Media Monday with Franklin, players

Oct. 1, 2012

Franklin Press Conference | Player Interviews | Notes/Depth Charts | Monday Musings

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, junior defensive end Walker May, senior tailback Zac Stacy and junior offensive tackle Wesley Johnson discuss the Missouri game at the Commodores' weekly media session on Monday.

The Commodores (1-3, 0-2 SEC) will face the Tigers (3-2, 0-2) in Columbia Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. Interviews are posted below.

Head coach James Franklin
Opening statement:
"Our attitude has been great in practice this past week. We were flying around on the field, and our energy was really good. I think the time off was good for us. Kids were able to go home, see their families, see some high school games or just stay here, work on academics or relax. We as coaches were all out on the road recruiting. I went down and spoke at the Birmingham Touchdown Club. People are extremely receptive and appreciative of what's going on here. So the bye came at a good time.

"I'm excited about Missouri this week, and excited about the opportunities this road game presents. I have tremendous respect for Gary Pinkel and what's he's been able to do over his whole career. Missouri is 3-2 right now. They've done a great job opening games; they've outscored opponents 38-3 opening games [1st quarter], so I think it's going to be very important that we start out strong.

"Missouri has an advantage in the turnover battle right now, and we have to do a better job in creating turnovers. I think that's one of the biggest differences between this season and last season. We have the advantage in the penalty battle. We didn't do a good job in that against Georgia; it put us in a tough situation when it comes to momentum.

"I've known [Missouri defensive coordinator] Dave Steckel for a long time, and he's done a good job there. They are very active on their defensive line. Sheldon Richardson, their defensive tackle, is very active and athletic. I've known him for a long time, because when I was at a previous institution we recruited him, and he was a very good get for Missouri. He's proved his worth. He makes their defense go.

"On offense, [offensive coordinator] David Yost returns six starters. They're a true spread offense. They'll go as James Franklin goes. He's very poised, tough, has won a lot of games and been very successful. I could sit here and name all of the different weapons they have surrounded him with. The most important thing we have to be aware of is all of the weapons in the backfield.

"I think special teams were the difference in the game on Saturday for them. Marcus Murphy has three punt returns for touchdowns this year. He swung the momentum their direction when they needed it most. We have to find a way to create big moves on special teams as well."

On Missouri QB James Franklin:
"I think what they're trying to do with him depends on the defenses they've played. I think they're running him a little less than they have in the past, due to the shots that he's taken against the defenses. A lot of their running game comes from the short passing game. I think it's a combination of all those factors."

On how much the bye week helped:
"We'll find out Saturday. There comes a time when the players need some time away from us, go home, see their families and relax. As you guys know, playing in the SEC is a grind. We're getting right around the time of midterms, papers and projects, so they needed some extra time. I think it allowed us as coaches to look at some of the comparisons to last year and areas for growth. We've had some very honest discussions in the past week."

On comparisons between this year and last year:
"Offensively, the biggest difference is points. But if you look at how we're running and throwing, it's very similar to last year. I'm not saying this year is good enough, I'm not saying last year's good enough. But it's very similar. The offense had more opportunities last year because we were able to get turnovers in bunches.

"Defensively, the interceptions and tackles for loss have hurt. Last year, we were able to get huge momentum plays at times, and we just haven't had that this year. It's the same with special teams. I think we're very similar in many ways to last year. I know it might not look like it, but if you take the whole picture, we're really not that far off."

On why there haven't been as many momentum shifts:
"I think it's a combination of the competition we've played and execution. We went back and looked at money plays; some people call them trick plays, we don't. We called six last year, we've called four this year. 33-percent were successful last year, none have been successful this year. When they're successful, you call more. All things factor in.

"We have to just keep sticking to our plans, giving kids the chance to be successful and execute consistently. That's what we're not doing, we're not executing consistently."

On if Jordan Rodgers starts Saturday:
"If he practices well, yes."

On having more time to evaluate quarterbacks this week:
"Obviously, you get a few more days to evaluate. But part of it last week was that we were going Vandy-on-Vandy. It wasn't game plan specific. We got a little bit of a head start on Missouri, but overall we were just getting reps. I thought Jordan [Rodgers] practiced well last week, and if we had played Saturday he would've started. But this week stands alone."

On whether or not the bye week has any effect on game planning:
"There's no doubt it gives you an advantage. It's probably similar to a first game where you might take a few extra days. Our coaches were looking at Mizzou throughout the week, but we didn't start any Mizzou prep until Wednesday, and then gave the players Thursday, Friday and Saturday off.

"The other advantage is that we didn't have to break down the previous game on Sunday. We could just go right into Missouri."

On dual-threat quarterbacks:
"It's a challenge. Those guys create conflict for you. Three of the four teams in our first four games this year have mobile quarterbacks, guys that can make plays with their feet when they have to. That causes issues for the defense and how they prepare. That's a big advantage Jordan [Rodgers] gives us.

"I think the defensive line has to be rushing the quarterback but also making sure they're not getting washed out of their lanes. You have to be very disciplined."

On the quality of competition Vanderbilt has played:
"Yes. But I think we also look at ourselves and ask how we're playing against those opponents. Last week [vs. Georgia] was the one week that I didn't feel we competed at the level we normally compete. The first half of the Florida game last year was like that, but we were able to put together a good second half and make it competitive. We look at all of those things. We're very honest with ourselves and the players."

