his intelligence and his experience very much.”
Last season, Shurmur completed 57.9 percent of his throws for 2,823 yards, second-most by a Vanderbilt junior. But he also hurled 10 interceptions – all against SEC opponents – against those 26 scoring passes.
This spring, Shurmur has strived to minimize those mistakes while breaking in a new-look receiving corps. Seniors CJ Duncan, Caleb Scott and Trent Sherfield are gone, leaving rising junior Kalija Lipscomb (610 yards and eight touchdown catches in 2017) as the squad’s leading returnee. Donaven Tennyson, tight end Jared Pinkney, wide receiver Chris Pierce and Ohio State transfer Alex Stump expect to become bigger targets for Shurmur.
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Despite losing its all-time leading rusher in Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt returns its entire offensive line as well as Illinois transfer tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who turned heads as a redshirt in 2017. But Shurmur said he must be the leader of the Dores’ offense.
“I always talk about consistency,” Shurmur said. “I do certain things well and certain things not so well. But overall, it’s being consistent in all aspects of the game and trying to be a leader of this group.”
All in all, Shurmur knows he is the face of Vanderbilt football in 2018. That’s what the Commodores expect, too.
“We’re looking for the guy to play his best ball his senior year,” Ludwig said.
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.