Vanderbilt's Booker: Determined to Succeed

Defensive end Chris Booker has his goals set high going into his senior year. Booker, a red shirt senior, has 20 career starts and returns as one of the strongest components to an ever improving defensive unit. During his junior year Booker posted his career best stats with 3 sacks and 22 solo tackles.

He has worked hard to recover from a knee surgery that kept him out of action during the 2004 season. The young man from Mississippi and his senior teammates have set aspirations on a winning season so that they can leave their mark on the program that they have worked so hard to improve. I was very pleased to sit down with Chris and talk about his thoughts on the upcoming season.

VandyMania.com: With Vanderbilt is coming off its most successful season in 20 years, what are your thoughts about the upcoming season?
Chris Booker: Well last year you know that we had a great start at 4 and 0 and we had a very disappointing stretch losing the next six games all the way to our last game. Then it was exciting beating UT. It was kind of a motivation just missing a bowl game by just one game. We just have to use that motivation to start the next season. We lost players and we kept some players. We have to build up our weaknesses and continue working on our strengths.

VM: I'm sure the team is setting the goal of making it to a bowl this year. What do you think your chances are of attaining that goal?
CB: I think it's pretty good, right now we're working on Michigan and that's our first one. You can't win six games if you don't focus on each one them, one at a time. We're looking at Michigan right now and we feel like we have got a good chance.

VM: How has your off season program been going so far this year?
CB: It's been pretty good, I've got to be here all summer long and I only went home for a week. Our strength coach is working us really pretty hard, getting us ready, getting us fast and getting us strong. I'm definitely in the best shape since I've been here.

VM: Are you in the best shape of your life, and what kind of gains have you had to your strength?
CB: Yes, Definitely. My bench press is at 435 right now and my legs are finally really back. I'm having my first year of being able to work my legs at 100%. Now I'm really able to get some strength on them and I've been working on my speed. I don't really know my forty time right now but it's definitely getting better.

VM: Do you think that defensive line is going to be improved this year with the addition of Coach Logo?
CB: Coach Logo is a great coach, I like the way he teaches. Coach Turner was great coach as well, but I think Coach Logo brings a little something extra to it. It is definitely going to help us out.

VM: How does Coach Logo's approach differ from Coach Turner?
CB: Coach Turner did more of an attack approach defensive line, Coach Logo is more of a read type. You know, find out where you need to go and which way you need to stuff. A lot of teams are mainly using and we're incorporating a little of both to see what works best against the pass and the run.

VM: Who are the some of the defensive linemen that have stood out to you in practice?
CB: Definitely Ray Brown and Theo Horrocks, those two are probably going to be our starting tackles right now. Ray has been here since I've been here, where we were in the first two recruiting classes with Coach Johnson. Those two guys have really stepped up their game. Theo has gained a good bit of weight and gotten a lot stronger. He's healthy now. He had a little bump in the road last year with his knee, but it's going fine. Those two guys on the inside are going to do real well.

VM: In your competition against the offensive line in practice, who has stood out to you in there performance?
CB: I've been really lucky with who I've practiced against in the offensive line. Early in my career I had Justin Giesinger on my side, so I got to take him on all the time, which was fun. Now I got Stamp, whom I feel is better. Definitely Stamper and Hamilton Holliday, who is going to be pretty good too.

VM: What do you think will be the strengths of the defense this year?
CB: Strictly the defense as a whole I would say we have a lot more chemistry. We have some older guys and we didn't lose many seniors and we have some guys that were backups last year that could have easily started and that are now in a starting role. We've been working with them all summer and we worked with them last year and just the chemistry of knowing where they are going to be and what they like to do. You know being able to communicate with actions instead of verbally. I think that the linebackers are going to be a huge strength and I think that the defensive line will be strong too. Our defensive line has been working really hard, you know that we lost David Carter, but we have guys ready to step in. Curtis Gatewood has gained a lot of weight this summer and he's doing really well and the freshman Broderick is going to be able and step in to.


Chris Booker grabs the legs of a Gator runner as Ralph McKenzie arrives to help. (VM/Stan Jones)

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