Media: What do you know about Wake Forest, other than where it is?
Bobby Johnson: A pretty good bit. We've been studying a long time now and you know you never know for sure what a team is going to do from one year to the next. You look at them and you think. They're a lot like us. They had a rough year last year, lost some close games that they feel like they should have won, just reading to some of their quotes and listening to some of their broadcasts. It's going to be two hungry teams coming in their Thursday and wanting to do well right off the bat. They'll give us some challenges, they run the ball extremely well and I know they are trying to improve their passing game and they think that Benjamin Mauk will be a pretty good quarterback for them to do that. He threw a lot in high school, was a record setter in high school. It's going to be an interesting game. We are looking forward to it.
Media: Coach, are you catching them at a bad time since Chris Barclay and Riley Swanson are both suspended for Thursday?
Bobby Johnson: Well, I can't worry about their team, I'm just going to worry about ours. . . Hope so.
Media: But I mean that does create openings you wouldn't otherwise have?
Bobby Johnson: We've got one suspended so they are probably looking at the same thing. I don't think it's going to be that big of factor in the game. They have backups, capable backups, for those guys. Mike Andrews, I think, is going to start at tailback. We know about him, he's from Atlanta, we think he's a heck of a back; we tried to recruit him. I don't think it'll be a big drop off, maybe depth wise it might be a factor but talent wise I don't think so.
Media: The two teams are pretty similar, not just football wise; you recruit some
of the same guys, the team colors, the mascots are nearly the same. Have you looked at that
and said "this is kind of weird?"
Bobby Johnson: No, I haven't to tell the truth but I guess it is wierd. That's the way we like to have some of our out of conference games; with teams that are from schools that are similar to us. I think that makes an interesting game. We do recruit a lot of the same players so the winner probably does have a little edge in recruiting over the next year. I think it's an interesting opener and one that we sorta like to fit in our schedule.
Media: You've been through three seasons of opening games. How important are
they as trend setters as giving you a barometer to where your team is at that point?
Bobby Johnson: They always tell you something; they tell you a lot to tell the truth. You always have the questions in preseason; "Are you hitting enough?" or "Are you hitting to much?" or "Are you putting too much emphasis on the passing game or running game?" or not enough on the kicking game. Those things are usually answered pretty quickly. When you are playing with quality opponents; I think every year we've opened with quality opponents, it's been Georgia Tech, Mississippi, South Carolina and now Wake Forest. You find out if you're prepared. You know you'd better be prepared or you are in for a long afternoon or long evening.
Media: Do you guard against Jay trying to be Superman right off the top. You
know he has to be obviously very productive but do you guard against Jay trying to do too
Bobby Johnson: I think Jay is a veteran and probably knows better than that. It's possible that he might try to do something in certain situations but we haven't made a big emphasis on that. If he can do some Superman stuff I'd like to see it.
Media: Coach, this will be the first game you've played since the tragic loss of
Kwane Doster. How have you dealt with that and how have your players dealt with that?
Bobby Johnson: What we've tried to remember Kwane as a friend and acquaintance and just a great person. We haven't talked too much about football. We're trying to remember Kwane in several ways; with the helmet stuff, we've got some T-shirts . . . that has his nickname on it. I think our guys are handling it the right way. They miss him. They miss him as a friend and a guy that always seemed to have a lot of fun in the dressing room, before practice and after practice. You got guys jacked up and ready to go. I think they'll do it the right way. We haven't tried to use it as a motivational tool but I'm sure it's going to be one. I think that each player is going to have to use it in his own way.
Media: Any concerns? You do have a couple guys, Ray Brown is one, that are
injured? How are those guys?
Bobby Johnson: Not major injuries. We have some minor injuries that may keep some people out of the game. Ray Brown, probably it's going to be a long shot for him to play. I think Steven Bright is going to be okay. The only thing is he hasn't had a lot of contact in the preseason because of his injury because his injury was early in the preseason. I'm not worried about him executing, I'm worried about him taking a shot and reinjuring himself. Ryan King had a sprained ankle and kept us from being where we wanted to be on that left side of that offensive line. We had to replace Justin Geisinger and Brian Kovolisky. We feel like Ryan King, Chris Williams and Josh Eames are going to do a good job there. We'd just like to have them all healthy at the same time and available at the same time so we could sorta solidify what we are doing on that side.
Media: Is it going to go right up to game time in deciding some of these spots on
the depth chart?
Bobby Johnson: No, I'm just telling you all about it. [laughter] We are going to decide but we are going to wait to tell you guys about it.
Media: Do you think you are going to have a pretty good idea before you go over
Bobby Johnson: Oh,Yeah; but we still have two more days of practice. You never know. Some of them may get sick or may not understand the game plan as well. We [coaches] meet with the players and it's part meeting and part quizzing. We want to find out what they know. We feel more comfortable with the guys that know the game plan and know the adjustments. This is no longer a simple game. You've got to know what you are doing out there. If you don't you are going to look bad when people can't adjust to adjustments that the other team is making.
