Bobby Johnson signing day press conference

Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson met with the press Wednesday afternoon to talk about his 24-member signing class. Here's the complete list of signees (with heights and weights as listed by media relations), as well as the complete text of the press conference.

Vanderbilt 2005 Recruiting class:

Mackenzi Adams QB 6-3 190 Broken Arrow, Ok. Tulsa Union HS
Earl Bennett WR 5-11 195 Birmingham, Ala. West End HS
Jake Bradford TE 6-6 235 St. Simons Island, Ga. Glynn Academy
Brandon Bryant LB 5-11 215 Cincinnati, Ohio St. Xavier HS
Joel Caldwell DB 6-0 175 Hoover, Ala. Hoover HS
Duran Coger DB 5-11 180 Tuscumbia, Ala. Deshler HS
Ryan Custer OL 6-4 295 Troy, Ohio Troy HS
Derrius Dowell DE 6-3 245 Atlanta, Ga. Douglass HS
Daniel Dufrene RB 5-10 180 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Stranahan HS
Drew Gardner OL 6-5 305 Hoxie, Ark. Hoxie HS
Bryant Hahnfeldt P/PK 5-10 175 Nashville, Tenn. Montgomery Bell Academy
Ryan Hamilton S 6-1 205 Wycombe, Pa. Council Rock North HS
Jared Hawkins RB 5-10 185 Spring, Texas Klein HS
Eric Hensley OL 6-7 290 Clinton, Tenn. Clinton HS
Chris Johnson LB 6-1 215 Birmingham, Ala. Oak Mountain HS
Quavian Lewis LB 6-4 205 Troy, Ala. Henderson HS
Larry Simmons WR 5-10 170 Austin, Texas Anderson HS
Darlron Spead DB 5-10 175 Kingsland, Ga. Camden County HS
Broderick Stewart DE 6'4" 210 Newnan, Ga. Riverside Military Academy
Steven Stone DE 6-5 225 Conway, Ark. Conway HS
Bradley Vierling OL 6-4 285 Warminster, Pa. Central Bucks East HS
Alex Washington WR 5-10 170 Stone Mountain, Ga. Stephenson HS
Thomas Welch TE 6-6 250 Brentwood, Tenn. Brentwood HS
Justin Wheeler WR 6-2 190 North Augusta, S.C. North Augusta HS

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Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson: Well, signing day's finally here, and we're extremely pleased with the class that we brought in. I'm also extremely pleased with the effort our coaching staff put in in locating and recruiting these young men to come to Vanderbilt, When you do that, as long as we've worked with these young men, you start to develop a relationship with them, and we can't wait to get them here on campus and develop that a little bit further. Again, we're very pleased just like every other college football staff is at this time of the year, and we're glad it's over, but it was a lot of fun getting it done.

Q: Did you target any - I see like four or five receivers, secondary - were you targeting those spots?

A: Well, we targeted certain spots, but we were not afraid to go over what we allotted for each position if a great athlete became available at that position or be afraid to undersign at a certain position if it means that we could get another athlete at another position. So you have those guidelines, but you don't always have to stick right to them. But if you ever get your recruiting like you want it, and you get your team developed like you want it, hopefully you have to replace a few players at every position every year and you're not having a go build up this position and then go build up that position. Of course that's what we've been fighting a little bit the past few years.

Q: What were the positions you targeted as maybe needing help for next year?

A: Well, obviously wide receiver. We lose Brandon Smith and Chris Young, and we were fairly thin at that position anyway. But offensive line, we're still trying to build depth at offensive line, and that's been a key position for us. Those were probably two that needed it most. Defensive backs, we were looking at that, but probably not as dire need as we did in those other two positions.

Q: Earl Bennett and Daniel Dufrene committed to other schools and then ended up at Vanderbilt. How did that pan out, and just talk about the whole process of players being committed then shifting gears at the last minute?

A: Well, we didn't make a big deal out of that. It was all early, and there are a thousand stories that go on about those kind of things, and some of them are relevant and some of them aren't, but both of them just wanted to make sure that they were making the right decision and looking at all their other opportunities and options. It wasn't like we started recruiting them after they committed. We were recruiting them the whole time, so it's not like we were looking at somebody else's list and trying to rob their list. Those things happen in recruiting, and most of our guys, I think, when they made up their mind, they were pretty firm in their commitments. We didn't have to worry about it too much, but those were two that came over.

Q: Can you talk about those two guys specifically as players?

A: Earl Bennett we were very excited about. He came to camp last year. We've been recruiting him for a long time. But he is a receiver that has a lot of strength. He's got speed. He's got great hands. He is a stout young man, and a guy that you can't push around, so we feel like we need him in our receiving corps.

And Daniel we thought was an outstanding running back, but he's also very versatile. He can play defensive back if we absolutely had to do it, but we think Daniel is one of those guys who can make people miss and turn ordinary plays into big plays. He had that talent in high school, and I hope he's going to be able to do it in college.

Q: Were you surprised when he said, hey, I'm committing?

A: See, that's a story I don't want to get into, and it wasn't-- I just can't get into that story right now. But he was interested in us for a long, long time, including the time that he was committed elsewhere.

Q: How's the process been for you now that you're in your fourth year? Has it changed for you?

A: The process that we go out and find guys and recruit them is pretty much the same, but we have learned some things. We've learned who has a better chance maybe of surviving academically here at Vanderbilt, and not trying to push the envelope too much in one way. We had a very good relationship with admissions this year. Everything went as smoothly as we could possibly want it, as easily as any of the other three years.

