Vandy completes final spring practice in pads

With the conclusion of the final practice in full pads of the spring on Thursday night, only a Friday afternoon walk-through separates Vanderbilt from its much-hyped spring game on Sunday night at 6 p.m. inside Vanderbilt Stadium.

Coaches and players alike used Thursday evening to reflect on the progress made in the past four weeks and the work left to do and adjustments left to make in the coming months leading up to the opening kickoff against Elon on September 3rd.

"Starting from nothing, having a new coaching staff and a new offense, I feel like we did pretty good installing everything and actually getting it in," said redshirt senior offensive lineman Kyle Fischer after practice. "I thought we've done really good up to this point."

After a long spring of work and improvement, Franklin wants his players to stay loose and have fun on Sunday in front of a crowd of Vanderbilt fans at the spring game.

"Even during the season, we are going to work as hard as anybody in America, Sunday through Friday," said Franklin. "Saturday, just go play."

Thursday's practice featured several clever wrinkles on the offensive side of the ball – some more successful when put into practice than others. The quarterbacks worked on exchanges similar to those of a Statue of Liberty play during positional drills early on in practice. Later in 11-on-11 drills, Larry Smith and Zac Stacy connected on one of those same exchanges for a big gain. The offense also converted two halfback passes, as Stacy and Wesley Tate hooked up with Smith and Udom Umoh, respectively, on two separate drives. A third trick pass backfired, as safety Al Owens picked off Brandon Barden's throw back to Smith behind the line of scrimmage and walked it in for a touchdown.

Barden came up with the individual play of the day when he leaped for a difficult one-handed catch in double coverage down the field and scored after splitting his defenders.

By Thursday's practice, the coaches had split up the players into Black and Gold teams for Sunday night's spring game and were waiting to assess any further injuries before finalizing the rosters. The eight active offensive linemen will wear white jerseys and rotate through on both Black and Gold teams to account for the lack of depth at that position. Franklin was still unsure whether or not the Commodores would use a running clock during the second half of Sunday's game to keep his team healthy.

Friday's practice will be the third and final session this spring that the team is required to go through without pads on.

"Tomorrow is basically a dress rehearsal for the game so we can kind of get it all organized: who's on Black, who's on Gold, who's on Black punt, who's on Gold punt return," Franklin said. "That's a lot of organization that goes into that, so I want to make sure everyone's on the same page."

Sunday night's Black & Gold Spring Game kicks off at 6:00 p.m. CT.

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