As a general rule, defenses are usually believed to be ahead of offenses at this point.
"I've never been able to figure those things out, but the defense should be ahead," Johnson said. "They looked better today. They were going to the ball a little bit better and played their assignments a little bit better. If you do what you're supposed to do, you're going to have a better chance to be successful."
On one big defensive play, a hit by linebacker Marcus Buggs on Dufrene forced a fumble and prompted a roar of approval from defensive players watching the action from the sidelines.
The Dufrene-Hawkins battle will likely come down to the last week before the Commodores open the season Sept. 1 at Wake Forest.
"We're trying to find that third guy," Johnson said. "We feel good about what Jeff and Cassen are doing right now."
Stan Labay, who coached Hawkins (photo at right) at Spring High in Klein, Texas, said his former player will be a surprise on the college level.
"Everybody had their blue-chippers, and he was one of those sleepers who kind of slipped through the radar," Labay said. "You just kind of missed him. A lot of schools were just looking at stats, and he was injured part of the season. He wasn't one of those 3,000-yards-of-offense type of people."
The battle continues
"I think we have three good kickers," Johnson said.
The Commodores need consistency after Johnson missed five of last 11 extra-point tries and six of last eight field-goal attempts last season. Hahnfeldt (photo at right), a local product from Montgomery Bell Academy, has quickly made his presence felt and could also factor into the punting situation.
"I expected him to be pretty good," Johnson said. "I went and watched him kick in person last year and felt like he could be a good kicker."
*Defensive tackle Ray Brown did not practice Monday night due to a foot injury. He is wearing a walking boot.
*Vandy's first full scrimmage is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. It is closed to the public.
*Fullback Ron Bullock continues to miss practice time with a sore back.
*Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin watched part of Monday night's practice.
Email Brett at BHait@nashvillecitypaper.com