Vandy has Spead in Defensive Backfield

Darlron Spead found it difficult not playing at Vanderbilt last year. Redshirting was hard for him to endure. Still, he impressed the coaches every week, earning Defensive Scout Team Player of the Week after Vanderbilt beat Arkansas.

A year later, Spead not only plays, he is the first team nickel back. Against the very same Razorbacks he helped his teammates prepare for last year, he picked up his first interception of the season when he picked off Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain on a crucial fourth down conversion attempt. He returned the intercepted pass 26 yards. Spead also recorded his first career tackle for loss, when he smashed into Peyton Hillis following a quick pass. That play ended an Arkansas drive that had brought the Razorbacks near midfield.

Spead has also broken up two passes for the season, but it's two other passes that have bugged him this year. Against both Michigan and Alabama, he had the opportunity to pick off passes and was unable to do so.

"The coaches and the guys had been getting on me, telling me I'd had two interceptions but I'd drop them," Spead said. "In the Alabama game, I thought I gave my best effort to make the play in the end zone, but it fell short. In the Michigan game, the ball hit me right in the hands. I don't know what I was thinking; I felt bad about that because it could have changed the momentum of the game. I could have returned it down the sideline for a score. I knew I had to come into the Arkansas game, and if I got my opportunity, I had to take it. I saw them throwing the ball toward me, and I had to make a play on the ball."

For a first year player, Spead has been indoctrinated into BCS football by going up against three probable bowl teams, one of which could vie for national honors. He hasn't faced chopped liver quarterbacks. "We've faced three great quarterbacks so far," Spead said. "Chad Henne was great. I didn't play that much nickel at Alabama, so I didn't get much chance to gauge John Parker Wilson. The freshman Mitch Mustain was really great. He has incredible arm strength with accuracy too."

Spead started at cornerback on defense and running back on offense at Camden County High School in Kingsland, Georgia. There was some adjustment to playing in the middle of the defense as opposed to playing on the corner. He believes, "The toughest part of playing nickel back is being physical. You have to see if the play is a run or pass. If you see run, you've got to come up and blow the play up. If you see pass, you have to know to get back quickly and cover your zone. I'm having fun with it and adapting to the situation."

Spead is steady and learns quickly. He should improve a little every week, and he is a true team player who sees the big picture. "Right now, I'm focused on winning ball games", he said. "I listen to my coaches and read my keys. If I keep doing that and playing hard and fast, then we're going to win some ball games."

Commodore Superlatives

Vanderbilt is a perfect 100% when it comes to scoring touchdowns once they enter the Red Zone (opponents' 20 yard line).

The nine play, 87-yard drive for a touchdown against Arkansas ties for the third longest drive by an SEC team this year. The 6:58 that drive took off the clock was the fourth longest SEC drive so far and second longest scoring drive.

The Commodores are now averaging 4.2 yards per rush. When you remove quarterback sacks, the Commodores are averaging an eye-popping 5.1 yards per running play.

Jared Hawkins is currently averaging 15.3 yards per rushing attempt, but does not have the minimum number of carries to qualify statistically as the conference leader in this category.

Jonathan Goff's 25 solo tackles ranks 3rd among NCAA Division I-A players. His 34 total tackles tie him for sixth best in the nation, and his two forced fumbles ties him for fourth nationally.

Reshard Langford's four passes defended (interceptions plus broken up passes) ties him for 3rd in the SEC.

Brett Upson and Vanderbilt's punt coverage team currently resides 19th nationally in net punt average (punting average minus return average, with touchbacks counting as 20 return yards) at 38.8 yards. Opponents average only 0.8 yards per total punts, as most of Upson's punts have been non-returnable. Top Stories