Media Monday with Franklin, players

Oct. 15, 2012

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

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, senior defensive end Johnell Thomas and junior tailback Wesley Tate discuss the Auburn game at the Commodores' weekly media session on Monday.

The Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) will host the Tigers (1-5, 0-4) Saturday at 11:21 a.m. CT. Interviews are posted below .

Head Coach James Franklin
Opening Statement:
"A little bit of a summary of the Florida game, after watching the tape it's basically what we talked about. On offense, we are clearly playing better, but we can't have the critical turnovers, especially coming out of our own end zone or going in. The one turnover was overturned, but we won the turnover battle in the game and the penalty battle. The two areas that jump out after watching the tape are the explosive plays against our defense from their offense, especially the quarterback. Looking at it, one play was a cornerback that didn't keep contain, one play a linebacker didn't keep contain and one play a defensive end didn't keep contain. That's our responsibility, to make sure they know what we have to do, but that obviously was a huge part of the game.

"Then, on special teams I don't think we played as well as we had to play. They were able to create some advantages there. I think it's clearly obvious though when you look at our season and what we're doing. We've played really good people. We've been competitive every week except you could make an argument once [at Georgia]. The combined record of the four teams we've lost to is 23-3. I went over that with my team yesterday. We're doing some nice things, but we need to get better. We lost to a good team this past week, but for us to get where we want to be as a program, you can't make the type of mistakes that we made against that type of opponent. This week they [Florida] came out No. 2 in the BCS rankings, so that's kind of a summary of the Florida game.

"Auburn, we're excited about the opportunity. It's another home game. It's another opportunity for an SEC team to come into our place. Gene Chizik, who I have a lot of respect for, has obviously won a national championship. He's had tremendous success.

"It's the same situation with Auburn. They've lost to No. 14 Clemson, No. 15 Mississippi State, No. 6 LSU. I think they are a very talented team. When you look at their recruiting in the last four years, they've had the number 9, 10, 7 and 4th-ranked recruiting class, so for us to think or anybody to think this team is not talented would be a major mistake.

"From a turnover perspective, we have the advantage there. We rank ninth in turnovers and they rank 14th. In the penalty battle, we rank seventh and they rank ninth, so we have that advantage as well.

"Defensively, they return 10 starters. Their defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, has all types of experience at all different levels. They run a 4-3 defense with cover-4, cover-3 and cover-2, so different than we faced last week with all the press coverage. I've been very impressed with their defensive end Corey Lemonier, a big physical, athletic kid. Also, their linebacker Daren Bates I think leads the SEC in tackles.

"Their offense and offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler, who I've known for a long time, returns eight starters. They are a very talented team. I think the thing we all need to be aware of in our locker room is Jonathan Wallace, who is the guy they are using as the wildcat quarterback. He's a freshman and you are starting to see that becoming a bigger and bigger package every single week. Obviously, that is something we're going to be prepared for. Their two running backs, Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, are averaging over five yards per carry. We think Emory Blake is their best wideout. We have to be aware of him as well. Then, Philip Lutzenkirchen who is their H-Back/fullback-type guy has had a lot of success throughout his whole career.

"Special teams, their kickoff return unit is ranked eighth in the country. Their punting unit ranks 21st. Onterio McCalebb is doing a really good job. He's returned a kick over 100 yards for a touchdown. Their kicker is kicking 90-percent, he's 9-for-10 on field goals and 10-for-10 on extra points, so they are very efficient.

"It'll be a really good game for us, a really good challenge, another SEC opponent. I know our kids are excited about it. We had really good meetings and practice on Sunday. Today is our day off, but we'll get back going tomorrow."

On using Jake Bernstein as a fullback/tight end:
"I mentioned to you guys before that tight end is a position we want to get more involved in the passing game and in the running game and we're inexperienced at that position. Early on, I think that was really affecting our running game. We had planned, even in summer camp, to use some heavy sets with some offensive linemen in those roles to allow those guys time to develop. So, it's more of a combination of people we play, the size of the defensive line and a lot of it is the size of the defensive ends. When we're playing 270-pound defensive ends and we don't think that's a great matchup for our tight ends in the running game, let's get another offensive lineman out there. I do think it has helped us get more size and be more physical at the point of attack. I think that's always something we're looking to do with our running game and Zac [Stacy]."

