March 26, 2013
NASHVILLE - Despite the fact that Vanderbilt's Spring Ball felt a whole lot like Winter Ball on Tuesday, the Commodores continued to concentrate on fundamentals, conditioning and playbook expansion during a busy two-hour workout at the John Rich Practice Facility.
Head Coach James Franklin liked what he saw of the Commodores, who worked up a sweat in the brisk weather that included an occasional snow flurry and temperatures near 40 degrees. The team worked to improve in every facet, pushing through a variety of 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as well as expanding offensive and defensive schemes, and focusing on special teams.
"Just another practice in 75-degree weather," Franklin joked afterward. "Actually, I thought we got a lot of work done. I see a team that's making progress in every area. I feel real good about what we did out here today."
Despite limiting full contact, Franklin got plenty of energy from the squad as he pushes toward the team's second scrimmage, slated this Saturday in Vanderbilt Stadium. The scrimmage, scheduled to start about 10:30 a.m, will be the last chance to Commodore fans to see the squad until the Black & Gold Spring Game on Saturday, April 13.
Former Coach Johnson Speaks Briefly to Team
Early in the practice, Coach Franklin gave former head coach Bobby Johnson a chance to talk to the Commodores, several of whom he recruited to campus.
Johnson, now retired and living in Charleston, S.C., told the squad that he takes great pride in the program and its back-to-back bowl achievement from the 2011-12 seasons.
"I take a great deal of pride in you, the successes you have accomplished, and how you represent yourselves with class," Johnson said.
The former coach told the squad he cheers for their success whenever he gets the opportunity. "When I watch you play, I see a team that has a lot of toughness and really competes. That's a great credit to all of you," the former Vanderbilt coach added.
Commodore Legend Will Wolford Also Introduced
Will Wolford, arguably the greatest offensive lineman in modern Vanderbilt history, also attended the practice and was introduced to the squad by offensive line coach Herb Hand.
Wolford, known as "The Tractor" during his Commodore playing days in the mid-1980s, was recently named head coach at his alma mater, prestigious St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Ky. Wolford became an All-Pro offensive lineman during a 13-year NFL career that included tenures with Buffalo, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. He also was the 20th overall pick of the 1986 NFL Draft.
Improved Offensive Line Depth Obvious This Spring
Coach Hand knows what a difference one year can make to a position corps. After having just seven healthy linemen during much of the 2012 Spring Practice, Hand now has 13 prospects, including five that enjoyed multiple starts last year.
Hand also is grooming five talented redshirt freshmen - guards Barrett Gouger, Will Holden and Kevin McCoy, and tackles Blake Fromang and Andrew Jelks - and true freshman Sean Dowling to hopefully provide the best depth of any Vanderbilt unit in recent memory.
The improved depth might allow Franklin to separate the unit at the Black & Gold Spring Game, scheduled for Saturday, April 13. In the 2011 and 2012 Black & Gold Spring Game, Franklin was forced to put the entire corps in white jerseys and rotate them on both Black and Gold offensive units.