Injuries a concern to Vanderbilt

At the end of most Vanderbilt football practice sessions, players break up into three groups and run wind sprints before heading to dinner. Those who are injured and unable to run remain on the side and do push-ups and sit-ups. That group was larger than usual on Tuesday, as several players are nursing various ligament tears, strains, bumps and bruises.

Ray Brown might be the most restless of the group. The junior defensive tackle was a projected starter but suffered a foot strain on the fourth day of preseason drills in August. he has dressed for Vandy's first two games, but would only be used in case of emergency.

On Tuesday, Brown admitted that the frustration of not playing has been trying and maddening. Asked when he expects to return to the field, Brown just shrugged his shoulders. In other words, he has no idea. The fact that the Commodores currently rank last in the Southeastern Conference in run defense creates even more need for Brown's presence.

Meanwhile, senior Mac Pyle, who started both games this season at right offensive guard, watched practice on crutches and sporting a heavily-wrapped knee after sustaining a ligament tear against Arkansas. Coach Bobby Johnson still doesn't know, as of Tuesday, when or if Pyle will return this season.

In Pyle's place, sophomore Chris Williams could slide into the starting lineup, either at guard or tackle, for Saturday's game at Ole Miss. Williams took snaps at several different line positions during Tuesday's practice.

Junior fullback Steven Bright, also recovering from knee ligament damage that was deemed less serious than Pyle's, sat out practice Tuesday and had a brace attached to his bandaged right knee. Bright isn't expected to play Saturday against Ole Miss but should be back for next week's game against Richmond.

Linebackers Kevin Joyce and Marcus Buggs are also a step slow this week; Joyce is working through a sore back, while Buggs is dealing with a concussion suffered against Arkansas. And offensive guard Nigel Seaman, expected to be a starter this year, continues to be a practice bystander while bouncing back from a serious concussion sustained in August.

Notes and observations *Senior tight end Dustin Dunning dropped a pass in Tuesday's practice. Watch enough practices, and you'll discover that a dropped by pass by Dunning is a newsworthy event.

*Johnson is concerned this week about his team's ability to contain speedy quarterbacks, including Michael Spurlock of Ole Miss. The Commodores aren't sure if the Rebels will start Spurlock or Robert Lane, but the running ability of both is a concern in the Vandy camp.

*As players ran wind sprints to close Tuesday's practice, coaches yelled at them about "being in better shape" than the opposition and having the fortitude to win in the fourth quarter. So far in 2005, the plan is working, as the Commodores have won two games in the final period. Among linemen, defensive tackle Theo Horrocks and offensive tackle Brian Stamper are always in front, or near the front, of team sprint drills.

*Redshirt freshman free safety Reshard Langford appeared to be shaken up and walked gingerly off the practice field Tuesday, but Johnson was unprepared to comment further. Top Stories