March 12, 2013
NASHVILLE - After putting together back-to-back bowl campaigns for the first time in school history, the Commodores will kickoff Spring Practice drills this Friday on campus.
Eighty-four prospects will practice Friday and Saturday in light gear, then move into full gear early next week as Head Coach James Franklin begins a month of workouts concluding April 13 with the Black and Gold Spring Game in Vanderbilt Stadium.
"I'm really excited about spring ball," Franklin said. "The thing I'm excited about, for the first time everybody in the program understands the expectations, how we do things, how practices are run, how we meet and how we conduct ourselves on and off the field.
"I'm excited about the freshmen that have come in and the freshmen that are coming this summer because for the first time I feel comfortable enough to tell those guys that they can look at the veterans and model their behavior after the veterans."
Franklin is expected to welcome 16 returning starters and 43 letterwinners on Friday from the 2012 squad that capped a 9-4 campaign with a convincing 38-24 win over North Carolina State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
The Commodores will enter their 2013 opener versus Ole Miss on Thursday, Aug. 29 in Vanderbilt Stadium with a seven-game win streak, longest among all Southeastern Conference teams.
Three 2012 All-SEC players -wide receiver Jordan Matthews, cornerback Andre Hal and kicker Carey Spear - are among Franklin's top returnees. Other standouts include offensive tackle Wesley Johnson, defensive ends Walker May and Kyle Woestmann, safeties Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall, receiver Chris Boyd and linebackers Chase Garnham and Karl Butler.
Replacing Quarterback, Tailback Key Offensive Objectives
Senior Wesley Tate, sophomore Brian Kimbrow and redshirt sophomore Jerron Seymour will get close looks this spring to replace Stacy, who broke virtually every Vanderbilt career rushing records after producing back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns in 2011-12. Kimbrow and Tate were the team's top rushers behind Stacy in 2012, while Seymour redshirted last year after being the team's No. 2 rusher in 2011.
Redshirt senior Austyn Carta-Samuels and redshirt freshman Patton Robinette will compete to replace Rodgers, who put together a career year in 2012 - 2,539 passing yards, 60% completion rate, 15 TDs and just 5 interceptions. The coaches will also get to evaluate highly regarded, mid-year enrollee Johnny McCrary.
Position Changes for Six Commodores This Spring
When spring drills start Friday, six players are expected to appear at new positions.
Redshirt sophomore Josh Grady will see action at quarterback, shifting from wide receiver. Redshirt sophomore Derek King will move from cornerback to running back. A third redshirt sophomore, Jacquese Kirk, will switch from receiver to cornerback.
Three redshirt freshmen - Torey Agee, Cory Batey and Adam Butler - also are switching to new roles: Agee from defensive end to defensive tackle, Batey from wide receiver to strong safety, and Butler from offensive line to defensive tackle. Six players will appear at new positions when drills start March 15.
Two Saturday Practices - March 23 and March 30 - Will Be Open to the Public
In addition to the featured Black & Gold Game that caps Vanderbilt's spring drills, Franklin plans to give Commodore fans two early chances to see the progress of his squad. He said Friday that Saturday sessions scheduled for March 23 and March 30 are likely to be open to Vanderbilt followers.
Defensive Lineman Morse to Miss Spring Practice
Jared Morse, one of the team's top defensive tackles as a junior in 2012, will not participate this spring, Franklin announced. He is not with the team this semester due to a violation of university rules.
With the absence of Morse, defensive coaches will closely watch the development of Butler and Agee, who are both new to the interior position this spring.