Interview: Benji Walker, quarterback

VandyMania talked to Benji Walker, a leading candidate for Vanderbilt's starting quarterback position. Walker talked about the coaching staff, the new offense, and the competition for playing time.

VandyMania: You are in quite a quarterback battle at this point with another fellow named Jay Cutler. Talk about how that's going at this point, and maybe talk about the subtle differences between you two.

Benji: Coach Kiser [quarterbacks coach Jimmy Kiser] addressed the whole issue of the competition early on in the spring. He told us that now is the time for us to learn the offense, learn the checks and the reads, so that we could operate efficiently by the end of spring. Really right now we're not so much worried about the competition as we are getting acclimated to the offense so that we can compete coming in in the fall. So as far as that goes, I think we're really just trying to help each other and learn from each other at this stage. Jay and I both play the same style, run, pass, do whatever the coaches need. I feel like I'm a couple of years older. I've played in four or five games. It's limited experience, but it's experience. I think that's something that's really going to help me.

VM: Woody was kind of a one-quarterback guy. Do you know if Coach Johnson might be the kind of coach who might go with two guys if they were pretty close in ability?

Benji: I really don't know. I haven't talked about it with him, so I don't know how he might handle that.

VM: You played in the Swamp last year, and you've played in Neyland Stadium. That's got to be kind of tough, coming off the bench in these hostile environments.

Benji: Yeah, it's tough going in there in a hostile environment, but it's something that's really valuable to me in terms of knowing what it's like in those situations.

VM: It had to be kind of tough for you to have to sit behind Greg Zolman the last couple of years.

Benji: Yeah, definitely the last couple of years, watching us struggle. It is tough not getting to play that often. But I did get to watch Greg and see what he did well, and learn from him. I wish I would have gotten more playing time, but it might have been a blessing not to have been thrown in there so early in your career. That can really ruin some guys. I feel good that I was able to learn from somebody like Greg, and Tim [Olmstead] also, and pick up some things from them that I can really use in the future.

VM: Did you ever at any point think about transferring?

Benji: No, no. I chose Vanderbilt for more than football. This is where I wanted to go to school, and get a great education. I wouldn't have wanted to do that.

VM: Tell me about your impressions of Coach Kiser.

Benji: Coach Kiser is a really good quarterbacks coach. He's very even-keeled. He's always there to tell us when we messed up, tell us when we did well. He's got a lot of experience working with some nice programs. He and Coach Cain have worked together before, so they're on the same page.

VM: I hear that suddenly the fans are going to see a really different-looking offense this year.

Benji: Coach Cain is trying to be really diverse with our offense. We can spread them out, four-receiver sets, shotgun, like we did last year. Also we can go to the power game, pack everybody in, two backs. So we're trying to be able to do a lot of things on offense to confuse defenses. And also, you go with whatever works, so some games it may take a spread offense, and other games it may not. But the more diverse we are on offense, the tougher it will be for defenses to defend us.

VM: If you're going to have success this year, the running game is going to have to get going a little bit. Which ones of the running backs have impressed you thus far?

Benji: We have to run the ball to open up the passing game and keep the defense off the field. Right now we've got a lot of good running backs. We lost a couple of good ones, so it's like the quarterback situation. We've got a whole new backfield. All the guys have different styles, and they all bring something to the team. Norval [McKenzie] has done real well-- he's got power and speed. Top Stories