Fall Camp Notebook

Commodores scheduled to scrimmage Saturday

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One week into the 2022 preseason, Vanderbilt will take a significant step toward the regular season at 1 p.m. Saturday when the team holds its a scrimmage at Ensworth High School.

The Commodores completed their seventh workout of fall camp Friday morning.

“It’s day-to-day. It’s like every day you’re trying to figure out what the team needs and what the mentality is,” Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea said Thursday about the progress of the squad, his second as Vandy’s head coach. “I think six practices in I think it’s safe to say you’re in the grind of it. These guys are probably feeling the effects, the aggregate of all the work we put in. I think that’s an important time where they’ve got to push.

“I’m excited for Saturday, for the scrimmage. It was good to go live (Thursday) to get the guys playing situational football. There’s a lot to like, but you always feel like there’s a long way to go and we’re still early in this.”

On Saturday, in a scrimmage closed to the public, Lea expounded that he’ll have his eyes keen to position battles along the line of scrimmage, in the secondary and at the wide receiver spot. Not to infer that all other spots on the field have starters penned in for the opener at Hawai’i on Aug. 27, but those three areas have perhaps the most questions due to depth, injuries and youth coming into the 2022 campaign.

Lea added that seeing neither the offense nor defense dominant has been a good sign in that each side of the ball has been competitive and not backing down from the other.

“Defensively, we like our length and athleticism. I think (it’s about) getting in shape and seeing that total effort, snap-in and snap-out. We need to be more disruptive on the ball,” Lea said. “Credit to the offense, we haven’t had as many turnovers this camp. I’d like to see a little more confidence and attack in the ball, a little more violence in the finish. But those guys are coming along.

“Depth on the defensive line is going to be huge. We have the ability to get to that point, but we have to have our young players come on. In the secondary we’ve got young guys that need to, through the scrimmages here in fall camp, need to show they’re ready to play and help us.”

Moving the Operation Down the Road

Vanderbilt will load the buses and take the nine-mile trip from the MgGugin Center to the Ensworth School’s Frist Campus on Saturday to conduct its first scrimmage of fall camp.

Due to continuing construction and turf replacement at Vanderbilt Stadium, Vandy applied for, and received, a waiver to hold its scrimmage off site at the local high school. The Commodores are also scheduled to scrimmage at Ensworth on Aug. 13.

Write it Down

Part of the Commodores preseason training has been the directive to keep a daily journal since fall camp started July 28.

Senior tight end and wide receiver Gavin Schoenwald said the diary is intended to allow he and his teammates time to break up the monotony of the daily grind that is preseason practice – waking, lifting, meeting, eating, practicing and sleeping at virtually the same time each day for nearly three weeks until Vanderbilt departs for Hawai’i.

“If you’re not careful each day sort of turns into the same. So how are you going to wake up each day and make a difference?” Schoenwald said. “It’s something we’ve done through our mental performance program with (mental performance director) Kaelene Curry, as well as coach Lea, is just taking time in our team meetings at 7:30 in the morning just writing down, ‘OK, how am I feeling? What do I want out of this practice?’

“For me personally it’s allowed me to clear my head and say, ‘OK, you know what, I’m sore, I’m tired, I’m beat up – and today’s only the first day of full pads.’ But, of all the stuff you go through, the 6 a.m. workouts, all the stuff that’s not ball in order to say, ‘you actually get to play full-paced football today.’ So just reframing it though a vision of gratitude is going to help me.”

Alumni and Visitors

Among the handful of alumni and visitors checking in on the Commodores this past week have been Jim May and Ken Hammond, both of whom addressed the team separately during the preseason.

May was an offensive lineman and former teammate of Lea’s while Hammond was a former All-American, also on the offensive line, who went on to play professional football.

Former Vanderbilt cornerback Corey Chavous, a 1998 NFL Draft pick, also watched the Commodores practice. Chavous does television work as an analyst and has his own website providing scouting information on NFL prospects.

David Cutcliffe, now the Southeastern Conferences special assistant to the commissioner for football relations, stopped by this week as well. Cutcliffe was the head coach at Mississippi from 1998-2004 and at Duke from 2008-2021.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt Athletics for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.