Saturday, August 8, 2009

Notes and news from Vandy's first practice

Ah, so these players we've been talking about and this team we've been analyzing all summer are finally on the practice field. If you want to check out some of the new players and track their progress, I'd highly recommend going to the official Vanderbilt Web site. This morning, you'll find two photo galleries of players practicing. I spent a few minutes learning the numbers of some of the new players. You know, because you should never stop learning.

Also, the Tennessean's new VU beat writer, Jeff Lockridge, is doing a fine job following the Dores so far. Check out his coverage and notes from last night's practice.

Anyway, here are a few things from Day 1:

• SAMUELS READY TO GO: True frosh cornerback Eric Samuels, who for some reason was listed on the depth chart as sharing No. 37 with safety Al Owens, is now wearing No. 22. He's a great-looking athlete, long and lean like now-sophomore safety Sean Richardson, who didn't get much hype when he signed but played in the season opener and immediately looked like he belonged there.

• BIG NUMBER SIX: Speaking of numbers, No. 6 sort of has a slimming effect on hulking tight end Brandon Barden, who wore No. 87 last season.

• FAREWELL, FELLOWS: Receiver Justin Wheeler and linebacker Brandon Bryant, both fifth-year seniors, are officially done with their playing careers because of injury. Wheeler had huge touchdown catches in upsets of South Carolina in 2007 and Auburn in 2008. Bryant battled multiple injuries and never got to show off his big-league pursuit skills. Thanks, guys. Now get that Vanderbilt diploma.

• ONE LESS REDSHIRT FROSH: Offensive lineman Micheal Bryant has left the team. A 6-5, 285-pounder from LaVergne, Tenn., he was caught in a log jam of redshirt freshmen O-linemen that included Ryan Seymour, Caleb Welchans and Richard Cagle, but he'd improved his strength and quickness and was competing to backup right guard Eric Hensley.

• STRONG WANTS TO START...AT TSU: As we've noted for about a week, Alan Strong has left the team. Looks like the rumors that he's headed to Tennessee State are true. Strong told Lockridge: "I was listed on the second string behind D.J. Moore but I never got the opportunity to go into the game when D.J. or Myron got hurt. TSU is in Nashville so it's familiar. Their record was pretty good last year, they were one game away from the OVC championship and I think I could have helped them out." It's a shame to lose our only experienced backup at cornerback. Strong was a good athlete, had played in some big games, and was seemingly one injury away from starting or getting some serious minutes. Maybe the freshmen look so good and ready to play that Strong saw no choice but to leave.

• WILSON'S GOT THE MOVIN' MAN BLUES: True freshman Trey Wilson, one of those freshmen DBs expected to play right away, didn't practice last night. Why? He dropped a bed on his toe moving into his dorm. No kidding.

• FRESHMAN BACKS ON THE ATTACK: Stan Jones of Vandy Mania reports that the three freshman running backs — Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate (note alphabetical order) — look "great" and have "very quick feet." He says Stacy looks particularly impressive.

• WAITING ON TERENCE: Terence Jeffers-Harris made an appearance at practice wearing jogging shoes but did not participate. We should know early next week if he's got the academic credits to play.

• CABBAGE IN THE HOUSE: If you're looking at the photo gallery of practice, you'll notice a big No. 70 working out with the O-Line. That's true frosh Justin Cabbagestalk, who's been suspended for the season but is enrolled in school and practicing with the team. "We thought it was important to get him here, let us keep tabs on him and know that he'll be around a good group of people who are going to influence him well," Coach Bobby Johnson told Lockridge. Just call it the Tampa program, because the same thing happened to Jermaine Doster last season.

• ON THE MEND: Jared Hawkins, Broderick Stewart and John Stokes were back on the field after missing spring practice recovering from injuries and surgeries

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