Media Monday with James Franklin

Nov. 12, 2012

Franklin | Player Interviews | Notes & Depth Charts | Monday Musings

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, junior defensive end Walker May, senior defensive end Johnell Thomas and senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers met with the media on Monday to discuss the Commodores' upcoming home game against Tennessee Saturday.

Vanderbilt is 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the SEC. Tennessee is 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the league. Saturday's meeting will be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. CT.

Head Coach James Franklin
Opening statement:
"It was an interesting game [at Ole Miss]. We lost the turnover battle again, and that's an area we need to keep improving in. It wasn't the way I'd like to start a game, with losing one of our better players and fumbling the ball. We did win the penalty battle, so I think that was pretty significant for us. We also had more explosive plays at 11, and gave up four. I think those three things, turnovers, penalties and explosive plays, are very important in winning every week and we won two out of the three.

"Offensively, it took us a little longer to adjust. We moved linemen around into different positions. There were a lot of moving parts.

"Defensively, we have to be better on third and long. We held them to 55 yards rushing, which is significant. It's the third time this year we've held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. Congratulations to Walker May for being named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. As always, Walker was very appreciative and positive. We out-sacked Ole Miss 3-2, and we out-tackled for a loss 14-11. I thought that was another significant component.

"You could make the argument that Richard Kent was MVP of this game. He really swung field position for us a couple of times with a 60-yard punt and three punts inside the 20-yard line. We're leading the SEC in field goal percentage, which has been a real positive for us. Carey Spear has a chance to break the single-season field goal record this year, which is interesting because he's be breaking Ryan Fowler's record.

"If you look at the games Tennessee has won, it's been very similar to a lot of teams in this conference. Their losses have come from very good football teams. They have the advantage in the turnover battle, and we have the advantage in penalties.

"Defensively, they play hard. They have a defense similar to defenses we've struggled with at times.

"Tennessee has as good of an offense as I've seen. The game is played upfront in this league. I think one of the big reasons they've been so good is how they've been playing on the offensive line. They're massive. They've only given up five sacks all year, and I don't know if I've ever heard of something like that before. Tyler Bray is very accurate and gets rid of the ball quickly. He's a better athlete than people give him credit for and does a really good job of buying time in the pocket.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge, especially with they're offense and the challenges they pose to our defense with their size, speed and athleticism. One of the things we try to do is pressure the quarterback, and they're not allowing any pressure on the quarterback. I know our guys are excited about the opportunity and ready to play in our home stadium."

On the flag on the last touchdown against Ole Miss:
"I was concerned. Whenever you see a flag on the field after you score a touchdown, especially a game-winning touchdown, you get a little worried. But we had some good mojo going right then, and fortunately it wasn't against us."

On video of Tennessee celebration last year and using that as motivation:
"I have matured dramatically since that game.

"It's about Vanderbilt. It's about us getting better and doing our jobs. I have tremendous respect for the state of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee and their traditions. Our focus is on Vanderbilt. We've been trying to get better ever since the day we arrived on campus and that's our focus. If we need any other outside focus, then our focus isn't where it needs to be."

On defensive schemes:
"The most important thing is that we're finding a way to win. Is it as sexy as it was last year, with all the big plays, sacks, strips and fumbles? No. But we're playing to our strengths, we're playing to our personnel and we're finding ways to win. If we have to give up 400 passing yards and not give up touchdowns and let it go to field goals, awesome. Whatever we have to do to win the game, I'm comfortable with. We're trying to be 1-0 this week."

On freshman RB Brian Kimbrow:
"I think he's done well all year long. There are still areas for improvement physically and mentally. He runs hard, and he doesn't run like a little guy. He's explosive and fast. When he needs to lower his shoulder, he lowers his shoulder. Over time, that will become a bigger part of his game. He knows who he is, and plays to his strengths well."

On confidence boost in comeback win:
"When we beat Elon, that was significant. It was a watershed moment for us. When we got here and there were four wins in two years, every win is significant. Every game for us is a Super Bowl and every situation is important. To me, I don't think we're at the point as a program where we should be distinguishing wins. We're planning on doing everything we can as a staff to be 1-0 this week.

"Scheduling is important. However you win, your kids are learning how to do it. The best way to teach guys how to win is by winning. Every win we get, however we get it, whether its in dramatic fashion or not, I'm happy. At the end of the year, people aren't going to focus on specific wins; they're going to focus on the record. We want to get as many wins as we can by taking it one at a time."

On being the favorite in games rather than the underdog:
"Again, I don't check those things. I don't think we're at a point where we're expected to win any week. We're still trying to prove ourselves. I've got a chip on my shoulder. We have an underdog, blue-collar mentality. That's who we are and we're going to be that way for a long time until we can consistently put a product on the field that everyone can be excited about. We still have a long way to go as a program for us to be thinking we're being hunted."

On Zac Stacy:
"When he went out of the game, I went over and talked to him from a leadership perspective, saying that how he handles this and what he does is going to have a dramatic impact on our sideline. He is a leader, both on the field and in how he carries himself. I thought after that, when he got up and talked to the guys, it had a major impact. That's just who he is and reflects how much everyone respects him."

On student attendance for this game:
"It's very, very important to have as much black and gold in the stadium as we can on Saturday night. We've overcome a lot of hurdles since coming here, but that's still one we're still working on. It's been impressive to me, traveling to all these SEC venues and seeing the kind of support everyone has. We need that.

"Things are changing, people shouldn't be making plans. We have a game over Thanksgiving. The dorms are going to remain open so kids can stay around to support the team. We want to be their plans. If they already made plans, change them. Be here. I might actually take a bullhorn on a golf cart around campus to make sure everyone knows how important it is that they're here to support their team."

