April 2, 2011
On Campus in Nashville – After starting with the defense in control, the Commodores’ second spring scrimmage concluded with the offense scoring touchdowns and producing big plays.
With the scrimmage completed, the Commodores are now more than halfway through spring drills on campus. James Franklin’s first spring season as head coach concludes Sunday, April 17, when Vanderbilt hosts the Black and Gold Spring Game in the stadium.
Offensive highlights included a pair of touchdown catches by Jordan Matthews (So., WR), and red-zone touchdown jaunts by Zac Stacy (Jr.) and Wesley Tate (R-So.). The defense also produced two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
After the 70-play scrimmage, Franklin said he saw plenty of continued progress and areas where the Commodores need more improvement.
“Maybe to an untrained eye, you probably think it didn't look very good, but from my prospective I did see some improvement,” Franklin said. “On offense, we only had one center (Logan Stewart) and he had to take every single snap. That affects and compounds things. I also thought our defense flew around and made some plays.
“I wasn’t as happy with our energy, but there always comes a point in spring where you just kind of hit the wall. But you have to sustain it. That's how we're going to change this thing, how we're going to fix this thing," Franklin added.
Matthews provided the biggest offensive highlights. Both of his touchdowns were acrobatic receptions on passes from Larry Smith (R-Sr., QB) with defensive backs in excellent coverage.
In a brief red-zone session to conclude the scrimmage, the offensive line opened wide lanes on four consecutive plays, resulting in a touchdown by Stacy and two scores by Tate.
Defense Stellar Early in Scrimmage
Using several individual plays, the defense dominated early in the scrimmage, earning a turnover and forcing numerous fourth downs.
Two defensive ends, Johnell Thomas (R-So.) and Dexter Daniels (R-Jr.), and Chris Marve (Sr., LB) contributed early quarterback sacks to limit possessions. Two other defenders, Reggie Ford (R-So., DB) and Archibald Barnes (R-Jr., LB), added impressive tackles for loss. Jared Morse (So., DT) stopped another drive with a fumble recovery.
Biggest Defensive Play Brings Teaching Lesson
Franklin turned one big play, an interception and return for a score, into a valuable teaching lesson for his squad.
The apparent 60-yard touchdown, the result of an acrobatic interception by Casey Hayward (Sr., CB) and lateral to Kenny Ladler (So., safety) was nullified by the head coach when Ladler drew an excessive celebration penalty by diving into the end zone with contact. Three plays later, the offense scored on a catch by Jordan Matthews.
Afterward, Franklin praised the play by Hayward and Ladler – until it reached the end zone. “We’re going to make plays on offense, defense and special teams. That play was a perfect example,” he said. “We just had a lack discipline on the back end.”
Titan Offensive Coaches Visit Practice
Two new coaches for the Tennessee Titans, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and wide receiver coach Dave Ragone, watched most of the session. Franklin welcomed both just minutes into the practice.
Former Players on the Sidelines
After the scrimmage, Franklin greeted several former Commodores who watched from the sidelines.
Among the former players greeting the coach were current Tennessee Titans’ defensive lineman Jovan Haye, current Minnesota Vikings’ offensive lineman Thomas Welch, former defensive backs Ainsley Battles and Harold Lercius, defensive linemen Theo Horrocks and Robert Dinwiddie, tight end Brad Allen and offensive lineman Josh Eames.