Commodores not sitting pat

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Not content. Hardly satisfied. Looking to take that next step.

Spend any time around Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson or any of his players, and you'll almost certainly hear one of the above phrases.

Maybe all of them.

The Commodores, coming off their first bowl victory in 53 years, open preseason practice on Friday night with high hopes and the kind of momentum this program hasn't seen since Johnson was a defensive backs coach at Furman.

The year was 1982, and Vanderbilt was coming off an eight-win season. But the Commodores went 26 years before they had another winning season.

Nobody in black and gold plans on waiting around that long again.

During the SEC media days last month, Johnson said he thinks the "sky's the limit" for the Vanderbilt football program. And that's not just coach-speak, either. He means it.

The Commodores are starting to beat some of their SEC brethren for players. They're closing the talent gap with the rest of the league, and they've been able to build some depth under Johnson.

They're also not afraid to try things.

Their defense last season was perhaps the most aggressive in the league. They blitzed from everywhere and were continually mixing things up.

They also plan to try something new on offense this season -- a hurry-up, no-huddle attack. The Commodores used it most of the spring and liked what they saw.

It's a good fit for sophomore quarterback Larry Smith, who still has to win the starting job. His ability to throw the ball probably gives him an edge over senior Mackenzi Adams, but Johnson insists it will be an open competition. Junior Jared Funk also got a lot of reps in the spring.

The Commodores played three quarterbacks last season, but Johnson said that was more out of necessity because of injuries.

"We're not going to decide anything that early," Johnson said. "I think it would be crazy to tell a guy he couldn't have a chance to compete for a starting position when you start practice. So we're gonna go out there, let them work at it and try to make them better. If I know our guys, they'll try to get better."

The Vanderbilt quarterbacks won't know if they'll have talented transfer Terence Jeffers-Harris to throw to this season until probably the first part of next week. Jeffers-Harris has been working toward getting eligible and finishes up his summer school exams this weekend.

To be eligible in the fall, a player has to meet the NCAA's progress-toward-degree requirements, and Jeffers-Harris was hurt by some of his credit hours not transferring from Connecticut.

Also, senior linebacker Brandon Bryant will not practice. He's been trying to battle back from injuries for much of the last two years and may have to finish out his career as a medical redshirt.

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