Media: Considering Cutler and the wide receivers . . .
Bobby Johnson: He's going to start. [laughter]
Media: You guys ended the season with some success throwing it around against
Tennessee. Are you guys going to air it out?
Bobby Johnson: We are going to use Jay Cutler to the fullest so that means we are obviously going to throw the football. If you sit back and throw the football all the time, you all know, in the ACC and SEC there are great pass rushers and great defensive coordinators who can do things to you if you are going to be a pass only team. You throw a bunch of passes and probably your pass yards per attempt go way down. We are going to have to run the football, there no doubt about it. The threat of Jay's passing ability will allow us to do that better. We are going to use him to throw it and use him as a threat to throw it and hopefully we can still stay balanced and make people defend everything against us instead of just Jay Cutler.
Media: What makes him [Cutler] so mentally tough? We've seen how physically tough
he is but mentally I'd say you'd like everybody to have that.
Bobby Johnson: He's a competitor, he wants to win, he wants to be successful. He wants to win everyday whether we're in 7 on 7 or team pass or whatever we are doing on the field. Because of that, he knows what's going on. Sometimes if a receiver runs the wrong route in practice he tells them before the coach can get to him. He expects those guys to be at a certain spot and he wants to see them there. That's what you want out of your quarterback, you want him to understand your offense, not just be able to execute it but be able to understand and to almost be thinking on the same terms as the coaches are and he does that. He likes it, he's got a great academic schedule this term; he's going to spend a lot of time watching film and that's what a fifth year does for you.
Media: He a ball room dancer?
Bobby Johnson: He does not. He's taking some real courses.
Media: Last year everybody was talking about bowl games, this sort of thing, at
the start of the season. This year they are being a lot more quiet about that.
Bobby Johnson: I don't know if our guys were talking that much about bowl games. A lot of people were. I don't ever want to squash any enthusiasm that people have or confidence. I want our guys to have high goals and go out and play to win. I think our guys this year are just sorta trying to confidently get ready and just go out and play their game and not have to explain it to anybody before hand and just talk about it afterwards.
Media: How do you stack up in terms of health and depth as compared to the last
three years heading into the opening game?
Bobby Johnson: Depth wise, we are about the same. I don't know if it is ever going to be fantastic at Vanderbilt. We have developed it some and in some places if we can get everybody healthy. The offensive line, even though we've had some outstanding players there we have not had depth. We have a chance to do that this year, we've got Chris Williams coming back; Mack Brown, uh excuse me, Mac Pyle; Mac Brown. God, I'm glad we are not playing with Mack Brown [laughter]. Where did that come from? [laughter]. Mack Brown. Ray Brown, Mac Pyle. Mac Pyle is back. We have a chance if all those guys get healthy at the same time we can have some depth at the offensive line. Moving Herdley Harrison and Curtis Gatewood from linebacker to defensive end gives us more depth there. We've always been a team since I've been here that runs in their defensive lineman quite regularly to try to keep them fresh. Those two will help us a great deal and if we can get Ray back we'll have some kind of depth at the defensive line. Linebacker, the quality is really good. We'll have to adjust if anyone gets tired or injured, Kevin Joyce can always go back to Will side linebacker, Marcus Buggs could play safety if he had to. So we've got some multi positional players that really help depth. Makes it a lot easier on them nickel packages when we go in there . . . dime.
Media: In terms of combating the "here we go again" mentality how important is
the win in order to give the guys some self confidence.
Bobby Johnson: Extremely important. If you lose, it affects you. It's an opportunity that is lost. We've practiced extremely hard for preseason, Wake Forest, you put everything into this game. I don't care if it is the first game, second game or third game; it affects you. It's an investment that your guys have made and your coaches have made and you weren't successful. Human nature says you are going to question yourself a little bit but what you have to do is be organized about it and be realistic and go back address what went wrong and why it went wrong and try to correct it. If you are successful, the same thing; "What did we do that we do that was really good and what could we have done that would have made us a little bit better?" It's always a process where we are evaluating everything whether we win or lose.
Media: Is this a good opener? To get a program that Vanderbilt has dominated in
the three last meetings. Granted you do go on the road but it seems like a team you can
really be confident against.
Bobby Johnson: I think if you look at the recent history, I don't know when the last time we played was, they've had a change. They have a very fine coach who's come in there and built some confidence in their program, they've been to two bowls in I think the last five years. I wouldn't say as a program "we've dominated them" they aren't the same programs. An ACC school from an outstanding conference. It's a school that has the same type of scholastic ideals that we have. I think it's a great opener. It's still going to be tough and we are looking forward to it. If we win it'll be a quality win.