Healthy, happy Commodores aim to repeat recent post-bye history

Monday, September 27, 2010 at 4:19pm

Coming off a bye, Vanderbilt wants to repeat recent history.

The last VU schedule that included an open date was in 2008, the same year the Commodores went 7-6 and won the Music City Bowl.

The bye isn’t the only intriguing similarity between the seasons.

In 2008, Vanderbilt’s break came after a road win against Ole Miss. Then, the Commodores rested up and beat Auburn two weeks later to start the season 5-0.

This season’s Saturday off came after a road win against Ole Miss.

Now rested, the Commodores aim to mimic the success of 2008 when they face Connecticut on Saturday.

“I think (the bye) helps a lot,” coach Robbie Caldwell said. “We needed it to heal up a little bit. Byes for us are more important than for most people because of the numbers, meaning total number of people on your team. Our guys have to practice against each other. It’s more like the pro aspect of it, there is a lot of wear and tear.”

Much of Vanderbilt’s wear and tear has been at running back.

Zac Stacy (knee), Warren Norman (knee) and Wesley Tate (foot) have played with lingering ailments held over from preseason practice. Caldwell noted that Norman made cuts at Sunday’s practice that he has been unable to make this season.

“The rest really helped Warren Norman,” he said. “All three of those guys feel better, look better. They went home and ate some of momma’s cooking. That always does them good—I know it does me.”

The running game isn’t the only part of the team that needed the time to heal.

Tight end Brandon Barden saw limited action against Ole Miss due to an ankle injury. Caldwell liked the way he looked at Sunday’s practice and expects Barden to be ready to play on Saturday.

Cornerback Jamie Graham is expected to return to the lineup against UConn as well. Graham hasn’t played yet this season due to a groin injury.

Caldwell said defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone feels ready to play but the staff will wait until later in the week for an official decision. Greenstone sustained a high-ankle sprain making a third-and-1 stop on Mississippi’s first drive.

“We’re going to need everybody we’ve got to have an opportunity to compete in this league,” he said.

This week also had been viewed as a potential return window for Adam Smotherman, but Caldwell was not as optimistic on Monday. He said the defensive tackle, who tore an ACL in the spring, is not quite ready to go.

During their week off, Vanderbilt players visited home and kept up on SEC opponents on TV. Caldwell spent his Saturday off with his family, trading in the title of head coach for a day to be an equestrian fan and chore-doer.

“I took my daughter to a horse show over there in Mount Juliet, ate some good hamburgers, cut the grass, did a lot of honey-dos,” he said. “But I got to spend the day with her, she finished second in the polls. Daddy’s not so cool anymore when they get a certain age, so when I get a chance to hang out with her I like to do that.”