Vanderbilt cornerback finally gets to hone his skills at practices

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 12:00am
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Trey Wilson has tried to learn all he can during spring football. Then again, the Vanderbilt cornerback also hopes some observers have learned a thing or two about him as well.

“Basically, I’m trying to prove myself,” he said. “Last year, people were saying because I missed camp my ability was somewhat of a rumor. I’m proving the naysayers wrong.”

Wilson was one of seven true freshmen who played for the Commodores in 2009 – and he played in every game despite the fact that he missed virtually all of preseason camp with a toe injury.

He was not hurt while working out or anything of the sort. The injury occurred while he was moving in to a dorm room a day before the first workout

“A metal frame fell on my foot,” Wilson said. “It just fell out of the rack it was sitting in. I knew it was bad.”

Even so, coaches never doubted his ability, which was showcased during his three years as a starter for Evangel Christian of Shreveport, La., one of the country’s top high school programs.

Thus they passed up the opportunity to redshirt Wilson and instead threw him into action as soon as he was healthy, without the benefit of much practice time. As a reserve cornerback and special teams regular, he finished the season with 10 tackles.

“You just bring him out and the amount of time you have him, when you have him, you teach him as much as you can,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “He did a good job of being able to execute as well as he did.”

Wilson wanted to play right away but admitted his performance was adversely affected by the lack of practice time.

“It let me know that they still had faith in me to come in and still be a playmaker,” he said. “I’m glad about that decision. … (But) missing almost a month with the foot injury, you’re automatically behind everybody so you feel like you’re having to catch up. Sometimes I let thinking about being behind take away from my game and just playing.”

So it is that this spring’s workouts, which are now in their final week, are his first opportunity to practice the basics of Vanderbilt’s defense and to show how he might contribute best.

He was credited with one tackle in last Saturday’s Black and Gold Scrimmage but also was a central figure in one of the day’s most entertaining plays. He recovered a fumble by tight end Brandon Barden inside the 10-yard line, weaved his way around several would-be tacklers and made his way out to nearly the 30-yard line. There, he fumbled when quarterback Jared Funk hit him, and the offense regained possession.

“I feel like I’m getting a lot better,” Wilson said. “The (defensive backs) are doing real good this year, so I feel like I’m helping the team. I’m doing what I can.”

As it turned out, there was plenty he was able to do last fall – even without the benefit of practice time.

“He’s got a knack,” Johnson said. “He’s one of those guys who just seems to be a natural. He’s got a knack for making plays. Concepts in the secondary, they’re not foreign to him. He understands them. He understands what he needs to do. He was an easy learner.”