The Commodores return to a regular schedule this week after having its only bye week of the season. Vanderbilt will hit the road for its second straight away game of the season 6 p.m. Saturday at Alabama (ESPNU).
The time off enabled the Commodores to get over any nagging injuries they had as well as prepare for midterms, which are taking place leading up to fall break on Thursday and Friday.
The bye week also allowed Vanderbilt's assistants to hit the recruiting trail hard. So as for when the bye week fell on the schedule, it was great that it came a third of the way through the season.
However, in terms of how the team entered the bye, the timing was not so great.
"I don't like or handle losses real well," Franklin said. "I constantly talk about the next opponent as the only thing on our mind, but when we don't have that next opponent, it is hard. There is no doubt, you'd love to go into a bye week after a win and have some time to focus on that rather than the negatives."
The time off did enable players to get over bumps and bruises, but like Coach Franklin, the team would rather have had an extra week coming off a win than a loss.
"We don't want to talk about losses, but you definitely had a bitter taste in your mouth after a loss," cornerback Trey Wilson said.
The extra week not only allowed the coaches to get time on the recruiting trail, but also gave them more time to spend working on Alabama. The team had what Coach Franklin coined as `coordinator practices' where he along with the coordinators directed practices while the other assistants were out recruiting.
While not practicing, the coordinators and Franklin spent time getting a head start preparing for Alabama.
"When Sunday came, we were way ahead," Franklin said. "We didn't have to spend time grading our last game. That was already done on Monday. We had a pretty good head start."
Praising the Tide Coming off a 38-10 win at Florida, No. 2/3 Alabama looks to be clicking on all cylinders heading into Saturday. Franklin noted how impressed he was with Alabama's play and praised Coach Nick Saban.
"I have tremendous respect for Coach Saban," Franklin said. "You are talking about a guy that has a program. They've recruited extremely well, they have great talent, they run really good schemes and they play hard."
Saban is notorious for having strong defenses and this year is no exception. The Crimson Tide's defense is ranked No. 3 nationally in yards allowed (191.60) and No. 1 in scoring defense (8.40).
"Collectively, they are the best unit I've seen since I've been coaching in college football," Franklin said.
In order to slow down Alabama's defense, the Commodores will need a good performance from their offensive line. Franklin mentioned Monday there would be changes to the offensive line, offense and special teams, but declined to say just what those changes would be.
No matter what is changed, center Wesley Johnson knows the line will need a much better effort than it did against South Carolina.
"South Carolina was quick and Alabama is going to be really quick," Johnson said.
Will Saturday be the team's biggest challenge?
"We are preparing for that," Johnson said. "I would imagine so."
Barnes to Step in and Commodores to Play More Nickel With the loss of starting linebacker Tristan Strong for the season due to a knee injury, Vanderbilt will turn to redshirt junior Archibald Barnes. Barnes has 12 stops this season and has played significant time as a reserve.
He will get his first start of the season Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and the rest of the Commodores are confident he will fill in nicely.
"He is going to step right in and we aren't going to miss anything," defensive end Walker May said. "The South Carolina game, he had a few great plays. He came up and fit in real well."
Barnes and Strong were neck-and-neck throughout camp and Franklin said it was `kind of a coin toss' as to who would start the first game.
With Barnes moving into the starting lineup, it significantly cuts back on the amount of depth at linebacker. Taking Barnes' position as the backup outside backer is redshirt junior Al Owens.
To makeup for the limited depth at the position, Franklin noted that he plans on playing more nickel.
"We are going to have to be prepared to play more nickel just to keep (Barnes) fresh," Franklin said. "And also we have to be ready for the future; if we have another injury, that is what we are going to be playing fulltime."
Alabama Natives Dot Roster Vanderbilt has traditionally had a number of players from the state of Alabama, and the 2011 team is no exception. This year's roster features 11 players from the state, including six key starters.