Thursday practice highlights

John Rich Practice Facility, Vanderbilt University – Commodore Head Coach Bobby Johnson put his squad through a full-contact scrimmage Thursday for the second consecutive practice.

The 40-play scrimmage, patterned after a similar session two days earlier, was highlighted by the offensive unit's best drive of the spring, followed by a string of outstanding defensive plays that halted seven consecutive possessions.

Afterward, Johnson said the Commodores continued to exhibit the level of intensity and improvement during the 45-minute scrimmage that the coaching staff is seeking.

"We're progressing as a team, getting a little better with each practice," Johnson said. "Today, I thought a lot of our veterans stepped up and made plays. That needs to continue as we get the younger guys up to speed and in position to help us next year."

The offense opened as if it planned to control the scrimmage. Guided by redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Nickson, the offense went 70 yards in eight plays for a touchdown on the first possession. Early in the drive, Nickson converted a third-down play by connecting a crossing route with sophomore wide receiver Earl Bennett that went for 35 yards. After Nickson rushed for another first down, redshirt freshman tailback Jared Hawkins scored the offense's first touchdown of the spring on a 10-yard rush.

The Commodore defense buckled down after the initial touchdown drive. Sacks by redshirt freshman defensive end Broderick Stewart ended the next two possessions. A sack by junior linebacker Jonathan Goff, a tackle in pursuit by junior end David Carter and defensed pass by sophomore safety Reshard Langford stopped the offense's fourth drive. A fumble recovery by junior defensive tackle Gabe Hall on the ensuing drive kept momentum for the defensive unit.

In its next to last possession, Nickson guided the offense into the 20-yard line after hitting passes to junior Steven Bright and a pair of redshirt freshmen, Justin Wheeler and Alex Washington. With its back to the end zone, the defense used a sack by senior end Chris Booker and pass breakup by Langford to halt the possession.

Black & Gold Scrimmage Scheduled Next Saturday, April 1
Vanderbilt faithful will get a chance to check out the Commodores' progress next Saturday, April 1, when Coach Johnson stages the Black & Gold Scrimmage in Vanderbilt Stadium. The featured event of Spring Practice starts at 10:00 a.m.

Admission to the Black & Gold Scrimmage is free to Commodore fans. Gate 2 at the stadium will open at 9 a.m.


Photo by Stan Jones.

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