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September 11, 2013

Wednesday's post-practice notebook

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin held a brief, post-practice session with the media on Wednesday. Here are the notable things coming out of that session.

Commodores adopt cancer patient

The VU football team staged an "adoption" ceremony after practice on Wednesday night for 7-year-old Alexander Scroggins of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Scroggins was wheeled to mid-field after practice where Franklin addressed both he and the team for several minutes.

Scroggins suffers from medulloblastoma, a highly malignant and fast-growing brain tumor. The ceremony was arranged with help from the Jaclyn Foundation, a non-profit foundation that raises pediatric brain tumor awareness while improving and prolonging the quality of life for children and their families. Go to FriendsOfJaclyn.org for more information.

Defending the read-option

Vanderbilt has had nightmares defending the read option, and it will see plenty of that on Saturday against South Carolina. Coach James Franklin addressed that issue on Wednesday.

"It's being disciplined with your gaps, being gap-sound... what happens is, you get beat one time on it and somebody isn't in their gap and somebody tries to over-compensate, and then the quarterback reads that and hits you in the gap where the guy just over-compensated and left in trying to help out his buddy," Franklin said.

"So, you've got to be very disciplined. You've got to get all 11 guys doing that they're supposed to do, and then obviously when you get a chance to hit the quarterback, you've got to hit the quarterback. All those things factor into it."

Hurry-up offenses

Franklin was asked about defending today's up-tempo offenses, and feels his team's been up to it.

"I think we've handled the tempo stuff pretty good with how we substitute and simplifying some of our defensive calls, because hurry-up offenses aren't about making the perfect call. It's just about execution and the rhythm and the tempo of it. So, it affects some defensive coordinators who want to make the perfect call on every play based on down and distance, instead, just get back to fundamentals and technique and call a sound defense, and let's line up and play and get our feet set," he said.

Attacking Carolina

Vanderbilt's passing game, led by quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and All-American receiver Jordan Matthews, has been quite formidable in the first two weeks. The Gamecocks gave up 13.4 yards per pass attempt on Saturday, leading one to believe that's the best place for the Commodores to attack USC.

Franklin addressed that topic on Wednesday, though from listening to his answer, it didn't sound like the Commodores smelled blood in the water there.

"I think whenever you've playing a team that's going to load the box up, that's got a talented defensive line, it's going to create some one-on-one opportunities on the outside," Franklin said. "With that said, the issue is, they've got a talented defensive line and a talented pass-rusher -- multiple talented pass-rushers -- so you've got to be able to get the ball out fast as well. That's the situation you want to be in. You want to have a talented line that creates problems in pass protection. You want to be able to load the box up and force the run, and everybody's looking for a defensive end that puts the fear in offensive coordinators and tackles, and they've got that. They've got a scheme that matches their personnel."

The good news is that the Commodores have done well in pass protection.

"Between (Carta-Samuels) and the offensive line, I think we have maybe one sack this year, or something like that. So I think that's been a positive, that we're going to be challenged this week with that. I think Austyn has the ability to be even more of an effective runner, and I think he can do that more often. ... There's a couple of times where he's held onto the ball longer than I thought he should have. He's got the ability to pull it down and go for positive yards, and I'd like to see him do a little more of that."

Forcing turnovers

With a potent pass-rush and a great secondary, VU figured to force a lot of turnovers this year. Instead, it has forced just one so far, but, in Franklin's words, "It'll take care of itself."

"We've been talking about it and emphasizing it like we do every year," Franklin said. "We've done a great job in getting sacks. I do think we can get a few more strip-sacks and be a little bit more violent on contact, and maybe the ball will come out. There haven't been a whole lot of opportunities. Last week, the ball came out quicker (from the quarterback's hand)," he said.

Franklin said he felt VU missed two chances at interceptions vs. Ole Miss.

Moving indoors

If you think an indoor practice facility isn't important to Franklin, consider that he led off his Wednesday evening press session with remarks about VU's current lack of one.

"We've had two (practices) this week where we've had to come off the field -- two practices that we had to modify and come off the field," Franklin said. "[We were] in the gym floor in our socks and sliding around, trying to get some work done in the recreation center. I'm no different than probably a lot of coaches, I'm a paranoid coach, so all the guys that are jogging around the track above us and are staring at us and [I'm] trying to make sure they're not staring too long. The guy that's stretching in the hallway outside the weight room, I'm worried about him watching practice.

"But, [it's] a really good example this week of why we're so excited about the indoor opening, because [it's] two practices in a row we've had to modify."

Franklin said he's been told that the facility will be open on Halloween.


Franklin said he's not settled on a backup quarterback between Patton Robinette or Josh Grady. The two split time in the second half last week, with Robinette clearly getting the upper hand in game action, which Franklin admitted. Franklin said he'd probably make a decision on Thursday ... Franklin was asked about the situation at Oklahoma State, which is subject to a Sports Illustrated exposeŽalleging improprieties in many areas. Specifically, Franklin was asked about whether he allows boosters in the locker rooms, Franklin gave his standard answer. "Specific questions about how we handle things other than South Carolina, I'm not interested in," he said. ... Franklin was asked about the slow offensive starts in both games; the Ole Miss game, he attributed to turnovers, while in the APSU game, he admitted it was simply a slow start. ... Regarding the fact that from the second half of the opener on, quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball more quickly, Franklin said the 'Dores could drop eight men into coverage and do a good job of tackling. "They can nickel-and-dime us, but it's going to be difficult to do that the whole way down the field," he said.

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