Vanderbilt might have found its wildcat threat.
Redshirt-freshman wide receiver Josh Grady blossomed out of the direct-snap formation, throwing and rushing for a touchdown in Team Black’s 33-0 rout of Team Gold on Saturday night in the Black & Gold Spring Game in front of an announced crowd of 8,500 at Vanderbilt Stadium.
The converted qurterback rushed for 35 yards on three carries, tossed two passes for 59 yards and scored Black’s last two touchdowns. Rushing around the left side – and receiving a block from quarterback Jordan Rodgers – Grady scooted just inside the pylon for an eight-yard score in the fourth quarter. He ended the game when he rolled out and connected with Jordan Matthews for a 55-yard touchdown.
“I love it,” Grady said. “It is a lot of similar stuff we did in high school. It is definitely one of my comfort zones. As long as Coach [James] Franklin keeps giving me the opportunity I’m going to do what I can.”
Grady, a three-star recruit out of Tampa, spent the 2011 season as the third option behind Rodgers and Larry Smith. With the arrival of Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, Franklin moved Grady to wide receiver in order to get him on the field quicker.
Grady, who rushed for 865 yards and threw for 2,109 primarily out of the shotgun as senior at Armwood High School, showed off his versatility on Saturday. He blasted up the middle in the first half for runs of 14 and 13 yards. He later connected with H-back Kris Kentera, another former quarterback, for four yards before the jump pass to Matthews, who juggled the catch before running more than 30 yards to the end zone.
“I’m really, really excited about what he is going to be able to do this summer and take the next step,” Franklin said. “I like the plays and the formations that work. So if wildcat is something that every time we put him in positive things happen, keep putting him in.
"To me, these guys control their own fate. They control their own destiny. You want to use something and you want something to work, make it work out there on the field.”
Ryan Fowler’s 40-yard field goal early in the first quarter gave Black all the points it needed.
They found the end zone twice in the second quarter when Rodgers threw a 20-yard strike to tight end Austin Monahan followed by a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Matthews for a 17-0 lead by halftime. Rodgers was 14-of-29 for 126 yards with one interception.
Gold, who were made up of primarily the second-team offense and defense, also got in the end zone – the wrong end zone. Carta-Samuels was tackled for a safety after corralling a low and wild snap.
Loaded with the projected defensive starters, Black allowed just 71 passing yards, forced two turnovers and allowed Gold inside the 20-yard line just once.
“I think the teams were a little weighted,” Rodgers said. “It is a good opportunity to get out there and compete in front of our fans and it was fun. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to compete in summer workouts and stuff like that. There will be more chances for those guys on the Gold team to get us back.”