Believe it or not, Larry Smith felt a lot better Monday morning than he did the previous week.
It was an unlikely developement considering the Vanderbilt quarterback was sacked seven times on Saturday in a 24-21 victory against Connecticut. At one point, after a failed third-down attempt, he ran off the field favoring his right arm after being thrown to the ground.
In the season opener against Elon, Smith didn’t take a sack but was hurried six times. He actually left that game after one blow in the fourth quarter. Afterwards, he had ice draped over his right shoulder.
“A lot of times I play off straight adrenaline,” Smith said. “I really don’t feel those hits until it is Sunday morning when I wake up.”
With Vanderbilt’s Southeastern Conference opener against visiting Ole Miss on tap for 11:20 a.m. Saturday, Smith told reporters Monday two straight nights of rest aided his sore right shoulder.
“If you watched the game and saw the hits he took you wouldn’t think that is the case,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “A lot of times it is just if you get hit a certain way that triggers something. He is in great shape and he’ll be ready. I actually think he’ll be more ready this week than last week.”
The defensive pressure isn’t new for Smith, a fifth-year senior and three-year starter. Last year, the Commodores allowed 36 sacks.
“He has been a very tough kid,” junior wide receiver John Cole said. “He has dealt with a lot of things thrown at him — pretty much every facet of the game. He is dealt with it well since I have been here. [His resilience] is not surprising to me.”
The good news is that in two games Ole Miss (1-1) has had just two sacks and hurried the quarterback only five times. The bad news is that the Vanderbilt offensive line suffered a serious blow to its depth last week.
Left guard Jabo Burrow’s career is over due to concussion syndrome concerns. He collapsed during sprints at the end of practice during the second week of preseason camp. The junior from Morris, Ala., started the season opener against Elon and made 10 career starts.
Redshirt-freshman Chase White started against Connecticut in place of Burrow. White actually practiced at right tackle all preseason camp. But Franklin said the move was made because Burrow’s backup at left guard is Spencer Pulley — a true freshman.
“We are at a point right now from a depth perspective where we just wanted to find the next best lineman and plug him in and also where it wasn’t going to create too many issues,” Franklin said. “Sometimes you move this guy but now that affects two other positions. That was the cleanest way we could get it done and still give us the best chance to be effective.”
The offensive line could get some relief in the form of Logan Stewart. The sophomore center sat out all of preseason camp due to an undisclosed injury. He began practicing the week of Vanderbilt’s season opener but has yet to play in a game. Franklin said he will begin to “figure in” on the offensive line. Stewart started six games at center last year but can play guard.
“We all knew coming into this season that we had some challenges on the offensive line,” Franklin said. “When you lose a starter the week before and really have to adjust, it is not the ideal situation and not what we are looking for. But it is what it is.”
• Defensive tackle Rob Lohr was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, the league announced Monday. The junior had a sack and a career-high four tackles for loss — the most by a Commodore since Jamie Winborn recorded five against No. 6 Florida in 2000.
• Tight end Brandon Barden should be available for Saturday’s game, Franklin said. The senior suffered an ankle sprain while trying to throw a block on a running play in the first half against Connecticut. He left and was on the sidelines later with crutches and an orthopedic boot on his left foot. Franklin said he’ll have a better idea of Barden’s status by Wednesday.
“Our plans are to have Brandon,” Franklin said. “All the reports that I have got back so far are positive and we’ll just see how it goes from there.”
• Vanderbilt has won four of its last six games against Ole Miss, including a 28-14 road victory last year. Dating back to the end of the 2008 season, the Commodores are 1-16 in SEC games.