Cutler: Dores to open up offense more this fall

Vandy went to a quick, short-passing offense in last year's finale against Tennessee, and had great success moving the ball in a 38-33 loss. Do the Commodores plan to air it out more this fall? Star quarterback Jay Cutler talks about it in this lengthy Q&A session. (Last in a series of reports and interviews from SEC Media Days 2005.)

Ed. note: The following is a series of questions posed to Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler by members of the print media, July 28, 2005 at SEC Media Days. Cutler, a fifth-year senior, returns this fall for his fourth straight year of barking signals for the Commodore offense.

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Q: Jay, when you look back at the what-might-have-beens on last year's schedule, which ones stand out?

A: Oh, man... Kentucky, Rutgers, Ole Miss... we were right there in the Tennessee game. They're all up and down our schedule. We were right there. We had 'em where we wanted them, and couldn't finish the job. The bad thing is, if you go back and look at the film, a lot of it is our fault. Missed assignments, and not doing what we're supposed to do. We've just got to take care of ourselves and believe that we can do it.

Q: Are there some games on the schedule that are kind of like revenge games for you?

A: I don't think you can say that. I think every year is a new year. You just wipe the whole slate clean every year, and you just take them one game at a time. That's what we're trying to do. I think we got a little ahead of ourselves last year with all the bowl talk, and it probably fanned the expectations. This year we're just going to focus on the first game (at Wake Forest, Sept. 1) and take it from there.

Q: Did you know you are the first three-time captain at Vanderbilt since the 1890's? Since the guy that invented football there?

A: I've been really honored to come to Vanderbilt, and a lot of positive things have happened to me. This is my third time here [at SEC Media Days], and this is the third time I've been a captain, and I was voted preseason All-SEC. So I've had a lot of great things happen to me at Vanderbilt. I'm truly blessed. But we've got to win some football games. That's the way you want to leave, being one of the guys on the team that turned things around.

Q: What are some worries on the offensive side?

A: We lost some offensive linemen on the left side, Justin Geisinger and Brian Kovolisky, so we've got to fill that hole. But we've got some good wide receivers. We've got two young running backs who played a little bit last year. We're going to do some different things with Steven Bright, our backup quarterback, this year. We'll just see what happens. We've got offensive capabilities. We just need to set it in motion and everyone get on the same page.

Q: Have you talked with Bobby about throwing the ball a little more this year?

A: During the spring, me, Coach Johnson, Coach Cain and Coach Kiser all say down and talked about our strengths and weaknesses. With me being a four-year starter, obviously I've seen a lot of different defenses. There's just not much that's going to fool me any more. We've got the offensive capability to throw the ball. But whatever it takes to win games, that's what we're going to do. We'll probably open it up a little more this year, because of the weapons we have. But only time will tell what happens.


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Q: What's the best advice you've gotten about your team developing a fourth-quarter mentality?

A: There are so many out there. I think it's all based on the team, or maybe the chemistry the team has. We've just got to come together and figure it out. There's nothing anybody on the outside can do. It's all internal. It's up to us to figure it out and get some mental confidence, mental toughness, and realizing it can be done.

Q: In the Tennessee game last year, was the game plan to spread out the field a little more and use the short passing game?

A: Yeah. We tried to spread it out and throw a few more wrinkles into our offense. It seemed to work pretty well. Getting rid of the ball quickly seemed to work pretty well. It helped out our line and didn't put as much stress on them. They didn't really know what was coming. We were throwing a lot more on first and second downs. It keeps defenses guessing, not really knowing what's going to happen.

Q: How much do you enjoy the kind of game when you get to sling it around a little more?

A: Oh, I love it! I'm a quarterback. Of course I love to throw it as much as possible. To have success with it was really fun. We've got most of the same guys back offensively, the same talent. So we can definitely emphasize that and spread it out more.

Q: How comfortable are you with Erik Davis and Marlon White being the two go-to receivers?

A: Very comfortable. Erik's been there since I've been there. We've worked together for three summers now. Erik loves to get out and catch the football, especially in the summer. Right now we're on exactly the same page. We know exactly what each other is doing. I can look at Erik and just give him a glance, and he knows exactly what I want him to do. It's Erik's senior year too, so he's going to be all out too.

Q: Bobby has raved about [true freshman] Earl Bennett. Any issues with throwing to a possible first-year wide receiver?

A: Not to this freshman! He makes the play. He's been in there all summer with me throwing in 7-on-7. He picked up the offense really quickly. Really, I was kind of surprised how quickly. But physically he has all the tools it is going to take. He can run very, very well. He loves football, just loves to get out get the job done. That's what we're going to need, another receiver that can get the job done.

Q: How young does he seem?

A: Earl? He's very mature. He doesn't really say much. He's not flamboyant or anything. He just wants to get out there and get the job done. He listens to criticism, takes it in stride, and just wants to get better as a player.

Q: Jay, could you talk about believing in the system, "buying into" the system if you will. Has that become more difficult for you as you've seen the lack of success on the field?

A: Oh, in some ways yeah, but you have to believe in the system, especially as a captain and quarterback. You've got to get other guys to believe in the system. Going into this year, I totally buy it. I think definitely, our schemes work. What we're doing can work if we get everybody on the same page doing what they need to do.

Q: When you come to a school and you're a quarterback, and you say, I'm going to be the guy who's going to turn things around... and it hasn't happened yet... does that weigh on you, or do you just say, OK, this is my last chance?

A: Oh, it's a team game. Quarterbacks take all the rave in the papers, and all the criticism if you lose. But when it comes down to game time, it's a team game. It takes 22 guys, and a lot of coaches to make it work. You've just got to keep that in perspective and realize that I've got teammates, and I've got to utilize them. They've got to make plays for me. There's no quarterback in college football who can take over a college football game, especially in the SEC. It takes a lot of things working well.

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Photos courtesy Vanderbilt athletics.

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