Less than a week into fall preseason practices, it appears to be a two-man wide receiver show at Vanderbilt – at least to head coach James Franklin.
And that bothers him.
Sophomores Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause have impressed the first-year coach but he is still waiting for others to emerge.
“That is a position of concern,” Franklin said. “That is an area that we need some guys to step up. That could limit some of the things we would like to do offensively. Or what we are going to try to do is be more multiple out of different personnel groups. I am concerned about the wide receiver depth.”
Matthews, a 6-foot-3, 202-pounder, continues to stand out, making spectacular grabs. On Monday, he dove over two defenders to snag a pass that appeared to be underthrown by Jordan Rodgers.
Later that day, he hung onto a ball after he received a blow from safety Javon Marshall.
Matthews might be playing himself into the No. 1 role. In just five games last year, he led the Commodores with four touchdowns – all in the last four weeks of the regular season.
“He goes up and attacks the ball,” Franklin said. “He is driven to be great. He is a very driven kid.”
Krause also enjoyed a successful freshman season. The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder played in 10 games. He used his speed and vertical leap to finish third on the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (243).
Redshirt-junior John Cole led the wide receivers in yards last year. But he sat out most of the spring after undergoing ankle surgery.
Franklin was impressed by redshirt-freshman Chris Boyd on Monday. But Boyd wore a red injury jersey on Tuesday and Wednesday. He appeared to hurt himself on Monday when he dove into the end zone after a long catch and run.
Senior Udom Umoh’s starting job could be in question. He had 194 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2010 but also dropped a lot of passes. So far this fall, it hasn’t looked like he has kicked the habit.
Others who have taken live reps are freshman Jacquese Kirk and redshirt-junior Jameson Sackey.
Quarterback Larry Smith received a lot of the blame for Vanderbilt’s offensive woes last year. But at times he didn’t get much help, especially in big moments, as dropped passes doomed the Commodores.
“We just have to work on footwork and routes and being more consistent in catching the ball,” Krause said.
Franklin agreed those are necessary requirements for a good receiver – but he wants more.
“We need playmakers,” he said. “We need guys who are going to make plays when the ball is in the air. Not only can go get the deep one but can take the five-yard one and turn it into an 85-yarder – those types of things. We need a guy that can get you an extra 12 to 16 yards a play. That is what we are looking for. That is what we need.”
• Former Brentwood Academy standout Derek King doesn’t look like a freshman to Franklin. With a 5-foot-11, 198-pound build, the cornerback has the physique to make an impact. But Franklin cautions that he still has some learning to do.
“He is a very, very talented kid,” Franklin said. “He has to learn to transfer all that onto the field. For a defensive back, he is put together and can run. He just has to refine his skills and be very, very detailed in everything he does. … He is one of those kids who is going to do exactly what you tell him to do. Because of that he is going to turn himself into a pretty good football player.”
• Though Boyd was wearing a red jersey on Wednesday, he appeared to have no trouble catching passes when the six quarterbacks went through their individual drills.
• Vanderbilt practiced in full pads on Wednesday for the first time this fall.
There were also referees on hand to officiate the Commodores’ seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 workouts.
They’ll have their first two-a-day session on Thursday. The first practice will begin at 9:10 a.m. They’ll return to the practice field later that evening at 5:20 p.m.
Vanderbilt’s only open practice to the public will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the John Rich Practice Facility.