Vanderbilt running out of running backs as season winds down

Monday, November 8, 2010 at 5:44pm

As this season progressed, Vanderbilt wanted to be more run-heavy on offense and better utilize the talent in its backfield.

That might not be an option anymore.

Zac Stacy joins fellow running back Warren Norman on the injured list after Stacy suffered a concussion during Saturday’s 55-14 loss to Florida. He won’t play this weekend at Kentucky and is doubtful to return this season.

Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5 SEC), which has lost four straight, has three games remaining.

“It will be difficult but I know Zac will do everything he possibly can to get ready,” Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said Monday at his weekly press conference. “It was a very scary thing, fortunately it turned out to be a concussion.”

Plus, option No. 3, Wesley Tate, sprained his ankle Saturday and was considered questionable for this weekend. Norman, the team’s leading rusher, dislocated his wrist on Oct. 30 at Arkansas and had season-ending surgery last Tuesday.

“This time of the year (injury) has been kind of a regular thing for us," Caldwell said. "We’ve got plans for it, we are making preparations offensively to try to do things. It is from moving people over (from defense) to possibly going empty (in the backfield), five wides, use the healthy people we’ve got. We are going to find a way to try to move the ball, score points and win this game.”

Tate, a product of Pope John Paul II, had 41 yards on seven carries before leaving the game before halftime. The redshirt-freshman injured his foot earlier in the season but was healthy enough to step in when Stacy went down Saturday.

“He is not a hundred percent healed from his previous injuries but he was good enough that he could not hurt himself further,” Caldwell said. “He has been going for a while, trying to get his strength and he showed some good things. He made some good runs for us. We sure hope we can get him back.”

Kennard Reeves should get a bulk of the carries if Tate can’t start. Reeves, a senior, had a career-high 13 carries but just six yards on Saturday.

Caldwell said defensive back Eric Samuels could also get into the mix. Though he mishandled three kickoffs against Florida, Samuels returned seven kicks for 118 yards and showed some speed. Redshirt sophomores Reece Lovell and Micah Powell might also get their first carries of the season.

But Vanderbilt’s 24 passing attempts a game might increase too.

Quarterbacks Larry Smith and Jared Funk were a combined 10-of-27 for just 63 yards against Florida. While both Smith and Funk misfired on different occasions, the receiving corps dropped several passes.

Redshirt freshmen Mason Johnston and Jonathan Krause and true freshman Jordan Matthews all caught at least one pass. The youngsters all figure to fit into the equation Saturday as the Commodores might be more inclined to go to the air.

“When you don’t have any running backs you may have to do that,” Caldwell said. “I don’t know want to give too much of it away – what we are trying to scheme up. But we are going to try to find a way to get it done.”


• Joining Stacy on the sidelines is defensive end Walker May. The redshirt freshman made his first career start against Florida and suffered a high ankle sprain during the first series. Caldwell said May was pretty tender and didn’t know if he would be able to practice at all this week.

Fellow defensive ends Tim Fugger and Johnell Thomas both have neck injuries. Fugger was injured the week before at Arkansas and played against Florida but Caldwell said he is just now getting back to full strength. Thomas went out against the Gators but did return and is likely to play Saturday.

• The Vanderbilt coaching staff will see a familiar face across the field on the other sideline when it plays at Kentucky (5-5, 1-5) on Saturday. The Wildcats’ defensive line coach David Turner worked at Vanderbilt from 2002-05. Since then he has been at Alabama and Mississippi State and is in the first year of his second stint at Kentucky.

“I know he will have that front ready to go. He has worked with us. I’ve known him, got him his first job. I love him like a brother,” Caldwell said. “To watch (head coach Joker) Phillips in his first year… they are trying to get bowl eligible so we are hoping we can try to make them squirm another week before they do that.”

• The SEC announced Monday that Vanderbilt’s conference finale at home against Tennessee on Nov. 20 will start at 6:30 p.m.