August 8, 2009

Camp Insider: Commodores take the field

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt football program opened its 2009 preseason camp on Friday night with more than 100 players in attendence including 18 starters and close to 50 returning lettermen from last year's Music City Bowl Championship squad.

The Commodores spent over two hours working on individual position instruction and technique, tempo philosophies and a series of one-on-one, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.

"They were running around out there and getting after it," Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson said to the media following the first practice. "The energy level was great and everybody was enthusiastic. I thought we got a good bit of teaching accomplished. We threw a lot at them today, especially the young guys.

"What's important is that we have something on film. Now we can watch the film, come back tomorrow and show them what they did right and what they need to work on."

Two Commodores see their careers come to an end

Though the Commodores entered the first practice with nearly 20 seniors on the field, two other veteran players were not in attendence on Friday as Coach Johnson announced that linebacker Brandon Bryant and receiver Justin Wheeler will not be on the player roster in 2009.

Bryant, a two-year letterman who made three stars during his sophomore season in 2007, has been granted a medical hardship after chronic leg injuries caused him to miss the entire 2008 season and the spring practice period earlier this year. The former standout out of Cincinnati (Ohio)'s St.Xavier program, played in 19 career games and posted 34 total tackles including 22 solo with two tackles for loss and a sack during his two years of playing time.

Wheeler, who earned varsity letters in 2006, 2007 and 2008, emerged as a starter at receiver last season. The North Augusta (S.C.) native caught a career high 16 passes for 145 yards and a memorable touchdown catch in Vanderbilt's win over Auburn. However, just as the former two-sport high school athlete was finally becoming a factor in the Commodores passing game, he suffered a ACL injury during the first week of Vanderbilt's spring practice period in March. The coaching staff initially hoped that Wheeler would be able to rehab the injury and return to the field at some point this fall, but it became apparent that wasn't going to happen recently. Wheeler finishes his Commodore career playing in 30 games, making 10 starts and catching 26 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

Both are on course to graduate with their desired degrees soon.

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