NASHVILLE - The Commodores took full advantage of an unexpected break in the stifling heat Saturday, enthusiastically working for more than two hours in their third preseason practice.
Head Coach James Franklin was especially pleased afterward, telling media outlets that the Commodores worked with excellent intensity Saturday.
"I thought it was much better," Franklin said. "They got a little bit of a reprieve from the weather. I think our energy and how we practiced was affected (by the milder conditions), but we still got a lot of really good work done."
The Commodores will not practice Sunday. Instead, the coaches and players will host their annual Dore Jam event Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at the John Rich Practice Facility, located behind McGugin Center. The always popular fan day activity is free to the public.
On Saturday, Franklin wanted his Commodores to substantially pick up the practice tempo. They responded as he wished. The early segments were energetic. As practice continued, the entire team ran with purpose from station to station, then went extremely hard during each successive drill.
The squad also moved closer to full gear Saturday, donning shoulder pads for the first time. They will continue in shoulder pads on Monday, then workout in full gear on Tuesday.
The addition of shoulder pads ushered in more contact. Several team periods were designated as "thud" sessions, which allowed contact but prohibited tackling to the ground.
Plenty of Defensive Big Plays
Cornerbacks Eddie Foster and Andre Hal contributed athletic interceptions during 11-on-11 segments. Hal's play was particular impressive - after wrestling a pass attempt away from a receiver, Hal turned around and raced into the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
A play by safety Kenny Ladler might have one-upped Hal's effort. Racing toward the sideline to defend a deep pass, Ladler dove to tip the football, then remarkably corralled the ball for a spectacular interception.
Despite the return of All-SEC recipient Zac Stacy and Warren Norman and arrival of talented freshman Brian Kimbrow, sophomore Jerron Seymour has made sure coaches don't forget about him. Seymour provided one of the highlight plays in the 11-on-11 drill, juking three different defenders on a delayed handoff.
"The kid that is showing up again is Jerron Seymour," Franklin said. "I'm starting to see the guy we saw early in camp last year."
Kimbrow also dazzled on one carry in 11-on-11 work. Taking a pitch off left tackle, Kimbrow broke through a tackle, then turned on his explosive speed to run away from a host of defenders.
Several Young Defensive Linemen Impressing Coaches
Several talented defensive linemen have impressed early in camp.
While underclass tackles Jared Morse, Barron Dixon and Vince Taylor have made multiple plays, it's been the play of several young ends that's caught the coach's attention through three practices.
"Those guys have been impressive. Caleb (Azubike) is doing some really nice things. I'm very pleased with Jimmy Stewart, too. He's really changed his body and worked hard and it's showing on the field now."
Young Offensive Line Shows Position Coach Plenty of Promise
For the first time since joining the Vanderbilt staff three years ago, Herb Hand has enough offensive linemen to go three units deep. And he's having plenty of fun working to create the depth chart.
For much of the practice Saturday, Hand mixed and matched 11 upperclassmen in the three line positions. But late in the practice, during an O-Line vs. D-Line drill, he gave the limelight to five promising freshmen that most observers think is the most impressive offensive line class ever signed by the Commodores.