NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Vanderbilt Commodores returned to the John Rich Practice Complex on Monday for the program's third practice of the preseason.
Dressed in partial pads, head coach James Franklin and his staff focused on offensive and defensive schemes as well as competition throughout most of the day. The team also staged several skill and protection drills during the two-hour session.
The first-year head coach said he was pleased following the practice, noting that a lot was accomplished, even if the team was in only limited gear due to NCAA acclimation rules.
"I'm one of these guys that thinks you can get a lot of practicing with just helmets, if you know how to practice and stay up," Franklin said. "I thought we got a lot out of today because we were able to fit up and get a nice collision, and come off the line of scrimmage.
"I thought the O-line to have a better chance today, because without the pads on, the D-line's teeing off and it's hard to kind of stop that charge without some pads on. So I'm a big believer that you can get a lot done if you know how to practice, and we got a lot out of practice today."
One notable change to the Commodore offensive line on Monday was the move of Josh Jelesky from defensive tackle to offensive guard. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound redshirt junior has played sparingly on the defensive line the last two years, totaling 16 total tackles with two resulting in a loss.
Franklin believes not only has Jelesky taken well to the position in the early going, but believes he showed a lot of character in making the move recently from defense to offense. He also sees improvement on the offensive line as a whole.
"I've seen tremendous strides in our offensive line since last year," Franklin said. "We still got a long ways to go, don't take that the wrong way, but we've made tremendous strides on the offensive line.
"I think Mylon Brown has really improved and helped himself by changing his body, I think Seymour's really helped himself too.
"We moved Josh Jelesky over there and I think that's been a tremendous move for us and will be for the kid in the long run. He hasn't played offense much but I think that's going to give him an opportunity to maybe lengthen his career and see what happens and make a bigger impact on the team. He's a big bodied kid, a smart kid, a good kid, really what you're looking for on offensive line. He's got height and length, so I think that's going to help us.
"If you look at our defensive line, I think you'd always like more depth, but we've got a lot more depth on the D-line than we do on the offensive line. I can take a guy that maybe would be third or second rotating in [on defense], and now he's got a chance to maybe compete for a starting job. I'm really proud of him because I brought him and we talked about it. I'm learning now that when a head coach calls you, it's not like when I was an assistant. When the head coach calls you, everyone gets nervous or acts like something's wrong, so he came into my office on pens and needles but we had a good conversation and he's what we want here.
"He's a team first guy, maybe a little apprehensive at first because he's never done it, but I think he understood that it could make a big impact on our team and he was all for it. I even asked if he wanted to take some time and think about it for a day or two and he just said coach let's do it tomorrow and get going. I'm really proud of that kid."
While the line may be the Commodores biggest offensive concern heading into preseason camp, the biggest concern for the defense remains at the linebacker spot. Though the unit is led by two-time All-SEC linebacker Chris Marve, the group of second level defenders are still looking to establish depth as well as potential starters alongside the experienced veteran.
"It's still yet to be determined," Franklin said. "I'm very pleased with how Chris is practicing right now and Archie [Barnes] has improved physically as much as anybody on our team. I think Coach Galt's done a really good job with him. You can see his body has changed, he's stronger and more explosive, he's moving much better, so I think he's going to help us and have a much bigger role. I think it's still a position of concern though."
Vanderbilt will move to full gear for the first time this preseason on Tuesday afternoon. The Commodores will conduct the team's first two-a-day practice period, with sessions in the morning and in the evening, on Thursday.
Norman named to the Paul Hornung Watch List
Commodore running back Warren Norman was named to the Paul Horning Award preseason watch list on Monday. The award, which started in 2010, is given annually to the nation's most versatile player.
Norman was one of 50 players named to the list, that also includes eight other Southeastern Conference standouts.
The Georgia native has rushed for 1,242 yards during his two years as a Commodore, with seven rushing touchdowns. The rising junior has also hauled in 30 receptions for 218 receiving yards and a touchdown and has returned 62 kickoffs for 1,608 yards and three more touchdowns. He was named preseason All-SEC as a returner in July.
For a expanded report on Monday's practice, check out the Commodore War Room (Click here!). If you don't subscribe to VandySports.com, sign-up for our free 7-day trial (click here!) and see what you're missing.