What to know about Vanderbilt football's revamped quarterback room in spring practice so far

Vanderbilt football is starting almost completely over at quarterback.

Not a single pass attempt returns from last year's roster. The only quarterback who played in a game is Drew Dickey, who made one appearance and handed the ball off.

Gone are AJ Swann, Ken Seals and Walter Taylor. Instead, the Commodores have brought in two transfers for the spring in Nate Johnson from Utah and Blaze Berlowitz from New Mexico State. Another Aggies quarterback, Diego Pavia, is committed to join the team after the spring. Along with Pavia, two incoming freshmen will come in for the fall semester: Jeremy St-Hilaire and Whit Muschamp.

While Johnson is the likely favorite to win the starting job at this juncture, coach Clark Lea doesn't want to make that decision yet.

"You got to be willing to kind of wipe the slate clean and again, it's just a matter of, start with the end in mind," Lea said after Tuesday's practice. "We're at the beginning point here, where we say we're not making a decision until we have to, and so that means that what we're seeing right now is not under the pressure of having to figure out at the end of spring who the starter is, it's really just trying to improve the guys we have now and take advantage of the reps."

During Saturday's practice, Lea felt that Johnson was too careless with the ball. Turnovers were an issue for Vanderbilt in 2023 and finding a quarterback who can avoid giveaways is a top priority for Lea. On Tuesday, Lea felt the quarterbacks, including Johnson, did a better job with ball security.

But it's still a work in progress. The Commodores spent the first portion of spring working on installing a new offensive system under offensive coordinator Tim Beck and offensive line coach Chris Klenakis. Now that the installation has mostly concluded, the focus has turned to the finer points of offense.

Johnson is a dynamic quarterback who adds a dual-threat option to what projects as a run-first offense. But when he arrives, Pavia will likely make it an interesting competition because of his experience in Beck's system at New Mexico State.

Pavia has the best combination of experience and production track record on the roster, but at six feet tall and 200 pounds, he's undersized for the SEC. Berlowitz has intriguing arm strength and measurables at 6-foot-3, 202 pounds. But the redshirt freshman is more of a developmental prospect than one who projects to start in 2024.

"Early on they were just learning the system," Lea said last week. "And I think the first couple practices, a few more mistakes with the ball. ... It's been great to see them settle in and and be able to make some throws and be on time and in rhythm with receivers. It just takes some time to build chemistry."

With Vanderbilt opting against holding a full spring game and more players joining for the fall, it may take until closer to the season opener on Aug. 31 to truly get a read on the quarterback competition.

Without Swann, Seals or Taylor, it could be difficult to evaluate whether the Commodores' quarterback room is better than a year ago. But it will be the development of that position that determines whether Vanderbilt can outdo its 2-10 record from a year ago.

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

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Vanderbilt football quarterback competition in spring practice so far