Eddie Foster insists Chris Boyd has gotten the better of him time and time again during Vanderbilt’s spring practices.
Last Saturday it was the other way around.
When the 6-foot-4 Boyd went up to catch a pass from Jordan Rodgers during the Black and Gold spring game, he didn’t come down with the ball. The 5-foot-10 Foster got a hand in there and took it from Boyd for a spectacular interception as he fell to the ground.
Over the month-long spring drills and, in particular, the spring game, the senior cornerback played as if he had something to gain, which he did. He wanted his starting job back.
“I felt a passion I haven’t felt in a while,” Foster said. “I feel like, personally, I have something I need to prove. So I kind of just go with that feeling, use that to fuel my passion that I felt [Saturday] and I hope that continues throughout the summer.”
Foster entered last spring as a starter after he had 53 tackles, six for loss, picked off a pass and forced a fumble. By the start of the season — the first under head coach James Franklin and his new staff — Trey Wilson had his job.
Throughout the season's 13 games, Foster rotated in sparingly. He finished with just seven tackles with one interception.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Franklin said. “You want something in life, go out and take it. Go out and work for it. That’s what it is all about. We are going to play the best players. It is not a beauty contest. We’re going to play the best players on the field, whoever gives us a best chance to win.
“I don’t care if you are a senior, a returning starter, a freshman ... we’re going to play the best guys. If that’s Eddie, more power to him. Go out and do it. I would love for that to happen.”
Foster, a Texas native, is trying to stand out in a crowded field.
Wilson returns after a breakout junior season in which he intercepted three passes and took two back for touchdowns. Competing for the other starting job are Steven Clarke and Andre Hal, who joined Wilson on the Black team, which consisted of primarily starters. Redshirt-freshman and Brentwood Academy product Derek King saw time with Foster on the Gold team. Plus, three of Vanderbilt’s incoming freshmen are defensive backs.
Amidst the pressure to “make a statement every day,” Foster says he has eased into a comfort zone with the new coaching staff. First-year defensive backs coach George Barlow is his third position coach in as many years.
“I’ve become more comfortable recently,” Foster said. “I’ve gone through a couple coaching changes and have had to adjust a little bit. ... I’ve grown into my own a little more since last season and I’ve been more confident on breaking on balls and taking chances.”
Foster did plenty of that Saturday. He was the star of the Gold team, stepping up as one of the elder statesmen of a unit that consisted of walk-ons and second-string players. He led all players — both teams — with eight tackles and broke up three passes, including one where he delivered a punishing blow to Boyd to jar the ball loose.
His harassment of Boyd was not limited to that one play either. Later, Boyd appeared to have possession of Rodgers’ sideline pass. But Foster jumped up over the top of the sophomore wide receiver and tugged the ball away as the two tumbled to the ground.
“Boyd is a great receiver and that has happened a couple times in practice. Usually, he’ll literally just snatch it,” Foster said. “He’s got a really strong grip. He’ll just snatch it and take it away from me. To be honest, I was kind of surprised when I got it but I was excited nonetheless.”