Nashville, Tenn. - For the second consecutive practice, the Commodores demonstrated Thursday evening that players can experience plenty of contact without wearing full gear.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson liked what he witnessed during the two-hour, 30-minute practice staged under the lights at the John Rich Practice Complex. The Commodores, in "shell" gear consisting of helmets and shoulder pads, went through the physical session in the last of four NCAA-mandated acclimation sessions.
Mirroring a session held Wednesday evening, the staff worked contact into virtually every drill, ranging from 1-on-1 position instruction, 7-on-7 "skeleton" pass drills and 11-on-11 team sessions. Tackling to the ground was the chief limitation in both practices. The squad also spent considerable time on various special teams.
The team's first practice in full pads - and initial full contact session - will take place Friday evening.
"I liked what I saw. We get after it pretty good with the shoulder pads. It's good for trying to be physical and have some contact, but staying on your feet," Johnson said. "We'll actually tackle to the ground and play some real football tomorrow (Friday). I think all of us are ready for some real football."
The Commodores are expected to practice in full gear Friday and Saturday evening, then take Sunday off before starting two-a-day workouts on Monday. The entire squad will be available to meet with Commodore fans at Dore Jam VI. The fan day activity is Sunday afternoon, starting at 4 p.m.
Tailback Competition Big Difference from Year Ago
Nowhere is the difference from last year to the current preseason more apparent than in the Commodore tailback corps.
Fast forward 12 months to much better days. Ten pounds lighter than a year ago, Jackson-Garrison looks quicker and more explosive. Jeff Jennings, a standout in 2005 who missed last year with injuries, looks trim, fit and healthy. After a solid 2006 campaign, Hawkins gives the Commodore offense a proven rushing threat. Reeves has shown big strides. Miller provides open-field possibilities. Even newcomers Ryan van Rensburg and Jermaine Doster have impressed in the early days of camp.
"No question, we're in a better situation," Johnson said. "We were in dire straits a year ago. Now, Cassen came in a little lighter and really looks ready. Jeff is back and looks better than ever. Jared really stepped up last year and is a player we have a lot of confidence in. Just having Jeff and Jared there probably makes Cassen a better player. Gaston gives us a totally different type of threat and Kennard has really improved. We've also liked what we're seen so far in the freshmen."
Former Commodore Players Helping With Practice
Two former key Vanderbilt players, Marlon White and Robert Dinwiddie, are helping in camp as assistants with the equipment staff. White started for two years at wide receiver and graduated last May. Dinwiddie started at defensive tackle for the 2005 squad and is close to completing work on a master's degree.
Standout Hurler David Price's Remarkable Show
Throwing just out of sight of the football activities, Vanderbilt All-America pitcher David Price put on a show of his own just a short distance from the gridiron practice.
After a brief warmup, Price and Commodore hurler Kellen St. Luce began walking away from each other in a long toss exhibition. Within minutes, the two were accurately throwing darts at one another - standing 100 yards apart.
Dore Jam Offers Family Fun this Sunday
The team's official Fan Day activity, Dore Jam VI, is scheduled for Sunday at the Rich Complex. The free event starts at 4 p.m., and continues to 6 p.m.
Coach Johnson and the entire Commodore squad will be available for autographs at the event. Schedule posters will be distributed without charge.
In addition, several other Commodore teams, including soccer and baseball, will be represented. The event also features a variety of kids attractions, ticket drawings, and live entertainment.