Tailback tandem: Vandy hits 'em with a 1-9 punch

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said Monday that Norval McKenzie should start at tailback Saturday vs. South Carolina (11:30 a.m. CT), but that McKenzie and Kwane Doster should both see plenty of carries. Doster and McKenzie both spoke with VandyMania recently about playing time and their expectations for the coming season.


Norval McKenzie

(Senior, 5-11, 210, Powder Springs, Ga.)

Ed. Note: Bobby Johnson announced Monday that senior Norval McKenzie would likely be in the starting lineup when Vanderbilt takes the field against South Carolina, but that both McKenzie and Kwane Doster should expect to see lots of carries. McKenzie, a fifth-year senior, was Vandy's leading ground-gainer a year ago with 639 yards.

On his status in school as a fifth-year senior:

"Right now I'm completely done with my Political Science and Education degree. I've declared another major in American History, and I already have about 21 hours in there. So right now I have a triple-major in Political Science, Secondary Education and American History."

On his health:

"I would say right now I'm completely healthy. Of course you get fatigued during camp, but right now I'd consider myself to be healthy."

On the strategy for rotating most of the carries between two backs this season:

"I think the plan right now is to run two or three running backs. At running back here, as you know, you've always got to have depth, and you've also got to have a lot of running backs. One man can't do the job by himself."

On the mentoring he's done for the young running backs:

"I've been in the system for three years now. I've just been trying to give the young running backs pointers, and just trying to help them out so that they can feel more comfortable when they're out there."

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Kwane Doster

(Junior, 5-11, 190, Tampa, Fla.)

Ed. Note: Besides sharing time at tailback, Kwane Doster will also return kickoffs for the Commodores this fall. He was selected to the Preseason All-SEC team as a kick returner.

On the need for depth at the tailback position:

"With our offense we can run it up the middle, spread it out, run the option, or do a lot of different things. So with this offense is more than just toting the ball. This year we have a lot of new things going in, so it requires for a lot of backs to be playing.

"Besides Norval and me, we have a couple of freshmen coming in. They're getting to know the system well. We're looking forward just to being out there. All of us are going to be getting our share of balls."

On the freshman running backs:

"Cassen Jackson-Garrison and Jeff Jennings have both been running hard. Both of them were here during the summer, and they've both spent a lot of time in the playbooks studying plays. That's a good thing. That's what we look for out of our freshmen. When I was a freshman I came in here and did the same thing. With those two, it's just great to see them working so hard. They've had to work a little bit on getting the high school running out of them. It's college ball now! But they've both come in here acting like they really want to play."

On the fact that his rushing numbers for his sophomore year were lower than his freshman year:

"I don't want to brag on my freshman year or talk about my sophomore year. Just to make a long story short, I think my sophomore year I got a little comfortable with myself. My freshman year was OK... nobody knew me or expected me to come out and do the kinds of things I was able to do.

"But I want to be better than last year. So this year I've come out and watched a lot of film and observed myself. I can see that I need to improve on a lot of areas, where as I freshman I was just mostly reacting. Now I know the game much better. I feel like coming in this year I have more experience. I know better now than to just sit in that comfort zone. You just have to work harder and harder every week at practice.

"I'm looking forward to this year, because I think it's going to be a big year for me and the team."

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Top photos by Neil Brake, Vanderbilt athletics. Photos within story by Brent Wiseman, copyright 2004 for VandyMania.com.

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