Coming off three straight home victories to start the season, Vanderbilt will hit the road to face conference foe No. 10 South Carolina Saturday in Columbia. Head Coach James Franklin and select players met with the media on Monday to discuss the Commodores' matchup with the Gamecocks. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin Opening statement: "I'd like to start with a summary from the Ole Miss game, some things I thought were critical to the game. Turnover battle, again, Vanderbilt wins 5-3. I still think we can do a much better job at protecting the ball on offense. That's going to be very important to us from here on out. Five interceptions in the game, 10 for the year, Sean Richardson from what I understand recording his first career interception, so we're really proud of him. Trey Wilson had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Javon Marshall had a great interception off a tipped ball. Third week in a row, defense has scored or set up a score for a touchdown, that's been a real positive for us all year long.
"South Carolina and Coach Spurrier, I have tremendous respect for him and what he's done in his career. Been watching them for years, been very impressed with them. If you look at the turnover battle between the two of us, Vanderbilt is ranked number one in the SEC in turnover margin. South Carolina is ranked number three. The penalty battle, we had seven for forty [yards] last week, they had 5 for 33.
"South Carolina, what you're going to see defensively, you're going to see a 4-3 defense, they've got six returning starters on the defense, and they're big and extremely athletic up front. They've got dynamic pass rushers off the edge. They're creating big plays on their defense as well. We must tackle and pursue better in general as a defense, we gotta get a consistent pass rush and more sacks is what we're emphasizing, and obviously they've got a great running back in Marcus Lattimore. I think he's as good as it gets."
On the challenges of playing a ranked-SEC opponent on the road: "Again it's just the next game for us. Rankings and being on the road, obviously being on the road is going to create some issues, that's probably the one thing I'm going to work on in practice. We're going to have the South Carolina fight song playing at practice extremely loud. We're going to have crowd noise going on as loud as we possibly can. Our focus is on this week, who our opponent is, and making sure we're going to be the best Vanderbilt and be prepared for the game."
On team getting national recognition: "It's nice, but again our focus is still really internally. We've got a lot of work to do. We're doing some nice things and we're getting better each week, that's what I'm really concerned about. The people I'm worried about gaining respect from, the people I'm concerned about making sure we care about one another is the men in that room, our coaching staff, our administrators, the players, the equipment staff, the trainers."
On Trey Wilson's success this season: "Number one, he's a good player. Number two, I think our defensive line is playing team football, and our defensive line is doing a good job at getting pressure."
On how the team is handling success: "We just talk about it. I've been telling them since we arrived at camp that this was going to happen, and how we were going to handle success. And just like I talked about my focus being on the men in that room, that's what their focus is as well, understanding that the people in that room are family. How are we going to act in the community, how are we going to act in class? I don't think we could spend more time talking to our players about how to handle different situations in life, on this campus, and on the football field."
Junior CB Trey Wilson On earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors: "It means I have a good defensive line, that's what it means. Of course I'm honored that I received the award, but it just means I have a great defensive line and I'm playing opposite a great player in Casey Hayward. I'm going to get my opportunities and I just hope to take advantage of them."
On success in the turnover battle: "It's our approach to the game. The coaches teach us to attack the ball every chance we get. You're not a defensive back when that ball's in the air. If it's thrown in your direction, it's to you."
On going on the road this week: "Football isn't a comfortable game. Of course it's going to be a challenge going on the road. It's a different set of fans, but when you're on that field and in between those lines, it just means you have a different color jersey on."
On Coach bringing every speaker on campus to practice to simulate crowd noise: "Coach Franklin's kind of weird with stuff like that, but it doesn't make us change our approach or anything. It just emphasizes how you need to handle certain situations."
Senior QB Larry Smith On memories of playing at South Carolina: "It's one of the most fun stadiums I have played in. The atmosphere is crazy down there in Columbia. The fans really get excited, and get behind their team, so it will be really fun and exciting Saturday night."
On Coach simulating crowd noise at practice: "We've been doing that since spring practice. Crowd noise and things like that for playing on the road in these loud stadiums...I think we're going to do that this week as well, so I think we'll do fine on Saturday, being that we've been preparing for this all season."
On not flying under the radar anymore: We're not flying under the radar or anything. We're just focused on Vanderbilt football and focusing on one game at a time. We can't really worry about the outside things right now. We're taking it one game at a time, and one play at a time."
On Coach Franklin's emotions after Ole Miss game: "I was definitely one of the many guys who mentioned to him about how he got emotional after the game. That just lets us know that he's real emotional, that he has our backs, and that he's dedicated to this program. It just makes me want to go out there and play harder for him each and every week."
On Coach Spurrier of South Carolina: "Growing up watching him at Florida and South Carolina...he's a legend as a coach, so it's going to be really fun for us to go out and compete against him on Saturday."
On no longer flying under the radar: "I think people are starting to notice us, but we're not really concerned with that kind of attention. We're worried about what's in the locker room, what our coaches think about us, and how we're playing."
On increased pressure: "That's one of the reasons we try not to pay attention to it. We really want to focus on how well we are playing as a team. It's all about getting the W, rather than the media attention."
On seeing the fast start coming: "I think we expected it. I think that's why we've been doing well. Coach Franklin put a lot of confidence in us. He made us believe that we could win, and we've won."
On preparing for South Carolina: "We're going to treat them just like every other team. I know they have a really good defensive line, but we're going to prepare for them the same way we prepared for Ole Miss. We're always going to try to get better each week though, and work a bit harder in practice."