Wednesday marks the beginning of head coach Bobby Johnson's third season at Vanderbilt. With a blend of depth and experience unprecedented in the Bobby Johnson era, the Commodores finally appear poised to improve on the 2-10 seasons of the past two years.
Among the returning players are 50 letter-winners and at least 25 players who started at least four games last season, including captains Jay Cutler, Justin Geisinger, Jovan Haye and Chris Young. Also expected to arrive Tuesday as freshmen are 20 members of the signing class of 2004, and a handful of new walk-ons.
The Commodores, like all NCAA teams, are allotted 29 practice opportunities over the 24 days leading up to the season opener. Johnson said the fact that the opener is an SEC game should give the team and staff a sense of urgency as it points to its Sept. 4 game vs. South Carolina.
"Basically, you just don't have a whole lot of time to get ready for the first game and also try to install your offense for the year and your defense for the year," Johnson said. "So it makes it extremely tough to get ready for that first game.
"The flip side of that is that obviously your players know how important that game is. It's not like you're opening up with someone that's not going to affect your conference standings. So I think you can certainly get their attention and make sure that they have their sense of urgency in practice and the weight room, and everything they do to try to get ready for that first game."
Commodore players are expected to arrive on campus through the afternoon Tuesday. Afterward, the schedule includes a fitting stop in the equipment room, medical physicals, meetings and dinner. Fitness tests, academic and social orientation, weight training and meetings are on tap Wednesday before practice.
The first two days of practice will be in helmets and shorts only, followed by two non-contact days in helmets and pads. Contact drills won't begin until Sunday morning's practice, which will be followed by a series of two-a-day practices.
"Our goal will remain the same. We want to keep working, trying to get better every day," Johnson said. "We have to be focused on taking full advantage of each practice as we prepare for the season opener."
Vanderbilt Football Practice Schedule for August 11-16:
Wed., Aug. 11 6:15 p.m. (No Pads)
Thurs., Aug. 12 6:15 p.m. (No Pads)
Fri., Aug. 13 6:15 p.m. (Helmets/Pads)
Sat., Aug. 14 3:15 p.m. (Helmets/Pads)
Sun., Aug. 15 9:00 a.m. (Full Pads)
4-6 p.m., Dore Jam Fan Day (free to public)
Mon., Aug. 16 Two-a-Day Practices begin (9:00 a.m. and 6:15 p.m.)
Note: Commodore fans can attend the first three Vanderbilt practices. Starting Saturday, Aug. 15, Commodore practices are closed to the public.