Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr and sophomore wide receiver Chris Boyd discuss the Florida game at the Commodores' weekly media session on Monday.
The Commodores (2-3, 1-2 SEC) will host the No. 4 Gators (5-0, 4-0) Saturday at 5 p.m. CT. Interviews are posted below (quotes coming soon).
Head Coach James Franklin Opening statement:
"Obviously we had a great win for the program and the university this weekend, and had a great practice yesterday and made some corrections. It was a positive for us, but we've moved on like we always do.
Our matchup against Florida this week is an exciting one. We have another opportunity to bring a top-5 opponent into our stadium. I have tremendous respect for Will Muschamp and what he's been able to do in his two years. They had a huge win over LSU, and everyone has tremendous respect for LSU.
Last year against Florida, I didn't think we played with the confidence we usually do in the first half, but we were able to come back in the second half and played well. We want to build on what we've done this year and our second half from last year.
Again, turnovers are going to be important. The advantage right now goes to Florida, we're eighth in the conference and they're third. We have the advantage in the penalty battle: we're ranked eighth and they're ranked 13th in the country in that, so we need to keep doing a good job there.
Defensively, they're a challenge. The biggest difference in their defense this year is their depth. They've always recruited well, but they have a two-deep now that they're very confident with. They're able to rotate people in there and keep them fresh, which makes them even more challenging. There are no gimmes; it's tough to get any advantage against them. Their front four is extremely good, and they held LSU to under 200 yards total offense. They've also held opponents three times without a score in the second half this year.
The guy who probably stands out the most to us on defense is Sharrif Floyd, who they played at defensive end some last year. But now he's playing primarily defensive tackle, and the fact that he's a year older is really helping him.
Offensively, they return seven starters. What you see is a reflection of Coach (Brent) Pease and a reflection of Coach Muschamp: they're going to play really well on defense and special teams, and they're going to run the ball and mix in the pass. There is toughness in this team. I think the offensive line has improved as much as any team we've seen in a year, and they have a running back who is special. He's taking over games.
On special teams, with their athleticism, they're always a threat to score with returners. Their kicker has made 17 consecutive field goals going back to last year and he's made seven field goals over 50 yards or more. Their punter is also leading the conference in punting yards.
We're talking about a team that's doing it well in all aspects. They're well-coached, they have schemes that create conflict, and they're not going to give up yards. They're going to run it down your throat and they're going to play with a toughness and physicality."
On offensive line against Missouri:
"Going into that game, we thought the strength of that team was the defensive line, and it was. I think what was positive was that our defense played well, and our special teams played extremely well. Our punter was co-special teams player of the week, so I'm really happy for Richard (Kent) and the whole special teams unit. I thought as the game went on we settled down. Zac's stats running weren't gaudy, but they were effective, and I thought we had a good plan.
I think everyone thinks I'm crazy, and just thinks I'm trying to sell us again, but if you look at our statistics and compare the first four games from this year and last year, our record is very similar. Our scoring offense, we're better. Our total offense, we're 100 yards better. Our passing offense, we're 82 yards better. Our rushing offense, we're 38 yards better. We have five more first downs per game. Total defense, we're better. Rushing defense, we're 70 yards better. The biggest difference between this year and last year is turnovers.
I know I throw some things out there a lot, and you think I'm just trying to sell us on some dream, but it's reality. We're getting better. As we've talked about before, this league is played up front, and we're going to be challenged on the offensive line every single week.
On streamlining philosophy:
"It's like I've mentioned before, we wanted to run the ball more, specifically against Georgia. I thought Zac was running the ball well. The score got out of hand.
We played this game on the road, and it was cold, which helped us keep Zac in the game as much as we could. There was a little more emphasis on that, but it was more just how everything played out."
On opening up the playbook in the second half:
"We called four trick plays up until last game and had called six (in 2011) so we called two less. We're doing those things. This game, we had them in the game plan like we always do, and I make suggestions throughout the game. We wanted to use some of their aggression against them. They're in the game plan every single week, and we call them whenever we can."
On an SEC road win:
"Wins in general, we love them. Every win is great, regardless of conference or non-conference. Being able to win in the conference on the road is very challenging if you look historically. I don't think there's any doubt that we realize the importance of winning on the road. Missouri's won a lot of football games in the past 12 years. It was awesome. It was a great trip back."
On Mike Gillislee and other SEC backs:
"It's hard to say where he ranks. Marcus Lattimore is one of those guys you respect on film, and then you watch him in person and you see a whole other side of who he is as a back. For two years I've seen that now. Same thing for Georgia; I thought we had a good handle on who they were until we saw them in person. I'll know after seeing Gillislee in person but I think the fact that he's been conference player of the week twice now shows that he ranks up there. They're very committed to running with him. I think the offensive line is a big part of it as well."
