Five keys to a successful VU camp

It's now August and Vanderbilt has a football game with South Carolina later this month. On Thursday Vanderbilt will conduct the first practice of the 2012 preseason camp. Look inside for five keys to a successful Vanderbilt camp.

Establish a backup quarterback

Yes, Jordan Rodgers is the man but we have to remember that the VU nation is just one play away from losing him for the season so therefore there must be a capable, ready backup waiting. Austyn Carta-Samuels passed for over 35 hundred yards and 19 touchdowns at Wyoming but it's now a new day in his football career at Vanderbilt. He's got to grasp the Commodore offense and be ready to step in if Rodgers goes down to injury. Let's hope Carta-Samuels is spending virtually every waking moment watching film and studying the Commodore playbook in preparation for his possible ordination as a Commodore starting quarterback.

Replace starters on defense

Anyone who thinks it'll be easy to replace Chris Marve, Casey Hayward, Tim Fugger and Sean Richardson needs their heads checked. If you took just two of those four players off the Commodore teams of 2008 and 2011 VU would likely still be stuck in that miserable bowless drought but now all four are gone. The good news is that James Franklin and company have been hard at work recruiting. Freshman early enrollee Darreon Herring appears that he might be one that can fill the void at linebacker while Chase Garnham moves to fill Marve's middle spot. Johnell Thomas, who started five games last season, will be in the thick of the fight to win Fugger's vacated starting position but other players like Kyle Woestmann, Thad McHaney and youngster Caleb Azubike might get the knod. At cornerback there will be a wide open battle for not only Hayward's position but the other cornerback spot as well. Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster appear to be the front runners but anything can happen. Javon Marshall and Eric Samuels will compete for Richardson's spot. With a talented freshman crop coming in, look for lots a shuffling of personnel and experimentation in the defensive secondary.

Improve the offensive line

The 2012 Vanderbilt offensive line will likely be one of the best since 2005. However, that doesn't mean this unit is going to be a juggernaut because this area of the team has struggled since 2005. There just hasn't been enough depth and good players to facilitate a solid O-line. Again, things should be much better in 2012, we just aren't sure how much better. Franklin recently commented that fans can expect to see a stronger and faster 2012 squad. Let's hope that includes the offensive line. The experience is there with the likes of Wesley Johnson, Ryan Seymour and Josh Jelesky. Redshirt sophomore Andrew Bridges also has seen a decent amount of playing time. The leadership is there in Johnson, Jelesky and Seymour but this unit needs to establish depth. The Commodores will be welcoming six new heralded offensive lineman this week. You've got to think that one or two will slip into the rotation. Another concern is the center position which is the only position that won't be manned by a player with starting experience. Much of the success of the 2012 season will depend of the offensive line. If the O-line gets it done then Rodgers stays off his back and completes passes while Stacy and Norman run for tons of yardage. And the Commodores WIN.

Make special teams SPECIAL

In the ultra-tough SEC special teams are of vital importance. Consider that every team in the conference recruits well, has the best coaches and top facilities. An area that can tip the scale in a program's favor is the special teams. Last year Vanderbilt did some good things on special teams, like the blocked punt near the end of the Georgia game along with a couple of fake punts that helped keep Commodore drives alive during crucial games. That said, kicking must improve for Vandy to move to the next level. Vanderbilt kicking was fairly mediocre in 2011. Vandy made just 8 of 14 field goals during the season. Keep in mind that last season Vanderbilt's longest made field goal was 37 yards. Now compare that to the VU opponents who had field goal makes of 53, 44, 50, 42, 55, 40 and 44 yards. Vanderbilt could very well win 6 or 7 games in 2012. If Vanderbilt is going to take that next step and get to the 8-9-10 win level it will need either Carey Spear, Ryan Fowler or incoming freshman kicking superstar Colby Cooke to step forward and be the go-to guy during field goal situations.

More Franklin wizardry

No, he doesn't have a magic wand but James Franklin does have innovation and so do his assistants. We saw it with the statue of liberty play early the 2011 season and then we saw it with the trick pass to Brandon Barden that, had it worked, would have likely swung a bowl game in Vandy's favor. The Commodore staff needs to continue to innovate and develop game changing plays that break the backs of its opponents. As Vanderbilt's teams get more and more talented let's hope the Vandy staff will avoid a "three yards and a cloud of dust" mentality and not be afraid to roll the dice with trick plays. Vandy fans have lived in misery for nearly 50 years. While most don't want Watson Brown recklessness, they don't want to see games blown due to hyper conservatism.

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