On freshmen offensive linemen:
"I think they could push for playing time right now. I think [Andrew] Jelks, Adam Butler and Barrett Gouger are much further along than I would've anticipated. But it comes down to whether or not they would be upgrading us right now, and I don't know if they're upgrading. So why would I burn a year off a freshman and save him? Where are they going to help us most? Is it this year, or as a fifth year senior? That's the decision.

"Now, if we have injuries, they're going to play and we're going to be comfortable with how they will play. But, with someone like [Caleb] Azubike, he made it pretty clear to us that he was mentally ready and that by the middle of the year, he'd be getting significant reps. Same goes for [Darreon] Herring and [Brian] Kimbrow as well. With the linemen, it all deals with health. If we have an issue, they'll be in."

On injuries:
"We're pretty much injury-free. I don't usually answer that question, but I'll say yes. I've never really said no. Yeah, we're healthy."

On the SEC East being better than last year:
"I don't know. Maybe at the end of the year we can look back and make those studies. I do think that veteran quarterbacks across the league make you more competitive. People have also gone out and recruited difference-makers at wideout, and that is a big factor. The combination of those things has really helped teams."

On freshman QB Patton Robinette:
"I'm very pleased with him. This freshman class is the best I've been associated with. We did live scrimmages last week, with everything but the quarterback. Patton was begging me to go. He's got the demeanor, he's got the confidence, he's got the body type and he's got the work ethic we're looking for at quarterback. So I think we did a very good job of evaluating and recruiting there. But the same goes for the two guys we have there now. I feel very good about them too.

"Watching those guys practice last week was a good morale lift for our program and for those kids. It was also good for our coaches. For example, Stephen Weatherly is doing some very nice things, and I could go on and on about a number of guys. Cory Batey made an unbelievable one-handed catch the other day. So that's been exciting for us to see the future of our program."

Vanderbilt Players

Junior defensive end Walker May
On the bye week's timing after Georgia:
"We're not really thinking about the Georgia game, so it doesn't matter. It was a good break for us to get back on academics and go home to see family, stuff like that. It was good for us, get our bodies back a little bit."

On going up against James Franklin (Missouri):
"He's a very versatile quarterback. He has a good arm and can move when he needs to move. It's going be a challenge for us up front, and defensively we're very excited about it. I love teams that'll drop back and pass a lot, so we get to throw our ears back and go at them from a defensive line perspective. For him, he's a very athletic man, got a great arm, and quick feet so we're going to have our hands full."

On what they've learned from facing dual threat guys:
"You've got to keep them caged in and stuff because they can move and they will. What we've got to do when we pass rush is you have to know you can't just run by them. You have to always keep `cage integrity' is what we call thinking like that. So when you go up field and work up field, you always have to work back under because you know he's going to step up and he's going to move with his feet."

On whether or not this feels like a conference game:
"It's new, it's different. Of course it feels like a conference game because everybody tells us it's the SEC and everything like that. I've heard about the experience and attitude and everything up in Missouri. Their home games are fun so that'll feel just like another home game for us, or away game for us. We'll feel right at home there, so we're going to have fun."

On Vanderbilt's tight ends:
"I go against them everyday and they're definitely getting better every single week. It's one of those things that's encouraging to see. If you keep getting better every week, it's going to come for them. So it's encouraging for us."

On the bye week and keeping confidence and belief level up:
"From a defensive mindset, we just have to come out with the mentality to play. If something happens, then we just have to forget about it and move on. We've got to come out with the mentality and swagger that we're going to hit you in the mouth every play and forget what happens next. We're going to make it happen."

Senior tailback Zac Stacy
On what the offense needs to do to get back on track:
"We need more big plays and doing it on a consistent basis as well. We need to take advantage of our opportunities, especially in the red zone. We need to put the ball in the end zone more and do it on a consistent basis."

On if he would like to get a few more carries in the red zone:
"That's one of those things where you just go with the coach's call. Any time I get the ball I take advantage of the opportunity and try to make the best of it. I have to go out and execute whatever the situation is."

On if he watched the Missouri game last weekend:
"From an offensive standpoint, their biggest strength is probably the defensive line. They are a very good, active group of guys. They make a lot of plays on defense, so it will be a matter of execution."

On if it feels different preparing for an SEC opponent when they are new to the conference:
"Not really, we have the same mentality every week as far as preparation. These coaches do a great job of putting us in the right position to be successful on Saturdays. Regardless of who we are playing, whether it's an SEC team or not, we want to have the same mentality in our preparation."

Junior offensive tackle Wesley Johnson
On what the offense needs to do to get back on track:
"Everybody just has to execute together. We felt like we moved the ball pretty well against Georgia. We had some nice stats after the game, but the most important stat is we only scored three points. We need to focus more on finishing drives and having that killer instinct once we get close to the end zone."

On containing Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson:
"He's obviously had a good season and been real active. I know he has a lot of tackles. Watching their game on Saturday we got a chance to look at their tendencies and we could all see that they are a hard working group of guys. We have to work harder and be more active than they are."

On if Missouri's defensive line resembles a prototypical SEC defensive line:
"Their defensive line actually reminds me a lot of our defensive line. They are all athletic and have really high motors. They go full speed all the time and you see them making a lot of second effort plays. Based on what I've seen on tape I would put them up there with any other SEC defensive line."

On the growth of the young tight ends on the team:
"I think they are doing a lot better. I see progress every week and I've been really proud of them. We keep challenging them whenever we get the chance and they keep stepping up to the occasion."



Proud Sponsors of Commodore Athletics