SEC: Jared Funk

Vanderbilt showing some life on offense

April, 9, 2010
Third-down efficiency and scoring in the red zone have been an emphasis for Vanderbilt this spring.

Obviously, the Commodores struggled to score, period, last season.

But as they point toward Saturday's Black & Gold Scrimmage, they've shown more signs of life offensively this spring.

Running back Kennard Reeves has shown up all spring with big plays, and that's a position where the Commodores should be able to do some damage with Warren Norman and Zac Stacy both coming back.

But it still remains to be seen how good Vanderbilt is in the middle of its offensive line.

Has Larry Smith done enough this spring to lock down the starting quarterback job? Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has never been hesitant about allowing the competition at that position to last all the way into preseason practice to make sure he's got the best guy.

Fifth-year senior Jared Funk has gotten a lot of work at quarterback this spring. He was in on the first drive during the Commodores' four-play scrimmage last Tuesday and led the offense on a touchdown drive. He had the big play in the drive, too, on a 29-yard pass to John Cole.

One of the younger guys to watch for on defense Saturday is redshirt freshman defensive end Walker May, who was dominant at times in last Tuesday's scrimmage.

Vanderbilt's Smith still has to win job

March, 25, 2010
The Vanderbilt starting quarterback job might be Larry Smith's to lose, but he’s chosen to look at it a little differently.

It’s his job to win … but he still has to win it.

Larry Smith
Don McPeak/US PresswireLarry Smith believes he's a better quarterback for having endured a 2-10 season.
“Competition makes everybody better,” Smith said. “You have to go out there every day and compete. If you don’t, you’re not going to have a chance. You’ve got to get better every day.”

Smith started every game last season as a sophomore until injuring his hamstring and missing the final three games.

It was a forgettable season all the way around for the Commodores on offense. That’s what happens when you go 2-10 and finish 113th nationally in scoring offense.

Smith doesn’t necessarily like to look back, but he’s also quick to point out that he’s a better quarterback for having gone through last season in the SEC.

“Reading defenses should be one of the most improved areas for me,” Smith said. “Last year, I had started just one game heading into the season, and it showed. The main thing is experience and knowing how to react when something goes wrong.”

Smith completed 46.7 percent of his passes last season for 1,126 yards four touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Commodores moved the ball well at times, but their issue was getting into the end zone.

In 36 red zone trips last season, they scored just 14 touchdowns. Go back and look at how that compares to the 2008 season when the Commodores won seven games. They had 35 red zone trips that season and scored 23 touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, the Commodores have gone heavy this spring on full-contact work in the red zone, and they’ve also emphasized third-down situations.

Smith shared the quarterback snaps with senior Jared Funk and redshirt freshman Charlie Goro during Tuesday’s scrimmage. Junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers will likely be more of a factor as the spring progresses and he learns more of the playbook.

And while the Commodores certainly have to be better at quarterback next season if they’re going to be more potent offensively, the guys around the quarterback also have to make more plays.

“We just have to go out there and catch the ball no matter who’s throwing it to us,” sophomore receiver John Cole said. “I think the experience factor will help us, having a year in this offense under our belts, but it still gets down to making enough plays to win and doing all the little things right.

“There’s nothing we can do about last year. We’ll move on and start over.”