Gameday Central | Franklin Press Conference | Player Interviews | Notes/Depth Charts
Monday Musings: Looking for a win
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, junior defensive back Andre Hal, junior offensive tackle Wesley Johnson and senior defensive end Johnell Thomas discuss the Presbyterian game at the Commodores' weekly media session on Monday.
The Commodores will entertain the Blue Hose Saturday at 11:30 a.m. CT. Interviews are posted below (quotes coming soon).
Head Coach James Franklin
"We have some amazing kids here. I got some great text messages, hearing their support and really knowing that we support one another: I support them and they support me when I need it as well. That's why we're building something special here, which we are building something special. We've had some setbacks, but nothing has changed. Adversity has hit, like it hits all of us in life, and we're going to fight through it and get better this week.
"I'm excited for this opportunity against Presbyterian this week, and excited to play back at home in front of our fans. I thought our energy was very good at practice yesterday. If you look at Presbyterian, they have six returning starters on defense, including L.J. Perry - the middle linebacker, who we think is a very good player. Offensively, they're returning eight starters and run a spread offense. More than anything, they're a running team. But it's really not about who we're playing, it's about us doing our jobs and being detailed.
"I believe in these kids, I believe in this program, and I love our fans. We've seen some tough times in our past, we're seeing some tough times right now, but our future is bright. Nobody can tell me any different."
On Kenny Ladler's injury:
"He won't play this week, but he's in good shape and he'll be fine. He's a great kid, he'll be fine, but he's not on the depth chart this week."
On quarterback play:
"Just like we do every week, we look at who is going to give us the best chance to win at every position. Like last year, when everyone wanted to give the quarterback credit when things we're going well, right now, it's the same when we're having some tough times. There are a lot of plays we can make to support him. The protection can be better, we can get the running game going, there is a lot we can do to help. It's not about one player, it never will be. It's about Vanderbilt University as a whole, this athletic department and specifically this football program."
How would you assess the quarterback play so far?
"It's been inconsistent. Jordan's preparation and attitude have been really good. Just like last year, he can still make plays with his feet. We have to throw and catch the ball more consistently. You have to play consistently at quarterback to be successful at any level, and you have to support that guy as well. But it's been inconsistent since we got here. But Jordan had a great offseason, and we've got to get it to translate on the field."
On Jordan Rodgers starting Saturday:
"I would say anything could change at any position. At any position on our team, if you don't practice well that day or that week, then changes can happen. But nothing has happened where we've made any significant changes at this point."
On the offensive line:
"It's really not one thing. On offense, you have to have all 11 guys playing together to be successful. That's what is plaguing us. It's one thing one time, another thing another time, and it's a matter of getting us all on the same page.
"Let's be honest, though, too: we have opened with two of the most difficult games. I don't know if you could find another team in the SEC and very few teams in the country that have opened with two BCS, returning bowl teams. We've played the number nine team in the country, and a team that's been to four straight bowl games that we played on the road. People have to keep things in perspective. We're not as far off as people may think. It's a little play here, it's a little more focus there, and it's about understanding that this isn't going to be fixed overnight. It's a process. We're going to stick with our process and we're going to stay positive and believe in our kids. Don't allow a little adversity to change what we believe in. We will have success, there's no doubt in my mind."
On the belief level of the team:
"I think they believe, and I think they're pissed, and I think they're disappointed. We know we can be better, and they know how hard they've worked. Whenever you work hard and invest in something, and you don't have the success that you think you deserve, that's hard for all of us. Adversity shapes character, and this is a great opportunity for us to grow and come together. I think there's another team in this league that started 0-2 last year and ended up in the championship. There's a lot of season left. Our focus is on this week, and righting the ship. We're going to go out today, focus on our opponent, and get better."
On learning from games like Presbyterian:
"You learn every single week. There has been so much more talk this year in the media on games like this, but we've been playing games like this for a very long time. It's a great opportunity for both teams, and we're looking forward to playing them on Saturday. The best way to teach guys how to win is by winning. That's what we're going to try to do this week."
On play calling at Northwestern:
"What I find interesting are people who make the assumption that we didn't take shots. When you drop back, get sacked, and there's a guy wide open downfield, it's not about play calling. We called this game much more aggressively, so I was pleased with that. We have to execute. We have to get all 11 guys playing together, seeing the big picture. I was happy with how we called the game in all facets, but the game of football is about execution."
On this team getting a chip back on its shoulders:
"We had some success last year. I don't want to sit up here and make a bunch of statements you guys have all heard before, but handling success is challenging. We did have some relative success last year in comparison to recent history, and maybe we lost a little bit of that (chip). When you don't have the kind of success you want to have, you'll do anything to have it. And then when you have it, are you still as driven as you were before? That's kind of what I'm looking for.
"We lost a lot of leadership from last year, with Chris Marve. That's something that's going to need to be replaced, and it can't always come from the coaches, it can't always come from me."
On the plane delay:
"Maybe when you look back 20 years from now, that's one of the experiences that bond but not that night. We didn't get in until 4 a.m., and it didn't make sense to go home. So I worked, went to the meeting with the players at 4 p.m. and I was wearing the same suit I had on the night before. But it is what it is. They didn't mean for the plane to get messed up, and we didn't call a perfect game as coaches either. But it could be a bonding experience. All I know is I didn't talk a lot sitting next to my wife on the wives' trip. We didn't bond a whole lot this trip."
On improvements from game one to game two:
"I don't know if it necessarily showed, but we learned valuable lessons, and we are getting better. I know there's a frustration with our fans. The light started shining, and there was hope. All that is still there. One game, one moment is not going to define what we're going to be as a program. I know the young men sitting in that locker room hurt just as much as any of our fans. They want it bad. They want to be successful. One of the things we addressed as a team is that no one made a mistake on purpose. They all had the right intentions. Sometimes, you try to do more to have success and things can break down on you.
