NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt took the action up a notch on Monday as the Commodores staged its fourth practice of fall camp.
Dressed in shoulder pads and other light gear, the two-hour, 23-period session was devoted to several segments of one-on-one, group, 7-on-7 and full team drill competition. The practice was the last in partial gear as the Commodores will move to full gear on Tuesday.
Though much of the day was "tag-off" with no throwing to the ground, the Commodore defense shined led by it's promising front. The defensive line made things very difficult on Commodore quarterbacks and stuffed any runs to the outside with it's speed and penetration.
Veterans like Vince Taylor, Caleb Azubike and Kyle Woestmann stood tall snap after snap, while younger players such as Adam Butler, Landon Stokes and Jonathan Wynn also made big plays during 11-on-11 action.
The Vanderbilt offense did respond later in drills with several big passing plays off of the arms of Austyn Carta-Samuels, Josh Grady and Patton Robinette. The trio hooked up with receivers such as Jordan Matthews, Chris Boyd, Jonathan Krause and Trent Pruitt for big plays, as well as backs Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour. Tight end Steven Scheu also hauled in several receptions against the teeth of the defense, though linebackers Darreon Herring and Larry Franklin made a few stops of their own, as did safety Kenny Ladler.
Head coach James Franklin said he was very pleased with the effort he saw on Monday,
"To me, it starts with energy and I thought we had great energy out on the field today," said Franklin. "Especially on the defensive side of the ball, but overall, I thought the energy was good. I love when it gets a little chippy and guys are talking to each other, that creates a good competitive environment, which is what we want. So I thought overall, there was some really good learning going on. A lot of guys were getting a bunch of reps. I was very pleased with practice."
Franklin has been impressed with the Commodore defensive line since before camp even began and after watching the day's practice, he was again pointing out what type of challenge it brings to the offense right now.
"To me, the factor in everything right now is the D-line. Just looking at them, their bodies and how they are moving, watching them in one-on-one's and then watching how disruptive they are being right now in team periods and inside run and things like that [is a factor]," said Franklin. "Vince Taylor right now is practicing at an unbelievably high level, so we've just got to keep building on that. I'm pleased overall."
Pulley making way at right guard
Though the offensive line may have been challenged on Monday, the core group continues to impress with its improved size, depth and developing cohesiveness.
Left tackle Wesley Johnson and center Joe Townsend anchor the unit while fellow returning starters Jake Bernstein (left guard) and Andrew Bridges (right tackle) appear to be entrenched along the starting line.
Right guard has had the most questions coming into camp but junior Spencer Pulley has made quite a statement through the first four sessions and appears to have a leg up on competition that includes the likes of Barrett Gouger, Chase White and Kevin McCoy.
"I'd say right now [Pulley's ahead], Spencer's started before, he's played before, he's over 300 pounds, he's powerful and moves well," said Franklin on Monday. "I think he's going to be hard to beat out, but we haven't made any decisions right now. We went over weights this morning and Barrett Gouger is up to 316 pounds right now, which is amazing just thinking of some of the weights and body types.
"So I think it's going to be a competition, but Pulley's ahead right now just based on experience."
Pulley has played in 17 games during his Vanderbilt career, making four starts, all at center. The Memphis native has also served as the team's No. 2 center during the first few days of camp.
The week on tap; Dore Jam this Sunday
Vanderbilt will conduct six more practice sessions this week including the program's first "Two-A-Days" on Saturday.
The Commodores will practice in full gear for the first time on Tuesday from 4:05-6:05 p.m. CT. The team will stay in full gear throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday sessions, all with the same time frame as Tuesday's session.
The team will then hold a morning session on Saturday at 9:25 a.m, running through til 11 A.M. The squad will re-take the field later that night at 7:50 p.m.-9:50 p.m.
The Commodore program will host its annual Dore Jam for Vanderbilt fans this Sunday at the John Rich Practice Complex behind the McGugin Center. The event starts at 3 p.m. Vanderbilt players and coaches will be on hand to autograph posters and more during the two-hour event.
Families are encouraged to attend as there will be inflatable games for kids as well as snow cones, free hot dogs and drinks.