VandyMania Interview: Bobby Johnson (Part 1)

Spring football practice resumes Tuesday after a week off, weather permitting. In the first installment of a two-part VandyMania interview, Head Coach Bobby Johnson talks about several positions where newcomers are battling for open starting spots. <i>The <b>Black and Gold Scrimmage</b> is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Vanderbilt Stadium.

VandyMania: Could you begin by mentioning specifically a couple of things you've been hoping to get accomplished this spring, and how it's going so far?

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson: Well, we're always trying some better things on offense and defense, so we're experimenting with a few new things. It's not much that the public would really notice if they were watching practice-- blocking schemes here, techniques there. We're not gonna change too much offensively and defensively. We just want to try to do better what we're doing. Obviously the older we get-- the guys who have been in our system for a couple of years-- hopefully we'll be more consistent, doing the things we need to do over and over to try to improve our team.

That, and trying to develop a little pride, a little toughness, mental toughness. Not making mistakes, not doing things that prevent us from winning games. That's all part of playing football. You have to get out on the field to do those kind of things. That's what spring practice is for. But you get so few opportunities to do it, you have to make the most of each one of them.

VM: You're down to two quarterbacks on campus, and I'm guessing that's less than ideal. Is that a concern for you? And is there anybody else there who can take a snap besides your two?

Coach Johnson: Nope, nobody else is taking snaps right now. We're bare bones at just about every position. Lance Parker decided to transfer-- basically I think he saw that he was going to have a hard time beating out Jay Cutler and Steven Bright. Both of those guys are fairly young... Steven of course is a redshirt freshman. That's just the way football is these days at the quarterback position... not too many people are very patient. Even though we thought Lance could be a good player, he wants to go somewhere where he can play. Chris Nickson will be our third-string quarterback as soon as he's on campus next year.

VM: But how are the two who are on campus doing?

Coach Johnson: Very well! Jay is having an outstanding spring. Obviously the more he plays, the more he matures, the better player he'll become. He now is very in tune with what we want to accomplish on offense. He knows all the things that we want to do. He can make all the throws, he can run the option, so he can do it all. Steven is also having a very good spring. Steven is probably not as polished right now as Jay, but when we get into 11-on-11, Steven seems to make plays, and moves the football team somehow, someway. We're very pleased with Steven. I can't remember him having but one bad day, and he came right back the next day, had a little better concentration and had an outstanding day. So they're both doing well.

VM: Defensive end is another spot where you're pretty thin... you've had some losses to academics and injuries there. Could you talk about how well the ones who are still there are competing?

Coach Johnson: Well, Jovan Haye, there's not much else to say about him. He's just picked up right where he left off. Sort of like Jay, the more he plays, the better he gets. Jovan didn't play much high school football, so he hasn't been playing football very long. The great thing about Jovan, Jay, and people like Justin Geisinger, Robert Dinwiddie, Moses Osemwegie, they're starting to develop that pride that you like to see. The guy that takes a lot of pride in getting his job done on the field. Jovan is a great example of that-- he just refuses to have a bad day in practice.

Chris Booker reinjured his ACL that he injured last year, and he's going to have to have surgery. He was playing well, but he'll be out. We're not quite sure when he'll be back. One thing we're going to try not to do this year is rush somebody back in there. Robert Dinwiddie is having an outstanding spring-- he's one of the best players we've got right now. He's one of those guys who's developed an attitude that you like to see in your players-- try to get your job done, and inspire others to do theirs. We were hoping, when we had Chris and several others, to play Robert inside. He still may be able to, but right now he can play either one.

Richard Freeman is having a good spring. It's good to have him out there going full time. He's making a lot of progress. He's in that stage that Chris Booker was in last year-- one of his first full springs without having a major injury, so he'll get better. Greg Jacobs is going to rejoin the team after a suspension, in the second half of spring practice. Greg's one of those guys with a good motor... he goes hard, plays hard.

Aaron Carter can work both ways, and he can possibly help us. We're trying to anticipate a little bit some of those freshmen coming in... we got seven defensive linemen... trying to anticipate where they'll be needed the most. It's hard to predict that accurately until you get them down here and watch them. Aaron can play both ways, but he's done well at end too.

VM: Could you talk also about the position battle at center?

Coach Johnson: Steven Brent is the only one right now with experience, but we moved Chris Williams down there and started to experiment with him a little bit. We think he can be an outstanding player in there. He's big and tall, and he can run, very mobile. It's an opportunity for him to get in there and maybe get a quicker avenue to some playing time, instead of working behind Justin or Brian Stamper or Kenan Arkan at tackle. There might be an opportunity for him to get in and do some things. He's gained a lot of weight. He's up to 275 now, came here at about 245, and still has his mobility. We think he's going to be an outstanding player. Adam Dossett was working at center and doing really well, but he tore an ACL, and he's going to get surgery, probably in the next few days. That was a bright spot that got snuffed out a little bit.

VM: Is Kenan Arkan still healing up?

Coach Johnson: He's still healing up. He had surgery I think six weeks ago, just to remove some scar tissue in that ankle. That was preventing him from getting the range of motion he needed, and was also causing him some pain. Since then, his recovery has been a little bit better and a little more predictable. We hope to get him in some non-contact drills in the next week and a half.


In Part Two, coming later this week, Johnson talks about what to look for in the Black and Gold Scrimmage, and comments on recruiting abuses at other universities and possible reform measures.


Are you fully subscribed to VandyMania? If not, you're missing out on all the top premium Commodore news and features we provide daily, as well as access to our members-only discussion forums. Click here today to sign up for the biggest and best in Vanderbilt sports coverage. Top Stories