On campus in Nashville - The energy continued to build Saturday as Vanderbilt edged one step closer to full pads with another effective practice.
The Commodores hustled through a two-hour, 30-minute practice at the team's John Rich Practice Facility highlighted by a series of outstanding plays from both sides of the ball during a lengthy 11-on-11 team period late in the session.
Head Coach Derek Mason continues to approve of the team's effort and focus after their third preseason practice.
"It was a good day overall in terms of what everybody did," Mason said. "(Wearing shoulder pads) definitely livens up things because these guys know they're one step closer to playing real football. I could see the energy and enthusiasm pick up."
The Commodores moved closer to full gear, donning shoulder pads for the first time. The team will continue in shoulder pads Sunday, then move into full pads on Monday.
The added gear also introduced the Commodore to more contact. Several practice segments, including the 9-on-7 inside running drill and 11-on-11 period, were "thud" sessions, allowing for contact but prohibiting taking teammates to the ground.
For the second straight day, the team passing drills and 11-on-11 workout provide plenty of outstanding individual plays.
Among the defensive highlights were interceptions by cornerbacks Tre Bell and Taurean Ferguson, and linebacker Harding Harper, and impressive inside-run penetration by tackles Adam Butler and Vince Taylor among others.
On offense, wide receivers C.J. Duncan, Trent Sherfield and Kris Kentera, and tight ends Nathan Marcus and Dillon van der Wal contributed impressive first-down catches, while running backs Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers broke off runs deep into the defensive secondary.
Saturday also brought the return of 1-on-1 O-Line vs. D-Line match ups. Several young offensive linemen, including Will Holden, Kevin McCoy, Delando Crooks and Cole Hardin, performed well in the physical confrontations. Defensive linemen Sekou Clark and Torey Agee also able to penetrate into the backfield during the drill.
Punters to the escape
Sophomore punter Colby Cooke became a quick favorite of teammates as the practice ended. Cooke answered a "double or nothing" challenge on potential up-downs by special teams coach Charles Bankins by booming a 50-yard punt, earning a loud ovation from the entire squad.
Both Cook and senior Taylor Hudson posted soaring punts beyond 60 yards during the concluding special teams' drill.