Vanderbilt's Smith gets second shot

It had been Larry Smith’s job to lose since the end of spring practice, and he didn’t lose it.

Vanderbilt took a long, hard look at its quarterback situation in the spring and again this preseason, but the Commodores decided that sticking with junior Larry Smith was their best chance of improving offensively.

Smith had been taking first-team reps all preseason, but Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell made it official Sunday night after practice when he announced that Smith would be the starter Saturday against Northwestern.

“Larry has separated himself and deserves to get the ball,” Caldwell said. “He has the big edge in experience and really understands the offense. I expect to see Larry play well Saturday.”

The Commodores brought in junior college newcomer Jordan Rodgers back in January to push Smith. But Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, has been held back by a sore throwing shoulder and back spasms.

Caldwell said Smith’s backup would be senior Jared Funk. Rodgers could end up redshirting depending on how it goes with Smith and Funk this season.

The Commodores enter their second season in the spread offense, a system Smith feels much more comfortable in than he did this time a year ago.

The hope is that he will play more instinctively and be able to more fully use his athletic ability because he has a better feel of the offense. The Commodores also feel like they have more firepower at receiver with the ability to make more big plays. Freshmen Chris Boyd, Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause have all made their presence felt this preseason, while junior Udom Umoh has been one of the most improved players on the team.

Smith completed just 46.7 percent of his passes last season. He missed the final three games after suffering a hamstring injury.

There were a lot of reasons the Commodores were so bad on offense a year ago. Smith probably got too much of the blame, which the quarterback typically does when things aren’t going well.

He gets another chance this season to show what kind of a player he really is.