Schedule: Practice starts Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Tuesday (Aug. 10).
What’s new: Bobby Johnson decided he’d had enough of football a few weeks before the start of preseason practice, and veteran offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell was chosen to succeed him. Caldwell was initially named the interim coach, but Vanderbilt officials have since removed the interim tag. Caldwell brought in former Tulsa offensive coordinator Herb Hand to take Caldwell’s place as offensive line coach. Before he retired, Johnson had already announced that quarterbacks coach Jimmy Kiser would call all of the offensive plays this season after sharing that role with Ted Cain, who remains on the staff as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Mike Pelton is in his first season as defensive ends coach.
Sidelined: Senior offensive guard Chris Aaron will not return because of an inner ear problem.
Key battle: The Commodores are set at two of their linebacker positions with Chris Marve in the middle and John Stokes at one outside spot. If Triston Strong is healthy, he could be the starter at the weak side spot, but will have to fend off challenges from Dexter Daniels, DeAndre Jones and Archibald Barnes.
New on the scene: Redshirt freshman Wesley Tate joins an already talented running back stable that includes Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. Redshirt freshman Wesley Johnson is in line to be one of the starters at offensive tackle, and the same goes for redshirt freshman Jay Fullam at free safety. Redshirt freshman defensive end Walker May had a strong spring and will provide pass-rushing help. The Commodores are looking for all the help they can get at receiver, which is where redshirt freshman Brady Brown and true freshmen Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews come in.
Breaking out: Junior tight end Brandon Barden has All-SEC potential. He led the nation two years ago in catches by a freshman tight end. If he avoids the key drops, he could develop into the Commodores’ top receiving threat this season.
Don’t forget about: Jamie Graham has played a little bit of everywhere during his career. He even played on the Commodores’ basketball team at one point, but looks like he’s settled in on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback where he’s the front-runner to be a starter opposite Casey Hayward.
All eyes on: Junior quarterback Larry Smith. The Commodores have to get better play out of the quarterback position after completing just 48.3 percent of their passes last season. It goes much deeper than just throwing the ball, too. Vanderbilt needs a leader at quarterback, whether it’s Smith, junior college newcomer Jordan Rodgers or senior Jared Funk.
Quoting: “You have to earn everything you get in this league. We saw that last year. It can get away from you in a hurry. The only way to get it pointed back in the right direction is to go to work every day, and that’s what we’ve done.” -- Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve