On Campus in Nashville - The Commodores capped their first week of Spring Practice Sunday with an enthusiastic and fast-paced scrimmage held in Vanderbilt Stadium.
After putting the Commodores through the 60-play, 10-drive session, Head Coach Bobby Johnson left the stadium feeling good about the team's energy level and overall effort.
"Its our first full go practice of the spring, but I thought we were fairly physical. I saw some hitting going on and I thought we practiced with energy," Johnson said. "We'll go back and look at the film to see what we did right and what we have to work on. Overall, we improved as a team today."
While Johnson was positive about his team's initial scrimmage, he didn't feel the same about the status of receiver Justin Wheeler. Johnson said the senior wideout, who started 10 games in 2008, is out indefinitely after suffering knee ligament injuries during a non-contact passing drill on Saturday.
Quarterbacks Larry Smith and Jared Funk directed scoring drives during the scrimmage. The offense notched three touchdowns, with Smith connecting with Terence Jeffers from 38 yards and Funk hitting Turner Wimberly on an eight-yard score. Sophomore tailback Ryan van Rensburg finished off the scrimmage with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
Among the scrimmage highlights:
A pair of senior defensive standouts, end Steven Stone and tackle Greg Billinger, made big plays on the initial possession, with Billinger's quarterback sack on third down stopping the drive.
Junior tailback Kennard Reeves rushed for 28 yards after breaking an open-field tackle, then took a Funk pass 12 yards for another first down before a deep possession stalled inside the red zone.
After Smith hit sophomore Udom Umoh for 17 yards, sophomore defensive end Tim Fugger made a pair of impressive stops and junior linebacker Nate Campbell deflected a Smith pass on third down to halt a drive.
Linebacker Brent Trice made three consecutive impressive plays - including a sack and tackle for loss - to end an offensive threat.
Smith produced the initial offensive points, connecting with Jeffers on a deep route in the end zone after Van Rensburg rushed for an impressive 12-yard first down.
Senior safety Joel Caldwell ended a deep offensive threat by deflecting a deep pass by Funk at the goal line on third down.
The scoring strike between Funk and Wimberly followed a pair of rushing first downs converted by sophomore tailback Gaston Miller.
After Smith found senior receiver Alex Washington on a 19-yard deep out route, the offense scored its final points on the last of four consecutive carries by Van Rensburg.
Former Commodores Watch Session
Two recent Commodore graduates, safety Reshard Langford and wide receiver George Smith, watched the scrimmage. Afterward, they greeted several players and Coach Johnson.
Langford and Smith are among the former Commodores expected to showcase their talents to National Football League scouts at Vanderbilt's Pro Day activity scheduled Friday, March 20. Others include All-America defensive back/return specialist D.J. Moore, placekicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, receiver Sean Walker, and defensive backs Jared Fagan and Josh Allen.
Team Off Monday, Back at Work Tuesday
The Commodores will take off Monday, then return on Tuesday to begin their second week of spring drills.