“(The scrimmage) was another opportunity to see how much progress we're making offensively and defensively, and see how our guys are going to react in game-like situations. Overall, I liked the effort and enthusiasm,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of guys on this team who want to contribute to our success. I thought a lot of our young guys took advantage of the opportunity, and made a case for playing time.”
Johnson said the Commodores, now midway through preseason camp, will start focusing on the gameplan for Michigan when they return to practice Monday. The Commodores and Wolverines meet Sept. 2 in Ann Arbor on ESPN. Kickoff is 11 a.m., CT.
Quarterbacks Chris Nickson, Mackenzi Adams and Richard Kovalcheck alternated through much of the scrimmage, which featured 65 plays and 14 offensive possessions.
While each quarterback directed scoring drives, tailback Jared Hawkins stood out in the rushing attack. Sharing carries with elusive freshman Gaston Miller, Hawkins tallied three touchdowns, including runs of 13 and eight yards.
Hawkins' first score, a plunge from two yards, capped the first offensive touchdown drive. The score came quickly, after Nickson connected with receiver Justin Wheeler for 21 yards and Bryant Anderson for 28 yards. With Earl Bennett, Marlon White and George Smith taking limited snaps Saturday, Johnson praised the continued development of several young receivers, including Wheeler, Anderson, Sean Walker and Larry Simmons.
The defense stiffened after the first touchdown, holding the offense to three straight possessions without a first down. Linebackers Kevin Joyce and Jonathan Goff, defensive ends Chris Booker and Curtis Gatewood, and tackle Greg Billinger made key plays to halt drives.
Late in the scrimmage, Adams completed three consecutive passes - two to Anderson and one to Hawkins - before Hawkins broke open inside the tackles for a 13-yard touchdown. On the following possession, Kovalcheck hit Simmons and tight end Jake Bradford before Hawkins scored from the 8-yard line.
Team to Participate in Founder's Walk Saturday
For the first time, Johnson and the Commodore returnees will participate in Founder's Walk, the annual celebration welcoming new Vanderbilt undergraduate students to campus.
The Walk, established four years ago by Chancellor Gordon Gee, has become a featured event of Move-In activities. On Saturday, the families of more than 1,600 first-year and transfer students will participate in Founder's Walk, which starts at the front gates of campus and goes past features Kirkland Hall where Vanderbilt Board of Trust members, Gee, administrators, deans, faculty, staff and student representatives will be among the official greeters. Johnson and the team will join in the large greeting party.
The Founder's Walk procession, which starts at 5:30 p.m., also will include 33 newcomers to the Vanderbilt football team.
Upcoming Practice Schedule
The Commodores will take Sunday off, then return to the John Rich Practice Facility for one session Monday and two practices Tuesday.