NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Last week, the Vanderbilt defense began its first spring practice under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
Roof, a former coordinator at Auburn, Penn State and Georgia Tech among other Power 5 programs, is eager to get the ball rolling in Nashville. “(Vanderbilt) head coach (Derek) Mason, the people, this university, this place to live – I’m as excited about this opportunity as any opportunity I’ve had,” he said.
After one week of spring drills and three practices, Roof is encouraged by what he has seen from the Commodore defense.
“I’ve been impressed with their effort and enthusiasm, their commitment to learning, and getting better,” he said. “Excited about how our guys are approaching it.”
Roof has associated a new staff to direct the Commodores in 2020, attracting Aaron Henry from North Carolina State to guide cornerbacks and Kenechi Udeze from reigning CFP champion LSU to coach outside linebackers. Javon Haye (defensive line) and Marc Mattioli (defensive backs/safeties) also remain from the 2019 defensive staff.
Roof will guide a young, yet experienced unit. He has 30 letter winners returning from the 2019 squad, including all 11 position starters. The returnees include defensive linemen Dayo Odeyingbo, Drew Birchmeier and Cameron Tidd, linebackers Dimitri Moore, Feleti Afemui, Kenny Hebert and Andre Mintze, cornerbacks Allan George, BJ Anderson and Jaylen Mahoney, and safeties Frank Coppet, Tae Daley and Deshaun Jerkins.
With a new defensive scheme for the Commodores, Roof is focused on the details and being precise.
“From an installation standpoint we want to install something, rep it and then as coaches have to an opportunity to go to the meeting room and fix it so the players can correct it and see improvement,” Roof said. “Instead of jumping to the next thing, you want give players a chance to improve, so the level of confidence improves because then they see an increase level in the efficiency and execution.
Veteran Defensive Line Looks to Lead
With Birchmeier, Odeyingbo and Tidd all back for their senior seasons, the defensive line returns plenty of experience. The unit, boasted by junior Rutger Reitmaier, sophomore Daevion Davis, redshirt sophomore Malik Langham, redshirt freshman Derek Green, and redshirt freshman Christian James, figures to be the deepest position groups for the Commodores.
“We have good depth, we have a lot of potential and a lot of promise to do some really great things,” Birchmeier said.
The three seniors have taken it upon themselves to be the leaders of the group.
“We’ve been here 4-5 years at this point so that is our goal to help the young guys,” Birchmeier said. “They’re all very good players, just haven’t played as much football yet.”
Back to Work on Tuesday
The Commodores will return from spring break this weekend and start their second week of spring practice at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The team will quickly transition from light gear to full pads next week.
The Commodores will continue practicing each week through March, leading to the Black and Gold Spring Game on April 3. The team’s featured spring session will start at 7 p.m. in Vanderbilt Stadium.
Vanderbilt’s spring practices are open to Commodore fans.