On if playing these ranked teams is an advantage for the team going forward:
"It's interesting because it's all how you spin it and handle it with your team. If you still have really good chemistry and your kids still have a great attitude and they believe and they're passionate and excited about what the future holds, then I think it's a positive. If they can see the big picture, that's our job as coaches to explain that to them. To everybody else, I don't know. Last year we're 3-0 and the perception of Vanderbilt football last year compared to this year, I don't know how people perceive it. I don't think people really care. I think at the end of the season, people don't say, `well you were undefeated but you didn't beat a ranked opponent all year long.' No one cares because you were undefeated. I think the strength of scheduling only really counts if you're playing for the national championship. That's when it really figures in. Besides that, at the end of the year no one is going to say, `that was an ugly win versus Missouri.' Nobody's going to say, `but that win was against Presbyterian.' They're wins and they all count. Every single one of them count.

"I guess what I'm saying is there are two different things. There's the internal perception of our team and how we handle that. There's also the external perception and how people see you and your program and where you're at. We feel very confident in where we're going."

On which Auburn quarterback to prepare for:
"I think we're going to have to prepare for all three of those guys. Like a lot of programs in this country, you want an established quarterback. Some programs have it; other guys are still searching for that. They have three guys who are all capable. They are going to see that we had some issues stopping the quarterback running-game, so that's going to be a big part of their game plan. Obviously, what do you think we're going to work on all week long? Quarterback running-game. Those things are very important for us and I think important for them, so we'll be ready to defend it.

"I think Wallace has been strictly a wildcat quarterback, but he was a quarterback in high school, so it's not like they are putting a running back back there and you don't have to worry about the pass at all. You still better be ready to defend the pass.

"I don't think it causes too much of an issue because it's not like the one kid is a straight, drop back passer and the other guy is a dual-threat guy. I think all of them are very similar."

On if South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Florida's Jeff Driskel are similar:
"No, because they are two really completely different things. Driskel was getting it in run sets. They were a predominantly heavy run set, pro formation and run the ball. Then they did a great job of riding that tailback down inside and getting our defense to collapse and then pulling the ball and getting on the edge.

"Connor Shaw and those other ones were spread formation and more of a zone-read type plays. To me, those are two different animals."

On letting Ryan Fowler kick some of the extra points:
"It's another example of a guy who I think would be starting for a bunch of teams in this league and wanting to keep good chemistry and wanting to find roles for guys. Earlier in the year we thought [Fowler] was going to be the starter. We got to a point where it didn't make sense for Carey [Spear] to be handling all those roles and Ryan to be sitting on the side. It was a way to keep him involved. What we do is, Spear kicks all the field goals and then they rotate every extra point. It keeps [Fowler] involved, so now if we ever do need him, like if something happens to Carey, it's not like Ryan hasn't kicked the last eight games and goes into live action. That was something that came up in conversation when Ryan came to talk to me and then I had a conversation with Coach Bankins. We felt like that was the best way for everybody."

On if Spear's kick that was blocked was low or if Florida got good penetration:
"I think it was a little bit of both. [Florida] didn't get a whole lot of penetration, they got just enough and his kick was low. Whenever you go after a kick that is a little bit longer than normal, you have to drive the ball and it's going to come out a little bit lower. I didn't think we were real soft up front, but they got a little bit of push."

On what he thought of the offensive line's play versus Florida:
"I think we played well. I really think a lot of it goes to matchups. Where we're at as a program, there are going to be some teams that we match up decent against and other teams we have bad matchups. That was a team that was big, but they were lean. They were 300 pounds inside and 260 pounds on the ends, but it was lean. Compared to other people we're playing and it's 350 pounds inside and 280 pounds on the outside, still lean but I'm talking about massive people. As you guys know, we're not the biggest team in the SEC, so we matched up well against them. We were able to use our schemes and techniques and fundamentals to give us a fighting chance. When you are trying to block back, you have to create space and you're trying to block the nose guard and he's 300 pounds if you get maybe 18 inches of movement on him, that's a lot. Now, you try to block a 370-pound guy and you don't move him at all. Those things factor in. Where we're at as a program, it comes down to matchups and whom we match up well against."

