By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE – Derek Mason didn’t go easy on his defense during Saturday’s Spring Showcase.
“I put the defense in compromising situations,” the Commodores’ head coach said. “I wanted them to be frustrated by no-sack calls and penalties that weren’t being called.”
During a scrimmage doused by rain showers at Vanderbilt Stadium, Mason and his staff concocted a unique scoring system that rewarded points for defensive stops and turnovers, among other categories. But on several occasions in the Commodores’ signature practice of spring, Mason opted to let would-be sacks and penalties go uncalled, forcing his defense to respond to extended plays.
That bit of gamesmanship didn’t go unnoticed by the Dores.
“We definitely noticed it,” linebacker Josh Smith said with a smile.
Still, Vanderbilt’s defense braved the elements brought on by both Mason and Mother Nature, getting the most out of Saturday’s Spring Showcase. The Commodores return just four starters on defense as they work to bounce back from a down year on that side of the ball in 2017. But several returnees showed out on Saturday.
Sophomore safety Tae Daley garnered a spotlight with an interception of quarterback Deuce Wallace and a sack earlier in the day. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jonah Buchanan knocked down two pass attempts at the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, cornerback Randall Haynie broke up a pair of passes.
Mason said he hopes his defense takes momentum into next week’s final stretch of spring ball.
“I want these guys to make sure they continue to add to your resumé,” Mason said. “Tape is your resumé… We can’t afford to minimize our reps. We’ve got to maximize them, and I think these guys understand that.”
Other notes from Vanderbilt’s Spring Showcase:
• Despite losing its all-time leading rusher in Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt’s running back corps looked like one of the deepest groups on the team. The Dores split carries between fifth-year senior Khari Blasingame, redshirt junior Josh Crawford, Illinois transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughn and sophomore Jamauri Wakefield. Vaughn, in particular, showed both power and versatility, catching several passes out of the backfield and starting with the first-team offense.
• Following Daley’s big day on defense, Mason said the sophomore’s work ethic mirrors that of departing senior receiver Trent Sherfield. “Just by him saying that, that means a lot,” Daley said. “I know Trent personally and I know he’s a hard worker. But I also know that I have still got a long way to go.”
• Kalija Lipscomb looked the part of a deep-ball threat he was in 2017, hauling in long balls from both Shurmur and Wallace and catching touchdown passes from both quarterbacks. After Vanderbilt lost three senior receivers this spring, Lipscomb stands as the Dores’ returning leader in receiving yards (610) and receiving touchdowns (eight). But the junior said the likes of Donaven Tennyson and freshmen Chris Pierce and James Bostic add juice to the receiving corps. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that can play,” Lipscomb said.
• Wallace showed flashes in reps with Vanderbilt’s second-team offense. On one series, the redshirt sophomore hit Kalija Lipscomb for a 35-yard pass and capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown toss to Ohio State transfer Alex Stump.
Though senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur is cemented as Vanderbilt’s starter, Shurmur said he enjoyed watching Wallace make plays. “We’ve competed and pushed each other,” Shurmur said. “We want what’s best for each other and we want to make our quarterback group the best as possible.”
• A light rain fell for the entirety of the scrimmage portion of the Showcase, which was broadcast live on SEC Network. “You always think that rain is a quarterback’s nightmare, but at the end of the day you can’t control it,” Shurmur said. “Adapt and move forward.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.