Vanderbilt gears up for spring practice

James Franklin (VM/Stan Jones)

Head Coach James Franklin met with the media on campus at the McGugin Center on Wednesday afternoon to discuss his plans for the Commodores' spring drills, which kick off on Friday.

Franklin was joined by several of the team's most well-known returning players, including linebacker Chris Marve and quarterbacks Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers. The players had wrapped up their preparations ahead of spring ball with the final session of the team's offseason workouts run by strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt earlier Wednesday morning – much earlier Wednesday morning – getting started at 5:30 a.m.

"These workouts have been way more challenging than I'm used to, but at the same time, I think it's better for the team as far as being in better shape, as far as hopefully preventing the numerous injuries we've had in the past," said Smith, who threw for 1,262 yards and six touchdowns as the starting quarterback for most of last season. "I can see a difference in myself and the younger guys, they're bulking up real fast."

On December 17th, Franklin was announced as the next Vanderbilt head football coach. The three months since then have been a frantic progression of steps towards laying a new foundation for his program, from hiring a full coaching staff to signing a recruiting class.

"The change that I've seen in just a short period of time we've been here, and the players can probably talk about it better than I can, I couldn't be more excited about where we're going, the attitudes of the guys on the team, the improvements that we've made," said Franklin in his opening remarks on Wednesday.

Franklin outlined the aggressive style in which he wants to run his practices but also noted the precautions that will be taken to help avoid the injuries that have plagued the Commodores in offseasons past. The first two spring practices on Friday and Saturday will be non-contact, along with the final mock walk-through before the Black and Gold game on April 18th, and quarterbacks may be off limits all spring long. Franklin maintained the emphasis he plans to place on establishing tempo and confidence.

"I do not want those guys to go out there and play afraid to make mistakes," Franklin said. "Sunday through Friday, prepare and practice like your life depends on it. On Saturday, just go out and play. I‘m going to sleep very good on Saturday night because I know my staff and my team has done everything they possibly can to get prepared."

In response to questions surrounding the spring depth chart, Franklin expressed his hopefulness to use the next month to settle a majority of the position battles before him heading into summer workouts.

"Right now we got names on a board by seniority," he said. "You might've been the third-team guard last year but you're a senior, you're first on the depth chart right now. After spring ball, I would say about 75 to 90 percent of that depth chart will be set, but there will still be some adjustments from there."

Senior linebacker Chris Marve, one of last year's team captains, was the first player to meet Coach Franklin upon his arrival in Nashville and is excited about the energy he has brought to the program.

"He's very enthused, charismatic, excited all the time," said Marve. "You can just tell when you talk to him he's so committed to what we have going on moving forward and being a great team."

Friday is the first of 15 sessions of official practice the Commodores will hold this spring, leading up to the Black and Gold Game inside Vanderbilt Stadium on April 18th.

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