Vanderbilt football is back: 3 things we're watching as Clark Lea's first game week arrives

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean

Vanderbilt football is back.

The Commodores aren't opening the season Saturday against a marquee opponent. But for the first time in nine months, it's game week again as the team ramps up preparations for East Tennessee State.

In all likelihood, we won't learn much from this game.

But that doesn't mean we won't learn anything. Here are three storylines worth monitoring as the Commodores take the field.

1. Fans back at Vanderbilt Stadium

Unlike other SEC schools, Vanderbilt did not allow fans at home games during the 2020 football season. Even families were not allowed in until later in the season, and even baseball did not allow full capacity until the last week of the regular season in May. But as of now, the Commodores are planning to open their stadium to its full 40,350 capacity this fall.

Vanderbilt cheerleaders rally fans before a game against LSU at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.

Throughout the country, the return of fans is one of college football's biggest storylines. Although Vanderbilt isn't playing in a marquee game, fans should get excited about the idea of being able to return to Vanderbilt Stadium.

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2. Can the Commodores clean up the little things?

In their open scrimmages, Vanderbilt's offensive line struggled with penalties. On Thursday, a practice scuffle disappointed Clark Lea,  and Lea and defensive lineman Daevion Davis addressed the team with the message that if it happened in practice, it would happen on Saturdays. 

A team like the Commodores with a talent deficit can't give games away through penalties and poor discipline. Whether Vanderbilt can clean it up against an FCS opponent will be telling for when the Commodores play tougher competition.

3. How will the quarterbacks be used?

Lea has not named a starting quarterback and has hinted that he won't name one until the game — no reason to tip off opponents on who to prepare for. But it's likely that whoever is named the starter, Lea will find a way to get Ken Seals and Mike Wright into the game. 

East Tennessee is one of the easier opponents on Vanderbilt's schedule, which means it may be an opportunity to experiment with different packages. Seeing how the two quarterbacks are used could provide insight into how Lea plans to handle having two talented signal-callers with opposing skillsets.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at agerson@gannett.com or on Twitter @aria_gerson.