Tuesday Vanderbilt Practice Update

A sense of unease has suddenly swept across the Vanderbilt defensive secondary with just a week remaining before the Sept. 1 season opener at Wake Forest.

The announcement that junior cornerback Sean Dixon has been suspended for the opener due to an undisclosed NCAA violation means the Commodores are even more thin, and unproven, than they were before camp opened.

While Dixon has only one career start, he has the benefit of 23 games of experience. Redshirt freshmen Jared Fagan (photo at right by L. Yates) and Josh Allen (photo at left by L. Yates) will patrol Dixon's spot against Wake Forest, and neither has ever taken a college snap.

On the other side, senior Andrew Pace brings experience and know-how, but he'll also see his first collegiate action at cornerback next week after moving there from safety in the spring. Redshirt freshman Reshard Langford offers talent but inexperience at free safety alongside senior strong safety Kelechi Ohanaja.

One thing is certain: Head coach Bobby Johnson will pay even more attention to this area than usual. As it is, he already spends plenty of time in that area.

Johnson is, after all, a former defensive back, having played cornerback at Clemson in the early 1970s and tutoring the secondary for much of his coaching career. He trusts Vandy defensive backs coach Jamie Bryant but still wants to be up to speed.

"I meet with them and observe them the most," Johnson said. "Coach Bryant does a great job and I hardly ever second guess anything he's doing, but I just like it and like to be around them. Because they are the last line of defense, I want to know exactly what is being told to them."

The play of Fagan and Allen might be vital against Wake Forest. While the Deacons figure to run the ball and attempt to take over the line of scrimmage, Fagan, 5-10, and Allen, 5-9, could have a say if they are tested.

Extra motivation

Vandy senior receiver Erik Davis (photo right by B. Wiseman) admits that he is inspired to produce his best season after watching former teammates Justin Geisinger and Jovan Haye sign NFL contracts this summer.

"I think I'm real driven this year," Davis said. "We had a couple guys who went to the NFL, and I want to follow that same pathway. I know there are certain things that I have to do to prep myself for that, so I want to be in the best shape and be as presentable as I can. If you have dreams and aspirations to make it to that next level, you have to put forth the effort."

But Davis is still a team guy.

"I was on a strenuous conditioning plan summer, and I feel I'm in top-top shape," he said. "If my team needs me at any point in time, I didn't want fatigue to hold me back. I want to be accountable."

Extra points

*True freshman Bryant Hahnfeldt was on fire during Tuesday night's practice, drilling a pair of long field goals straight down the middle with plenty of room to spare. Johnson could name a starting kicker as early as Thursday, and the battle is down to Hahnfeldt and junior Patrick Johnson.

*Freshman receiver George Smith, who had moved into the lead last week for the team's No. 3 receiver slot, missed both of Tuesday's practices with a sore hip.

*True freshman receiver Earl Bennett has been working on returning kickoffs and punts this week.

*Sophomore defensive tackle Ray Brown is still not practicing while recovering from a foot strain.


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