Notebook: Starters Back for Spring

Numerous Texas Bowl starters to reprise roles for Spring Game on Saturday

by Larry Leathers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Numerous starters from Vanderbilt’s 2018 Texas Bowl squad will be in uniform at the Black and Gold Spring Game this Saturday on campus.

Head coach Derek Mason is expected to put this squad through a physical and fast-paced session as Vanderbilt fans get to see their team for the first time this spring on Saturday. The game, which starts at 11 a.m., will feature an offense-vs.-defense scrimmage format.

Mason’s spring squad features a dozen starters from the Texas Bowl and 53 returning letterwinners, including 25 on offense, 26 on defense and two on special teams.

The spring game also will air live on the SEC Network, with former Commodore quarterback Jordan Rodgers, Nashville radio personality Dawn Davenport and analyst Matt Stinchcomb providing coverage from the sidelines.

Admission and parking (surface lots off Natchez Trace) are free to the featured spring practice. The team’s traditional Star Walk entrance into Vanderbilt Stadium from McGugin Athletics Center will take place at 10:20 a.m.

Active career leaders will be In uniform

Most of the team’s active career leaders, including wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb, tight end Jared Pinkney, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo and linebacker Dimitri Moore, will be available to participate in the spring feature.

Lipscomb ranks fifth all-time among Commodores with 19 touchdown catches and sixth with 151 catches. Pinkney, who has 98 career receptions, tops all Commodores with 29 starts. Vaughn is coming off a 1,244-yard rushing season, the second-highest total in team history. Moore and Odeyingbo rank as active leaders with 84 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss, respectively.

Key pieces in explosive offense return

Several key contributors are back for a Commodore offense that ranked among the program’s most productive a year ago.

Vaughn, Lipcomb and Pinkney are among the team’s top returnees from an offense that averaged 411.2 total yards and 28.5 points per game a year ago. In the program’s modern history, only the 1974 team bettered the 2018 Commodores in total offense.

Though eight offensive starters are back, first-year coordinator Gerry Gdowski must replace all-time passing leader Kyle Shurmur, veteran line starters Bruno Reagan and Justin Skule, and versatile running back Khari Blasingame.

At least one quarterback will see action at receiver

Mo Hasan, who saw action behind Shurmur in 2018, is expected to participate as a wide receiver at the Black and Gold Spring Game.

The athletic Hasan, who threw six passes and ran for 45 yards in a limited role last year, has worked at receiver for the last two weeks.

Up to five others could take snaps at quarterback on Saturday, including graduate transfer Riley Neal, junior Deuce Wallace, redshirt freshman Allan Walters, freshman Jamil Muhammad and sophomore Jack Bowen.

Neal, Muhammad among six newcomers who could participate Saturday

Neal and Muhammad are among six new arrivals since Vanderbilt’s Texas Bowl appearance who could see action this Saturday.

Others include freshman defensive tackle Daevion Davis, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Brandon Maddox, junior cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams and freshman cornerback Gabe Jeudy.

Vanderbilt Athletics Surplus Sale gets spring game day started

Commodore fans can shop through an array of Vanderbilt athletic gear at the Merchandise Surplus Sale, which opens at 8 a.m., in the practice gym that adjoins Memorial Gymnasium. The sale, which features discounted prices for authorized athletic gear, will close at 10 a.m.

The Commodore football program is offering numerous helmets at the sale. All four Vanderbilt helmets (gold, white, black and “Deep Water”) will be available. Additional football items include hundreds of game jerseys (with and without numbers), pants, socks, cleats, bowl watches and Texas Bowl cowboy hats.

Other Vanderbilt teams have added numerous items, including NIKE jackets and hoodies, men’s and women’s tennis shoes, Star V and Anchor t-shirts, running shoes/spikes, shirts and winter caps from track & field, women’s lacrosse t-shirts and tennis sweatsuits.

Three food trucks, Black and Gold Lounge on tap inside stadium

Three popular Nashville food trucks – Music City Brisket, Muy Thai Tacos and Mac Attack – will be serving their specialties inside Vanderbilt Stadium.

Free coupons for the food trucks will be distributed to the first 250 Commodore fans entering Gate 3 (Hawkins Field gate).

The food vendors will be inside Gate 4 on the northeast side of the stadium. The location will be convenient for fans sitting on the east side and Commodore fans participating in the Black and Gold Lounge on the open-end zone berm.

The lounge opens at 10 a.m, and continues to 1 p.m. All fans must be 21 years or older to enter and will need to purchase a $20 wristband in order to enter the lounge. The $20 admission fee will include two drinks and access to the lounge area. Children accompanied with parents will be permitted.

Kids Zone outside stadium on Jess Neely Drive

Starting at 9 a.m., young Commodores and their families can enjoy the Kids Zone, which will be located just outside the stadium off Jess Neely Drive. Several inflatables and kids activities, along with a free cotton-candy machine, will be featured in the kids’ area.

Additionally, youngsters can get autographs from their favorite Commodore student-athletes at the end of the game and sign up to participate in a Little Commodore Combine that will be held on the Dudley Field playing surface.