March 24, 2007
On Campus in Nashville - After spending 90 minutes watching his least experienced players perform at a scrimmage Saturday, Head Coach Bobby Johnson left Vanderbilt Stadium believing plenty of them will help his squad this season.
In the Commodores' second full-scale scrimmage of the spring in Vanderbilt Stadium, Johnson put his squad through a 65-play, 15-possession affair Saturday afternoon that featured four offensive touchdowns and a pair of forced turnovers.
The staff used the scrimmage to evaluate many players who had limited roles last year or first-year players who spent the 2006 season as redshirts. "We're in the process of putting the team together, and need more guys to make a case for being in the lineup. I think some guys really helped their case today," Johnson said.
"We achieved our goal of getting good quality repetitions for our younger players, and I thought a lot of those guys stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity. I thought our veterans were making some uncharacteristic mistakes, so that will also give us plenty to work on," Johnson said.
Many of Vanderbilt's returning starters saw action in five series or less in the scrimmage. The rest of the time, less recognized players like sophomore tight end Jake Bradford, sophomore receiver Larry Simmons, redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Funk and tailback Kennard Reeves, sophomore defensive end Quavian Lewis, junior defensive tackle Brandon Holmes, sophomore safeties Joel Caldwell and Brent Trice, and freshmen cornerbacks Alan Strong and Marquez Hall were center stage showcasing their talents.
With Saturday's scrimmage in the books, the Commodores are more than halfway through Spring Practice. The squad has seven more practice opportunities and turns its attention to the featured activity of spring, the Black & Gold Scrimmage, scheduled next Saturday, March 31, in the stadium.
The Commodore defense opened as it planned to dominate the scrimmage. A quarterback sack by senior tackle Gabe Hall and acrobatic interception by sophomore cornerback D.J. Moore stopped the opening possessions.
Sophomore Mackenzi Adams directed the first score on the third possession, leading the offense 50 yards on eight plays. The drive included an Adams-to-Simmons first down connection and a 19-yard carry by Reeves, who concluded the day with 53 yards on six attempts. It was capped by a 4-yard scoring pass from Richard Kovalcheck to Simmons.
After defensive standouts Curtis Gatewood and linebackers Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs contributed to stop a drive, Kovalcheck hit Bradford for 26 yards, and freshman Steven Goulet for 10 yards only to have Caldwell force a field goal with two solid open-field tackles.
Adams and Funk directed 30-yard touchdowns on the next two drives: Adams hitting Alex Washington for a 9-yard score and Funk keeping the ball for a 21-yard touchdown scamper.
After Funk's score, the defense stiffened. Two pass deflections by Strong, tackles for loss by Holmes and Quavian Lewis, sacks by Hall and sophomore Broderick Stewart, a jolting tackle by Brandon Bryant and a second interception by Moore were key plays in five consecutive possessions that ended without points.
Sophomore tailback Jared Hawkins' individual highlight gave the offense its final points. Catching an Adam's pass over the middle, Hawkins made one defender miss, then artifully dodged a trio of tacklers to score from 19 yards.
On the final possession, Funk pushed the offense inside the 5-yard line, but was denied when a fourth down pass to Chris Reinert was deflected by Marquez Hall.