One Week Left of Preseason

Vanderbilt football fall camp notebook

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt football team began its third week of fall camp with a 90-minute workout Monday on the practices fields behind the McGugin Center.

With less than two weeks until the season-opening game against East Tennessee State at Vanderbilt Stadium (Sept. 4), the Commodores will be looking to tidy up their play before turning their attention to the game plan for the Buccaneers. Vandy is scheduled to train every day this week leading up to a closed scrimmage Saturday morning at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Here are some other news and notes from inside fall camp:

Quarterback Battle

Vanderbilt gave all its quarterback reps to Ken Seals and Mike Wright during Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the preseason. The sophomores took snaps with both the first-team and second-team offenses.

Vandy quarterbacks coach Joey Lynch explained that the duo will not only be evaluated on how they performed in the scrimmage but also constantly throughout the days leading up to the 2021 season. Part of that evaluation is running unscripted scenarios in which the signal-callers have to convert plays and command the offense on their own.

“Each of them have had plenty of those opportunities throughout camp and it’s been fun to watch,” Lynch said. “Learning football and situational football is so important at the quarterback position. Coach (Clark) Lea has done an unbelievable job designing our fall camp from a practice standpoint because we’ll get in so many situations that typically you don’t get until game day.

“It’s been fun to put those kids in those situations to see how they manage the game. So much of it is making the available plays, but there’s about playing the quarterback about winning the game within the game. They’re learning every day.”

Seals started all nine games in 2020 while Wright appeared in seven as Seals’ backup. Each started fall camp on equal footing with the chance to win the starting job in a new offensive system littered with designed quarterback runs, run-pass-option plays and traditional passing and running calls.

Now Seals and Wright have one more week to try to create some separation between them going into the season.

“We’re two weeks into camp and they both get a ton of reps and rotate with the 1s and the 2s and both are doing it the right way,” Lynch said. “They’re very competitive and they both want to be the guy. And they’re all each other’s biggest fans.

“It’s been fun to see. Looking forward to watching (Saturday’s) tape. We like where both of them are at.”

One More Play

Vanderbilt does not want to simply survive during camp. It wants to thrive in it.

No evidence of that was more clear than Thursday when Lea ended practice – and his team demanded more.

“We try build a mindset here that any time the ball is put down that we’re ready to play,” Lea said. “I think we’re trying to really grip the understanding that the mental controls the physical. Too often we’ve given in mentally before we’ve given ourselves a chance physically to find out what we’re capable of.

“The finish to (Thursday’s) practice was an example that there’s always more in the tank. Let’s not waste opportunities to really spend ourselves on our field in preparation for what we all want for each other.”

Vandy’s first camp under Lea has seen high temperatures, heavy humidity, indoor and outdoor sessions, full-padded workouts and helmets-only practices. The Dores have taken it all in stride as they try to grow inside Lea’s program and meet expectations.

“I think in the past we’ve had a perception of camp of just getting through it. But now it’s like camp is an opportunity for improvement,” Vanderbilt offensive lineman Cole Clemens said. “We’re out here trying to get better every day. Just that fundamental shift in mindset. I think it’s really going to catapult us forward to Sept. 4.”

Professor X

Lea and Vanderbilt defensive ends coach Jovan Haye begun building their relationship since their time as Vandy teammates in the early 2000s. When Lea was hired in December he retained Haye from the previous staff to help build a new form of Vanderbilt football.

“I always knew he was going to be a head coach and I always knew this was going to probably be his dream school,” Haye said. “It’s great to see the same things from him from when we were in school – he’s a hard-worker, locked-in.”

Haye was All-SEC for Vanderbilt while starting 34 games for the Commodores. His professional career included stints with Carolina, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Detroit before starting along his path in coaching.

Now he has the opportunity to have a front row seat as his former teammate molds the next generation of Commodores.

“Some people call him Professor X. He’s going to challenge you in every way. It’s great to see it,” Haye said. “From Day 1, to literally see the vision, to where we are today, gives you goosebumps. To see him lay it out and see the plan come together, it’s brilliant. It’s no different than when he was in college. He was the guy that always had everything mapped out and was going to make sure he saw everything through.

“He loves Vanderbilt. He loves this thing just like I do. I’m happy we’re able to do it together.”

Chris Williams Checks In

Among the visitors to stop by Vanderbilt’s preseason practice this month has been Chris Williams.

Williams starred at Vandy from 2003-07 as a team of Lea’s before being selected as the No. 14 overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 2008 NFL Draft. The Louisiana native played seven seasons in the NFL for the Bears, Rams and Bills until his retirement after the 2014 season.

A first-team All-SEC selection at offensive tackle, Williams played 36 games for the Commodores.



— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.