March 14, 2009
On Campus in Nashville - The Commodores worked out in less than ideal weather Friday and Saturday preparing for their first full-contact session on tap Sunday.
After missing Thursday due to a freezing rain-sleet mixture across Middle Tennessee, Head Coach Bobby Johnson didn't let a cold drizzle Friday night and a steady shower Saturday morning slow the Commodores. He put the squad through a pair of 2-hour, 15-minute sessions, aiming to get them ready for their initial spring scrimmage.
Leaving the John Rich Practice Facility Saturday, Johnson said he was pleased with the team's mental approach and enthusiasm, giving the conditions.
"Overall, our attitude and effort as a team has been excellent," Johnson said. "We've taken the right approach to the weather, not thought much about it, and just worked to get better.
"It's spring practice in Nashville, you never know what you're going to get. Once they get moving, the weather isn't too bothersome," Johnson added.
The Commodores practiced Saturday in full gear for the first time this spring. Johnson's staff used the session to broaden the playbook, work on individual and position technique, and complete 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills. The squad finished the session with a brief 11-on-11 session that include contact but no tackling. The latter stages of practice were directed toward the team's first planning scrimmage on Sunday.
"We were getting a lot of positive things accomplished toward the end, and getting prepared for Sunday. I think everybody is looking forward to some real football," Johnson said.
Moving Into New Roles
One year after becoming an offensive playmaker for the Commodores, Jamie Graham (R-So.) is fitting in well at cornerback. The former receiver/tailback is the team's most prominent player looking to play a different position. Another is Ryan Seymour (R-Fr.), who has shown promise at offensive tackle after practicing at defensive tackle as a true freshman.
Graham, who also returned punts and even took a snap at quarterback in 2008, has impressed coaches during the opening practices. On Friday, he made an acrobatic interception on a deep route. On Saturday, he continued to progress, knocking down a pair of pass attempts.
While returning nine starters on defense, the coaches must replace two proven performers in the Commodore secondary: four-year starting safety Reshard Langford and All-America cornerback and versatile playmaker D.J. Moore.
Opportunity Awaits Running Backs
With Jared Hawkins (R-Sr.) out of action recuperating from foot surgery, several tailback candidates enter full contact drills looking to make their case for more significant playing time.
Kennard Reeves (R-Jr.) and Gaston Miller (R-So.) are the only active backs that have carried the ball as a Commodore. Either Reeves and Miller can move up the depth chart with a solid showing.
The coaches are taking a close look at two untested Commodore backs, Jermaine Doster (R-So.) and Ryan van Rensburg (R-So).
An impressive spring is critical for Reeves, Miller, Doster and van Rensburg. The rushing corps will look much different when preseason camp opens, as Hawkins and three true freshmen prospects - Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate - are expected to be in uniform.