Q: You had a real rash of injuries and defections on the offensive line last year. You've now signed four new linemen in this class. Could you talk about those four guys, and how are you feeling about the depth at offensive line after adding them?
A: We feel much better about the depth than this time last year. Last year with our numbers we were only able to sign one offensive lineman, Hamilton Holliday. Of course he played as a true freshman, and made the All-SEC Freshman team. With these four new young men coming in, the good part is that a couple of them already have the size to hold up in SEC play. Drew Gardner is 6-5, 300, great athlete, even shoots the basketball great from outside. I saw him play a number of times. He has the height and the girth to play in there. Eric Hensley is a giant of a guy at about 6-7, 290. Those two guys maybe have the size to play early. With Ryan Custer and Bradley Vierling, we'll just have to see how they progress with their blocking skills and with our scheme, and see if they can contribute early.
Q: You guys were able to get some late commitments from Earl Bennett and Daniel Dufrene. Is that kind of a testimony to the fact that you guys didn't let up on them? When they seemed to be headed elsewhere, you stayed with them and were persistent with them?
A: Well, we're persistent as much as we can be, but I think in both of those cases the young men were still open to Vanderbilt. Again, they were looking for schools like Vanderbilt, good academic schools playing in a great league. We continued on with them only because they wanted us to continue on with them, and the coaches that recruited them, Robbie Caldwell (for Bennett) and David Turner (for Dufrene), as well as Charlie Fisher and Kenny Carter, did a great job of staying with those young men throughout. But if a young man is still open and is still wanting to look, and is not really solid in what he wants to do, we will continue on with him.
Q: Could you talk about what the December and January recruiting period is like for a coach like you? How demanding is it, with all the traveling you have to do?
A: Well, it is very demanding, and of course crucial to the success of any program. You go through your season and you get kind of worn down physically and mentally as the season comes to a close in November. You hope to get to a bowl game in December or January in the near, near future! But the recruiting guidelines now are a little more sane as far as how many coaches can be on the road per week. What we try to do is rotate it around as much as we can. Before Christmas there's about a three-week period, and after Christmas there's another three-week period. Usually a coach is on two weeks and off one week. But even if you're off, you're still in the office doing a multitude of things. But you get up in the morning... schools in my area in Gwinnett County, Ga., the doors crack there at about 7:00 in the morning. You may have basketball practice to watch, or basketball games to watch, and then home visits on into the evening. If you get in an area, you probably want to have at least two home visits a night. So you could go from about 7:00 a.m. to about 10:30 at night very easily, Monday through Friday. Then you come home on a Friday and your official visits are going on, so you have to be very upbeat with those young men all through the weekend, until Sunday afternoon. Then you're right back on the road Sunday afternoon, either on a plane or driving somewhere. So it's definitely a 24/7 deal.
Q: A lot of funny things happen on the recruiting trail... can you think of anything really humorous or unusual that happened this year?
A: I can't remember anything off the top of my head. If there was anything humorous, Robbie Caldwell was probably involved with it! But no, I can't think of anything.
Q: Do you feel like recruits these days are a little more adept at working the recruiting system in their favor than they were a few years ago?
A: Well, probably, with all the information out there on the Internet, a young man or the family can get more information as far as who all the schools are recruiting, who their early commitments are, the team depth charts and how many players are coming back, those kinds of things. Yeah, this day and time there's more information out there.
Q: Do you all ever look to recruiting websites? Do you totally ignore them, or do you check in on them from time to time to see what people are saying and thinking?
A: Some of the people in our recruiting offices do check that periodically. It is a supplemental area of information we can have. But I know in my case this year, some things came out which were about a week old, which I already knew were going on. But it's just supplemental information that we use to double-check on things sometimes.
Q: Do you feel like the fact that Vanderbilt didn't have a good football year make it tougher for you this year? Vanderbilt always has great academics and a great conference to sell, but...
A: Well, I think basically the young men that we recruit here at Vanderbilt are for the most part looking for a school like Vanderbilt, with great academics. Obviously more success this year with wins and losses bolsters your stock, as you go into homes and talk to young men. But the young men that are in this recruiting class all saw how very, very close we were this year to having six or seven wins. We had three three-point losses, a one-point loss, and at the end of the year when everybody probably could have tanked it in there, we had one of our best games of the year, especially on the offensive side scoring 33 points on Tennessee. I think the young men do see that progress is being made. Of course in our league that's so tough. You'd think you'd make progress a lot quicker. But as we get better, everybody else is kind of reloading. But I think they saw how close we are, and that the program's on the rise. They believed it, and we believe it.
Q: You get a day or two off, and the grind starts again for spring practice, right?
A: That's correct. We already started on some things last week just a little bit, but we've been going over our cut-ups from last year and thinking about some new ideas on both sides of the ball, and arranging some of the talent that's on the team now, so that that can propel us into some more wins... wins that we can finish off! Going into the Tennessee game, we had leads in the third quarter in seven of our ten games. If we can just finish some of those off this year, we'll be in good shape.