Reaction from Monday's press conference

Sept. 21, 2009

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Listen to Coach Johnson's Press Conference

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson
Press Conference - Rice Week

Opening statement:
"It is obviously back to work for us. We have a lot of improvements to make and the best place to start is your own team. I think everyone on the team feels the same way that if we can get better, we are going to have a chance to win some games.

"We feel like we have a good team, but we certainly didn't execute the game plan we needed to beat Mississippi State. You have to give (Mississippi State) a lot of credit. They did some great stuff, but we did not play as well as we can. We didn't play nearly as well as we needed to win that game."

On the Rice game:
"Rice played a very good game with us last year. They've played a very tough schedule this year and haven't had a lot of success, but they look better to me this year than they did last year. We are going to have a tough game and we have to be prepared to have a tough game."

On if Jamie Graham is in the mix for time at receiver:
"We had Casey Hayward out with a migraine last weekend, so I don't think we have the people available to take Jamie (Graham) and put him on offense right now. Things just go back to fundamentals and doing the things you know to teach them. Our guys just weren't doing a very good job of concentrating or they were uptight about not moving the football, and when it got to pressure time, they just didn't make the big or small catches."

On if the drops by receivers are something that could accumulate:
"It could, but I don't expect it to. For instance, John Cole dropped a pass, and John Cole set the record in Kentucky high school football for catching passes, so he can catch passes. I expect him to come back and catch passes. We've got guys who catch them all the time in practice, so hopefully that was a one game thing and we can put that behind us."

On where the team can improve offensively outside of catching passes:
"We can throw it better. We had some bad throws and you can't catch them if they aren't thrown better. All of that goes back to protecting and anticipating what teams are going to do against us. Until we can prove we can protect the quarterback and have time to go back there and get a good throw off and make a good catch, people are going to pressure us now and we've got to be ready for it and have a good plan."

On the defense against Mississippi State:
"Defensively, we played really well at times, and we had to play a lot of plays. We are banged up on defense right now and hopefully we can get some people well and go back and have another good game on defense."

On calling the offensive plays:
"Jimmy Kiser is calling the plays. Basically, I like to have a guy who knows what the quarterback likes and what he knows the quarterback has seen in practice and what he is thinking on the field, which is why we made the change (last year to Kiser). I think the play calling is fine, we just have to execute a whole lot better and build in ways to take care of some of the things we saw last week. If we can make people pay for putting pressure on us, I think that will go a long way toward helping us the rest of the year."

On the potential of making a change at quarterback:
"We consider everything. We've got confidence in Larry (Smith) and we have confidence in Mackenzi (Adams). If Larry shows us in practice that he cannot and will not improve, we'll have to make a change, but I don't think that is going to happen. Larry is a hard worker and he wants to do the right thing every time and I think he will answer the call."

On the offense not clicking against Mississippi State:
"It clicked against Western Carolina. I worked some against LSU and then we got a whole different look from Mississippi State and we just didn't react very well. Again, you have to give them a lot of credit, but we should have reacted to some of the things they were doing to us. We had it built in, but we just didn't do a good job of making sure those things were taken care of, and when we did, we didn't execute. If we had (Larry Smith) protected, we either had bad throw or a drop. I think that got to the point where we were a little bit past frustrated."

On if this year's record is a reminder of how difficult it is to start 5-0 like 2008:
"I've told everybody quite often that if we ever get it as good as we can at Vanderbilt, we are going to have to fight every game that we play. It is going to be a battle and if we don't execute, things like what happened Saturday night could happen. You are never over the hump, you never have the answer and you have to do it every week, especially in this league. You look two years ago and Mississippi State was in a bowl and last year they just had a little bit of adversity, but they still have good players. You've got to play every week in the SEC to have a chance to win. When you execute like we did last week, you don't have a very good chance."

On what impresses him more about this year's Rice team than the 2008 Owl squad:
"They played Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and that is pretty tough to ask of your defense. I think they have a lot of young guys on defense now, but they look more athletic to me. They did some good things against Texas Tech, who has one of the top passing games, and actually outgained Oklahoma State. We had to work hard to get the points we got last year, especially in the first half when the game was in the balance. We got a couple of scores late last year after we played them a little better on defense in the second half."

On if Casey Hayward's migraine could become a problem going forward:
"It hasn't been a big problem, but it has happened to him before. I don't think it has ever happened in a game. Most of the time migraines are triggered by something and I think he got hit. In the past, I think his migraines have been triggered by dehydration, but he thought a hit to the head caused this one. It was one where there was no way he could play with it."

On the play of (freshman cornerback) Eddie Foster:
"I'm really impressed with his play. He went into the game and made several tackles and everybody on our staff, their staff and Eddie knew that they were going to go long on him. They did and he played it. We were really impressed with Eddie and are glad that we had him."

On linebacker Chris Marve:
"Chris gets a lot of help from our other linebackers and our defensive front does an excellent job of filling gaps and funneling the ball carriers to him, but you have to tackle them when you get there and he does a great job of doing that, and he has a knack for knocking the ball out. He's also a great student of the game as far as linebacking goes. He knows where to be. Coach Warren Belin does a great job with those guys and they rarely have alignment mistakes, and that gives them a chance to be really successful. It goes all the way back to Hunter Hillenmeyer in Warren Belin's first year, who went from ordinary linebacker to leading tackler in the conference. Then it was Moses Osemwegie, Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs. You can look at them and see how successful they are. The system helps a lot, but we think those guys are tailor-made for the system."

On the status of (tailback) Jared Hawkins:
"We think Jared (Hawkins) has a chance to play this week. We hope that he can get in there and get some action, but it will all depend on how he reacts in practice. We've had this hope before and it hadn't worked out. He had some different treatment that has helped him a little bit more."

On if he feels better about Hawkins' chance of returning this week than previous:
"Yes, because of some things that were tried. There has been a different treatment and he's reacted better to jogging and running, but it's different when you get out there and you are making full-speed cuts, and we don't want to do that when we are testing him. He did okay last week, but after a certain time in practice it seemed to bother him again. Early in practice we were all fired up, but the longer he went the more sore it got."

On the status of two injured Commodores, defensive back Eric Samuels and defensive end Steven Stone.
"We didn't think Eric did very well in pregame warm-ups the other day and we didn't think it would be good to put him in the game. He's still a question mark, and we won't know more until our trainers have a chance to work him out Monday afternoon."

"Steven is jogging a little bit now. That injury (broken foot) is almost to the minute where you have to go the full term. There are very few who ever come back early from that injury. There is just a whole lot of pressure on the foot when you make cuts and you try to get off blocks. They are going to be careful with Steven and make sure he is ready to go before he comes back."



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