During August preseason camp, Jordan Rodgers left no doubt he was the most physically fit football player on the Vanderbilt roster.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder led almost every wind sprint, including when the Commodores ran 100 yards seven times at the end of one practice.
Six games into the season, he has climbed to the front of the quarterback competition. After Wednesday night’s practice, coach James Franklin named Rodgers his starter, over fifth-year senior Larry Smith.
“I think it was a combination of some of the playmaking he brought,” Franklin said. “I thought how he fought, how he competed, how he broke tackles, he really gave us some momentum plays when we needed it. I think the team kind of fed off that. So we’ll keep going with that and see what happens.”
Rodgers, a junior college transfer, will make his first Division I start against Army at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium (ESPNU).
The decision comes after Rodgers replaced Smith early in the second quarter of Saturday’s 33-28 loss to Georgia. The younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron, he finished just 4-of-19 passing for 47 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. But he led the offense on two scoring drives and had 80 yards rushing on 11 carries, including a 40-yard scamper.
“He is an athletic guy. Folks underestimate Jordan a little bit,” running back Zac Stacy said. “He is a very athletic guy and he obviously did a great job of making plays on his feet in the Georgia game. We’re just going to build off that.”
Rodgers was not available to the media on Wednesday night as he hurried off to a class.
The junior from Chico, Calif., transferred to Vanderbilt from Butte (Calif.) College in the winter of 2010.
He sat out last year to due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. This caused him to miss competing in live repetitions during the spring.
At full strength by the time August rolled around, Rodgers lost the competition for the starting job to Smith, who had started 27 games since getting the nod for the Music City Bowl in 2008.
Smith, however, has battled injuries all season, most recently hurting his ankle two weeks ago against Alabama. He has completed 57.3 percent (59-of-103) of his passes for 481 yards with three touchdowns but five interceptions. He threw two picks against Georgia, resulting in his early exit.
Rodgers has played in all six games, completing 47.1 percent (24-of-51) of his passes for 236 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“He has had a good week of practice. I felt he really made some plays on Saturday and competed,” Franklin said. “There are some things we’ve got to get cleaned up that have showed in practice throughout the year and it showed up again on Saturday. But they are very correctable things. After showing him on film and how it affected the game, I think we can get them fixed.”