On Jared Morse and defensive line:
"I think the defensive line is our strength along with the secondary. I think the defensive line is playing solid. I still have higher expectations of them. I think we could cause some more disruption and turnovers and pressure. I'm pleased with how they're playing, but I think we can play better."
On Vanderbilt taking on his own personality:
"I think we have this year. Last year, there was still a part that was trying to figure me out. Every week, I'd walk into the team meeting and shock them a little bit because they didn't know what to expect from me. I don't think I get that as much now. Even in the freshmen we recruited, they heard the same consistent message the whole time. I think that grows the longer you've been somewhere, and it naturally happens. They know what I expect of them and what to expect from me."
On Jordan Rodgers' interception:
"He tried to make a back-shoulder throw because he thought their defender was bailing. The problem was he didn't throw a back-shoulder throw, he threw a low-angle inside. The ball just got away from him.
Their quarterback had a throw get away from him too, but theirs went for an 85-yard touchdown. Sometimes those throws hurt you, sometimes they help you. But Jordan explained what he was trying to do, and it wasn't a miscommunication. It was just that the ball ended up in the wrong spot."
On Jordan Rodgers' play:
"I don't know what people are saying about him but one thing I was really impressed with was that he was 9-of-11 on passing. That's an interesting stat because it shows that he had some adversity, we talked about it, and he was able to move on. To me, that shows maturity and growth and confidence in our coaching staff. I've been pleased with him."
On what they learned from last year's Florida game:
"I think it's a combination of both confidence and schematic things. Last year, during halftime we challenged them and we went out and played aggressively from that point on. Obviously, we'll watch the film from last year, learn from our experiences, but they're a much different team. Muschamp has a new offensive coordinator, so for our defense it's a completely different animal."
On post-bye wins:
"I think there is no doubt that the bye week helps. You get a little more time to prepare and get healthy. This conference is a grind week after week, so when you're able to take a few extra days to let them rest and prepare for somebody, there is no doubt that that gives you some advantages."
On attacking Florida's defense:
"We're going to have to be happy getting a few yards on runs, and just grinding those out, and then getting plays down the field. That's what we were able to do last year."
We're going to get the ball to our guys that have shown they can consistently make plays. It comes down to some schemes, and quarterback comfort. We need to continue to develop our players so we have more weapons. I think we have guys on our roster that can do that but it hasn't happened yet."
On Jake Sealand:
"He is very conscientious. It's very important to him: he's extremely intelligent, very hard worker and has natural leadership skills. He's been itching to do this all year, and as soon as we mentioned it he was all for it. He's a quick player so Missouri's spread played to his strengths. I thought he handled it well."
On Florida telegraphing its offense and still succeeding:
"I think that's where talent, size and power come in. They have a really good offensive line that has grown and matured, and they have a really good back who can make plays. Although it's obvious that they have made a commitment to running the ball, they still throw the ball effectively enough that they keep you honest."
On South Carolina/Georgia:
"I don't spend a lot of time reading into those things. Winning on the road in the SEC is hard."
On improved teams:
"At the point we played Georgia, I thought they were really improved. I think Florida's really improved. I think you could say that for a lot of SEC teams. Sometimes its not fair to make comparisons until you see them in person. But I think the league in general has improved and quarterbacks are a big factor in that."
On Jeff Driskel:
"He's 6-4, 227 pounds and he's rushed for 274 yards and a touchdown. I think its one thing when you see a smaller guy doing it but when you see that speed from someone his size, it helps. But I don't think he's going to sneak up on anybody. We'll be prepared."
Senior Defensive Tackle Rob Lohr On getting pressure on the quarterback:
"Anytime you can get pressure on the quarterback, it'll throw their whole offense off, as you saw at the end of the game (against Missouri). The last three or four plays of the game we were able to get a lot of pressure on them and it changed the result. Obviously, it helps any time you can get pressure on the quarterback."
On an SEC win on the road:
"Anytime you can get a win on the road, especially in the SEC, it's big time. It's nice to be able to get that, and get that behind us, and now we're able to move on."
On the win's effect on confidence going into the October portion of the schedule:
"Anytime you can get a win, like I said, it's a big thing. September, you know, we didn't have a great September, but it's October and we were 1-0 this week so we're looking forward to the next week and the opportunity to go 1-0 this week."
On the emphasis of the "reset" and 0-0 every week:
"You can't focus on the past. Regardless of who you're playing, whether it's Presbyterian, Missouri, Florida or anyone, one game is one win or one loss, it's just how it is. It doesn't really matter who the opponent is. You just got to look at it one week because you can't get the last week back. You just have to move forward."
