Injury not likely to force Fugger down Vanderbilt's depth chart

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 10:55pm

Tim Fugger is confident an injury this spring that cost him a few practices won’t hurt him when it comes to maintaining his starting job.

His new coaches aren’t concerned either.

Fugger, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end for Vanderbilt, sustained an upper body injury early this spring and missed four practices because of it. His progress hasn’t been hindered, though.

With the Black & Gold Spring Game at 6 p.m. Sunday at Vanderbilt Stadium marking the end of spring practices, it is clear the coaching staff is happy with what it has seen from Fugger, even if it has been a smaller sample size.

“He is a really good football player. He plays the game the way you would hope someone would play,” first-year defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said after Thursday’s practice. “He is disruptive. He plays with what coaches would call a motor. He gives tremendous effort all the time. ... You know, we can win with him.”

Added head coach James Franklin: “When he is out here in practice, it has been obvious he makes an impact for us.”

In fact, Fugger says the time off wasn’t time wasted. The Oak Brook, Ill., native said it allowed him to study up on the defensive schemes Vanderbilt will run out of its 4-3 base defense.

“It actually gave me more time to focus on the playbook,” he said. “It stinks when you’re not getting the reps because that is the biggest thing that makes you get better. It help me learned the plays a lot more. ... I feel I am still the No. 1 guy. I don’t think it has really slowed me down that much.”

Not much slowed down Fugger last fall when he forced four fumbles, which was tied for the seventh most in the nation. He also set personal bests with three sacks, 22 tackles and three tackles for loss.

This spring, when Fugger did practice, he worked with defensive line coach Sean Spencer on getting off the line of scrimmage faster. He said his pass rush should be stronger and more of advantage, which is music to the ears of Franklin.

“I would like to see his sack total go up but I think a lot of his fumbles have been strip sacks on the quarterback or at least knocking the ball out of his hands,” Franklin said. “He has a knack for that. There is no doubt.”

Fugger will be a senior in the fall and should be an anchor of a defensive line that was depleted this spring. Senior defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone, junior defensive tackle Rob Lohr, sophomore defensive end Walker May — all expected to start next fall — have sat out this spring due to injury.

“He has really had to be the glue that holds that group together upfront and he has done an outstanding job,” Shoop said.

Briefly

• A slew of festivities are in the works for Sunday’s Black & Gold Spring Game, which is free to attend.

Vandyville will open up on Natchez Trace next to the football stadium at 3 p.m. and will feature music and attractions for kids. An autograph session with the players and coaches will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. in the concourse of Vanderbilt Stadium. The game begins at 6 p.m., with fireworks to follow at 8 p.m.

And Franklin, remaining energetic and enthusiastic, expects to see a packed house for the game.

“My expectation is 40 [thousand],” Franklin said with a grin. “If we don’t make 40 then we will see what happens. My goal is to have that stadium sold out, week in and week out. Now, if we don’t reach it I’ll wake up the next day and I’ll fight like crazy to reach that goal. We are always going to set our goals and expectations for the very, very highest. ... For me to say anything different, I’m expecting 40,000 people at the game. I said 10,000 before that was just to kind of whet the appetite early on. We are saying 40 from here on out.”

• One of Vanderbilt’s top incoming freshmen, Lafonte Thourogood, attended practice on Thursday.

The dual-threat quarterback from Virginia Beach, Va. is on spring break and is in town for Sunday’s game. Franklin said he expects 90 percent of Vanderbilt’s 21 signees to attend the spring game.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Thourogood was a last-minute sign for the Commodores in February. Thourogood originally committed to Virginia Tech.

“It is great to see him and we are excited about his possibilities for the future,” Franklin said. “I can’t wait to see, really, all these guys. A lot of them I have talked to on the phone but haven’t seen for a couple weeks. The local guys have been up to practice but I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve got guys coming from California and everywhere.”

• Franklin said he has preliminary rosters created for Sunday’s game but is waiting to reveal a finalized copy. He plans to check with head athletic trainer Tom Bossung on the status of several injured players and release rosters soon, most likely Friday.

Franklin did say that he doesn’t plan to use a depth chart.

“We are not going to have a depth chart until this summer,” Franklin said. “I want these guys to work all summer long and the rest of this spring with the mentality that everybody is fighting for jobs. That we are trying to build a championship mentality around here. Also, give the incoming guys an opportunity to compete as well. We’ll name the starters probably a week or two after that.”

• One of Sunday’s honorary coaches, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Whitney Duncan, will not be in town for the game. Duncan’s cousin, 20-year-old Holly Bobo, went missing Wednesday morning from her home in Darden, Tenn. According to reports, witnesses said a man wearing camouflage dragged Bobo, who was wearing a pink shirt and light blue jeans, into the nearby woods.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Decatur County Sherriff’s Department are looking into a possible kidnapping and home invasion, the report said. A $25,000 reward is being offered for anyone who has information that would help the authorities find Bobo, who is 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds.