NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The past five weeks for Vanderbilt football have been filled with new excitement and new energy.
While the announcement of the Vandy United campaign and the unveiling of a renovation plan for Vanderbilt Stadium’s north end zone have put a surge into that wave of excitement, the fresh spirit of first-year head Clark Lea and his staff have been the driving forces during spring practice for the Commodores on the field.
Now they get to showcase a different brand of Vandy football at 11 a.m. Saturday inside Vanderbilt Stadium. The program’s annual spring game is open to the public and will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
“I’m energized to get out there again and I know the guys are energized to get out there again to compete with each other and to share with our fans, communities and families,” Lea said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Vanderbilt’s first spring game with Lea at the helm will simply pit the offense against the defense. The head coach said the program simply doesn’t have the depth right now to form two complete teams.
A unique scoring system will be used to award points to either side of the ball. The Commodores will compete in a game-like setting for the first half and likely play during a running clack in the second half.
Lea also said he and his staff won’t lose sight of Saturday being the 15th out of 15 spring practices.
“Within that we want to see one more day of improvement,” he told WPRT-FM this week. “There’s been some significant growth on the individual level, but also on our identity level – learning about who we are and crafting our plan to win. You just want to see that taken one step further on Saturday.”
Coming off a shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in which Vandy played just nine games instead of the traditional 12, Lea takes over a program that still has some familiar names back for the 2021 season.
Quarterbacks Ken Seals, Mike Wright and Jeremy Moussa are back along with wide receivers Amir Abdur-Rahman, Cam Johnson and Chris Pierce. Tight ends Ben Bresnahan and Gavin Schoenwald have returned as have offensive linemen Drew Birchmeier, Tyler Steen, Jonathan Stewart and Cole Clemens.
Defensive returners include Allan George, Jaylen Mahoney and Dashaun Jerkins in the secondary, Ethan Barr, Feleti Afemui, Anfernee Orji and Alston Orji at linebacker and Daevion Davis, Elijah McAllister, Malik Langham and Rutger Reitmaier up front.
Those student-athletes and their teammates will put their best foot forward Saturday in order to continue the positive momentum into the coming months.
“The goal in the spring game is to just bring things to a close in this segment, have something we share with our fans and our community and then ultimately get out injury free. There’s something to be celebrated just in that, too,” Lea said. “We’ll be mindful of both wanting to have a long enough exposure where we learn something about ourselves, where we’ll able to compete and we’re able to grow within football situations that come up within a game.
“Then also making sure we get out of spring relatively healthy and are able to launch into a summer that will deliver us to a really, really important fall camp.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.