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We Talkin' 'Bout Spring Practice: Vandy D impresses; Oklahoma State roster shrinks

Vanderbilt's Caleb Azubike Caleb Azubike (55) is just one of three returning starters on Vanderbilt's defense in 2013. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

With spring football taking place across the country, Campus Union has decided to round up all of the important news and notes from each week in practice.

• New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was in charge of a physical Stanford defense last season. The Cardinal paced the Pac-12 by allowing an average of 4.86 yards per play in 2013. In his short time in Nashville, Mason is already impressed with the Commodores' size and physicality.

Mason previewed his first spring practice as Vandy's coach and said that his current roster looks more imposing than Stanford's.

“I know this is the SEC, but I tell you what: As I’ve watched these guys move around a little bit, and I’ve seen their ability in some of the individual sessions to put hands on, they just move bodies,” he said. “I’m really impressed. I think we’re bigger than we ever were at Stanford. I thought, at Stanford, our reputation was to be able to put hands on and be able to get off, disengage and change the line of scrimmage.

“I think these guys will be a little more adept, because of their size, because of how athletic we are, and that’s impressive, to me, because that’s where you want to build it, on both sides of the ball.”

The 'Dores return just three starters from a unit that ranked 23rd nationally in total defense last season.

• After a season plagued by injuries (and just about every other problem imaginable), Florida received some good news this week. Wide receiver and return specialist Andre Debose was granted a sixth year of NCAA eligibility after missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL.

Debose tore his ACL during non-contact drills last August after he already missed his entire freshman campaign in 2009 due to knee surgery. The playmaker should add an immediate spark; he has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, a school record.

Oklahoma State began spring practice by announcing that three expected returnees are no longer with the team.

Safety Lyndell Johnson and center Jake Jenkins, both starters, won't return to the roster in 2014. Backup center Travis Cross has also left the program. According to coach Mike Gundy, Johnson's departure is due to personal reasons, while both Jenkins and Cross opted to pursue non-football opportunities. Gundy told reporters that there will be growing pains at both positions, especially center.

"We don't have a lot of experience [at center]," Gundy said, "so we'll have guys that we'll have to get out there and give them quality experience in the spring and get them the work they need to develop for the fall."

• Bobby Petrino is doing something unique with his time management. The new Louisville coach is devoting one entire day each week to recruiting. Petrino and the Cardinals have been using Wednesday as their recruiting day since the staff was assembled, but it will move to Mondays during spring practice, which begins on March 18.

This week, Petrino told reporters that his staff is taking recruiting day very seriously.

“Every Wednesday has been nothing but recruiting. I think our coaches are doing a great job. We’re going after the best players in the country; we’re not going to be shy about that. The other Wednesday, we had over 60 guys call us.”

Northwestern redshirt senior safety Ibraheim Campbell will miss spring practice with a broken jaw, the school announced. Campbell broke his jaw during a team workout, and while he'll miss spring drills, coach Pat Fitzgerald said that Campbell should be ready to go come fall.

On Friday, the Chicago Tribune also reported that Northwestern will begin construction for its new multipurpose lakefront athletic facility by early 2015. The price is "likely to exceed the original estimate of $220 million."

Tennessee coach Butch Jones wants to move at a faster pace, and he's making sure his staff is instilling an up-tempo approach during spring practice.

Jones said this week that Vols coaches are using a 20-second clock during workouts to emphasize the importance of speed. Jones didn't like what he saw from his team in the earlygoing of spring practice, but his players are learning to adjust.

"I thought we had very good tempo practice one and practice two and then we got into full pads our tempo really slowed down," said Jones.

"We are doing something a little bit different this year in practice, we have a 20-second clock, so as soon as that 20 second clock goes off a horn blows then we will do down-ups after practice for not maintaining the tempo. Today, I thought our tempo on offense, defense really slowed down. I think that was a byproduct of the pads. We have to learn how to work through those things."

• The return of Jeff Pittman as Boise State's strength coach has been immediately evident. Pittman, a Boise State alum, was a member of the Broncos' staff from 2000-06 and returned when Bryan Harsin accepted the head coaching job in December.

Now, the team is having 5:45 a.m. workouts to help players deal with fatigue. In a video released by the school this week, a few Broncos admitted that Pittman's regime got the best of them at the beginning of spring.

"Mentally and physically, we got a lot stronger," senior linebacker Corey Bell said. "At the beginning, we didn't know what to expect and kind of got hit in the gut a little bit to start off. But we kind of grew and got used to what to expect on a daily basis and realized that, it's going to be a little more mentally and physically demanding."

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson might see some time on offense in 2014, according to new Huskies coach Chris Petersen.

Per the school's website, cornerback Marcus Peters described Thompson as "a monster" at the running back spot in practice. Petersen said his linebacker's ability with the football shouldn't surprise anyone; Thompson ran for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior in high school. He could be used in a similar capacity to UCLA's Myles Jack, who starred as both a linebacker and running back last fall.

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