Young players make an impact in Vanderbilt’s Black and Gold game


Photo by Brent Szklaruk

Betsy Goodfriend and JP Hefner

Vanderbilt hosted its spring football scrimmage Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium.

The game gave fans a chance to see graduate transfer quarterback Riley Neal for the first time. Neal looked comfortable running the offense, but he missed a few receivers due to timing mistakes and miscommunications. With another week of spring practice and the rest of the summer to work with his receivers, Neal should be able to work out those problems before the regular season starts.

Deuce Wallace, who returned to campus this semester after a suspension for violation of school policy, sat out of the game due to a minor shoulder injury. Dayo Odeyingbo, Jared Pinkney, Andre Mintze, CJ Bolar, and Devin Cochran were other notable players who did not participate in the spring game.

A loaded senior class is gone, and many young players are vying to replace Kyle Shurmur, Khari Blasingame, Bruno Reagan, Joejuan Williams, Ladarius Wiley, and Justin Skule.

The offensive line struggled in the game, and the battles to replace Reagan and Skule will continue into fall camp. Once Cochran returns to practice, Head Coach Derek Mason can start tinkering around with the rest of the offensive line starters.

With so many of last year’s stars out with injuries or out of eligibility, the youngsters took over the scrimmage. Here’s our impact players from the spring game:

Gabe Jeudy (Fr.), CB- Gabe Jeudy is an early enrollee from Charlotte, North Carolina, who seems to have breakout potential in the Commodore secondary. Jeudy already possesses refined coverage technique and brings impressive length to the cornerback position. Mason gave the talented freshman many opportunities to shine during the spring game, as he was tasked with covering veteran pass-catcher Kalija Lipscomb. When asked about playmakers in the secondary, the former Commodore Williams mentioned Jeudy as a freshman with tremendous potential.

Jeudy is a name to remember, as he will continue to push for early playing time in the secondary.

Elijah McAllister (R-Fr.), OLB- Elijah McAllister is one of the more physically impressive players on the Commodore defense at 6’6” and 230 lbs. McAllister made plays throughout the Black & Gold scrimmage, including two sacks and multiple QB hurries. Coming off the edge, McAllister has tremendous burst to pressure the passer and length to seal the edge. McAllister wears the jersey number 41 and his style of play is reminiscent of the last player to wear that number: former Vanderbilt linebacker and Houston Texan Zach Cunningham. With Michael Owusu lining up on the opposite side of the defensive line, the Commodores have a pair of long and athletic outside blitzers.

Feleti Afemui (R-So.), LB- The biggest hit of the spring game came from Feleti Afemui. The sophomore linebacker dropped back into coverage and quickly closed on a slant route over the middle. Afemui looked natural in coverage and brings much-needed versatility to the young linebacker group. Look for Afemui to provide a physical presence in the middle of the defense, which will be tested early in season with games against Georgia and LSU.

Daevion Davis (Fr.), DL- Daevion Davis is another early enrollee who already looks the part of an SEC lineman listed at 6’2” and 310 lbs. Davis provided consistent interior pressure and appeared comfortable in Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver’s scheme. As the defensive line looks to replace key starter Louis Vecchio, Davis could work his way into the starting rotation by fall practice.

Jamauri Wakefield (R-Jr.), RB- Wakefield scored the last touchdown of the game, and he showed his toughness by barreling into defenders on his touches. Wakefield will see more carries this season with the graduation of Blasingame. Last year, Wakefield averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 78 rushing attempts with two touchdowns. A miscommunication with Neal was Wakefield’s only glaring mistake of the day. Neal threw a short, quick pass to Wakefield, but he didn’t turn around in time, and it hit his back.

Amir Abdur-Rahman (So.), WR- After making four catches last year, Abdur-Rahman is ready to become a household name in a stacked wide receiver corps. While Cam Johnson, Kalija Lipscomb, and Chris Pierce got the starts at receiver, Abdur-Rahman saw plenty of action with multiple quarterbacks. He caught a five-yard touchdown pass in traffic from freshman quarterback Jamil Muhammad, who had trouble with accuracy throughout the day but made up for it with his elusiveness.

Jamil Muhammad (Fr.), QB- Jamil Muhammad recorded two touchdowns during the Black & Gold scrimmage and showed off his dual-threat ability. Although only a true freshman, Muhammad has impressive pocket presence and commanded the offense well in the final two possessions. Playing with the second-team offensive line, Muhammad was forced to evade the blitz and make plays on the run. Jamil Muhammad adds another dimension to the Vanderbilt offense, as his dual threat ability allows him to scramble for extra yards. While Muhammad’s career is just beginning as an early enrollee, Commodore fans should be excited about the future of the quarterback position.

Derek Mason’s Take on the Game:

“I thought for the most part, we got some good work,” he said. “I liked the idea of what it looked like for the most part defensively. On offense, we had some procedure and alignment deals that we’ve got to get worked out.”

“I saw a couple times where we took too many sacks.”

Mason, on having four mobile quarterbacks on the roster, said “It just allows us to be a little more multi-dimensional in terms of what we’ll do. Obviously, I don’t think anyone at quarterback is going to run a ton. We want to keep those guys upright, but I think every quarterback that we have can run, which provides us with opportunities to work on a lot of different things. You may see some speed-option. You may see maybe some zone-read at times.”

“[The quarterback competition] is going to go all the way up until the week before our first game. That’s where I need it to be. I think naming somebody right now is not warranted and neither one of those guys have earned it.”