Johnson shakes up his offensive staff

Nobody needs to tell Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson that his offense has been dreadful for much of the past two seasons.

The Commodores were 110th nationally in total offense last season and failed to score more than 16 points in any of their eight SEC games. Even in 2008 when the Commodores won seven games, including a bowl game, they finished 117th nationally in total offense.

Johnson knew he had to shake things up, and that’s what he did Thursday in promoting quarterbacks coach Jimmy Kiser to offensive coordinator. Kiser will replace Ted Cain and be in charge of all play-calling.

Cain, who came with Johnson from Furman in 2002, will remain on staff as the tight ends coach and will also oversee special teams.

"After much examination of our staff dynamics, I believe these changes will give us the best combination of leadership and responsibilities for our offensive staff," said Johnson, whose Commodores have scored more than 16 points only twice in their past 14 SEC games dating back to the 2008 season.

A coordinator at North Carolina State from 1997-99 and Memphis in 2001, Kiser's promotion comes a year after he took over responsibility for calling Vanderbilt's offensive plays.

"I've been pleased with Jimmy's play calling," Johnson said. "I now want to give him the responsibility to take charge of the process of determining what plays will be called in all situations. I also feel the quarterback needs to be comfortable with and capable of executing the call. In our offense, the quarterbacks coach would know that better than anyone."

Kiser will continue to work with the Vanderbilt quarterbacks. Des Kitchings, entering his third year on the staff, adds the duties of running game coordinator to his role as running backs coach. Receivers coach Charlie Fisher will become passing game coordinator after sharing those duties with Kiser for the last four years.

The reassignments will not affect Robbie Caldwell, the team's assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

In particular, the Commodores have struggled to generate much of a passing game the past couple of seasons. Quarterback Chris Nickson was hurt for much of his senior season in 2008, and Larry Smith went through the growing pains of being a first-year starter in this league last season before tearing his hamstring and missing the final three games. There was also a huge void at receiver.

The Commodores brought in junior college quarterback Jordan Rodgers to compete with Smith for the starting quarterback job this spring. They're also hopeful that incoming freshman receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd can help add a different dimension to the passing game. Both are big targets at 6-4 and close to 200 pounds.

"I'm excited about the opportunity and excited about continuing to work with a group of great coaches," Kiser said. "All of us will be focused on the same goal, to make sure we are doing everything possible to get better as an offense and give our team the very best chance for victory."