Brown to Anchor D-Line for Vanderbilt

This fall New Jersey native Ray Brown is set to start his senior season as the anchor of the Vanderbilt defensive line. Brown is projected to start at defensive tackle this fall after the spring workouts. After playing in six games last season and playing in every game his sophomore year Brown returns with the most experience at tackle.

The coaching staff is expecting senior leadership and considerable playing time from Brown this fall. I was very pleased to talk with Brown about his thoughts and reactions on the following issues:

VandyMania: How has the off-season training program been going?
Ray Brown: It's going really well so far, we've got a good number of guys here, I'm not really sure of how many. I think it's around sixty. We're doing really well; we're lifting and running. We have started off stronger than we did last year and the year before that. Everybody has comeback in good shape and we're ready to go.

VM: What has been your weight and strength changes from last season?
RB: I've definitely cut a lot of weight since spring ball. Just playing under Coach Logo's system, he just wants his guys a little quicker. That was something we adjusted when he first came in. I was at about 308 at the time, and he wanted me down. So I went home during May, and I worked my butt of and came back at 290. So I'm doing well with the weight right now.

VM: Are you excited about the upcoming season as well as your senior year?
RB: Absolutely, we've got a great core of guys, everybody's fired up. The D-line is excited to get out and prove ourselves in the new technique and we're just ready to have some fun.

VM: What goals are you, Chris Booker and Kevin Joyce setting for your senior year on the team?
RB: Just defensive wise, we want to have a stronger defense than we have had in previous years. We just want to keep getting better.

VM: Are you ready to be one of the key leaders of the defense this season, and how will you approach this season?
RB: Yeah, I definitely think I'm ready. I'm definitely working hard and I think the guys believe in me, so definitely believe in myself.

VM: With the departure of Ralph MacKenzie, Lamar Divens and Herdley Harrison from the team, what others players are you expecting to make significant contributions this season on the defensive line?
RB: First and foremost, Theo's playing at such a high level, we expect more out of him. Behind him Brandon Holmes and Gabe Hall are going to have big years. They both had great springs, I think especially Brandon raised his level. When Theo was hurt he stepped in and started most of the spring, so he's definitely ready, at the tackle spot. The ends, Curtis Gatewood is definitely going to have a big year, he's working hard and in great shape. Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart are definitely going to have big years as well.

VM: After spring practice and having gone up against the offensive line, do you think that they are going to be improved? Who has stood out to you?
RB: I think so. One surprise I think is Josh Eames. He plays at such a consistent level and such a high skill level and doesn't get as much praise. He's a solid guy that comes every day ready to work.

VM: What has been your initial impression of Coach Logo?
RB: I love his energy. He definitely knows the position, and I feel like that is going to make a difference with us players being able to give him what he wants. We're all excited about the way we get to play now, and just get to have fun.

VM: What do you think will be the strengths and weaknesses of the defense this season?
RB: I think we have a great core of leadership, especially from the linebacker area. Those guys have played a lot and that gives us confidence up front with them behind us. As far as weakness, I think we just got guys that need to step up. I wouldn't call it a weakness, just inexperience.

VM: Are you excited about starting the season on the road for the first two games similar to last year?
RB: I think I'm more excited than I have ever been. I actually got a phone call from my Dad on a lay over in Chicago when it was announced that they were changing our first game to Michigan. I was just fired up and I had to call everybody that I could think of to tell them. I think Theo and Brandon were my first two calls and we were all pumped up about it.

VM: What are your thoughts on the Michigan offense?
RB: I've definitely been watching them some and they're big, but nothing that we don't see every week. I think they're big and they're going to run the ball. They have their plays that they want to run, and they want to start the game on the ground and get it going. We have to shut it down and stop the run.

VM: What do you think is the most improved part of your game after spring practice?
RB: I got stronger, I've gotten a lot stronger and that helps me play a lot stouter against double teams.

VM: What has your strength gains been in the weight room like the squat and bench press?
RB: My squat is like 670, I haven't maxed in a while because Coach doesn't want you to go that high, they don't want you to hurt anything. My bench has went up a little bit, about 20 or 30 pounds. My hang cleans and power cleans have went up about 15 or 20 pounds each. I'm not sure of all the exact numbers, but I think that at the end of spring Brian Stamper had the highest clean on the team.

VM: Is it true that 15 or 16 of the incoming freshmen have already gotten to school and are participating in the training program?
RB: Yeah, they're here, they're fired up and they're working. Everybody's excited, they taking classes and getting used to things right now, learning where everything is and where they need to be. But as far as being on time, everybody is doing what they need to do.

Above, right photo by Brent Wiseman

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