On recruiting against Tennessee:
"We occupy the same state, so it's important that we have a great environment here."

On combining message of 1-0 each week with significance of the game:
"My message is going to be consistent to the press and the team. It hasn't been different any other week.

"I might be emotional. I actually picked up Mr. Commodore Saturday night, threw him over my shoulder and ran him into the locker room and threw him into our players. My glasses broke, they fell off my face, and Herb Hand was dry heaving in the trashcan.

"I'm not talking about emotion and excitement. I'm an emotional guy; I'm a passionate guy. But that's not going to change our message. We love winning, it's awesome, but that doesn't change our approach, process or plan."

On showing game tapes:
"We show last year's games every week. We'll break that down from an evaluation standpoint, but that's it. I want my guys to see positive highlights but that's it. We shouldn't need any other motivational techniques or sources."

On playing coaches in pressure situations:
"I can't talk about that. All I can talk about is our approach. I have tremendous respect for Derek [Dooley] and the University of Tennessee. But our focus is completely on Vanderbilt.

"Some people play up, some people play down and some play the same. It's hard for me to predict that, so we're just going to expect to face the best Tennessee we've seen and be prepared for that."

Vanderbilt Players

Junior Defensive End Walker May
On defensive mentality after the game winning touchdown:
"They put us back in the game and they got it for us, the offense, and so we just had go out there and hold it. It was one of those things with a minute left, you knew they were going to throw the ball so from the defensive perspective we just put our ears back and went after them. That's fun right there...just to go after them."

On whether they like the position the team is at right now:
"Absolutely. I mean, 1-0 each week and we won last week, so we're very confident because we won."

On how much the guys remember of the UT game last year:
"Well it's in the past, so we forget about it."

On whether this game means more than others:
"I don't even remember what last year was. It's the same thing every week. Just another game this week for us."

On whether it's important for fans and students to stick around for Saturday's game:
"Absolutely. Some of our friends have made a Facebook page--Stay for the Tennessee Game. A lot of students plan to, and we're hoping more will that aren't. It's going to be exciting and we want our students to be there for it and to cheer us on."

Senior Defensive End Johnell Thomas
On whether they like the position the team is at right now:
"We all do enjoy winning, first of all. It's a good feeling win you win. To go 1-0 that week, it builds confidence. We're just looking forward to this week. It's going to be a good experience."

On Tennessee's passing game:
"I've been watching film and they are a very talented team. Of course, I think they've only given up five sacks this year--a very good offensive line. They're talented, but I have so much confidence in Coach (Bob) Shoop and his play calling that I feel pretty confident about this game and going in to it. I'm looking forward to seeing what this week will bring us."

On winning a close game:
"It just boosts our confidence. Coach Franklin does a good job at motivating our team. Like I told you guys before, he's the ultimate team captain. He's the man that keeps the ship rolling. To me, I really enjoy how things have gone with Coach Franklin and everybody. I'm really enjoying it."

On the team's record against UT in the past:
"I'm really not sure what the record is or what the past shows. I'm just confident in where this team has come and where we are right now, so that's pretty much it."

On focusing on one game at a time:
"Our preparation is so concise. We follow procedures, and Coach Franklin has a very distinct way of showing us his vision and the way he wants this program to go. Looking in the past is something we don't do. We don't prepare any more or less for any opponent. We prepared the same for Presbyterian the same as we prepare for any other team on our schedule. We come to work every day with the mentality that we have to make the best of every single day, and I think that's just our vision. That's our focus. That's truly how it is."

On whether it's important for fans and students to stick around for Saturday's game:
"Not only do I hope, but I truly believe that our fans will be there. This fan base has been unbelievable for us this year. Like anything in the past, I'm really confident that they will be there."

Senior Quarterback Jordan Rodgers
On leading that final drive versus Ole Miss:
"It was a special moment. During the drive we were confident because the last couple weeks in practice we have been very efficient in the two-minute drill, getting scores not just field goals, but touchdowns. The last couple games we've had two-minute situations and we've done exactly what we've needed to. We were confident that we could get us down the field. There were a couple of nerve-racking plays, like on fourth-and-two, but confident that if we put the points up our defense was going to hold. They held and didn't let Ole Miss come back and get points late."

On if that drive felt different compared to any other drive:
"It doesn't really feel any different. When your preparation and your thought process is to just get completions and positive plays, that's really all you're focused on. The situation in the game really becomes a backdrop to what is going on, you just want to keep the ball moving and consistently get positive plays. It was really like any other two-minute drill except once we scored, it was a little more special."

On if a moment like that can spark a team:
"I think it can add confidence. We've shown that we can compete with anybody in this league, but to show that we can come back in that kind of style, late when we need to and show that our defense can play that well in the second half and give the offense just a chance to get back in the game, that's really all we needed."

On how he feels about his progress throughout the season:
"It's not quite where I want it to be, but I feel in the last couple games we've made strides to get more in the direction of where this passing game needs to be from an efficiency standpoint. It's always good when you don't turn the ball over, but the more positive plays and higher completion percentage, the better this offense can be."

On having his brother (Aaron Rodgers) at the game:
"I didn't even know he was on the sideline. Then after the interviews on the field when I had made it back to the tunnel I saw him and he was going crazy. That was the first I had seen him because I still thought he was in the stands. It was a great moment and awesome that he could be there for that. It always seems like his bye week ends up on a good game in my career. It was a special moment for me to have him there and be on the sidelines, the same sideline (Chris) Boyd caught the pass, so it was a special moment."



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