Wednesday morning saw Vanderbilt's fourteenth practice session of the preseason and the first half of a third two-a-day practice session. As the preseason wears on, some players are showing signs of fatigue, but Coach James Franklin was defensive and ensured that the team was keeping its energy up.
"We're not going to hit a lull. Did we show some signs today? Yes we did," said Franklin. "But it was not a lull. I won't stand for a lull. We're going to push through it."
During an end of game simulation at the end of practice, running back Zac Stacy broke off a 70-yard touchdown run, scampering into the endzone untouched. Franklin saw signs of a lack of effort and called the entire defense into a huddle to encourage and restore their energy. Shortly thereafter, Franklin sent veteran lineman T.J. Greenstone off the field in favor of Colt Nichter.
"It's a wake up call for everybody. You better come and be ready to play every single day," said Franklin. "I have tremendous respect for TJ Greenstone, for Chris Marve, for Larry (Smith), all those guys who have played here in the past. Their job is to come out on this field…and go earn it. No one is going to give them any favors for the rest of their life and I'm not going to out here on this football field."
Redshirt junior Colt Nichter continued his strong preseason performance on Wednesday, breaking into the backfield for what would have been sacks in live play. In addition, Nichter forced a fumble on a carry up the middle by running back Micah Powell.
After struggling for most of preseason camp, the linebacking corps performed well on Wednesday morning, particularly redshirt junior Tristan Strong and redshirt freshman Blake Gowder. Strong deflected multiple passes and made a great read by jumping a Larry Smith screen pass and returning the interception for a quick touchdown.
In only his second full day of practicing with wide receivers, former running back Wesley Tate showed signs of improvement and an increased knowledge of the playbook. Tate caught one long Josh Grady pass across the middle for what would have been a 30-yard gain during 11-on-11 drills.
Alongside an injured Jerron Seymour, running back Warren Norman was completely kept out of practice for the first time on Wednesday, wearing a red injury jersey. Zac Stacy and freshman Mitchell Hester got the most repetitions at running back. Both were able to get consistent success at cutting the ball upfield.
The Commodores will return to the practice field on Wednesday evening for the second block of the two-a-day session.