Vanderbilt football head coach Clark Lea took to the podium for his first press conference of the season ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Hawaii. Here are the highlights:
- Starts with some injury updates: Cole Spence is out for the season. Jake Ketschek is out until late in the season. Errington Truesdell and Steven Sannieniola are out indefinitely. Week-to-week are Darren Agu, Christian James, Ezra McAllister, Prince Kollie, and Jeffrey Ugochukwu. Agu specifically is out for the Hawaii game but should be back quickly once he’s back practicing.
- Daevion Davis needs time to “let it calm down a bit.” We have to be conscious of where his knee is.
- We’re planning to acclimate to the heat; it’s probably not going to be triple digits on Saturday night. We want the heat to be an advantage. We’re splitting time between indoor and the practice fields; we want to make sure we’re ready but also don’t want to sap energy.
- We know more about where we are entering the season than we have in the past. That’s because we’ve been practicing good on good.
- Cornerback is one of the biggest question marks on the team. They feel good about running back because of the offensive line. Sedrick Alexander will be the first up of the freshman, Deago Benson continues to develop.
- Wishes that Cole Spence was available but they knew coming into camp that he wasn’t going to be. We feel really good about Justin Ball and Logan Kyle. Kyle has the skills to create matchup issues because he has receiver skills but he’s built out to 235 pounds. They’re probably not going to stray far from 11 personnel in spite of the loss of Spence.
- Where are they going at defensive end with Agu out? Yilanan Ouattara has been playing there with Agu and can create issues with his size, Linus Zunk has earned the chance to be out there as well. Nate Clifton is a team captain, so they feel good about the spot even without Agu.
- On complacency, we’re a team that can’t take anything for granted. We made great progress from year one to year two and Hawaii will too. Has a ton of respect for Timmy Chang and the Hawaii football program. We were asleep for the first 11 minutes of the game last year.
- How valuable is it for the corners to get tested on Saturday? It’s going to tell us a lot about where we are.
- There’s a little more known about Hawaii this season. They’ve made the transition to a run-and-shoot attack, they have good tight ends, a good running back. They’re going to be able to move the ball on the ground too. But we expect to see a weaponized passing attack. We’re a little ahead of where we were last year in terms of what to expect, but we haven’t seen them yet.
- What went into Richie Hoskins being second on the depth chart? He’s impressed us since he arrived. Consistent leader and playmaker, really good hands, smart, physical, tough. He’s earned it.
- Is Walter Taylor the third quarterback? Clark Lea points out that there’s an “or” between him and Drew Dickey. They’re both very talented players, but we’ve lacked consistency. We know Ken Seals is second string, but beyond that is situational and what skills are required to execute the offensive plan as it’s evolved through the game.
- Kicker is still undecided between Jacob Borcila and Brock Taylor. We’ve seen enough from each of them but we want to see more this week.
- Bradley Ashmore was forced into action early in his career, probably physically wasn’t ready but he’s a really smart player and good leader.
And here’s a link to the depth chart. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises, at least once you got the injury updates from Lea. Walk-on Richie Hoskins being second-string ahead of Junior Sherrill is a bit of a curveball, though I wonder if that’s actually going to happen on Saturday. I’m a bit surprised at Aeneas DiCosmo starting ahead of Miles Capers at the star position. And as mentioned in the press conference, placekicker is still an open competition between true freshman Brock Taylor and Kansas transfer Jacob Borcila (though noteworthy, Will Faris is handling kickoffs.)