On Jake Sealand and Darreon Herring's role increasing throughout the season:
"I do see those guys getting really good minutes and I actually think that's helped No. 36. I think that has really helped Chase [Garnham]. The fact that we're putting Sealand in there and getting legitimate reps. Now, we're able to keep Chase stay more fresh throughout the game. I think his level of play has gone up. The fact that we're starting to create some depth with freshmen has been positive. I think that has helped us in fourth quarters and I think that will help us in the stretch run of the season."

On the lack of interceptions by the defense this season:
"I think that is the biggest difference on our team right now from last year to this year. That is affecting our defense's statistics. I think we had 17 last year and I think we have only two this year. That helps our defense get off the field. That swings momentum for our defense and offense. That helps our scoring on offense because they have more opportunities. It creates more short fields or red zone opportunities. I think that is the biggest difference. We had an opportunity very early in the game where we dropped an interception that probably would have gone back for a touchdown. We had another one where our defense did a great job holding them to a field goal instead of a touchdown, but we dropped a ball that went off our chest. We're not doing anything different. We're coaching it exactly the way we coached it last year. It'll start to happen for us, but there is no doubt you have a guy [Casey Hayward] drafted in the second round and still playing at a high level there and creating turnovers. That's where recruiting comes in and developing the players we have."

On creating a better home field advantage:
"Our fans have been awesome. I was told that the Wake Forest game, before I got here, there were about 37 people in the stands. Just like I'm asking you guys to have patience with us as we develop our program, it's the same thing with our fans, but on the same hand when I feel like we need to educate and talk about where we need to go to have the type of program we all want. The fans have been awesome. If you go to my radio show, the same crew of loyal people shows up each week. I want us to have the same type of presence early in the game, our stadium full. There's an excitement and a buzz about what's going on. Have fun all you want all morning. Forty-five minutes till kickoff, be in the stands and ready to go. The students, we need them. We have our challenges because we only have 6,800 students here, 20 percent of our students showing up is not the same percent of 50,000 like some other schools have.

"On third down, we need our home field advantage like we face when we go on the road and face other teams. Not one person sitting down, not one person with their mouth closed. I don't care if you're 95 or four, you're screaming like crazy for the `Dores. When we have someone backed up in the closed end zone we need to treat that like third down. You have to be going crazy because if we can hold on to that field position to give our offense a short field, that's important. I'm very appreciative of how the fans have been behind us since we've been here, but I want more. Just like they want more from me and our team, I want more from them."

On the team's mentality after being so close in tight games, but coming up short:
"I think that is the part of the coaches most important job, the head coach as well as the assistants. Making sure that you can teach kids that are 17 and 22 years old, teach them what to do to be successful, what we have to stop doing to have the type of success that we want to have and then also keeping things in perspective. Belief is a powerful thing and keeping them motivated and keeping them excited about where we're going. I think the people that have really studied SEC football and studied Vanderbilt for a long time, there's no doubt where we're going and what we're doing. I think that's our job as a coach is to keep things in perspective. When you lose a game, you attack the problems. You don't attack the individuals that made a mistake. You fix the problems and move on and you make sure the chemistry is good. I think that's where it's more of an art than a science, is how to deal with the team and how to talk to the team. I think that was a very important meeting we had on Sunday and it doesn't justify anything. There are no moral victories, but I do think you keep things in perspective for them and make sure they understand."

Vanderbilt Players

Senior Defensive End Johnell Thomas
On enthusiasm level going into the next part of the schedule:
"The enthusiasm around the team is always good. We come into every game with the enthusiasm I think we need to win the game. We're going into this game (Auburn) like we would any other game. We're preparing very hard, watching a lot of film. We're going into this game very prepared and the enthusiasm is there, as always."

