Forty letter winners, including 14 starters from a year ago, are expected Tuesday when Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson opens his fifth Spring Practice with the Commodores.
Johnson expects an enthusiastic squad of Commodores eager to prove their abilities during the team's 15 practices scheduled through mid-April.
"We're excited about getting back on the field," Johnson said. "Our guys did a great job with their offseason conditioning program and should be prepared to get to work. We have a lot to get accomplished this spring if we're going to continue to get better as a team."
Johnson and his staff will look to fill four starting roles on offense and five openings on defense. Among the departed Commodores are all-time leading passer and 2005 Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year Jay Cutler, two-time All-SEC linebacker Moses Osemwegie, center Trey Holloway, defensive end Herdley Harrison, safety Kelechi Ohanaja and cornerback Andrew Pace.
Several standouts return from a 2005 squad that went 5-6 overall, culminated by a season-ending road victory at Tennessee. The team also finished with the most SEC victories by a Vanderbilt squad since 1991. Headlining the returnees is record-breaking All-SEC wide receiver Earl Bennett, All-SEC offensive tackle Brian Stamper, 2005 All-SEC freshman safety Reshard Langford and linebacker Jonathan Goff.
The coaches will look to a number of talented, yet untested, prospects to build depth for the 2006 season. Of the 65 players expected to participate Tuesday, 25 are redshirt freshmen who are being counted on to contend for key roles.
Barring inclement weather, Johnson will guide five practices this week, working his squad each day through Sunday except Friday. The sessions are closed to the public. The Commodores' featured spring session, the Black & Gold Scrimmage, is open to the public and scheduled for Saturday, April 1. The scrimmage will be held in Vanderbilt Stadium, starting at 10:00 a.m.