Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson Press Conference - Kentucky Week
"It's back to work for our football team. We're trying to get ready for a good Kentucky football team coming to town this Saturday. I thought we played a little better on offense this past week even though we were playing against a very good Florida defense. I thought our defense played very well against Florida and hopefully we can get that same kind of performance by both groups and improve on that to see if we can get a win on Saturday."
On the offensive struggles this season:
"The Southeastern Conference is a defensive conference and that's what I think separates it. It's been tough this season on that side of the ball, but we have had some youth in a lot of critical positions that have probably kept us from making a lot of progress. I think the last two weeks we have become more efficient on offense and I thought we started the Florida game with a good offensive drive that stalled. That has been the story all year on offense it seems. We have a good offensive drive going and then we stall in either the red-zone or before the red-zone, and we're not getting points out of them. One of the things we did well last year was we scored when we got inside the red-zone last year and that gave our defense a chance to get off the field and allowed them to play with points."
Has there been a learning curve with the offense this season:
"No, I don't think so. I just think we have some youth in some key positions or we don't have a player available for one reason or another. I think those are some of the reasons why we haven't moved ahead on offense. The normal improvement that we are seeing right now I think would have been accelerated if we had those players around."
On playing the role of the spoiler this week against Kentucky, who is trying to become bowl eligible:
"We don't even talk about being in that role. We are just worrying about trying to play our best and get a win for Vanderbilt. I think our guys know what the situation is and we are trying to get better each week as a football team. We're trying to do this for Vanderbilt, not what we can do to Kentucky. We're trying to get better as a team, that's the main thing."
How did you think the offensive line played without Thomas Welch:
"First of all, I think Thomas would have sure helped us. We did some good things on the offensive line but he is the type of player that would have helped us tremendously. He is going to try to see what he can do in individual drills early in the week and we'll see how he holds up. From what I saw two weeks ago and then last week, I think it will be a reach for him to be ready to go against Kentucky."
On Kentucky being last in the SEC in rushing defense:
"We've got the potential to run it because we have some good running backs and the offensive line is getting better, especially if we get Thomas back for this week. Again, it's all a degree of relatively to me, because they play in the SEC and they are facing good running backs like we are every Saturday. It's not that they are bad on defense; it's more of whom they are playing against week in and week out."
On Brent Trice moving to safety last week:
"When we need Brent to move to safety, we put him back there and we needed him back there last week. We thought it was a good switch to play him at safety against Florida because of all the non tight end tights that they used during the game. We felt like the nickelback was the situation that we wanted to be in most of the time. I thought our defensive staff did a fantastic job of making the game plan simple but aggressive enough that we could come at Florida a little bit. We were ready to bring pressure in anything Florida was going to put out there on the field. We went with the nickelback and than moved Brent back to safety, Joel Caldwell's shoulder is a little tender right now so we needed somebody who was ready to come up there and make some plays. Brent Trice is a very versatile player and he does a good job of learning several positions, so it's good to have a smart guy that we can use in situations like that."
On if he envisioned Warren Norman to have this kind of success in the return game:
"I would be lying if I said that, yes (he would have this kind of success). We were just trying him out early in the year for kickoff returns, but we knew that Warren was a very good athlete and good runner with the football under his arms. He does a great job of seeing things that are in front of him and he makes the proper cuts without losing any momentum, and to me that's the biggest thing with kickoff returns. As a kick returner you have to hit that hole running north and south and be ready to make one or two cuts. Once you start dancing around back there in the SEC, people will converge on you and they will catch you. Warren doesn't do that. Once he catches the kick, he gets the ball up field, and that's why I think he has been so successful as a returner. He also has the speed and agility to make things happen and once he gets in the open he always has a chance to break it. I also want to point out that Des Kitchings has done a great job on our plan on kickoff returns. Simplicity is key on special teams and we have had the same plan every week, with a minor tweak here and there but he does a great job of giving our guys a chance to be successful."
On the team's injury status:
"We came out of the Florida game not bad for as physical as it was. Reilly Lauer has a bone bruise that might slow him up a little and Tim Fugger sprained his thumb but he should be OK."
On preparing for three Kentucky quarterbacks:
"Again, it's pretty early in the process right now but I don't think there is a whole lot of difference in what they run with the different personnel. I think they have a great tailback in Derrick Locke and they will try to get the ball in Randall Cobb's hands whether its at receiver or quarterback. We are going to prepare for their offensive system and react to who is going to be the starter or who plays the most. You can see that Morgan Newton is getting a lot of confidence right now and he had a good game against Eastern Kentucky. Then there is Mike Hartline who I thought was doing extremely well, had a good game against South Carolina before he got hurt."
On Saturday's game marking the final game for the 24 seniors:
"Every senior class that comes through is a neat story because you see them come in as freshman and then you see them progress throughout their careers. You see them become better players and you see them mature as people. That is the great thing about being a coach around kids this age; you get to see that process happen. Obviously this senior class has done a very good job. They were apart of a bowl team for the first time in 25 years and they take pride in that. They also work hard during the tough times and when things are not going as they would like it too. Those are the type of men that you want around your program. Our guys played hard at Florida and I think that is senior leadership, and that doesn't just happen because of the coaches tell them to go out there and play hard. It has to happen within the team to see it translate on the field."
On Mackenzi Adams' recent play:
"I think Mac prepared well for the game against Florida, and I thought he played pretty good. I thought he came out and took control of the team during the first drive of the game and he led us down just inside the 40-yard line on a nine-play drive. Again, can he be better? Yes he can. Can the players around him help him more? Yes they can, we dropped too many passes. I think Mac will be a real good player for us in the final two games. He's going to work at it and he is going to be ready to go because he relishes the opportunity to get out there and play."
On last year's emotional win over Kentucky that made VU bowl eligible:
"It was kind of a crazy game. We had a blocked field goal, we had a couple of roughing the kicker penalties, it was a crazy game. We probably had our best game offensively of the season, and then they came roaring back before D.J. Moore saved the game for us with a great interception. It was quite an evening for our football team and it was big for our program. It was a good memory."