VandyMania Interview: Bobby Johnson Part II

Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson talked to VandyMania regarding personnel, schemes, and what he hoped to accomplish through spring practices.

VM: I've heard you say that every guy on the team starts out equal... but on the other hand, you've been getting to know the personnel, and you've surely been watching some film from last year and know that certain guys can do certain things. So, does a guy like, say, Dan Stricker really have to earn his job all over again?

BJ: Well, our evaluations started back in our offseason program. For the most part the same guys who have been top performers in the past for Vanderbilt have stepped up and done the same thing in the offseason program. I think we have some surprises, you know, some guys who say, I'm going to outwork somebody and try to take their position. But no, Dan doesn't have to earn his position again-- I think he's doing that right now. He's a very good leader. He's very athletic-- I think he was one of the best performers in the vertical jump when we tested the other day. Dan Stricker is going to be out there playing for us.

VM: I've heard that your players may have been a little shocked by the intensity of some of your offseason workouts. Would you say that you were pleased or displeased with the conditioning of the players that you inherited?

BJ: I've been really pleased with their attitude. I think they may have been "shocked." We really didn't take a poll (laugh). We just asked them to do certain things, and they've come out and done them. I don't really concern myself with how much they've done in the past. We feel like we've got to get certain things done. I think (strength and conditioning coach) John Sisk has done a great job with our offseason program. He's got our guys used to performing at a high level. Obviously we're going to have to take advantage of every little bit of athleticism we have, every chance to out-condition somebody. We've got to do those kinds of things. I think our guys know that, and in the long run, that's what they want to be able to do. They want to be in great condition, not get tired in the fourth quarter, be able to make plays. So they're buying into everything we're saying right now, which I really appreciate.

VM: You said your staff has been spending a lot of time in meetings working on things like schemes and terminology, and also on setting up a framework for future recruiting. Could you elaborate on those two areas, and what exactly needed to be done?

BJ: Obviously when you bring people together who've not been together previously as a whole staff-- now, we've worked with each other sometime, somehow, some way, but-- you've got to get on the same page when you're talking about the smallest thing in your playbook. Everybody's got to be using the same terms, the same language, offensively, defensively. We've been working hard on the playbook, trying to make sure we're calling things the same way, and that we have a systematic way of teaching it. We don't just want to say, all right, we're going to teach this week this way, our dropback game this way... it's all got to be systematic. In spring practice we have a schedule of what we want to put in each day, what we want to get accomplished, what we want to ask our players to do.

Recruiting, obviously if you can't recruit, you're not going to have a very good chance of winning. That's the main thing we're trying to get... rectified a little bit is having a system where, when we reach a certain milestone in a year, we ought to have certain things done. We ought to be involved with this many players, we ought to have them for a Junior Day during basketball season, we have them for our spring game, we have them up for our camp. Those things have to be done systematically, and we have to have a way of evaluating prospects and seeing how they'll fit in our program... what the procedures are going to be if we want to offer them a scholarship. We just don't want to leave all that to guesswork. We want to have a way of doing that that's consistent.

VM: Could you maybe run through a couple of guys from your recruiting class that might have a chance to play in the fall?

BJ: Well, that's going to be hard to do, because again I've never even seen the guys I have on the team right now play football (laugh). I'm not saying someone couldn't come in here and do that, but just numbers-wise, you'd look at the tailbacks and say they've got a chance to come in here and contribute. Kwane Doster and Ron Bullock provide a little bit of a variety. Ron's 215 pounds, and Kwane's a smaller, quicker guy, so that gives us some versatility. So running back would probably be the quickest way you could get some playing time here. I think it would be tough for a wide receiver-- we've got a bunch of them, and they've been good in the past, and I expect them to be good again. In the line, depthwise we need some help, but we have some guys who can play.

Defensively, I think just depth is what we need out of our recruiting class. And then you look at the kicking game, some of those guys are probably going to have to play. We've got a couple of guys on the team now, walk-ons, and we're going to give them every opportunity to earn a spot, but I really don't know what they can do. Those kickers are going to have a chance really quickly to get in here and prove that they can play.

VM: Is that a big concern for you? You're almost starting from scratch at punter and placekicker, and you don't have much to work with until those recruits get on campus.

BJ: That's right. Well, we do have a punter, and we have a placekicker. Matt Walsh is the punter. He's a walk-on, about 6-3, 198. The placekicker is Abtin Iranmanesh. Like I say, we haven't even been able to have a ball out there. We're not allowed to do that, so I don't even know if they can make contact or not. One thing that I wanted our kickers to do is to prove that they belong to the team. They've been through every offseason drill that everybody else has done, and lifted every weight. So they've earned their spot to be participating in spring practice.


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