NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A few heavy rain showers couldn’t slow down the Commodores on Friday as Vanderbilt began preseason practice.
Vandy moved its two-hour workout into the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center and took its first step toward the 2022 season and season-opening game at Hawai’i on Aug. 27. Second-year head coach Clark Lea recognized that the first practice of the 2022 preseason was in stark contrast to the one that started the 2021 preseason.
“Last year’s first practice, it was alarming. We are way more comfortable with what the expectations are and the manner of which we practice and the mindset toward attacking things and doing hard things together. I feel great about that,” Lea said. “This was still Practice 1. Mistakes are mistakes – I’d expect that. We have a lot of young players that are getting folding in, but we have to be patient with their development.
“The manor in which we move from drill to drill will improve, but on the whole I thought the effort, the attention to detail, the intentionality was there today. I would expect that. That’s the work we did this summer. That’s the work we did in spring. We’re further along.”
Vandy worked through its 24 periods of training relatively crisply thanks, in part, to a core group of returners on the field and on the coaching staff. Quarterback Mike Wright said that comfortability was due to the team’s drive and focus that started as soon as the season ended in November at Tennessee – or what he referred to as, “the Orange School.”
Wright said the commitment from his teammates to be willing to work together through the winter and summer made transitioning into fall camp seamless.
“The only thing that feels different is just that where we were a year ago for Day 1 and where we are now. Night and day,” Wright said. “This is our first fall camp practice, but we’ve been here all summer. This is really like practice 16 for us.
“It feels different as far as the progression of the program here.”
The Commodores are scheduled to be back on the practice field Saturday before an off day Sunday. Saturday’s session will be the second of 19 workouts before the squad heads to Hawai’i to spend a week on the island of Oahu getting ready to face the Rainbow Warriors.
Lea wants his players competing each and every one of those workouts to earn a spot on the flight to Honolulu.
“There are very few guys right now that we’ve locked in to spots,” the former Vandy fullback said. “We want this team to take shape over the next few weeks.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt Athletics for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.