Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vanderbilt preseason football practice update: Terence Jeffers-Harris not in the house

Yes, Terence Jeffers-Harris attended practice on Friday. No, he didn't attend practice on Saturday and no, Bobby Johnson wouldn't comment on his status. But yes, Johnson said he'll make an announcement in the coming days.

SPEAKING OF WIDE RECEIVERS: As if the Dores aren't shaky enough there, they practiced Saturday without projected starters John Cole and Udom Umoh and redshirt freshman Akeem Dunham. Cole and Dunham tweaked hammies ("hamstrings are probably the most unpredictable injuries," Johnson said after practice) and Umoh had a sore shoulder. Looks like the coaches had already decided to move 6-6, 230-pound junior Justin Green from tight end to wideout, and he caught a touchdown over the middle on Saturday. Walk-on Rich Tompkins has also moved to wide receiver from defensive back.

TRUE FRESHMAN IN THE MIX: Green's move to wide receiver signals two things: First, the coaches may have given up on Green, a huge target with good hands, ever becoming physical and aggressive enough to play tight end, meaning that true freshman Mason Johnston may get a chance to play in the TE rotation this season. Second, if the coaches are desperate enough to move Green and walk-on Tompkins, who was listed as a second-team cornerback on the preseason depth chart, to wide receiver, then they'll also be inclined to give true freshmen Brady Brown and Collin Ashley more than a long look at receiver.

AND ABOUT THOSE RUNNING BACKS: Jared Hawkins sat out practice yesterday after playing Friday because the coaches don't want to bring him back too quickly. "It's killing me to be on the sidelines," he said. Yeah, it's killing him to watch true freshmen Warren Norman, Zac Stacy and Wesley Tate challenge him for playing time. But JHawk is a class guy and he said "those three guys are all doing real well." He added that the coaches are "looking for some of the younger guys to step up." Johnson continues to confirm this: After practice he said the team now has "more speed" at tailback and that all three have "got some get-up-and-go." He said the new backs "could help everybody," adding that an improved running game would take pressure off the quarterback and the offensive line and open up the passing game.

EXPECT SAMUELS TO PLAY RIGHT AWAY: True freshman corner Eric Samuels grabbed an interception during a scrimmage, and so did redshirt freshman Micah Powell and — big surprise — Myron Lewis. Expect Samuels to play on special teams right away just like Casey Hayward did last year, but because of less depth in the secondary, expect him to start contributing a lot earlier on defense.

KICKING DUEL: Senior Brett Upson and redshirt frosh Ryan Fowler continue to battle for the placekicker job. Upson finished practice by nailing a 42- and a 47-yarder, but Fowler missed a couple of long ones, "just barely," Johnson said.

PHOTOGENIC AWARDS: What can you tell from looking at still photos of preseason galleries? Not much. But true freshman Mason Johnston is one big, strong-looking prospect at tight end. And the redshirt freshmen have been pumping some iron for the past year. DE Josh Jelesky, who we've pretty much dismissed as having no chance to play this season, has added quite a bit of muscle, and DE Johnell Thomas and LB DeAndre Jones both look like beasts.

COACHES READY TO GO: Click here to read a nice article in the Tennessean about defensive coaches Jamie Bryant and Bruce Fowler and their new titles.

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