When Larry Smith left last weekend’s game at Alabama, Vanderbilt's quarterback remained confident in his ability to lead the offense.
He also left hurt — and that injury could derail his chances of starting when Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) visits Saturday (6 p.m., Fox Sports South).
Smith practiced on Wednesday, but backup Jordan Rodgers took a majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense. Coach James Franklin wouldn’t name a starter, as Smith tries to regain full strength in his injured left ankle.
“We’re going to play the guy, like we do every week, that we think gives us the best chance to win,” Franklin said. “We could also play a combination of both like we’ve done this year as well. Really, not a whole lot has changed. ... We think [Larry will] be ready to go, according to our doctors and [athletic] trainers, Saturday.”
Smith, a three-year starter, came out of last Saturday’s game with more than three minutes left in the first quarter when he took a hit on a two-yard loss. He was 4-of-6 passing for 45 yards and drove the Commodores (3-2, 1-2) inside the 30-yard line when he said his ankle “just got rolled up on.”
“I was feeling a lot better than I have been in the past as far as my confidence and just getting an understanding of the offense, just actually finding a rhythm. Unfortunately with sports, injuries come,” Smith, who wore a splint on Wednesday, said. “ ... It is just going to happen with football. I have the mindset that if you go out there and not give 100 percent, that is when you are more likely to get injured.”
Smith has left every game this season due to injury. His ailments have ranged from a bruised shoulder to a neck stinger.
“This season it has been in the back of my mind but I try not to worry about that,” he said. “Hopefully I can remain healthy for the end of the season.”
“At this point, Larry is still not 100 percent,” Franklin said. “We hope him to be by the end of the week. Just like any other position, we are going to limit their reps. [We want to] get them enough reps we think they need to compete and understand the gameplan. What I don’t want to do is burn all his reps during the week, then he is still sore and not mobile on Saturday.”
Rodgers, on the other hand, has spelled Smith in every game. The junior college transfer and younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers set career-highs with 104 yards on 11-of-18 passing, but also threw the first two interceptions of his Vanderbilt career.
“The whole season me and Jordan have been competing week in and week out for the job,” Smith, a fifth-year senior, said. “It is just going to be a little more interesting this week. I really support Jordan and he supports me. We are both capable of running the offense and whoever Coach chooses to start on Saturday I know they will go out there and do fine.”
• Injury update: Tight end Mason Johnston’s season is over after the junior backup suffered a leg injury against Alabama. Johnston made just one start, with no receptions.
Reserve defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone is questionable after he also injured a leg against the Crimson Tide. True freshman Barron Dixon would likely step in and fill the void.
Defensive tackle Colt Nichter and defensive end Tim Fugger were limited in practice on Wednesday as both wore massive wraps on their hands. Defensive end Johnell Thomas and defensive tackle Rob Lohr, both starters who left the Alabama game with injuries, practiced on Wednesday.
• Tickets available: Tickets remain for Saturday’s game against Georgia. Tickets cost $50 and may be purchased by calling 615-322-4653 or at the McGugin Center box office.
Nineteen Vanderbilt players are from Georgia.