After starting the final week of spring drills with another energetic session Tuesday on campus, Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin believes Commodore fans are going to see an improved squad when the team conducts its Black & Gold Spring Game this Saturday.
Franklin said he wants fans to see how much progress his squad has made through three weeks of spring drills. Before the practice, he told Nashville sports station 102.5 The Game that the featured spring attraction "wouldn't be vanilla" for Commodore followers.
"These guys have worked really hard," Franklin said after the practice. "Now, I'm looking to go out on a real positive note. On Saturday, I want to make plays and have fun, and I want the fans to see us take the next step. "
The Black & Gold Spring Game, free to the public, starts at 6 p.m., Saturday in Vanderbilt Stadium. A postgame fireworks celebration also is planned.
Franklin put the 'Dores through a 2-hour, 30-minute session Tuesday, their 12th practice of the spring. Though the staff limited contact, the team still displayed excellent energy as it worked extensively on all three phases of the game.
"The defense started out strong, getting two quick interceptions, but the offense rebounded and practiced extremely well. It was a very competitive practice. I'm pleased with it," the coach said.
Arguably the best - and without question the most optimistic - visual coming out of practice Tuesday was junior running back Warren Norman dressed in a white jersey. The 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year wore the traditional offensive jersey for the first time this spring as he continues to recover from injuries. Norman has not played since getting injured at Arkansas late in the 2010 season.
"Everybody's been telling me about how good Warren is since I got here and he showed some flashes today. He had a beautiful one-handed catch and did some other good things," Franklin said. "Maybe it's just wearing that white jersey."
Despite the upgrade in attire, Franklin said Norman likely would not play Saturday in the Black & Gold Spring Game. "(Warren) is as positive as ever...but I want to have him ready for South Carolina. As much as he's been through, I want to give him time to get healthy and confident."
Tickets Remain for Vandy-Auburn Baseball Game Saturday Afternoon
Any fans wanting to make a full day of Commodore athletics this Saturday can still purchase tickets to the Vanderbilt-Auburn baseball game, which starts at 2 p.m., at Hawkins Field. A typical Commodore baseball game would conclude about the time the Franklin's squad enters Vanderbilt Stadium to begin preparations for the spring game.
More than 700 tickets remain available for the critical baseball game between the Southeastern Conference teams. Tailgating on surface lots across Natchez Trace from the practice facility will be available for families and fans planning to attend both sporting events.
Two Departures Announced
Franklin told media members that a pair of redshirt freshman offensive candidates, offensive lineman Jose Valedon and tight end Darien Bryant, are no longer with the team. Neither has practiced for the last week.