By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt held its Spring Showcase on a windy Saturday in front of gathered fans at Vanderbilt Stadium. The event featured both full and limited-contact drills.
“Today was solid,” Commodores head coach Derek Mason said. “I thought we were a little soft, but we’ve come out and really gotten after each other. At the end of the day, I think we did a solid job, once we got into it, of trying to play ball. Today was good work.”
What did we learn on Saturday? Here are a few notes and nuggets from the Commodores’ featured spring event:
• With no Ralph Webb suited up, the running backs still looked like the deepest position group on the field. Khari Blasingame broke off a 53-yard touchdown run early in the scrimmage, and redshirt freshman Jamauri Wakefield showed flashes of potential on a handful of runs. Wakefield finished with 50 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. “You saw a young Jamauri Wakefield – I’ve been talking about this guy for a long time, but I think people today got to see what this young man is going to be,” Mason said.
• Mason said the offensive line, which lost starters Barrett Gouger and Will Holden, won the day on running downs. He mentioned redshirt freshmen Sean Auwae-McMoore and Devin Cochran as improved players. But Mason still singled out senior defensive lineman Nifae Lealao as a disruptive defender on Saturday. That’s good news for a group that loses Adam Butler, who led the ‘Dores in sacks last season. “When Nifae wants to be in the backfield, he’ll get in the backfield,” Mason said. “I don’t care who’s blocking him.”
• Backup quarterback Deuce Wallace showed some wheels in evading defenders, scampering in for a 9-yard touchdown on one possession.
• Kyle Shurmur showed good decision-making on most passing downs, hitting senior receivers Trent Sherfield and C.J. Duncan for occasional chunk yardage. Mason said he likes where Shurmur is after one full season as Vanderbilt’s starter. The junior finished 7-13 for 90 yards and one score. “He’s going to be great moving forward, and [offensive coordinator] Andy [Ludwig] knows just what to do to make him comfortable,” Mason said.
• In one situational play, Wakefield was dropped in the end zone by second-year defensive lineman Drew Birchmeier, which resulted in a safety that was celebrated by Vanderbilt’s defense.
• Commodore receivers dropped a few too many open passes in space. Part of that was due to unusually windy conditions at Vanderbilt Stadium. In other moments, solid defense from the likes of corners Donovan Sheffield and Joejuan Williams put pressure on the ‘Dores’ pass-catchers.
• Vanderbilt’s marketing team treated attendees to a cornucopia of music choices during the Showcase. The tunes included selections from AC/DC, Miley Cyrus and even some classic Creed.
Vanderbilt wraps spring practice with three more workouts next week on West End.