On the true freshmen on defense:
"Without a doubt, they are going to be great players, first of all. The true freshmen that we do have playing, they all are taking their steps. They're showing signs of great things. I think that each one of them works extremely hard, each one of them has a great work ethic to them, and I think the development of them to the future is very positive. I see nothing but good things coming from each and every one of them."

On Florida's ability to run the ball at quarterback:
"We talked about it, we practiced it yesterday during Sunday night practice. We just need to fit it up better, and of course we're practicing that all week. That's what we're going to be focusing on--the quarterback run. I'm sure we've opened it up to other teams, they see where we make some mistakes there in that category, so it's just something that we're working on."

On if there was surprise after seeing the defense was fooled by the same play:
"Mistakes are going to happen. That's the way I look at it. Mistakes are going to happen, no team is perfect. All you can do is just take it and move on to the next play. What happened, happened. Our coaches have done a good job at correcting those mistakes yesterday during practice, and we're moving on from that."

On preparation for the Auburn quarterbacks:
"Before I came over here I actually watched two of the games that they have already played, spent a couple hours watching some film and the quarterbacks to me seem very similar. They're all great quarterbacks. They pass well, they run well, so I don't think we'd prepare for one quarterback differently than any other. We treat them all the same. I feel like we would treat every quarterback like a quarterback that could run very well and pass very well, so I think that's the way we will go about preparing for this game."

On fan support:
"When I think of fans, especially on things like third down, you think of just this hostile environment. Every stadium that I've ever been in whether it's an SEC school or not, on third down we have trouble hearing each other on defense in a noisy stadium. I feel like that's how it's starting to be here and that's the way we want to keep it here. So, I mean, we just want a hostile environment with the fans and have the fans get involved in the games because anyone that plays the game knows that fans play a huge role in the momentum shift of the game. When you hear the crowd and you hear everybody is pumped up, it gets us pumped up and ready to go as well, so I think that's huge for us."

On having a big crowd for the Auburn game:
"It's definitely nice to know that the support is there, for both teams. We're making our strides as a team, as a family, as fans coming to the game. It's just positive for everybody."

On Jordan Matthews:
"I'm not sure what other opponents think, but I don't see him as underrated because in my mind he's one of the best. That's what I look at many players on my team as. Teammates that have that good work ethic and go into every practice just like they would a game, with the mental focus that they prepare for practice just like they would a game...that's just what I see in him."

Junior Running Back Wesley Tate
On the feeling after his performance Saturday:
"I felt good about the offensive line doing a great job up front and opening up the holes for me. The receivers also did a good job at blocking on the perimeter, so it's mostly a team effort. The point of attack, I think we did a great job of stopping those guys (Florida) at the line of scrimmage, which gave me an opportunity to make some plays."

On the home-field advantage the team wants to create with fans:
"I've definitely seen a lot of improvement as far as fans coming to the game, and we definitely appreciate it when everybody comes to the game. I definitely agree with you, especially on third downs or when we have a team backed up into their territory, for the crowd to get excited and really into the game. Everywhere else we go it's like that, so I definitely think our fans have done a lot better job than in the past of doing that."

On how much the difficult schedule has prepared them for the rest of the schedule:
"It's the SEC. You play good teams week in and week out. Regardless of record, if you don't come ready to play, you can get beat on any given day, so I definitely think that puts things into perspective. The teams that we have lost to are all ranked opponents and very good teams, and the teams that we are going to play are very good teams also. Maybe it's an advantage, but regardless, if you don't come ready to play, you can get beat on any given day."

On playing the Wildcat formation:
"You get to see the blocks play out, because a lot of times you have to focus on the exchange. For me, I like to have the ball in my hands as quick as possible so I can get to read the defense and kind of see what's happening and things like that. You also get to see things play out a lot quicker than a handoff."

On Jordan Matthews' play so far this year:
"Making plays. It's pretty simple. You throw the ball to him and he goes and gets it."

On Jordan Matthews' practice versus play:
"The way you practice is the way you're going to play and he definitely practices with a lot of intensity, which shows in the game. He's very passionate about it, which you can also see throughout the games. The way he practices and the way he plays is definitely transparent as far as what he has done this season."



Proud Sponsors of Commodore Athletics