Team 3 Gets to Work

Commodores opened spring practice Tuesday

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Spring football season officially got underway Tuesday morning outside the McGugin Center where the Commodores, Team 3 as they’re known, held their first of 14 practices ahead of the annual spring game scheduled for April 8.

Third-year head coach Clark Lea, linebacker Ethan Barr, wide receiver Will Sheppard, safety Jaylen Mahoney and offensive lineman Bradley Ashmore spoke afterward and gave their impressions of their first day back on the turf:

Clark Lea on the first day of practice: “This team has worked really hard to get to this point. We’re excited to be out playing football again. There’s a lot we need to work on, clean up, and then again we see progress. But that’s not necessarily the goal here. The goal here is how can we reach levels that we haven’t reached here?

“Do we feel like we have an opportunity with this group to do that? We can’t take anything for granted. I thought today was a good first day. We knew where to go, where to line up. We had everything in, which is abnormal, but we want to play football, we don’t want to play the game in segments. We want them to learn how to play it as it happens and as it unfolds on Saturdays. So we’ll need some more detail in what we do.

“But I was just pleased the operation and the spirit and the way we competed and I think it’s a good first day to build on.”

Lea on the goal to make the 2023 postseason: “We didn’t wait to set that as a mission. And obviously a stated mission sets a course. That’s our telescope. We then have to focus each day on what is needed or called from us in this day to have a chance at that. That’s our microscope.

“It was important for us to recognize where we fell short a year ago and how disappointing it was to be home for Christmas. To say that we know we’re capable and to have a stated goal now, let’s get to postseason play? The beauty is we have six months to really define what that can be. We don’t want to place limitations on what that can be.

“It’s important to us. It doesn’t guarantee us anything. We’ll be a few plays away from the highest possible levels, we’re also a few plays away from being really disappointed. Having the goal is one thing, actualizing the goal is another. But I think the goal is just a statement of belief in where we are and where we could be when we play this fall.”

Jaylen Mahoney on Tuesday vs. the first spring practice with Lea in 2021: “We’ve improved a lot. It’s a lot faster. Faster pace, we know what’s going on as players, we’re not just on the field confused and stuff like that. It makes it easier for the coaches, less directing and more player leading and stuff like that. We knew what to expect before coming in. The coaches did a good job detailing the practice so we knew what to expect.”

Will Sheppard on being a veteran: “I think now being the oldest in the room I have to take on more of a leadership role. Before I was behind Cam (Johnson), Chris Pierce, Amir (Abdur-Rahman)—all those guys. Now I’m the oldest, so now I got guys like Daveon (Walker), Q (Quincy Skinner), Jayden (Mcgowan), G (Gamarion Carter)—all those guys.

“It’s weird because I’m not even old. They call me an, ‘old head,’ but I’m not old.”

Bradley Ashmore on continuity on the offensive line: “It’s literally game-changing. You couldn’t ask for better. All the guys, everyone is jelling right now and playing really good together and it’s only the first day. You expect for the first day for no one to be playing together. To have even any sort of camaraderie on the first day? It was awesome. Everything is sloppy and nothing is going right, but we’re just happy to be back out here.”

Ethan Barr on how the defense looked Day 1: “It was great. It was good to be back out here with the guys. I thought we really came out and executed well for the first day. There were a couple plays out there we didn’t make, but overall it was great to come out and get rolling fast—I think that’s what we did. Unlike the past, we were able to implement a couple things throughout this early winter and let it carry over into today so we got to start fast this spring. It was great.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.