Vanderbilt Camp Items of Note

The countdown is officially on to the start of the season as the Commodores preseason camp is in full swing. With only a few weeks to go until the August 30th season opener against the Gamecocks here are a few items of note to have come out of camp this week.

Tight Ends Stepping Up

If camp indications are anything to go by then the Commodores offense is going to be more potent than ever in 2012. Already loaded at running back and wide receiver, offensive coordinator John Donovan suddenly has had a new position group stepping up to be counted in practice.

The tight end position has exploded into relevance over the last twelve months or so with players like the New England Patriots Rob Gronkowsi proving to be matchup nightmares for defenders. No longer seen as just a slightly more mobile offensive lineman, the modern tight end can stretch the field on one play before throwing a crushing block to lead a tailback round the corner the next.

With so much attention set to be paid to leading wide outs like Jordan Matthews, the Commodores would love for one of their young tight ends to break out this fall. Though Brandon Barden had 243 yards receiving last year he only found the end zone once, numbers which must be improved on for Vandy to make significant steps forward. Watch for the likes of Dillon van der Wal and Kris Kentera to be big parts of the passing game as the season progresses.

New Kick Off Rules Making a Difference

One of the strongest parts of Vanderbilt's game in 2011 might be downgraded this year through no fault of the players or staff. New NCAA rules are set to come into effect which move the kick off up from the 30 yard line to the 35-yard line. In addition any kick off which results in a touch back will automatically come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20.

The result of this is going to be fewer kickoff returns as more kicks than ever will sail harmlessly through the end zone. Also returners are going to be expected to take a knee with any ball in the back half of the end zone with the ball set to come out further than they could run with it. It is all part of the NCAA's attempt to reduce collisions and injuries in the return game, but it takes an exciting element which Vanderbilt has proven strong in out of the game.

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