"[Their assistance] has been a big help," said Johnson. "We had several guys in here on official visits last weekend. [Gee and Williams] took it upon themselves to open up a great amount of their valuable time and spend some time personally with those recruits.
"They did that last year too-- they've always been great about it. But this year obviously I think it had a great effect, because they were able to sit down with those recruits and explain our new organization, and how we're trying to incorporate everything under the umbrella of the university, and how we're trying to make things better for student-athletes."
Vanderbilt received commitments earlier this week from tight end Brad Allen of Venice, Fla., and running back Cassen Jackson of Knoxville. Both had made visits to the Vanderbilt campus last weekend for the Georgia game. Johnson is not permitted to talk specifically about recruits, but in published reports both prospects had indicated that visits with Vice Chancellor David Williams had helped influence their decisions.
"When you've got the creators of the new organization relaying it to recruits, there's no interpretation, or misinterpretation, that they can get from other college coaches or newspaper or radio or whatever. They're getting it all from the horse's mouth."
Earlier this week Johnson had said the coaching staff planned to utilize No. 2 quarterback Steven Bright, a redshirt freshman from Greer, S.C., more frequently to spell starter Jay Cutler. Johnson said Bright possessed a number of attributes that were causing the coaches to give him a closer look in practice.
"He's a big guy who can run," Johnson said. "He's got a very fine arm. He's got a presence about him. He's not afraid to make plays.
"All those things were the reason we decided to get him in the game and try to develop some of those things."
"We still have confidence in Benji Walker," said Johnson, "but he's a fifth-year senior, and Steven is a redshirt freshman. Obviously Steven has a much brighter future, and has a bright future here. We want to get him some experience, so that when it gets to the point where he has to go in to help us win football games, he can do it."
Vanderbilt (1-7, 0-4 SEC) visits South Carolina (4-3, 1-3) Saturday for a 6:00 p.m. CT game. The Commodores took Lou Holtz's team to the wire last year in Nashville before losing 20-14. Johnson emphasized again Wednesday that although the record might not show it, his team had shown marked improvement over the previous year, especially the defense.
"Defensively we've improved a lot over last season," he said. "Statistically we're a good bit better-- not tremendously better, but we're just better scheme-wise, better competition-wise. We've been in some games.
"The offense-- some parts have been very good, but execution-wise, the whole offense has not been what we thought we would get-- I think probably because we lost some offensive linemen to injury early on. We're starting two freshman offensive linemen, and that's probably a great deal of it.
"We've been in some close games. We had a chance to beat Mississippi, we had a chance to beat Georgia Tech, and we led Georgia 2-0 at the half. We're just trying to give ourselves the best chance to win, but so far we haven't been able to do it."
Vanderbilt's lone win in 2003 came vs. Division I-AA Chattanooga on Sept. 6. The Commodores have lost 11 straight games vs. Division I-A teams, and 21 straight to SEC teams dating back to November, 2000.
Johnson said that Kenan Arkan, Vandy's starting right tackle, would likely not make this weekend's trip to Columbia, S.C, due to a sprained ankle, and that reserve tight end Curtis Brancheau was also questionable with an ankle injury.