On Florida's running game and the challenge it poses:
"They have an extremely good offensive line, they're solid up front, they're big and Mike Gillislee is a great back. The quarterback is obviously a new quarterback, but he has been playing really well and it's definitely a challenge for us this week. But, yeah, we're looking forward to the opportunity. I think our defensive line came a long way this week and we made some improvements and I think that'll show this week."
On learning from last year to this year's game:
"We go into every week knowing we have to come out fast and finish strong. Last year we obviously didn't do that, we had a terrible first half, but this year we're just going to come out, play well, and finish. It's just about finishing, and that's kind of the mentality our defense has taken. We can't give up plays at the end of the first half and end of the fourth quarter. We just have to step up, kind of like we did against Missouri. We were able to able to get them off the field and win the game, so that's kind of our mentality."
On playing a tough schedule the first half and learning from it:
"You're tested early. You have to come strong. Anytime you're playing a tough SEC opponent, I mean you get a little more pumped up for it, but as I said in the beginning of the schedule, you usually progress through the season and keep getting better. When you come out and have tough games early, it's a little more of a challenge, but I think it's just a matter of being able to face adversity and come out of it."
On special team's impact:
"As you know, Richard (Kent) played a really good game. It's all about placement on the field, and being able to punt the ball inside the 10-yard line is a huge advantage for the defense. As you saw, it resulted in the safety on that second drive or whatever it was. Richard has been playing really well and field position is such an advantage, especially for a defense. I know for an offense, once the defense is able to get them backed up and then they have to punt it out and you're starting on an opponent's 40-yard line, that's great field position to get an offensive drive started. Richard has been doing really well and we want him to keep it up."
On whether this is a better football team than last year:
"I think we are. I think we come out and prepare just as hard, if not harder. It's one of those things, you don't like to compare one season to the other because it's completely different teams. The 2011 Commodores are different than the 2012 Commodores. I think the way we prepare is better, and I think the results will come."
On Gillislee in particular:
"Every year in the SEC there are some great running backs. Gillislee, I've only watched film on today and yesterday, but he's patient and he's fast. Any player on Florida...I don't know how they get all those guys but they are super fast. It's tough anytime you get a speedster, especially when they can cut it to the outside. He's patient and he has got a really good offensive line so he can hide behind them and when he sees the hole he hits it hard. He's more of an agile guy than I would say (Marcus) Lattimore who's more of a downhill runner, but he's a great player and it's going to be a challenge to stop him."
Sophomore Wide Receiver Chris Boyd On if he is excited about the matchup with Florida:
"We're excited about every game. Florida is obviously a good opponent and it's an SEC game, so we're amped up about it. We're excited we have them at home and we're going to prepare really well this week."
On playing another top-five opponent from the SEC:
"It's fun because you get to play the best of the best. You have to come ready to play every week. It's fun getting to play the top teams in the country every week. We believe that if we have a good week of practice, we'll be able to make plays as long as we execute."
On Florida playing a lot of man coverage:
"We know they are very athletic and like to play a lot of different schemes on defense. We're going to prepare this week and practice hard. We'll get some good looks at what they do (defensively) and be ready to go on Saturday."
On how he plans to counter Florida's press coverage:
"You have to be aggressive and have a plan of how you're going to win. You have to watch film to see how different players use different techniques and have a plan to win every time you go out there."
On if it is difficult to learn how to deal with tough press coverage:
"You have to work on it every day because at this level the players are much more physical and faster because they've been doing it for a while. You have to have a plan and counter moves to be able to win every time because you never know what you are going to get."
On the one-handed catch he made versus Missouri:
"It was one of those balls that was tough to catch because I saw it leave his hand, so I knew it was coming to me, but it got to that point where it was in the lights and I couldn't really find it until the end. I stuck my hand out there and I'm just glad I held on to it."
On if he has noticed a difference in Jordan Rodgers in the last two games:
"As the season goes on you can definitely tell he's more confident, so we're starting to get more comfortable and in the flow of things. I think our offense as a whole has been playing better. The offensive line is playing better, the running backs are playing well and out wide we're trying to make plays as often as we can. As an offense, I think we're starting to gel a little bit better and believe in ourselves and have faith."
On how much respect Zac Stacy has from the team:
"Zac is a tremendous player and an even better person. He works really hard and keeps everybody positive. He's also one of the strongest guys on the team, so when we're in the weight room he's in there motivating us. He's really the heart and soul. We can count on him to make a play when we need him to, just like that third down run he had in the (Missouri) game. We needed a first down to seal the victory, he ran really hard, broke a few tackles and stayed in bounds. He's very smart and we all believe in him."