Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Running just as fast as we can

by Barca Blog - With the emergence of freshmen Zac Stacy and Warren Norman plus the improvement of redshirt junior Kennard Reeves, finding enough carries for Vanderbilt's talented tailbacks seems to be a good problem to have.

Let's start with Stacy. The Centreville, Ala., native has been a rock as the first option out of the backfield, leading the team with 40 rushes and a touchdown for 222 yards (5.6 per carry). His 20 carries against LSU was the most by a Commodore against an SEC team since Cassen Jackson-Garrison ran 23 times for 119 yards against Ole Miss on September 15, 2007.

"(Zac) is one of those guys that has a nack for making great cuts at the right time," head coach Bobby Johnson said. "At the same time, he is physical enough that he can take the pounding and break tackles."

Reeves has earned increased playing time in 2009 by displaying his ability to run hard and hit the hole. The Duluth, Ga., native has already surpassed his career total in carriers and yardage in just two games this season. He's accumulated 97 yards on 12 rushes, which averages out to an outstanding 8.1 yards per rush.

Norman burst onto the collegiate scene with 18 touches for 105 yards and two scores in the opener against Western Carolina. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native didn't get a carry in Baton Rouge but did contribute on the kickoff return unit.

With three healthy options fighting for playing time, it can only raise the intensity during game week preparations.

"That's what competition does for you," Johnson said. "Hopefully, everybody works hard at practice to earn the right to get in there and play the game. Kennard did and that's why we put him in there (against LSU) and he responded. It's the same reason Warren got in the first game, and Zac's been in there both games. They've earned the opportunity."

Point of Attack: As a team, Vanderbilt is averaging 277.5 rushing yards per game so far, good for ninth in the NCAA. The Commodores will face a Mississippi State team that allowed 390 rushing yards in its 49-24 loss at Auburn last week. Establishing an attack on the ground against the Bulldogs will be critical if the Commodores' plan to earn their first conference win on Saturday.

"When you run the football," Johnson stated, "the other team just has to sit in there and figure out ways to stop you. It's just demoralizing if you're the defense because there's nothing you can do about it, and that grates on you."

Hawkins Returns: Jared Hawkins, VU's leading rusher from a year ago, returned to practice Tuesday after missing the first two games with a sore foot. His status for this weekend is TBD.

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