VU's Smith returns, Nickson sits out

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 1:05am
Chris Nickson sat out Vanderbilt's practice on Tuesday. File

Vanderbilt wide receiver George Smith returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in August to repair a stress fracture in his right foot.

The 6-foot-3 senior, VU’s leading returning receiver from 2007, appears to be fully recovered and on schedule to play Oct. 4 when the 21st-ranked Commodores play host to Auburn.

“I’m very encouraged about him not only being back, but looking fast and looking good,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said.

Smith caught 32 passes in 2007 and has 76 career receptions and eight touchdowns, making him the team’s most experienced receiver. He did not play in any of VU’s first four games this season.

Smith expects to play next week.

“No doubt,” he said. “I’m cutting both ways, stopping, coming back, leaving my feet, making a couple moves here and there after the catch. I’m feeling really good. And I feel like my hand-eye coordination never really left me.”

Smith, one of three team captains, has dressed out for each game and provided vocal support for his teammates.

His return to the field, Johnson said, will pay off in more than just giving the Commodores another healthy and experienced receiver.

“George’s attitude and leadership abilities are big,” Johnson said.

Smith relished his return Tuesday.

“It felt great,” he said. “It wasn’t even about me getting reps. It was more about just being in the huddle with the guys. That’s what I really missed right there, just being involved with my family and being able to compete again.”

Smith’s return could help boost a Vanderbilt passing attack that ranks last in the Southeastern Conference at 80.8 yards per game.

“We’re going to have to be able to stretch the field a little against SEC teams,” he said. “I just want to become another weapon the defenses have to worry about.”

Meanwhile, injured VU senior quarterback Chris Nickson dressed out but did not participate or throw passes in Tuesday’s non-contact practice.

He suffered a sprained shoulder in last week’s 23-17 victory at Ole Miss. He left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return.

“He’s doing fine, but we didn’t want to take a chance,” Johnson said. “He says he feels good, but we haven’t let him throw any.”

Starting tight end Austin Monahan, who has four receptions this year, is out for the remainder of the season after sustaining a broken left scapula in last week’s game.

Backup tight ends Brandon Barden, Jake Bradford and Justin Green will see increased playing time in Monahan’s absence.

Running back Jeff Jennings, who started in the season opener but has been sidelined since then with a shoulder injury, practiced Tuesday and appears on track to play against Auburn.

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By: eastsidaz on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm glad everyone, especially Nickson, is getting healthy. I would hate to see Jared Hawkins slow down with the return of Jennings. Taking nothing away from Jennings, but Hawkins is running like a beast.