Spring practice Saturday update

The Vanderbilt Commodores conducted their fourth spring practice session on Saturday morning at Vanderbilt stadium. The three hour session featured a full tackle 11 on 11 drill for almost an hour.

Defensive linemen go through drills under the watchful eye of defensive line coach David Turner.

As in the first several sessions the practice opened with stretching and then progressed into drills under the watch of the position coaches. Later the different positions were matched against each other in drills between the quarterbacks/offensive backs against the defensive backs without lines. Then the drills moved to 11 on 11 with blocking but no tackling. Finally 11 on 11 full contact tackling took place for almost an hour.

Running backs Matthew Tant and Ian Gaines go through agility drills. Both players are having an outstanding spring.

It wasn't a full scrimmage but it was a battle between the defense and offense. The white shirted offensive players rooted against he black shirted defensive players and vice versa. It was not false motivation, it was real. The players were very boisterous during this action. At one point Head Coach Bobby Johnson had to step in and talk to running back Matthew Tant and linebacker Brandon Walthour as the two fine players talked a little smack to one another.

Linebackers take a very quick water break. Defensive players wear black jerseys and offensive players wear white during practice.

During the full tackle 11 on 11 drills both sides of the ball had their moments. The defense stopped the offense several times and the offense scored on the defense a couple times. There were many hard hits that rang out through the stadium. The offense ran a variety of plays including some basic runs up the middle out of the I formation, option plays, play action passes, wide open formations with deep passes and trick plays. Definately enough stuff to give an opposing defensive coordinator a nightmare.

Defensive linemen Robert Dinwiddie (left) and Matt Clay (right) spend some extra time on their technique after practice.

Many players performed outstanding during the drills to include wide receiver Ryan Cuffee who had several nice catches. Norval McKenzie looked superb at running back. Quarterback Jay Cutler had a good run in addition to several well thrown passes. Again, both quarterbacks performed well. Ronald Hatcher ran hard as usual. On defense Aaron McWhorter had a nice pass break up. Jonathon Shaub had one of the hardest hits of the day and appears to be at full speed. Nick Lyle had a super tackle to foil an option play. Aaron Carter, Hunter Hillemeyer and Luke Hammond had nice hits. Defensive end Robert Dinwiddie had a good sack.

An assistant coach leads players in a voluntary prayer after practice.

Comments from Head Coach Bobby Johnson

On the overall practice:

"It was exactly what we wanted. To do some individual work, some fundamental work in the first part of practice and then we wanted to work on our passing game, not live and then we wanted to scrimmage a little bit and get the guys playing real football. In fact, [laughing] when we started that little session some guys said 'are we live? is it tackle' I said 'yeah, we're playing football'. It's good to get out and play football."

On the length of the full contact 11 on 11 scrimmage:

"We were working on time and we were trying get as many snaps as we could in the amount of time we had. We like for them to be tested. Stay out there 8 or 10 plays at a time. Your concentration starts to dip after the fifth, sixth or seventh play. Until you just start playing football you don't get ready for real."

On avoiding injuries:

"It's always a concern. We are so thin at a couple of positions especially offensive line. We were prepared to cut it off but they hung in there. I was proud of those guys today. We were really thin at offensive line. They did some double duty."

On offensive schemes:

"We feel comfortable doing all those things. The option was the most successful play for us today. If you get that threat of the option I think it works to help your other plays to be more successful too. Our guys, right now, we have the basics in. We got the basic offense and the basic defense. We didn't blitz, but we did run a reverse. We didn't try to get fancy. We tried tried to see if they learned what we taught them."

Vanderbilt will resume practice on Tuesday.

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