2007 Vanderbilt Football Pre-Game Quotes vs. Richmond
Opening statement by Bobby Johnson, preparing for his sixth season as the Vanderbilt football head coach. The Commodores open play this season by hosting the University of Richmond Spiders on Saturday, Sept. 1, in Vanderbilt Stadium.
"Game week is finally here. We're certainly looking forward to be able to prepare for Richmond and play this Saturday. We've had three long weeks of getting ready in some pretty tough heat. I think our guys are just about ready to play a football game and they are looking forward to it too. We expect a great crowd at Vanderbilt this coming Saturday. We expect a tough opponent in the Richmond Spiders."
On opening the season with four games in Vanderbilt Stadium... "I like it a lot. It's a lot easier to play at home. You don't have to get on buses and go to the airport and get on planes and go through security. It's just a comfort zone that you get in. We'll start classes Wednesday so our guys won't have to miss any classes for the next four weeks. I think it's a huge advantage. I hope we can take advantage of it and play well at home."
On making Vanderbilt Stadium a tougher place to play... "We're trying to do that by making our team better. Most places that are hard to play are that way because of the team you're playing. It's not just the fans or the atmosphere. It's fun to go play in the big stadiums when you're on the road. I think it gets our guys fired up. It's definitely the team you're playing. If we can put a good team on the field at Vanderbilt Stadium, we'll have a better chance of playing well at Vanderbilt Stadium."
On how this team compares to other teams during his tenure... "Right now, as I look it, we're more talented than the teams that I've ever had. I'm not going to talk about previous regimes or previous coaches. I think we're better at each position. Overall, I think we have some experience coming back. We have 17 starters coming back. We have some depth at some positions that we've never had, and we have I think some playmakers. All of those things are improvements over teams that I've had. Hopefully we can take advantage of the improvements."
On Chris Nickson... "You have to remember that last year was Chris' first year (as a starter). Even though he was a redshirt sophomore, it was a learning curve for Chris. I think Chris played better at the end of the year. Certainly, he has the talent and abilities to do a lot of things on the football field that gives defenses problems. Hopefully, we can use those and he can use them in the right way. We think he's ready to go."
Talk about your first opponent, Richmond... "Coach (Dave) Clawson has done a great job there. They started off great last year and had a rough go of it in the middle of the season, then righted the ship with a big win at William & Mary. They're very sound in everything they do. Defensively, they line up and say `we're going to play our defense, you try and beat us.' At certain times and moments, they can come with pressure. Offensively, they gave us fits two years ago when they played here. They threw the ball very effectively off of play action because they were able to run the ball. We've got to play much better on defense this year. Eric Ward is a quarterback who really came on last year. He's a fine quarterback from Atlanta. They got some really good weapons. Tim Hightower is a quality running back. He's a big running back. They're going to be patient. They ran the ball well on us two years ago."
Talk about your special teams... "Our specialists have had a really good preseason. Brett Upson is punting the ball extremely well. Bryant Hahnfeldt is kicking the ball extremely well. We need to be better in helping them do their specialty better. We need to cover better on punts. Our kickoff return needs to improve. We've been working hard on all those aspects. We've worked pretty hard on them. We've had more special teams meetings. I hope it pays off."
On the injury situation... "We're in pretty good shape. We've had a few bumps and bruises. We have some guys who have some chronic injuries that could flare up and keep them out of games. Right now, I think Brandon Barden and Patrick (Benoist) are the only guys out. Overall, we're in pretty good shape."
On the excitement about the upcoming season... "There's a great deal of excitement. I'm glad fans are interested in Vanderbilt football. I think we've had a couple of exciting seasons. We had some opportunities and didn't take advantage of them. It's always the unknown at the first of the season that excites everybody. It's exciting to coaches, players and fans. It's good to talk about but now you get to do something about it and our guys are ready to do that."
On getting the ball to Earl Bennett... "He caught 79 passes his freshman year and 82 last year. Opponents knew that Earl was our premier wide receiver and they were going to try and take him away last year and we did a great job of getting him the ball. We'll continue every way we know possible. If we have to hand the ball to them, we'll do that. Earl will probably be one of our punt returners. That will be an opportunity for him."