The Commodores pushed hard Thursday in their final tuneup prior to the Black & Gold Spring Game scheduled Saturday in Vanderbilt Stadium.
Head Coach James Franklin put the squad through a 2-hour, 15-minute session that featured plenty of intensity, enthusiasm and energy. In extended 11-on-11 team periods, the Commodores prepared for the upcoming spring finale by addressing all three phases of the game.
The squad will hold a limited walk through Friday during their final prep for the spring game, which will kickoff Saturday at 6 p.m. The game, free of charge, will be followed by a fireworks show over Vanderbilt Stadium.
Main Goal of Spring Game: Leave Spring Drills with Confidence
Franklin wants the Commodores to depart the spring game with confidence heading into summer workouts and preseason camp.
"I want to see the defense fly around and the offense to make plays. I also want it to be very, very competitive, and it would be exciting if some of the young guys stepped up," Franklin said. "I really want us to end the spring on a really positive note, give our players a lot of confidence going into the summer, and really whet the appetite of our fans for next season."
Focus Continues on the Passing Game
Franklin said the Commodores' aerial attack has improved after a full spring focused on the passing game. The coach said nearly 70 percent of Vanderbilt's offensive plays this spring have been passes.
"I think we've gotten better in that area and made more plays," Franklin said. "I think (wide receivers coach Josh) Gattis is doing a really, really good job with our guys. He brings a toughness to that group and has them working hard."
Franklin also talked about Rodgers' continued progress entering his final year. "When I watch Jordan, I'm more worried about does it make sense. Are his eyes in the right place, is he breaking the huddle with confidence, is he aware of the play clock, is he going though his progressions. He has pretty good control of what's going on."
Franklin has selected Rodgers to quarterback the Black team. Carta-Samuels and freshman Patton Robinette will handle signal calling chores for the Gold squad.
TV for Spring Game will be Taped Delayed in Southeast
The spring game will be shown Sunday across the Southeast on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS). It will air Sunday at 5 p.m., CT.
The game also will be available on the internet at espn3.com, though a 24-hour blackout is in effect across much of the southeastern United States. In other areas of the nation, it will be shown live on espn3.com.
Gates Open Saturday at 4 p.m.; Star Walk is Slated for 5:05 p.m.
Gate 2 of Vanderbilt Stadium, located near the intersection of Natchez Trace and Jess Neely Drive, will open Saturday at 4 p.m., for fans arriving early to the Black & Gold Spring Game. The first 1,000 fans entering at Gate 2 will receive a commemorative "Anchor Down" poster that includes the 2012 season schedule.
Construction in McGugin Center will force a different route for Star Walk, the traditional player parade from its locker facilities to Vanderbilt Stadium. On Saturday, the Commodores will depart McGugin from the weightroom and walk down Jess Neely Drive to the tunnel leading into the stadium.
Former NFL Head Coach, Vanderbilt Defensive Back Standout Address Team Meeting
Recent National Football League head coach Eric Mangini and former Vanderbilt All-Southeastern Conference standout Corey Chavous accepted Franklin's invitation to address the squad at a pre-practice team meeting.
Mangini, current NFL analyst with ESPN and former head coach of the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, watched all of the Thursday practice after spending two days with the Commodore defensive staff. Mangini also renewed an old friendship with former high school teammate Sean Spencer, Vanderbilt's current defensive line coach.
Chavous ranks among the finest defensive players in modern Vanderbilt history. An 11-year professional veteran, Chavous has spent the last several years developing draftnasty.com into one of the top NFL Draft websites. Chavous also is on tap to serve as Comcast Sports Southeast's analyst for the Black & Gold Spring Game.
It marked Mangini's second visit to Vanderbilt. As the Jets' newly named head coach in 2006, he came to the campus with other Jets brass to hold a private workout with SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jay Cutler.
Though Thin in Numbers, O-line has Improved During Spring Drills
Franklin praised the team's depleted offensive line corps guided by third-year mentor Herb Hand. This Saturday, the unit will be dressed in white jerseys because just eight linemen will dress for the spring game.
"The O-line, both mentally and physically, has really fought through spring ball and I'm proud of them for that," Franklin said. "A bunch of young players have gotten a bunch of reps. Joe Townsend is tremendously improved. You can say the same thing for Spencer Pulley and Jake Bernstein.
"But I'll be honest with you, I can't wait for the cavalry to show up," Franklin said, referring to the six offensive linemen signed in February. That crop of offensive line prospects is regarded by recruiting experts as the team's best class of line signees in decades.