Vanderbilt stresses situational details

With just over a week until the Black & Gold Spring Game on April 17th, Vanderbilt spent most of its two-hour practice session on Thursday evening reviewing the situational details on all sides of the ball.

"We pretty much have everything in," head coach James Franklin told reporters after practice when asked about the progress made in installing the playbook. "Now it's more situational-type football."

The Commodores worked on their two-minute offense for the first time all spring on Thursday. While the defensive unit split off to a separate field, the offense went through simulated drives in order to practice hurrying up to the line between plays and getting into position for a last-second field goal.

"I feel like defensively, we did really well," said senior linebacker Chris Marve of the defense's effort during two-minute drills. "We still always have room for improvement, but I feel like we're moving in the right direction."

Since the departure of starting outside linebackers John Stokes and Nate Campbell, Marve has seen the younger linebackers rise to the occasion in a tight battle for starting jobs on the outside.

"The young guys are really coming along," Marve said. "They're working their butts off and I'm proud of them. They've been here for a long time, and they're finally getting the opportunity to showcase what they have."

The coaching staff also set aside extra time for special teams work. Special teams coordinator Charles Bankins led players through a drill designed to shake free of blocks to make tackles in the open field before bringing out the kickers for kickoff repetitions. Carey Spear and Ryan Fowler rotated through kicking off while the rest of the special teams unit watched their approach to the ball in order to get a feel for the play's timing.

Several players watched practice in red non-contact jerseys from the sidelines on Thursday, including wide receivers John Cole and Chris Boyd, recent additions to the injured ranks. Center Logan Stewart also left practice early with an injury, forcing tackle Wesley Johnson to shift over and play center for the rest of practice. Running back Warren Norman, defensive end Thad McHaney and tight end Mason Johnston are among the players that have missed all of spring practice while recovering from injuries.

Franklin was disconcerted by his team's recent injury troubles and the effect they might have on the rest of the spring schedule.

"I've been telling everybody about this Black & Gold Game, and if we lose any more, we're going to have a hard time doing it," Franklin said. "I want to make sure we can get what we have to out of Thursday, get what we have to out of Saturday and still be able to have a Black & Gold scrimmage next week."

The 11-on-11 drills that closed practice started with several red zone possessions. Marve and cornerback Casey Hayward each came away with an interception in the end zone for the defense, but the offense struck back with a touchdown catch in the flat by tight end Fitz Lassing and a breakaway run by running back Wesley Tate.

Tate was forced to play defense on the final play of the practice, when safety Eric Samuels picked up a bad snap to quarterback Charlie Goro and started to take it the other way. Tate was able to track Samuels down from behind and knocked the ball loose just short of the goal line, but Samuels' fellow defensive back Andre Hal trailed the play and returned Samuels' fumble the final five yards for a score.

The Commodores return to practice on Saturday morning inside Vanderbilt Stadium. Top Stories