VandyMania: Jay, over the summer, the players took it upon themselves to arrange some 7-on-7 scrimmages with some of the other schools near Nashville. Tell us a little about those.
Junior quarterback Jay Cutler: Yeah, we tried to get some competition going between us and some other schools. We had MTSU and Western Kentucky. I think those things really help a team, in getting the competition level up a little bit. If you think about it, the summer really gets monotonous sometimes. You're doing the same thing over and over again. But competing against other schools was a very good thing.
VM: Where do those competitions take place, and how would you say you guys fared in those things?
Jay: We did most of them on our field. We went up to Western Kentucky once. We fared very well. The guys competed well. It was well organized, and we got after them. Our guys showed the ability to make some big catches. The defense played well too.
VM: Chris Young is one of your receivers this year. Year before last he sat out for disciplinary reasons... this year he's been elected captain. What does that say about the team's confidence in him?
Jay: We feel very good with him. He's a leader among the receivers. He's a fifth-year guy, and he's been around the league for a while. He knows all the ins and outs of our offense and of the game. He's one of the team's leaders, and everyone believes in him. Hopefully he'll prove to be a great leader for us.
VM: Erik Davis is a receiver who had a big year last year, and showed the ability to really make some things happen. I'm guessing your confidence in him grew a lot last year.
Jay: Yeah, definitely. E.D. had a great summer. I've worked with him a lot this summer. We've been throwing three or four times a week. Last year was really a big season for him. Hopefully he'll make some even bigger catches for us this year.
VM: Erik was kind of a surprise last year. If there were to be a surprise receiver to step up this year from among some of the lesser-known receivers, who do you think that might be?
Jay: I think Marlon White is going to have a big year. He played some last year as a true freshman, and was still adapting a little bit to SEC football, to the speed, and to our offense. This year I think he feels a lot more comfortable in everything. He's more confident in his abilities and what he's capable of doing on the football field. I think he's definitely going to have a big year.
VM: Lorenzo Parker worked with you some in the spring as a receiver.
Jay: I think it's still to be decided on which side of the ball he'll land. He worked with both sides this summer. I don't think people realize how tough a thing it is to make that change, from a DB to a receiver. But he's capable of doing it if he wants to. We'll see what happens.
VM: Is all the uncertainty at the center position a little concerning for you?
Jay: Yeah, it's definitely a concern for me. That's vital. We've got to have a good center, and he's got to know what's going on. We're still not sure if Adam Dossett is going to be ready by the first game. Hamilton Holliday, of course, is a true freshman, so you have to wait to see if he can do the job. Then Trey Holloway has moved over from defensive line, and he is probably the top candidate right now. I've got a lot of faith in him. Trey is one of my good friends, came in in the same class that we did. So I'd feel good with him there. I think he's up for it.
VM: At running back, Norval McKenzie and Kwane Doster return. You've got to feel pretty good about that situation... and you also had Tim Miller play a little bit of running back in the spring. Do you feel pretty good about that position?
Jay: I feel great about Norval and Kwane and all those guys. Then we also have two freshmen coming in, that I believe are going to be able to add some more depth. Norval and Kwane are going to take the majority of the reps. They've both played in a lot of games and know our offense well. I think they're both going to make some big plays.
VM: What did you personally work on the most this summer in terms of improving your skills?
Jay: Just little things. I've just worked on reading defenses... drops... and just keeping the ball where I want it, in specific spots. I'm trying to become more accurate as a passer. I've been working with a lot of receivers on routes, working on being more precise and getting my timing down. I feel good about our offense, and I've progressed a lot since my freshman year. Now it's just time to put it all together.
VM: Jay, you weren't born the last time Vanderbilt made it to a bowl game, back in 1982. Do you ever think about what it would be like to get Vanderbilt back into a bowl?
Jay: Yeah, all the time. We've talked to some of the players that were at that bowl game. Some of them are still in town. They remember what it was like. Lots of the fans remember what it was like, and they've told me how excited everyone was. It's definitely something we think about.
VM: What'd you take in school this summer?
Jay: We did an internship class this summer. I did that in June and July, but it was nothing too strenuous. I was able to concentrate on football as much as possible.
VM: Did that help you knock out some classes that will help you concentrate in the fall.
Jay: Yeah. I'm about ready to graduate. I'm running low on credits that I need to graduate. I only have a couple left in order to get out of here, so I think this fall will definitely be pretty easy for me academically.
VM: If you're back next year, will it be as a graduate student?
Jay: I haven't really decided, whether I want to graduate or whether I want to pick up another major. I'll make that decision after the season.
VM: Do you have aspirations of playing in the NFL, not necessarily next year, but once you leave Vanderbilt?
Jay: Oh, definitely. It's definitely something that I want to do. It's a long road before I make that decision. You've got to stay healthy as a quarterback. You've got to win a lot of games as a quarterback. But it's something definitely that I've considered and one day want to achieve.
Photos by Brent Wiseman, Copyright 2004 for VandyMania.com.