Inside look into the Commodores spring practice

We are in the final week of spring practice for Vanderbilt and by all accounts, this spring session has gone well. Several guys appear to be stepping into bigger roles while returning vets are taking a more leadership role to help lead this team back to postseason play. DoresDaily brings you the latest from spring practice.


- The starting quarterback position is settled going into the fall with Kyle Shurmur being the guy. The battle during spring practice is to find out who will back him up. The easy answer would be Deuce Wallace but the often injured Shawn Stankavage is making a serious run at Wallace to earn that backup role. Stankavage has endured several significant injuries since arriving in Nashville but maybe he is finally healthy and able to show his full capabilities. Main reason why he could give Wallace a run for his money is his mobility in the pocket but that happens to be a strength of Wallace's as well. The key factor that will separate the two could be who knows the offense better. This is a battle that I believe will continue into fall camp and not even be settled until the season opener. 

- A few receivers are sitting out most of spring practice which gives others the opportunity to step up and gain more playing time. Senior C.J. Duncan is really playing good ball right now and seems to be ready to take on a leadership role on offense. His game breaking abilities in the slot will be big for Vanderbilt this year and his hands will be as dependable as well. Red-shirt freshman Jackson Winrow has turned some heads this spring period. Winrow has good size and the ability to line up in the slot or play outside. His emergence would certainly help the depth of the Dores receiving corps and maybe give them another reliable wideout to throw to. Depth is the biggest thing this spring for Vanderbilt to develop and if Winrow can in the way they want, the Commodore receivers will be a much more potent group. 

- Right now Vanderbilt is working junior Justin Skule at left tackle and I think he could handle that position much like Will Holden did the last two years but I still think at some point, red-shirt freshman Devin Cochran will take the job and become a fixture on the line for many years to come. So far in spring practice, he is showing off his outstanding natural abilities at left tackle while still learning the plays and position. Cochran has the ideal size, length and athleticism wanted on the left side and I think in time, he will prove those talents enough to protect the blind side. 

The battle at center appears to be between Cole HardinSean Auwae and even Ean Pfeifer. The hope would be to have Hardin or Auwae-McMoore take over the role at center so Vanderbilt can keep Pfeifer at left guard. The Arkansas native stepped into left guard last season and played quite well. Hardin is the one guy of the three who has the most experience on the roster yet barely playing in many games. This is a big spring for Hardin and so far, he is handling himself just fine and working hard at earning a starting position. 

- Running back will be the most boring position to cover, even going into fall camp because it is simply that deep and proven. The development of the younger backs is really the story. Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame are the bell cows of the backfield but finding a third back to compliment them will be big for the offense. You have veterans like Josh Crawford and Dallas Rivers returning but the word from camp is that red-shirt freshman Jamauri Wakefield has been a pleasant surprise. He is a big back who has surprising speed and agility in the open field. Wakefield can also run over you with power. He is still learning and maturing into his body but the Florida native has the tools to eventually see time in the Commodores backfield. Sophomore fullback Bailey McElwain is also having a strong spring and continuing his development in the backfield. 


- Finding pass rushers is the biggest emphasis of spring practice on defense and the staff feels like they are moving in a better direction with the department. It all starts on the line first and senior Jonathan Wynn is really standing out so far. Wynn is headed into his final year at Vanderbilt and appears finally ready to take the final maturation in his game and become a bigger presence on defense this season. His ability to stop the run has been awesome but if he can get to the quarterback more, it will not only help the team but help his individual chances at making it into the NFL. Also senior to be Nifae Lealao is having a solid spring and could be primed to become a massive force at nose tackle for the Dores. 

- The brothers from Murfreesboro, Josh Smith and Emmanuel Smith are playing some good football this spring and are looking like they will be significant contributors on defense in the 2017 season. Josh in particular is really setting himself a part from the linebacker group as someone who could be the next great linebacker at Vanderbilt. He is a big and talented guy who has waited his time to breakout and now that moment is here. Emmanuel has bulked up and moved up into the linebackers and has really taking on the position well. He is a playmaker who might breakout this season due to the change of position and maturity in the Dores defense. 

- Nashville native JoeJuan Williams is taking a major step in his game this spring and I don't want to say he has nailed down a starting job at corner back but it's pretty close! Williams is all about Vanderbilt and has been working very hard this spring to not only establish himself as a starter but a leader as well. Williams has the makings of the next great defensive back from Vanderbilt. The rest of secondary is really coming along well too. Vanderbilt has a veteran group surrounding Williams, including Ryan White and Tre Herndon who appear to be taking great strides in their games as they head into their senior years. White is a defensive captain who been very vocal on the field and still plays with that chip on his shoulder. Herndon has been through battles of the SEC and is a very experienced corner back who will not be surprised by anything. He has slowly gotten better over his career and could be poised for his best season yet as a Commodore. 

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