Eddie Foster isn’t playing timid anymore.
Vanderbilt’s sophomore cornerback already has tasted the end zone on a gut read. His 21-yard return after intercepting Mississippi’s Jeremiah Masoli put the Commodores ahead 14-0 in the second quarter last Saturday.
“On the field I felt like it was more risky than it looked like on film,” Foster recalled. “I knew it was a deep third play. I had to overlap on one of the guys that was going vertical, but I saw him [Masoli] kind of staring down the guy. I figured, ‘hHe doesn’t have that much time to make a choice.’ I just took a chance and broke on it.”
Reading the play and jumping the route is something Foster has been capable of since he arrived on campus last year. He says experience has given him the confidence this season to do so.
As a true freshman in 2009, Foster saw the field in nine games he played mainly as the nickel back instead of lining up on the outside as he has this season. He finished with 17 tackles and two interceptions.
“I think the experience has changed [me],” he said. “When you get out there the first few times as a freshman you’re still testing the waters. You’re a bit nervous to try to make plays because you think you might make a mistake. Right now I’m a lot more comfortable being out there, trusting what I see and trying to make plays when I can.”
Foster has been one of the biggest producers on Vanderbilt’s defense this season playing the role of the number two cornerback. He has 15 tackles, including four for a loss of yardage. Besides his interception in Oxford, he routinely has stuck to his assignments, as part of a stingy VU secondary that allows 174 yards passing per game.
At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds Foster has played larger than he looks after being thrust into the starting position due to junior Jamie Graham’s lingering groin injury.
“He’s an undersized guy but Eddie’s just a football player,” coach Robbie Caldwell said. “He’s got good football sense and savvy, and that’s what makes the difference for him. Eddie, thank goodness he was able to fill in for us.”
When Graham makes his return VU’s secondary will get a boost in terms of depth.
But Foster will continue to go for big plays. He might even get familiar enough to enjoy it more next time.
“I didn’t even know how to react,” he said of the touchdown. “I was worried about getting to the end zone, that was all. Next time, I might have a little celebration but I don’t know, these coaches might get on me for that.”
• Vanderbilt focused on fundamentals in practice Thursday, in what Caldwell called a “slow-paced day.” The team has an open date this weekend and will take Friday and Saturday off. Caldwell was satisfied with the week.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “We got a little bit ahead and we got some rest. We got some people off their feet that need to heal.”
• On Tuesday, Caldwell felt tight end Brandon Barden and defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone were “doubtful” for the game against UConn on Oct. 2 because of injuries. Thursday, he noted great improvement in the mobility of both.
“Brandon Barden and T.J. were walking so much better,” he said. “I was surprised, Brandon was in the weight room and T.J., too.”