NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Redshirt sophomore quarterback Larry Smith earned his first career start in Vanderbilt's victory in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl last December. His second start will be Saturday, when the Commodores open the 2009 season by hosting Western Carolina.
Smith, a former Alabama Prep Player of the Year, edged redshirt senior Mackenzi Adams in a highly competitive preseason duel for the starting job, Head Coach Bobby Johnson said Monday at his first weekly press conference in McGugin Center.
"We're going to start Larry Smith," Johnson said. "He has got a lot of tools to run our offense and be able to throw the ball downfield and do some things. But we're extremely pleased with Mackenzi Adams, the way he's worked. We feel equally confident that he could go in the game if needed and execute our offense. We feel great about the quarterback position, now and for the future. We couldn't be more pleased with the way they've gone about it, and they've competed and made each other better."
A product of Prattville High School near Montgomery, Smith provided an offensive spark in two appearances last year: the bowl win and the Commodores' regular season finale at Wake Forest. He finished the year 19 of 34 for 167 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
"Larry's got a very strong arm...and also has a presence in the pocket. He sees the field very well and knows what we're trying to do with the offense. He gave us a look at his potential (late in 2008 season) and we want to develop that potential. The best way to develop it is to get him in the game," Johnson said.
Adams is the most experienced collegiate quarterback. He has nine career starts, including three last year, and has shown remarkable grit playing through pain. He threw for five touchdowns and 882 yards as a junior.
Adams, of Tulsa, Okla., is a proven commodity coming off the bench, playing superbly last year in Vanderbilt's 14-13 victory over nationally ranked Auburn before a national television audience.
"Mackenzi has done a lot of good things for this program and he continues to do it," Johnson said. "He is a competitor, he prepares himself, and doesn't gripe about his role. When we call on him, he plays like a starter."