The Commodores played through the rain on Tuesday afternoon to complete their sixth practice of the spring and their first since opening practice to fans on Saturday. The team continues to improve even though there are still plenty of problems to be ironed out.
"We're getting better every single day. I was impressed today," said Coach James Franklin. "What we've got to do is clean up the missed assignments. We've got to clean up the fumbled snaps, stuff like that."
Quarterback Charlie Goro could not control one snap during 11-on-11 drills and several catchable balls could not be handled once the rain started to fall. That being said, there were far fewer dropped passes than Commodore fans may be used to—most of the drops came from players without much experience on the field.
Running back Zac Stacy continued to have an impressive spring on Tuesday with several big plays. Stacy has gained about ten pounds of muscle since last season and has become a much more capable blocker. On one play, Stacy served as the lead blocker for Goro on what would certainly have been a first-down run.
The quarterback battle is still up in the air for Vanderbilt. Jordan Rodgers is not fully healthy and is not expected to fully participate in practice this spring. Both Goro and returning starter Larry Smith will be competing for the job, and both struggled in practice on Tuesday. Coach Franklin commented on the team's offensive performance on Tuesday.
"I see Larry is doing some really good things," said Franklin. "Top to bottom, I've been pleased with what we're doing." Although he had trouble consistently converting short passing plays, Smith steadily made completions on downfield passing drills.
Smith and the other quarterbacks have been helped this spring by a receiving corps that continues to improve. Rising sophomore Jonathan Krause made big plays during practice, including a 20-yard run on a wide receiver screen. After a silent freshman campaign two years ago and redshirting last season, Brady Brown has stepped up this spring and will challenge the other receivers for significant playing time in 2011.
The focus on creating "big plays" continued on Tuesday afternoon. During one series of drills, the defensive unit practiced stripping balls from ball carriers and recovering the fumbles. During another set of drills, quarterbacks practiced hitting the outside shoulder of receivers running long routes down the field. This focus on creating big plays has been a consistent point of emphasis for Franklin this spring.
"We're starting to understand how to compete. Those drills help—there's less thinking involved," said Franklin. "Having those drills allows guys to play fast."
So far this spring, those "big play" drills are starting to help—defensive tackle Vince Taylor managed to force a fumble during 11-on-11 drills and linebacker Dexter Daniels scooped it up before being forced out of bounds. Vanderbilt will look to continue that focus throughout the spring and carry momentum into the fall.
Commodores Continue Spring Practice
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