Vanderbilt starting senior wide receiver George Smith will be out of action for at least the next four weeks due to a stress fracture in his right foot, Coach Bobby Johnson said Tuesday.
Smith, the team’s leading returning receiver from 2007, is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday. He is likely to miss at least the first game of the season Aug. 28 at Miami of Ohio.
Redshirt freshman Udom Umoh might be the top candidate to fill in for Smith. Umoh had a 61-yard catch-and-run during Tuesday’s live 11-on-11 drills and is grabbing the attention of coaches.
“Udom came up big today and has been having a great camp,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s practice.
Vanderbilt will also look for increased production from senior Sean Walker and junior Justin Wheeler and contributions from true freshman John Cole.
“Justin Wheeler is having a really good camp,” Johnson said. “John Cole, I think, is going to be a good player for us. We’ll have somebody to put in there.”
All-Southeastern Conference cornerback D.J. Moore worked at wide receiver exclusively Tuesday for the second time in three days and is expected to be a two-way player this fall.
In addition, redshirt freshman Jamie Graham figures to be in the mix at receiver after moving from cornerback. Senior Andrew Diamonde, a Clemson transfer, could also see time but is practicing with a broken finger.
Smith, a sixth-year senior, caught 32 passes for three touchdowns last season and has 76 receptions and eight touchdowns in his career.
GOING LIVE: A 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Nickson to Graham was the only score of the evening Tuesday as the Commododres conducted a 25-play, five-series scrimmage on the first day of practice in full gear.
Johnson described the first day of live contact as “typical.”
“You get excited and sometimes lose sight of their assignments and technique and just want to hit and go fast and play football,” he said. “But I thought we settled down and played better after a few series.”
Johnson expressed concern over the defensive effort.
“The defense made some good plays but allowed some third-down conversions,” he said. “That’s the name of the game in this league. You’ve got to get off the field on third down. We need to shore that up a little bit, but hopefully our offense was making some good plays on third down.”
GOLD NUGGETS: Vanderbilt will scrimmage Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Vanderbilt Stadium. …Starting punter Brett Upson missed practice Tuesday for the fifth straight day while recovering from a stomach illness... Injured VU linebacker Brandon Bryant ran conditioning drills during Tuesday's practice. He is still recovering from a leg fracture sustained in the spring.