Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson Weekly Press Conference Quotes - Aug. 31, 2009
Johnson's opening statement: "It's great to be on game week to start another season. I think our guys have worked extremely hard and are anxious to play. It seems like its been a very long training camp, but we're glad to get ready for our opening game, We're excited as we can be."
On playing twelve games in a row: "We hardly ever talk about it unless I'm talking to the press really. To tell you the truth, we don't discuss it much. Our coaching staff is going to do a good job of making sure our guys don't get worn out. We can't change the schedule so we don't really talk about it a whole bunch."
On the quarterback situation: "We're going to start Larry Smith; we think Larry has got a lot of tools to run our offense and be able to throw the ball downfield and do some things. But we're extremely pleased with Mackenzi Adams, the way he's worked. We feel equally confident that he could go in the game if needed and execute our offense. Jared Funk has a very good arm -- we're probably going to run the quarterback less this year than we ever have, so Jared Funk would be a very viable candidate to go in if needed. We feel great about the quarterback position, now, and for the future. We couldn't be more pleased with the way they've gone about it, and they've competed and made each other better."
On what Larry Smith brings to the table: "Larry's got a very strong arm. We're going to try to move the ball and throw the ball downfield a little bit more than we have the last couple years. Larry also has a presence in the pocket. He sees the field very well and knows what we're trying to do with the offense and he's also used to winning a bunch of games, he won a bunch of games in high school. He just did a good job for us last year at the end of the Wake Forest game and, of course, the bowl game and gave us a look at his potential. We want to develop that potential and the best way to develop it is to get him in the game. At the same time, Mackenzi Adams has done a lot of good things for this program and he continues to do it. He is a competitor, he prepares himself, doesn't gripe about his role, and he just goes in when we call on him and plays like a starter and that's a great luxury to have."
On what unique challenges Western Carolina has to offer: "Right now, the unique challenge is not knowing exactly what they're going to do offensively or defensively, and of course they don't know what we're going to do. On offense last year, Western Carolina got much better at the end of the year. Zack Jaynes at quarterback is kind of sneaky. He's a good runner. When he pulls it down he makes a bunch of first downs. They like the short passing game and they never seem to be in real bad situations like third and 12, third and 15. If you have them all covered, he pulls it down and sometimes makes good runs and keeps drives alive. The big thing for us is for Vanderbilt to execute. We have to make sure we do what we're supposed to do and react to what Western Carolina does."
On the depth at cornerback outside of Myron Lewis: "I think Casey Hayward is going to be as good as Myron and D.J. I think he's a special player. Jaime Graham is also in the mix. Whatever combination we may have with those two playing corner and nickel, we feel good about the corners right now. We have a couple of freshmen that we feel really good about. They're going to get better and better and hopefully be able to provide that depth so that we may get consistent at nickel and maybe leave somebody there. If that happens, that will be a bonus."
On if he talks to the team about the expectations being higher going into the season after last season's success: "Our guys want higher expectations. They like to be winners. I think last year was a great lesson on what it takes to win games in the fourth quarter and have confidence and be in great shape. They know the formula. I think we've had great senior leadership to do that. I think we elected three great captains to make sure we stayed in line and I think our coaches have done a good job of making sure our guys are doing what they're supposed to do on and off the field to get it done."
On if he feels the team has better offensive playmakers this season: "Well we do for two reasons. We think the offensive line is going to be better this year just because of the experience in age and younger guys coming in and pushing those guys. For example James Williams at right tackle. He didn't play very much at all last year and he's coming up and is probably going to be our starter. And then the other thing is we think we do have some playmakers, especially at the running back position. If Jared Hawkins can get healthy and stay healthy, I think he's a very underrated runner in this conference and in the country. We've got some freshmen running backs who we think a lot of right now. We hopefully can get those guys loose and let them show everybody what they can do. Just getting a little more experience, a little older, a few better players at certain positions I think can help us a great deal on offense."
On if any new wide receivers have caught his eye: "We're going to have John Cole back. I think Udom Umoh is really stepping up. Alex Washington is doing a good job for us. We do have some freshmen: Brady Brown and Collin Ashley are accomplished receivers. They caught a lot of balls in high school, it's not foreign to them. But that is going to be a question mark position to see who is going to step up and maybe be the go to guy. We moved Justin Green from tight end to wide receiver; he's a big, tall target. We're trying to help our quarterbacks by getting some accomplished wide receivers out there and that's going to be a big factor for us."
On the no huddle offense: "We have the capability of dong several things with it. We can try to line up quickly and see what the other team is doing defensively and change the play and try to get in the ideal play at the time. We can go fast and try to confuse them before they can line up. Or we can just control the tempo from the start. That's the great thing about it. You can always just go back to huddling up if you want to. Once you have the ability to go fast, you have the options to do all the other things too."
On if he has a starter at running back if Jared Hawkins is unable to play: "That's going to be a tough question right now. Probably practice this week is going to be the deciding thing there and mainly it's going to be mental. It's easy sometimes to know who to pick up on a blitz when it's against your team out here and nobody's watching. If you don't pick him up, you can just say, `alright let's do it again,' and then we'll get him this time. When they really count, these things can get confusing and we'll see who can do it the best."