On campus in Nashville - For a guy that resembles his roots as a former offensive lineman, Robbie Caldwell was quick afoot Friday night as he directed his first practice as Vanderbilt's new head coach.
Caldwell, named to replace Bobby Johnson on July 14, looked comfortable guiding the Commodores through a two-hour, 15-minute session at the John Rich Practice Facility. The former offensive line mentor spent as much time watching the Vanderbilt defense as he did urging the Commdore offensive attack.
Afterward, Caldwell praised the overall effort and enthusiasm of his 97-member Commodore roster.
"I thought it was great, everybody was excited," Caldwell said. "All the young men were very upbeat and I thought we did some good things out there."
With Caldwell looking on, the Commodores spent extended periods on special teams, offensive and defensive installation, individual instruction, and nearly 45 minutes of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The new coach added some new wrinkles, such as changing the way his squad lined up for the initial stretch, and finished the practice with both units doing extra conditioning drills.
Interceptions, then Completions Four different defenders - cornerbacks Casey Hayward, Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster, and linebacker Archibald Barnes - produced picks early in the session. As the practice came to a close, the offense was more than holding its own, with junior quarterback Larry Smith hitting six straight attempts.
Notable Visitors Veteran NFL All-Pro center Kevin Mawae stayed for the entire practice. Wearing a Vanderbilt t-shirt, Mawae followed the Commodore offensive line and new mentor Herb Hand throughout the session.
Two of Vanderbilt's top basketball players, sophomore John Jenkins and junior Steve Tchiengang, watched nearly 30 minutes. Jenkins was monitoring the progress of his freshman roommate, tailback Wesley Tate.
Changing Positions With guard Chris Aaron not expected to return from injury and Justin Cabbagestalk slowed by a bad knee, the coaches moved true freshman James Kittredge to the offensive line. He was one of several impressive freshmen during the practice.
Newest Commodore The newest member of Vanderbilt's football family arrived late Wednesday. Running backs coach Des Kitchings and his wife, Heather, welcomed a baby boy, Austen Desmond Kitchings. There's got to be a football future in Austen, all 9 lbs., 5 ounces of the newborn. Congratulations to the Kitchings family.