Football spring drills to open Tuesday
March 9, 2009View Spring Prospectus | Johnson's Upcoming Radio Schedule
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Coming off an impressive Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl victory, the Vanderbilt Commodores will open Spring Practice Tuesday afternoon on campus.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson, entering his eighth year at the helm of Vanderbilt football, is expected to welcome more than 80 prospects, including 46 returning letterwinners, when the squad gathers Tuesday at the team's Rich Practice Facility.
Despite 19 returning starters, Johnson knows his Commodores must get better with each spring session if they are to improve on the 2008 campaign squad that provided Vanderbilt its first bowl appearance in 26 years and first postseason triumph since 1955. The Commodores ended last year 7-6 overall, concluding with a 16-14 victory over ranked Boston College in the Music City Bowl.
"We can get better and we'll need to get better," Johnson said. "We need to use every spring practice working toward that purpose. Everybody understands that we must get better."
The Commodores return nine starters on both offense and defense from a year ago. The Commodores return both interior lines and the linebacker corps intact. The returners include a pair of quarterbacks with starting experience in Mackenzi Adams and Larry Smith, 2008 All-SEC linebacker Patrick Benoist, leading rusher Jared Hawkins, offensive co-captain Bradley Vierling at center, and several defensive standouts, including cornerback Myron Lewis, safety Ryan Hamilton, linebacker Chris Marve, end Steven Stone and tackle Greg Billinger. Punter Brett Upson also is back.
The staff enters Spring Practice looking to replace four key starters from a year ago: All-America cornerback D.J. Moore, four-year starting safety and team captain Reshard Langford, all-time leading kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt and two starting wide receivers, George Smith and Sean Walker.
Four Likely to Miss Spring Drills
Five Commodore returnees, including four who played key roles a year ago, are expected to miss Spring Practice as they point toward a return to full health this summer when preseason camp opens.
Senior tailback Jared Hawkins, the Commodores' top rusher last year with 593 yards, is sit out recovering from off-season foot surgery. Two defensive standouts, senior All-SEC cornerback prospect Myron Lewis and junior linebacker John Stokes, are recovering from recent arthroscopic shoulder procedures. Senior defensive end Broderick Stewart, recovering from lower leg injury, also will be limited this spring. Senior Brandon Bryant, a starter two years ago at linebacker, also will be kept out of action as they continues to recover from lower leg injuries.
Barring inclement weather, the Commodores will practice four times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) through early April. The team's featured spring session, the Black & Gold Scrimmage, is scheduled Saturday, March 28, in Vanderbilt Stadium. The scrimmage is expected to start at 10 a.m.