So we're learning, and we learn a little bit more about Vanderbilt, what we're selling, and all the great things about the school. You come in here that first year, and I couldn't have walked you over to the student center at first. I didn't even know where it was. So it's a learning process and hopefully we're getting better at it, and I think our last two classes have shown that we can attract some good players.

Q: Can you talk about your coaches developing a recruiting class. It may be different from other schools who can select their recruiting classes. What goes into you guys maybe trying to turn up some different rocks and look a little harder?

A: Well, we look at some guys who... obviously we think some guys can come in and help us right now, but we also recruit guys that we think might need a year in our strength program and on our training table with Magic and his training table food to help them build some muscle up a little bit. So sometimes we'll look at a guy and say, heck, we think he's going to be a heckuva player, and he is already, but we think he's going to be a really good player when he's got some maturity on him. We may take a chance with a guy like that and watch him all year long and see how he develops, and if he develops like we think he will, we'll go ahead and sign him. We don't care who rates him what, or how other people look at him. If we think he can play for us, we're going to go with him.

Q: Coach, the fact that you signed four wideouts today, is that maybe indicative that you are going to throw the ball a little more than you have in the future?

A: Not necessarily. We just felt like we had to shore up that position a little bit and get some young guys in there that would be coming through, because Erik Davis is going be a senior next year. You've just got to keep it stocked up, and we had to catch up a little bit with that one. But we have a very excellent quarterback, and we'll throw the ball enough.

Also, those guys are very versatile. I think we have a very versatile class here. Quavian Lewis, for example, is a linebacker who's also a tight end. Thomas Welch is a tight end who could be a defensive end. Duran Coger also played running back. Earl was a defensive back. So I think we're very versatile in this class, and they can play different positions.

Q: Derrius Dowell played both tackle and end in high school. Can you tell us a little bit about him, and what are you looking for him to do most of the time?

A: Right now, probably an end. Derrius is not quite heavy enough to go inside. He may end up being that way, but right now we're looking for a guy who can come off the edge and be mobile enough, and we think he is mobile enough to be able to play on the end. We're pretty thin there because of Jovan Haye leaving, and Richard Freeman is still not cleared to play ball yet. So we thought we were getting a little ahead there last year in signing David Carter and Lamar Divens and Theo Horrocks, and then circumstances get you right back in that situation again, and we're kind of thin at defensive end. So Steven Stone and Derrius Dowell we think are going to be excellent defensive end prospects for us.

Q: And Broderick Stewart the same?

A: He very well may, but Broderick is a talented athlete. He runs track. He's a big guy. He played wide receiver this year some. He can play a lot of different places, so we're just not going to pigeonhole him right now and just get him in here and see where we can best get him on the field and have the best chance to play.

Q: Were you looking for [offensive linemen] who may be able to battle for a starting position early as opposed to guys who may have to have a couple of years to get prepared to do that?

A: I think we have a mixture of both. We tell all of our guys to get in shape, be ready to come in here in August to compete for a position. And we'll try to make decisions on who we're going to redshirt based on trying to maximize their eligibility. We don't want to waste a year of eligibility on a guy getting spot play, so we'll look at that case-by-case and decide who we want to redshirt and who we think can help us play.

Q: Talk about Mackenzi Adams a little bit.

A: He was a quarterback that we were fortunately able to get in camp, so we saw him throw. We saw what his arm strength was. We saw how he could run, and how he fits the bill for our offense. He's able to run options, and he's also able to throw the ball downfield. He's a dropback passer also. But he's also a coach's son, which we really like. He's a football fanatic, and we're really proud of him. He changed schools this year, went into a new situation, became a team captain at that school. They lost their first game to the defending state champions and then won all the rest of their games and then played that team again and beat them for the state championship. So I think he's a great leader and a tough kid.

Q: Offensive linemen... I think Vierling is slotted at center. Are the other three guys, are you looking at them specifically as tackles, or is that yet to be determined?

A: That's yet to be determined. We think Drew Gardner and Eric Hensley certainly have the bodies to be tackles. They're tall and heavy, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be there for sure, because nowadays guards and centers are big. And Ryan Custer, the other offensive lineman, was also a defensive tackle, so he can play on either side.

Q: Did you keep track of how many miles you traveled this recruiting season?

A: I was afraid to. No, I didn't. But the last two weeks were really kind of hectic, and we were all over the place, and sometimes I'd wake up and didn't know where I was.

Q: Is the Welch kid definitely done at quarterbacking?

A: I think we're in good shape at quarterback right now at Vanderbilt, [with] Jay Cutler and Steven Bright and Chris Nickson coming off a redshirt year. Mackenzi Adams coming in will most likely redshirt, and he knew that coming in, so I don't think we'll need Thomas at quarterback. He had a good year at tight end, defensive end, for just having played it for one year. We were very impressed with how he took to those positions and made that transition. He's young. He's still going to grow some, and he'll mature a little bit. He'll be a good player for us, I believe.

Q: Among your linebackers, any chance of bulding them up and moving them into the line, or will they stay put?

A: They'll bulk up a little bit, but I think they're linebackers. Quavian Lewis is 6-4, 205. He's got a frame to put some pounds on, but he's also a fine average. I think he averages about 19 points a game and 15 rebounds in basketball. He runs track. So we're thrilled about him and all the possibilities that he does give us. He may be an end.

Broderick Stewarts's the same way. He can gain a lot of weight and get a lot stronger, and he can provide us help at different positions. So those kind of guys we were talking about earlier; you bring them in, and you may not have them exactly at the spot that they're going to end up right now, but they'll play somewhere.

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See also VandyMania's Signing Day Roll Call, which includes complete profiles, features, photos and film on Vanderbilt's 24 signees.


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