"We're going to stick to our plan and stay positive. Stay positive with the fans, with the media. I'm going to take advantage of every single day we have between now and Saturday, but Saturday can't get here fast enough for me."
On specific improvements:
"Look at the opening drive. We went for it on 4th and 9, which shows the belief I have in them. We went right down the field and scored. It goes back to what I said before: how do we handle some success? We went right down the field. Did we think it was going to be that easy the whole game? I don't know. Every time you go through a situation, good or bad, as long as you learn, you're going in the right direction. Coach Spurrier has been at South Carolina 10 years building that program. Coach Fitzgerald's been at Northwestern seven years building that program. They didn't start off looking how they look now."
On having a lot of things to fix:
"I think when it's one position or one major problem; it's that way for a reason. When you have problems here and there, it's a matter of getting on the same page. We watched film yesterday as an entire offense. You have to do that from time-to-time, just to get everyone on the same page. The receivers and the quarterbacks are going to meet together as a group from here on out, the tight ends and offensive line are going to meet together as a group. Not for the entire meeting but just so everyone hears the same things, no different than the coaches talking through things together."
On Zac Stacy:
"It's not about one person; it's about all of us. It's about all of us taking advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. Again, early in the season, those things typically show up on offense a little more than they do on defense. On offense, it's hard to execute; you don't have a chance to unless all 11 guys are working together."
Defensive Back Andre Hal
On if the reason the defense is coming up short in the fourth quarter:
"We just need to go hard and stay more focused. Whatever we do, we need to stay positive and move on to the next game."
On how big of a loss the defense takes with Kenny Ladler out for the next game:
"It's a big loss because Kenny (Ladler) is a great player, but with Javon (Marshall) moving to free (safety) and Eric (Samuels) shuffling to safety, we did it last year too with Kenny and Javon rotating, so it will make a little impact. I think we'll be OK."
On getting a win:
"We need a win. We're 0-2, so we need a win right now. We need to remain positive and get this win. I can't wait for this weekend."
Offensive Tackle Wesley Johnson
On the loss:
"It's frustrating, but you know it's a new week. We look at it as a one-week season. We're excited to get things going again the way that we originally planned on. We're looking forward to playing Presbyterian and really getting back to the basics."
On disappointment with running the ball:
"We're kind of just putting everything behind us. You know, those last two weeks basically didn't happen. We've learned from it. Yesterday in practice we got all our corrections done and we're moving on."
On what he saw after watching the film from Saturday:
"We weren't focused enough. I can think of two plays off the top of my head where I didn't block him right and that killed the play where our running back got tackled at the line of scrimmage because I wasn't able to make my block the way I wanted to do it. Now we're all on the same page with what we have to do and we're ready to go forward."
On why the focus hadn't been there:
"That's on us as a team. I think we were complacent. I don't know if you can say we got entitled or how all that works out. We didn't handle what little success we had last year. We didn't handle it very well and because we obviously weren't very used to it, but now you know, we talked about it yesterday. We're coming back, we're going to start playing with that edge, with that chip on our shoulder and we're going to fight hard."
On the importance of the running game:
"It's very important, anything we can do to help those guys out. We've got great running backs and they'll get going, and you'll see our offense start to open up once we get that started."
On looking at the last two defenses the team faced:
"Both defenses were pretty good. South Carolina is very talented and Northwestern is very disciplined in how they played us, but we know what we need to do and if we do what we do, I don't think there are many teams that can stop us."
On Saturday's game:
"It really doesn't matter who we're playing. We're still going to approach this game the same as any other game and we're definitely going for the win. We want one really badly."
On the challenge of facing SEC defensive linemen:
"I don't think people appreciate how our defensive linemen in the SEC tend to be a little more athletic, a little bit bigger. They really are a lot more athletic and they are all pretty big. There's a pretty significant difference and I think that challenge every week actually helps me a lot when we go out of conference and play other teams."
Defensive End Johnell Thomas
On if the team felt entitled:
"I don't think we're feeling a sense of entitlement at all. We played two very good teams. I'm not a man of excuses, first of all. We lost those games. We played them, we lost them. I think the important thing for us to remember is we have so much more ahead of us. We have a long season to go even though we take it one week at a time. What we do as a team, we take those outcomes and we leave them behind us. From each game we learn from any new experiences, and as a defense, as an offense, as special teams, we take those experiences with us into every game. It's important for us to remember we still have a long way to go."
On how much it dings pride to lose two fourth quarter leads:
"It dings us pretty bad. Any team going into the fourth quarter with the lead as a defense you want that feeling like you can hold this team, you can stop them. If they don't score they don't win and that's the mentality we have going into the fourth quarter, especially when we're up by whatever we were up. So it dings a little bit, but like I say, you grow from it, you learn from it. You correct the mistakes on Sunday coming back from the game and you just go from there."
On having a chip on their shoulder:
"I don't think the chip has ever left us. I think we've always had a chip on our shoulder. I just think we've had a few unfortunate plays that didn't go our way. I think the chip is going to remain on our shoulder. It's been there, it's going to stay there."
On Saturday's game:
"Every week is our super bowl, and that's the way we look at it as a team. Every week, the next game is always the most important game on the schedule. You don't want to look behind you, you don't want to look too far ahead, and you really don't want to look ahead at all at any team, any future opponent except the next game. That's the way we're looking at it as a team and Presbyterian is our next game, so this is our super bowl. This is the biggest game of our season and we can't wait for it to get here."