Vanderbilt practices with pads for first time

Vanderbilt practices with pads for first time

Vanderbilt held its third practice of the spring and its first in full pads on Tuesday afternoon and began the process of bringing the Commodores' minds and bodies up to live game speed leading up to the Black & Gold Game on April 17th.

"There was a little hesitancy," said Head Coach James Franklin after Tuesday's drills. "Guys were thinking a little too much, but you kind of expect that. Defense, as is typical, was a little ahead of the offense, but I like our attitude, and as long as we keep working we'll be fine."

The coaches still minimized contact during many sections of the day's practice, reminding players to follow a "tag-off" rule with ball-carriers that Franklin describes as a hybrid of two-hand touch.

"It's not like we go to pads and we go live every single period," Franklin said. "We had a couple periods that were live. We had what we call a Dore Drill – what some people call an Oklahoma Drill – which kind of got us going, and then we did our goal line live period. But again, it's the first time we installed goal line, and then we go goal line live. So they're still figuring out what they're going to do – not as aggressive as you'd like to be once you know your assignments inside and out."

As he did over the weekend, Franklin gauged the energy and tempo with which his players were practicing by keeping a close eye on who followed the play through to the very end. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews was pushed to the ground twice after one reception in 11-on-11 drills but was still allowed to get up and continue the play as Franklin held the whistle to force the defense to pursue the ball.

Later in 11-on-11 drills, linebacker Andrew East chased down wide receiver John Cole as he turned upfield, stripping the ball loose from behind at the end of another play Franklin had allowed to run in its entirety.

The offensive and defensive units also spent time matched up against each other in specified drills by position. While wide receivers battled cornerbacks through 1-on-1 routes, the offensive linemen worked on switching assignments mid-play against the defensive rush. Receiver Chris Boyd fought through tight coverage to make a tough catch deep down the field during 1-on-1 drills, and cornerback Trey Wilson cut in front of a short pattern several repetitions later for a quick interception.

"You want to see them be athletes and play with the same fundamentals and technique as they do in shorts," said Cornerbacks Coach Wes McGriff of the initial full contact practices. "What you do when you're in shorts, you try to teach them how to play as if they have on pads, with the exception of the contact. So when they put on pads, you don't want to see much change except for the contact. And that's one of the hardest things for a football player to do once he comes out of shorts, to play with the same grace, knee bend, athletic ability as he did when he didn't have the pads on."

Thursday's practice, the fourth of 14 sessions this spring, begins at 4:40 p.m. at the John Rich Practice Complex. On Saturday morning, the Commodores will hold their first practice open to the public of the season, starting at 10:15 a.m. inside Vanderbilt Stadium.

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