NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt wrapped up its first week of spring practice Saturday with the third of 15 scheduled training sessions including the April 8 spring game.
The Commodores donned full pads for the first time this spring during Saturday’s workout.
“We’ve had some good back and forth. I think the competitive margins are tightening which is a good sign,” third-year head coach Clark Lea said. “Every inch is harder to attain, but you got good back and forth. So I think that’s a good start.
“We’ll look at (Saturday’s) film. We had some live situations so there will be some good tackling stuff that shows up. But on the whole I think we’re on course and set up to have a great week next week and, obviously, enjoy some time away (after that).”
Vandy is looking to build off a 5-7 season and to continue to strenghten its program and culture under Lea. There are 52 upperclassmen on the roster this spring giving Lea plenty of veterans who have a complete understanding of what is expected of them each and every day.
But there is also a large group of second-season student-athletes who had significant special teams roles in 2022. The expectations for that unit have been raised as well.
“One thing we learned last year is that these guys need time to grow. We need to keep building into them and keep pulling it out of them every day,” Lea said. “We feel like we have a young, talented team and through continued investment and development we feel like we can be pretty competitive when it comes time for the fall.”
Vanderbilt is scheduled to return to the practice fields at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Offensive Line Notes
Vanderbilt got some unfortunate news this week when it learned Jake Ketschek had suffered a significant leg injury that will sideline the junior indefinitely.
Ketschek, from New Jersey, started the final three games of the 2022 season at right guard and logged 212 snaps for the season.
With Ketschek’s absence, senior Kevo Wesley has moved back to the offensive side of the ball after spending much of the 2022 season on defense. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound native of Chicago began his career on the offensive front, but had appeared in just one game before the ’22 campaign.
Vandy has also added Logan Kyle to the offensive line by moving him to tight end. Kyle, a senior, has spent his first three seasons with the Commodores as a wide receiver mostly serving on special teams.
The Texan had one catch for five yards against Mississippi State during the 2021 season.
Cutcliffe and the Commodores
Former Duke and Mississippi head coach David Cutcliffe visited, and spoke with, the Commodores on Friday.
Now the Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Football Relations at the Southeastern Conference, Cutcliffe most recently spent 14 seasons at Duke and led the Blue Devils to a 10-4 record and division title in 2013.
“He has become a great partner to all of us in the SEC as coaches,” Lea said. “But I think particularly for me, being that he had his experience at Duke, he understands what it’s like to build an elite football program at an elite institution. He’s such a great resource for me, but also I appreciate the time spent with our team, too.
“Neat thing to have a coaching legend like that come out and share some wisdom with them so we appreciate that.”
Lea and his staff are constantly looking to build strong relationships with past Commodores—that was certainly apparent this week at the McGugin Center.
Corey Harris, Oren Burks, Jordan Matthews, Will Holden and Jim Arnold were just a few of the former Vandy greats taking in practice throughout the week. Many others were part of a large group of families, friends of the program and recruits watching Saturday morning’s session.
“It’s fun to see people take an interest in what we’re doing and it’s seeing the signs of progress,” Lea said. “We look forward to more of that. Hopefully at some point we’ll have to put some stands out here and really set up for some attendance.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.