A Whole New Ball Game

A key Tiger defender discussed what the Tigers need to do vs. the Vandy offense.

Nashville, Tenn.--Roderick Hood did not get challenged much last Saturday in his first collegiate start at cornerback. There is good reason for that. Syracuse had little need to pass since they were having a lot of success running the football.

However, it will be a different story this Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores will more than make up for the lack of opportunities Hood faced in the Carrier Dome.

Roderick Hood

Vanderbilt does not hide the fact that its passing attack is where its games are won or lost. Senior quarterback Greg Zolman is one of the most accurate passers in the league and he has a solid pair of receivers to play catch with on Saturday night. "We're going to have to get up and challenge their receivers, stay in coverage and make plays back there," Hood says. "They have good receivers in (Dan) Stricker and (M.J.) Garrett."

Stricker, who is an All-SEC candidate, and Garrett are the team's leading receivers through three games this season. Garrett leads the Commodores with 13 catches for 274 yards and one touchdown while Stricker has 12 catches for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Both receivers are big targets. They stand six-foot-three and weigh more than 200 pounds each. So, Zolman, who is six-foot-four, should have an easy time finding his targets in the Tiger secondary which has an average height of five-foot-eleven inches among its starters.

Hood, who checks in at five-foot-ten, 193, says the Tigers will have to apply better pressure on Zolman this week. "We can't let him sit in the pocket and pick us apart," the former walk-on says. "We have to blitz and get him to move out of the pocket and throw on the run. But he's a mobile quarterback and he can do that. We're going to have to be on top of our game this week in the secondary and stay with our receivers and make some big plays."

Hood played rover in last season's 33-0 shutout of Vanderbilt when the Tigers held Zolman to just 11 completions and 66 yards passing before he was benched late in the game for Tim Olmstead. Auburn has beaten the Commodores nine straight times, but Hood says his teammates are not taking the Commodores lightly.

"If we take games as a gimmee, we'll get beat," Hood says. "We're not that good yet to say teams are a gimmee. We have to go out and play every game. We are a young team and we are still trying to find ourselves. We learned that last week and we just have got to work hard every week."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Hood is expected to start against Vandy even though he has missed practice time this week with a virus. Backup cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Horace Willis are also expected to see playing time. With a good week of practice, redshirt freshman Donnay Young looks to be in line for more playing time at free safety behind Stanford Simmons. Also, Karlos Dansby is expected to make his first AU start at whip, moving ahead of fellow sophomore Roshard Gilyard. Gilyard is recovering from neck and back injuries suffered at Syracuse, but is expected to be available for duty on Saturday.

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