Vanderbilt Saturday Scrimmage Report

Vanderbilt continued its preparations from the 2005 football season on Saturday when in conducted a 75 play scrimmage. Find out who is in the lead for the kicking job, the 3rd tailback spot and more.

Vanderbilt ran 15 series and 70 plays during a team scrimmage Saturday morning, but the outcome was less important to Bobby Johnson than the destination.

With VU's opener at Wake Forest less than two weeks away, Johnson and his assistant coaches were watching to see who will be ready when the curtain falls.

"We were looking mostly at individuals and see if some guys would perform under pressure," Johnson said. "We want to work them into some backup positions. There wasn't much game-planning going on."

Among the positions still up for grabs are one cornerback spot, left offensive tackle, left guard, defensive tackle, third-string tailback, a No. 3 receiver and placekicker.

On the first drive of the morning, senior quarterback Jay Cutler connected with sophomore tailback Jeff Jennings down the middle of the field for a long touchdown pass. On the final play of the scrimmage, redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Nickson (photo right) delivered a scoring strike to freshman receiver Larry Simmons.

In between, the defense had its moments, including a bone-jarring hit by sophomore linebacker Marcus Buggs on true freshman tailback Jared Hawkins.

"After the first series, I thought it was pretty even," Johnson said.

Added Cutler: "We had a few mental errors, but for the most part everyone was sharp. We had a couple of big plays on offense. I haven't seen the film, and the film never lies, so we'll see."

Cutler said the offense is making progress.

"Offensively, we're good and going at a steady pace," he said. "We haven't really taken any big steps back. Our pass protection was better today. The offensive line was solid.

But there are so many things we can improve on. We need to get our running game going, but there is still a little time for that."

Kickers Patrick Johnson, Bryant Hahnfeldt and Daniel Lee each had field-goal and extra-point opportunities during the scrimmage. The job will boil down to Johnson, last year's starter, and Hahnfeldt, a true freshman from Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.

Hahnfedlt missed one of six field goals. Johnson and Lee each missed more than one.

"Some of them kicked well," Bobby Johnson said. "We got what we wanted to get done on our special teams today."

Hahnfeldt also boomed a punt early in the scrimmage and is pushing incumbent Kyle Keown at that spot.

Extra points

*Due to a sore neck, fullback Steven Bright did not dress for the scrimmage and missed practice all of this week.

*Linebacker Otis Washington did not play in the scrimmage for unspecified reasons.

*True freshman Jared Hawkins appears to have edged ahead of true freshman Daniel Dufrene for the No. 3 tailback spot.

"He's tougher than he looks," Johnson said of Hawkins (photo below). "He's a small looking guy, but he runs with some power and has a knack for getting in there. Even amongst the big guys in there, he can find a way to get some yardage."

Vanderbilt true freshman Jared Hawkins has shown great running ability and toughness in practice (VM/ L. Yates)

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