Dissecting The First Weekend: What James Franklin and the Vandy Website Had to Say About Practice

This past weekend, the Vanderbilt Commodores ground through a pair of heat-addled practices in their first steps towards a potential first-ever SEC title. Head Coach James Franklin seemed particularly pleased with Saturday's showing as the 'Dores went through 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills to gauge the team's progress heading into the 2011 season. The official Vanderbilt website had a breakdown and recap of the day's action, and the reports were all positive when it came to the team's progress from last year's debacle of a season.

Of course, things seemed a bit more optimistic than most would apply to a team coming off a 2-10 campaign. The recap focuses on the team's areas of strength - running back depth, secondary play, defense - while glossing over some of the more intriguing battles coming into the team's training camp. Without a full-gear session in the books for this team, it's tough to gauge just how good these guys really look. Still, it's a solid source of information at a time when not even Coach Franklin knows how this team will shape up in September.

Since we weren't able to cover the weekend's practices live, we've read through the VUCommodores.com report a few times now. On the surface, things are looking pretty good, but once you read between the lines, the shine of a potential Music City Bowl berth seems to wear off a bit. Here's what we came away with after reading last weekend's recap of Vanderbilt's first real practices of 2011.

(On Saturday's practice) That was the best practice we've had since I've been here. They were flying around, fighting through some adversity and encouraging each other. Today was a step in the right direction.

- James Franklin

What we read this as: "Friday's practice was horrible."

It was a big improvement from the first day. It was a little bit cooler but we practiced a lot harder, faster ... we had guys cramping and they fought through it. I saw some really good signs today of toughness.

- James Franklin

What we read this as: "Thankfully, these guys aren't the pussies I immediately thought they were."

Quarterbacks Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers threw efficiently, with Smith showing excellent touch on his passes. He completed several deep patterns, including one to wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "We still don't know who's going to be starting, but please don't be disappointed when Larry Smith runs to the huddle against Elon and gets sacked for a nine yard loss on his first snap. Additionally, please note that this year's playbook features deep passes to players that aren't named John Cole."

Cornerback Casey Hayward deflected consecutive passes, and knocked down a third in the 11-on-11 session.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "If opposing quarterbacks target Hayward during the season, they're idiots."

Defenders cheered cornerback Eddie Foster at the close of a 7-on-7 session when he intercepted the final pass.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "Foster might have the edge when it comes to claiming the corner spot opposite Hayward. Hope he likes getting 20-25 targets per game! ...also, who threw that pass?!?"

Both freshmen running backs, Jerron Seymour and Mitchell Hester, displayed excellent bursts and downfield acceleration. Veteran back Zac Stacy also impressed, making solid reads and quick cuts to elude tacklers.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "We didn't play Warren Norman because he was busy sleeping in his hyperbaric chamber, but it turns out highly rated recruits actually make good players! Unless we plan on utilizing a five-man rotation at running back, there's going to be a logjam for playing time behind Norman. Wesley Tate's emergence better be as good as advertised, because he's got some competition to separate himself from."

Defensive tackles Rob Lohr and T.J. Greenstone frequently forced quick quarterback decisions with pressure. Lohr also batted down a quick slant pass from Smith.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "The offensive line still kinda sucks. Also, our new term for 'crumbling to the ground' is 'quick quarterback decisions.'"

Several offensive linemen, including Ryan SeymourWesley JohnsonKyle Fischer and Mylon Brown, opened holes in the 11-on-11 session.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "Wait, did you read too much into that last point?"

Safety Javon Marshall, recently moved from cornerback during the summer, showed a nose for the ball and was in position to make numerous plays over the middle.

- Official VUCommodores.com take

What we read this as: "Maybe this kid is the next Corey Chavous, or maybe our quarterbacks throw like limp-armed little girls."

All-in-all, the recap suggests that this year's team will be similar to last year's, with a focus on defense and an ever-rebuilding offense struggling at times. However, it's still too early to jump to many conclusions about the on-field product. Position battles, including Smith-vs.-Rodgers at quarterback and Chris Marve's running partners at linebacker, will make this preseason a memorable one for Commodore fans. Full practices resume today after yesterday's annual Dore Jam at the Rich Practice Facility.

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