Nashville, Tenn. - Three hours after opening his sixth Vanderbilt football preseason camp, Head Coach Bobby Johnson was the last to leave the John Rich Practice Facility, pleased with the excitement and enthusiasm shown by his Commodore prospects.
In the midst of a regional heat wave, Johnson put the squad through a structured two-hour, 30-minute practice that emphasized all phases of the game,. The team, dressed in limited gear, concentrated on individual instruction for much of the first hour, then worked to develop offensive and defensive schemes before concluding with a 20-minute 11-on-11, non-contact segment.
Johnson opened the initial practice to Commodore followers. A couple hundred fans, including Vanderbilt Interim Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, watched the proceedings.
Afterward, Johnson said he was pleased with the desire and focus his squad showed during the practice.
"Our staff knew they were ready to get started because of the work and effort they put in this summer. Our guys looked like they enjoyed being out there and wanted to get better," Johnson said.
"It's what you expect from the first practice. I thought our guys were eager, displayed lots of enthusiasm, and had a very positive attitude. We also had good leadership from the veterans, helping and encouraging the new players," he added.
In 7-on-7 drills, cornerback Myron Lewis deflected two passes and forced a fumble that fellow cornerback D.J. Moore returned for a score. Later, safety Reshard Langford recorded an interception and cornerback Josh Allen had a nice play breaking up a quick slant intended for Bennett.
Johnson scheduled an early evening start for the session, effectively missing the day's worst conditions. One hour before practice, temperatures in Nashville reached 99 degrees. "I didn't think it was that bad and had that much of an effect. There was a little breeze that helped quite a bit," the head coach said. He also praised the efforts of Tom Bossung's athletic training staff, who stayed busy keeping Commodore players adequately hydrated.
The team will return to the Rich Facility for the second practice Tuesday evening, and are expected to continue daily sessions in the evening through the week. The squad will not move into full pads until Friday.
More than 100 Commodores Report to Camp
Johnson greeted 103 football prospects, including 26 newcomers, to the practice.
One newcomer, former Clemson wide receiver Andrew Diomande, scored on a deep pass over the middle. Diomande, a fourth-year player, will not play this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Ten new invited walk-ons also participated: receiver Chris Crooks of Cummings, Ga.; linebacker Davis Flowers of Dothan, Ala., safety Will Parker Roe of Humboldt, Tenn., safety Duane Vaughn of Goodlettsville, Tenn., defensive lineman Bo Cramer of Charlotte, N.C., linebacker Elvio Tropeano of Pomfret, Conn., offensive lineman Chris Aaron, a sophomore transfer from Lehigh University originally from Palos Verdes, Calif., defensive lineman James Elledge of Birmingham, Ala.; and offensive lineman Garrett Snoeyenbos of Brentwood, Tenn.
Interim chancellor Nicholas Zeppos enjoyed more than an hour of the opening day festivities. He talked at length with Coach Johnson, said hello to several student-athletes, and introduced himself to numerous Commodore followers and local media representatives.
Wamon Buggs, the Commodores' leading receiver in the early 1980s, watched the close of practice with Carolyn Buggs, mother of his cousin, starting senior outside linebacker Marcus Buggs. Buggs, a teacher in Nashville, also enjoyed seeing freshman defensive back Jamie Graham in a Vanderbilt uniform. Buggs worked with Graham two years ago as a coach at Whites Creek High School in Nashville.
Sports staffers from Nashville's four television stations - WKRN-2, WSMV-4, WTVF-5 and FOX 17 - covered the opening session, as did beat writers from the Tennessean, Nashville City Paper, and two online sites, vandysports and vandymania.
Dore Jam Offers Family Fun on Aug. 12
The team's official Fan Day activity, Dore Jam, is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 12, at the Rich Complex. The free, two-hour activity will feature representatives of several other Commodore athletic programs besides the football squad. Activities include a variety of kids attractions, prize and poster giveaways, and autographs from your favorite Commodore players and coaches.