NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt Commodores have been doing their best to give all six quarterbacks a chance to make a good impression in the opening days of camp.
The competition now is tightening up.
The Commodores had their first practice in pads Monday, and Josh Grady moved from quarterback to wide receiver. Offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell plans to pare down the numbers even further to get more work for the quarterbacks separating from the pack. With the opener against Temple on Aug. 28, it's time for the quarterbacks who could start to get more work.
"I haven't been a part of a situation where you had that many that's vying for an opportunity to compete for a job, and that's just the nature because we're first year in this program and we haven't really come back with a returning starter," Dorrell said.
Patton Robinette is the only quarterback returning with any starting experience at Vanderbilt. He started in a loss at Texas A&M, Vandy's first win in Gainesville against Florida since 1945 and the bowl win as the Commodores went 9-4 and finished 24th in The Associated Press' Top 25. He also helped beat Georgia and Tennessee but wasn't asked to throw much. He was 46 of 88 for 642 yards and has one more interception (five) than touchdowns (four) passing.
"Last year I don't know if I was really asked to throw the ball that much," Robinette said. "The running joke has been I was more of a glorified running back than anything. Having the ability to throw, I know I can do that and to show that off this year will be good."
There's also Stephen Rivers, whose older brother Philip is quarterback for the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Freshman Wade Freebeck has flashed early with redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary and freshman Shawn Stankavage splitting snaps equally the first four days.
Rivers has size at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds along with his impressive brother.
He approached Vanderbilt about transferring after researching to find teams with openings at quarterback. He graduated with a business degree at LSU and has two years of eligibility remaining. He currently is a student at Vanderbilt's divinity school in theological studies after being cleared to transfer to another Southeastern Conference school.
"My brother helped me a lot in this process," Rivers said. "He has a lot of connections obviously that he's developed over the years, and he helped me. He reached out to some coaches for me. He definitely directed me here and thought this would be a good spot from the beginning if it was going to be possible. I didn't know if it was going to be possible because of the SEC transfer deal. That worked out, and we think for sure this is the right spot."
But Rivers has thrown only two passes in his career, both incomplete. He appeared in four games back in 2012 as a redshirt freshman and was third on the depth chart last season. He has been on campus since June working out with teammates, which he credits with helping him learn quickly.
Dorrell said Rivers worked in a pro-style offense at LSU, helping his transition to Vanderbilt even with the Commodores using a different system. Rivers' biggest challenge is learning the different terminology.
Coach Derek Mason has said he'll take as long as necessary before naming a starter, and the coaches are charting every throw each quarterback makes.
"They know they're being watched and scrutinized on every detail," Dorrell said. "That's what you want. You want the quarterback to be able to handle not only that type of scrutiny but have the focus on him."
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