In an era when college coaches are increasingly deciding to close practices, Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin plans to expand access to Commodore football activities this spring.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Franklin announced he plans to open all of the Commodores' spring practices to fans. The team's first practice is scheduled this Friday, March 16, starting at 4:15 p.m., with sessions to follow on Saturday, March 17 (10:00 a.m.), and Tuesday, March 20 (4:15 p.m.)
"This football program needs every fan we can attract," Franklin said. "I can't think of a better way to build the support and get fans excited than letting them see how hard our players and coaches are competing and preparing for the 2012 season."
Nearly 80 players, including 16 returning starters and 40 letterwinners from the squad that played Cincinnati in the 53rd AutoZone Liberty Bowl, are expected to participate in Franklin's second spring drills as Vanderbilt's head coach.
"Our players, coaches and staff are tremendously excited about making the most of spring practice, and excited about the upcoming season," Franklin said. "Our guys worked extremely hard for Coach (Dwight) Galt during the winter conditioning. I expect the competition level to be extremely high."
The Commodores expect to stage 14 practices leading to the featured Black and Gold Spring Game, scheduled Saturday, April 14, in Vanderbilt Stadium. It will kick at 6 p.m., with pregame autographs and postgame fireworks planned.
Last year, Franklin's enthusiasm attracted the largest crowd to watch a Vanderbilt spring game in decades.
Several Commodores, including junior Chase Garnham, redshirt freshman Josh Grady and redshirt freshman Kris Kentera, will appear at new positions this spring.
Garnham, one of the team's most productive defensive players in 2011 as an outside linebacker, is expected to move inside and compete for the middle linebacker position left open by the graduation of three-time All-SEC pick Chris Marve.
Grady, one of the top athletes on the Commodore roster who practiced at quarterback as a true freshman in 2011, will switch to wide receiver. Kentera, another former quarterback who impressed the staff with his athleticism last year, will move to tight end/H-back
Offensive lineman Mylon Brown (suspension due to violation of team rules) and wide receiver Brady Brown (decided not to return) are not on the spring roster... Rodgers will face competition at quarterback from junior transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, the 2009 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, and Patton Robinette, a 2012 signee and two-time All-State performer from Maryville, Tenn... Two new position coaches will be on the sidelines for the first time this spring, George Barlow (defensive backs/defensive recruiting coordinator) and Josh Gattis (wide receivers/offensive recruiting coordinator).