VandyMania Interview: Bobby Johnson (Part 2)

In Part 2 of an interview with head football coach Bobby Johnson, the Vandy skipper singles out some redshirt freshmen who are having an outstanding spring, gives fans a preview of the spring game, and discusses recruiting abuses at other schools and possible reform measures. <i>The annual Black and Gold Scrimmage is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Vanderbilt Stadium.

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VM: Could you maybe name a couple of redshirt freshmen that you guys are saying, wow, I can't wait to see these guys suit up in a game?

Coach Johnson: Well, Chris Williams is one of them. He's gonna be an outstanding player. Merritt Kirchoffer, I think, is gonna be a good player for us. He's big and strong and can move. He came in here big and strong, so Coach Sisk was fired up about him. He'd probably be a tackle, possibly a guard. Several others on the line are probably going to be good players, but it's probably gonna be another year for them. Josh Eames... Elliot Hood... they're probably a little further behind than those others. Jonathan Goff and Curtis Gatewood at linebacker, we think can be outstanding players. It's a little different getting in there and playing your position than playing scout team like they did last fall. They can run around, didn't have to worry about any responsibilities, and they looked great doing that. But when you have to go through and learn every responsibility for your position, it just slows them down a little bit... but they've done a good job. They've shown they're serious about learning their position. They want to play. They're going to push our other linebackers, and I think that's great. We need competition at that spot-- it'll make all of them better. Khalil Sutton has stepped in there and done a nice job at corner-- he's gonna help us there eventually. George Smith had a good first half at wide receiver. But George is sick right now. He's back in Miami with an inflammation of the spinal cord. He's been in the hospital for over a week, and he will not come back to school this term, most likely. It's going to be a long recovery for him. It's a tough situation for him, because he was having a great spring, and next thing you know, he just got sick, and it hit him pretty hard.

VM: You have to replace your punter, Abtin Iranmanesh... what's happening there?

Coach Johnson: Kyle Keown is doing a good job. Bill Robinson is battling him. I think they'll both be very capable. They'll be in the same mold as Abtin Iranmanesh-- just make sure that we're catching it, getting it off on time, and having a very respectable average. They both kick it high enough that I think we'll be able to cover. We had a pretty good average last year. We averaged just over 40 yards, and we had pretty good depth on the average. [Abtin] did a good job of downing it right outside the end zone several times. Also Daniel Lee [2004 signee] punts a little bit. He's got great form, he just didn't do it very much. He was more the inside-the-50 punter for them last year in high school, but he has excellent form. Those three guys will battle it out in the fall.

VM: What would you say the savvy fan should look out for in the spring game?

Coach Johnson: It's not going to be any earthshaking revelations Saturday. We're pretty banged up. It's going to be a scrimmage. We don't have enough to divide up into two teams. We're just going to work offense against defense, and just try to get better as a team. We're sort of treating it as another practice. We'd love for people to come out, want them to come out, but it's not gonna be a game-like situation.

VM: Not gonna play a game and make the losing team do up-downs or anything?

Coach Johnson: (Laughs) Nope, not this year. If we ever start stockpiling a few players in here, and can divide up into some teams that I think would be pretty even, we might could do that. But if we divided up right now, I don't think we could get even teams, and I don't know if we could get two teams out there right now. We're pretty thin at defensive line right now. The last two scrimmages we had before the break, those guys were going just about every play. It would be pretty tough to do.

VM: But wouldn't you say that this spring, as opposed to the last two, you're in a little bit better shape numbers-wise?

Coach Johnson: Yeah, we're in better shape. Obviously after everybody learns the system a little better, we can progress a little bit more. We've put a lot of things in, worked on a lot of things. It's been a great spring so far. Our guys have had a great attitude. I wouldn't say we've had a bad complete practice yet. We had a couple of situational drills that we didn't do our best, but everybody's really worked hard and tried to get better every day we've been out there.

We'd love to see a bunch of people come out for the spring game. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. Our guys will be throwing it around, tackling, so they'll get to see the guys in action. It just won't be a game-like situation.

VM: Last question... all of the recruiting abuses that have come up at Colorado... you've got Virginia Shepherd there on a committee that is supposed to address that... they're thinking about maybe getting rid of official visits, or cutting down on them... what's your perspective on all that?

Coach Johnson: Well, unfortunately, college football has kind of brought that upon itself. Just like most NCAA rules, they're there because a few schools decided to go overboard on some things, and now everybody else is going to be punished. We had a nice two-day visit with a pretty full schedule, where [recruits] see some academic people, and things like that. We'll probably be just like everybody else, down to one day now. Some people haven't been doing what they're supposed to be doing. But... I think it's a pretty good sign that administrations are finally finding out what's going on and are reacting... I just hope they don't overreact.

VM: You would not be in favor or reducing official visits, I take it?

Coach Johnson: No. It's pretty hard... you've got a basketball game, and you want them to see that... it's pretty hard to get them around campus with a pretty good tour, see the academic people that we need them to see, without just rushing, rushing, rushing. I can't see them going to 36 hours. I see them going to 24. So it would be really rushed.

Now I'm all for reducing spending. I don't think they ought to be able to come in private jets, things like that. That ought to be part of the educational process, learning how tough it is to get to some campuses, and how easy it is to get to other campuses. I'm all for those kinds of cost reductions and reducing some of the excess that goes on. We're guilty of that too, because we're trying to keep up with everybody else. We take them out, and they eat well here. They stay in a hotel. It used to be a long time ago-- we still did it at Furman up until I left-- we put the players in the dorms with the hosts. There are all kinds of ways you could look to clean this up a little bit. It probably needs it a little bit.

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To read Part 1 of this interview, click here.


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