Blind Side Talk: Josiah Vinson

After a welcome uptick in pass protection the first few games, Stanford has seen its sack and turnover numbers rise rapidly the last two weeks. The "blind" side of the offensive line has received particular scrutiny, which is why we are talking this week with Stanford's starters on the left side of the O-line. First up is fifth-year senior left guard Josiah Vinson's Tuesday press conference Q&A.

Josiah, it's probably pretty frustrating offensively to not get it going.  The game was close for a while.  What is your take on why you guys have scored 19 points in the last 14 quarters?

"You're right that it has been frustrating.  It's been extremely frustrating, especially this year because we have so many returning starters on offense.  We have really high expectations for ourselves as an offense and individually.  If I had the answers, I guess I would be the coach.  Coach Harris has been very clear that what we need to do is eliminate turnovers.  That's the big thing.  We've done a good job at not having very many penalties that stop drives, but if you watched the game, I think you realize that every time we seem to get something going, we'd have a turnover.  That absolutely killed us.  That's everyone's fault on offense.  The blame goes around pretty equally.  Either somebody didn't block or somebody ran the wrong route.  There are a lot things that happen.  We all need to do a lot of work to reduce turnovers."

How hard is it to not make excuses when you look at what the offense was supposed to have and what it is now - it's night and day?  You guys are missing pretty much all of your skill guys you thought you would have.  How tough is it go through that?

"It is difficult because you're right, we're missing a lot of guys.  We're missing our top three receivers.  Obviously Anthony Kimble was out.  It's been a big adjustment period having guys who I'm sure have been preparing to play but everyone else didn't expect them to play much.  Suddenly they are playing pretty key roles in our offense.  We're not here to make excuses for that because we are who we are.  We're the Stanford Football team.  We'll just play.  We don't make excuses about who we've lost.  We just play with who we have."

Were you guys handicapped Saturday night because you didn't have Kimble?  You didn't have the outside threat, and it seemed like the UCLA defense ganged up on you inside...

"I'd say we certainly miss a lot of things Anthony Kimble brings, but at the same time I thought Toby Gerhart did a fantastic job running outside.  We ran a couple toss sweeps where Toby was picking up really good yardage to the outside.  A lot of what makes it difficult to run inside against UCLA is that they have a very good twist game.  They move their defensive linemen around a lot.  They're quick, pretty agile guys.  That's been reflected in the fact that they, I think, have been giving up just 70 or 80 yards rushing a game before we played them.  Obviously you can always say you are missing certain things, but I thought Toby did a great job of stepping in and playing."

Josiah, you mentioned earlier turnovers and penalties.  You guys are doing a great job with the penalties, and not well with the turnovers.  Those both seem like discipline and focus types of things.  How does the team do so well with one dimension of that and then so poorly with the other?

"Well, I don't know.  I think a lot of the turnovers are not just a breakdown by one person.  There are a lot of things that contribute to every turnover.  A lot of that is that we just need to do a better job of executing.  We make it a big point of emphasis every week - making good decisions with the football, of holding the ball high and tight.  I know that doesn't affect me so much, but these are the things the coaches have made a huge emphasis on.  I don't know why we have so many turnovers."

What would you like to see from the team the rest of the season?

"I'm really excited about where our defense is going.  Obviously they played a fantastic first half against UCLA, and things got out of hand toward the end of the game.  But they played hard; they played physically; and they really shut down UCLA's offense for good portions of the game.  So I'm really excited to see how all these young guys on defense are going to continue to improve.  As a team, the goal is always the same: to win games.  Right now our goal is to win as many games as we can.  That doesn't change, but it gets difficult as you get further into the season."

Josiah, is there any part of the experience playing at Notre Dame Stadium that you need to impart to the younger players?

"Well, I actually haven't played there yet.  I missed that game two years ago when we were up there.  I'm looking forward to it.  I was there, but this will be my first time playing.  I think our guys are going to be okay because we've played enough.  We just played in the Rose Bowl in front of almost 80,000, I think.  I think our guys have been in those types of situations."

How would you rate the pass protection?  The sack numbers have spiked a bit, but at the same time, it seems Trent Edwards has had time to throw and just had a hard time finding people to throw to.

"We did a much better job of protecting the passer in the first three games.  The last two games, yes, there have been a large number of sacks.  I'm not here to shift the blame or to make excuses for that.  I can just tell you that as an offensive lineman, I take each of those very personally.  Each of those hurts me, as well as hurting our offense and hurting Trent or whoever is back there.  That is our responsibility, and in that area, the offensive line hasn't gotten it done in the last two games.  We need to do a much better job of that."

Can you guys draw upon last year's game against Notre Dame?  You have a lot of different personnel, but you did play right with them down to the final minute.

"Yeah, that shows us that we can play with these guys.  Coach Freeman told us that we aren't playing the Four Horseman.  We're not playing Joe Montana this week.  We're playing this team, and we played with them.  We were ahead by a point with a minute and a half to go last year.  Sure, on the one hand that is encouraging, but on the other hand it's a new year and there are no guarantees in football.  We have to prepare and bring everything we have this week."

Following up on the sacks the last couple weeks, how is the confidence for you and the other offensive linemen?  Is there any erosion?  How are you holding up when you see Trent go down so many more times the last two weeks?

"It's hard to be confident when the result is not in your favor so many times.  But what we do a good job of is bringing our best.  We try to stay aggressive and play as hard as we can.  I don't think it's a lack of confidence.  It's just an area where we need to execute better.  But like I expressed earlier, it's a very personal thing especially as an offensive lineman.  More so than at any other position, you are directly responsible for someone else.  If a defensive lineman has an error, maybe a linebacker gets blocked, but it's much different than a quarterback getting sacked.  That's something that we do take very seriously."

Can you quickly tell us the tale of your season?  You were hurt during fall camp and didn't start until these last two games.  What progress are you making, or where are you individually?

"Yeah, I had a pretty difficult camp.  I had a concussion first of all.  Then I came back from that and practice for two days.  Then all of a sudden I had muscle spasms in my back.  This is the sort of thing that is extremely frustrating for me because this is my last season.  These are the last 12 days I have to play for Stanford Football.  I take each of them as very precious, so it's been very frustrating.  But I was able to come back enough to play against Oregon, then San Jose State, then to where I am now.  I'm just looking forward to the rest of the games and trying to win as many as I can."


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