Aug. 6, 2013
Franklin Interview | Russell's Photos | Dore Jam Sunday
NASHVILLE - The Vanderbilt defense controlled the team's first full-gear practice of preseason camp, held Tuesday on campus.
Starting from the team's signature 'Dore Wars 4-on-4 competition to a quick full-contact goal line scrimmage to cap the workout, the Commodore defense got the best of their offensive counterparts.
The superb defensive performance didn't come as a surprise to Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin.
"It's probably no different than it is every single year. The defense typically is ahead of the offense at this stage," Franklin said. 'I do not want to oversimplify what the defense does, but on offense, all 11 have to be together to be successful.
"No, I'm not disappointed at all. (The offense) just has to step its game up," the head coach said.
The full-contact drills consumed only about 15 minutes of the two-hour workout. The team worked on conditioning, fundamentals, special teams, scheme development and a variety of 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills for most of the session.
The Commodores will return to the John Rich Practice Facility daily for practices Wednesday through Friday, then hold their first two-a-day session on Saturday, before participating in Dore Jam Fan Day activities Sunday afternoon.
Defensive Line Continues to Impress
Franklin again praised the efforts and results of his improving defensive line, a unit that features as many as eight talented underclassmen competing aggressively to earn vacant starting jobs at tackle and end.
On Tuesday, the D-line dominated the line of scrimmage in full-contact drills. In the closing goal line segment, tackles Vince Taylor, Barron Dixon and Adam Butler stuffed repeated rush attempts with physical stops at or behind the line of scrimmage.
"Our defensive line is playing at a very, very high level. At the same time, I'm also pleased with our O-line," Franklin said. "As they say, 'iron sharpens iron.' I like the overall competition level and what it is going to do for our program."
Young Defenders Shine in Competitive 'Dore Wars Drills
Several young defensive players provided stellar hits in the team's 'Dore Wars competition, which pits a rusher running behind three linemen attempting to gain yardage against four defensive players.
With the entire squad encircling the drill, freshman linebackers Oren Burks, Nigel Bowden and Zach Cunningham contributed punishing tackles that stopped ballcarriers Ralph Webb, Jordan Cunningham and C.J. Duncan in their track. Later, freshman defensive backs Taurean Ferguson and Jalen Banks also added impressive plays in the drill.
Added Depth Allowing 'Dores to Practice More Effectively
The team's improved depth is positively impacting the Commodores' ability to get the most out of each practice. In past years, there was an obvious talent drop-off when reserves replaced first team players. Now, competition appears just as keen when second unit contributors and reserves are getting snaps.
"It just helps you practice that much better," Franklin said, adding that the Commodores' current talent level "allows us to practice the full two hours with the type of intensity that we want."
SEC Officials Work Practice, Discuss Impact of New Rules to Team Afterward
A SEC referee crew worked the practice for the first time this preseason, making sure alignments were correct and occasionally throwing flags for infractions. Afterward, the entire team heard from the head referee, who spent several minutes reviewing key rules changes, including the highly debated above-the-shoulder "targeting" tackle that will result in an immediate ejection.
"We'll have officials here as much as we possibly can to clean up all the little things," Franklin said. "We had them go over some of the new rules such as targeting. We want our guys to understand the rules."
Franklin sees the targeting infraction as a probable point of emphasis in the SEC. "You going to see guys that can't follow the rules get ejected. The officials are going to throw the flag, eject them from the game, and send it up to the booth (for review)," Franklin added.
Dore Jam Coming This Sunday
The team's annual Fan Day activity, Dore Jam, is scheduled this Sunday at the John Rich Practice Facility. The free event starts at 3 p.m.
Franklin, his staff and the entire Commodore squad will be available for autographs at Dore Jam. Two new 2013 posters, featuring offensive and defensive seniors, will be distributed free at the gate.
Besides the autograph session and opportunities to meet the squad, Dore Jam also features an array of family activities, including inflatable games for kids. The event also includes snow cones, free hot dogs and sodas.