March 16, 2013
Russell's Photos | Spring Guide
On Campus in Nashville - The Commodores continued to focus on conditioning, fundamentals and scheme installation in a two-hour, 30-minute session on campus Saturday morning.
The next step this spring for the Commodores comes Tuesday when the squad returns to the John Rich Practice Facility for their initial contact drills. It will be the first time this spring players will wear full gear.
A day after putting in what Head Coach James Franklin termed "the best first day of Spring Practice that I have ever been around," the Commodores pushed through a series of conditioning periods, special teams and individual drills, position instruction, and lengthy segments aimed at expanding the offensive and defensive playbooks.
The quick, upbeat pace of Vanderbilt's opening practice continued Saturday, with the head coach pushing for across-the-board improvement. During 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 segments, Franklin also stressed a favorite theme - making sure both units are giving full effort by playing until the whistle is blown. Frequently, Franklin's whistle doesn't come until the ball carrier is well down the field.
Coach on QB Corps: Wants Youngsters to Step Forward
Franklin wants the three young Commodore quarterbacks - redshirt sophomore Josh Grady, redshirt sophomore Patton Robinette and true freshman Johnny McCrary - to provide greater competition to redshirt senior Austyn Carta-Samuels.
Addressing the position with media members afterward, Franklin said Carta-Samuels, a transfer from Wyoming where he was the 2010 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, has been the team's most impressive signal caller so far. He also believes the three youngsters should challenge Carta-Samuels for the job.
"We've got a long way to go before determining a starter, but there's a pretty good gap between Austyn and the other quarterbacks," Franklin said. "Though Austyn looks where we'd like him to be, I wish there was a No. 2 that was a little bit closer to make it a little bit more competitive," the coach added.
The Commodores' passing attack produced several highlights during non-tackling 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team segments late in the session. Among the top plays were Carta-Samuels connecting on deep routes with senior WRs Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews, and Robinette finding redshirt freshman WR Tip McKenzie on a go-route for a touchdown. Grady also provided a highlight, hitting senior WR Trey Wilkins for a touchdown late in the drills.
Recent Receiver Signee Watches from Sidelines
Carlos Burse, a talented wide receiver from Alpharetta (Ga.) HS and member of the 2013 Commodore signing class, watched intently from the sidelines. The imposing Burse is expected to arrive on campus in early summer.
New Walk-ons Also Getting Repetitions
Several walk-on prospects, including some with the squad for a matter of weeks, are eagerly going through spring drills trying to impress the staff.
Imagine what receiver Alex Grecco from Warvich, R.I, must have thought when Coach Franklin yelled in his direction, "All he does is score touchdowns." Grecco was returning to the offensive huddle after hauling in a deep sideline pass.
Grecco, Erik Allen (So., WR) and Xavier Morse (Jr., PK) are the team's newest walk-on additions, joining the squad during the team's recent off-season conditioning program.
Several other walk-ons, including Casey Hughes (Jr., LB) and Kellen Williams (R-So., LB), contributed on the 2012 squad. Still another walk-on, Alex Hysong (Jr., CB), drew attention after the first practice when Franklin singled out his offseason conditioning effort and opening day performance.
Ten seniors from the 2012 Music City Bowl champion squad, including All-SEC running back Zac Stacy, two-year starting quarterback Jordan Rodgers and two-year starting cornerback Trey Wilson, are expected to participate in the team's Pro Day activity next Friday on campus.
Others participating besides Stacy, Rodgers and Wilson are defensive tackle Rob Lohr, defensive end Johnell Thomas, linebacker Archibald Barnes, offensive lineman Ryan Seymour, tight end Austin Monahan, defensive back Eric Samuels and punter Richard Kent.
The activity gives Vanderbilt's pro prospects a platform to showcase their talents before NFL scouts and talent evaluators. It includes official measurements, agility and bench tests, and position drills.