Hayward stepping up for Commodores

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt moved a step closer to finding a replacement for D.J. Moore at one of the cornerback spots in Saturday's scrimmage.

Sophomore Casey Hayward intercepted a Larry Smith pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards the other way for a touchdown. This was a big spring for Hayward, who played in nickel situations last season as a true freshman.

But the Vanderbilt coaches wanted to see how he handled being an every-down cornerback, and so far, he's been up to the challenge. He's not only made big plays this spring, but he's also been consistent.

Junior quarterback Jared Funk threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Udom Umoh, who appeared to catch a second 68-yard touchdown pass from Mackenzi Adams earlier in the scrimmage, but it was nullified by a penalty.

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson alternated his three quarterbacks (Smith, Adams and Funk) with the first unit. Adams directed the second scoring drive for the offense on the final possession of the scrimmage. He hit Minnesota transfer Tray Herndon twice during the drive. One of Herndon's catches was a fingertip grab.

Tailback Ryan van Rensburg capped things with a 3-yard touchdown run.

"I was very pleased with the scrimmage, and I thought we were active and moving around real well as a team," Johnson said. "We are finding a lot of guys wanting to make plays."

Vanderbilt will have its annual Black & Gold scrimmage Saturday at 11 a.m., and will close the spring next week with a few final practices.

One of the things the Commodores used last weekend on offense was a no-huddle attack, something Johnson said they want to have as part of their repertoire next season.

The interception by Smith was something he's got to avoid, but he did have his moments in the scrimmage. He was 4-for-4 on the opening drive of the scrimmage, hitting four different receivers. But the coaches stopped the drive in the red zone.

Johnson has been especially pleased this spring with the progress of placekickers Ryan Fowler, senior Brett Upson and senior John Laughrey. They are competing to replace four-year starter and Music City Bowl hero Bryant Hahnfeldt.

"Those guys were impressive," Johnson said. "Ryan really kicked the ball well, and John had his best day yet. I think Brett missed one field goal, and that's about the first one he's missed this spring."