On campus in Nashville - The Commodores took a step forward Tuesday in their first practice in full pads, getting both beneficial work and excellent effort accomplished in a two-hour session.
With former head coach Bobby Johnson watching his first preseason practice from the sidelines, Robbie Caldwell put the squad through a high-energy session that concluded with the brief full-contact scrimmage that included positive plays from both sides of the ball.
"This was a pretty good one," Caldwell said. "We were able to get some things installed and toward the end, our guys were giving some great effort when we started playing football. As a team, we have excellent energy throughout the practice."
One day after struggling in stifling, muggy conditions, the Commodores responded positively Tuesday after getting a little relief from the weather. A 90-minute downpour, followed by cloudy skies, gave way to milder conditions than what the team endured Monday.
In the brief full-contact scrimmage, the offense displayed an effective rushing attack while several defenders made stellar plays to force fourth downs.
Sophomore Zac Stacy provided most of the offensive punch, rushing for 28 yards on three consecutive carries in a drive that eventually stalled inside the 30-yard line. On the final drive, consecutive passes from senior quarterback Jared Funk to sophomore receiver John Cole gained 26 yards, but the defense again stiffened to force a field goal attempt.
Early in the practice, Caldwell introduced the squad to full contact with the demanding Star Drill, which required the ball carrier to navigate a linemen, linebacker and defensive back, each of whom were faced with an opposing blocker. The drill set the physical tone for much of what came later.
Johnson makes his first appearance
Even as he announced his retirement on July 14, Bobby Johnson said he'd be an occasional visitor to Vanderbilt practices. He lived up to the promise Tuesday, watching the entire session from the sidelines and camera tower.
Johnson took a few moments to greet every coach, then watched with Caldwell for another 15 minutes.
"Bobby Johnson has an open invitation. I'd like to get him to hang out with us more," Caldwell said. "I even asked if he'd like to officiate a practice and blow the whistle a little bit."
More from the Coach's post-practice interview
Caldwell gave some humorous sound bites while answering post-practice media questions. Here's a brief sampling:
Describing a player who failed to do as asked: "He's like a lot of kids, you know. They don't believe cow horns will hook `em until they find out."
On his own addition to the team's pre-practice music selection, the Bobby Bare classic "Dropkick Me Jesus Thru the Goalposts of Life": "I'm just trying to give `em a little culture, mixed in between Lemonade and Get Big."
About the Commodores' thin offensive line: "They're giving all they've got. It looks ugly sometimes, but today it looked pretty good."
Describing how the heat is affecting his squad: "It's hot and tired, and it's been pretty taxing on all of them. We're a little slower, but if you've played the game, you know it's part of it."