NASHVILLE, Tenn.- As expected, junior quarterback Larry Smith has been named the starter for Vanderbilt's season opener this Saturday. Commodore head coach Robbie Caldwell made the official announcement on Sunday. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith won the job over senior Jared Funk, junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers and redshirt freshman Charlie Goro.
Smith made nine starts a year ago before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the Commodores final three games. The starter in Vanderbilt's 16-14 win over Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl, Smith struggled during portions of the 2009 season but seemed to improve just before sustaining the injury against Georgia Tech. He has completed 125-of-311 pass attempts in his young career for 1,293 yards and five touchdowns. Smith has also rushed for 253 yards and two more scores.
Smith showed improved accuracy and touch during both the spring practice period and the August Preseason Training Camp. The former Alabama Mr.Football Winner also showed a better command of the Commodores spread offense, taking on more of a leadership role.
"Larry has separated himself, and deserves to get the ball," Caldwell said on Sunday. "He has the big edge on experience, and really understands the offense. I expect to see Larry play well Saturday."
"I'm happy to be named the starter because all four of us competed for it," said Smith. "I'm much more familiar with the offense this season and confident that we will have more success."
Jared Funk, a fifth-year senior who came into the program as the nation's 13th best dual-threat quarterback, will enter the season as the backup. A distant No.3 or No.4 on the depth chart in previous years, the Illinois native made great strides during the off-season as well, making better decisions and showing more poise in the pocket.
"Jared also did a great job and really made it a competition," Caldwell said. "He'll be the No. 2 guy and will be ready to play if called upon. We have confidence in both of them."
Vanderbilt is looking to improve on last year's poor offensive performance. Though the Commodores averaged nearly 31 points and over 430 yards of total offense against non-conference competition, the unit averaged just 234 yards per game and nine points against SEC competition. The Commodores hope that improvement by Smith, an influx of new talent at receiver and a promising running game will help produce better numbers in 2010.
Vanderbilt will open the season against Big Ten foe Northwestern this Saturday, September 4th, inside Vanderbilt Stadium. The game is scheduled to kickoff around 6:35 p.m. CST.