VandyMania.com: With going into your senior year after being voted team captain, how are you approaching this year different than the last three years?
Brian Stamper: Well, being a captain you just obviously have a lot more of a leadership role. Which you know that I'm so honored to have, and I welcome. I'm excited and ready to step up as a leader and honored that my teammates have voted me to that position. I'm definitely going into the season with that on my mind, because when your teammates vote you captain they are looking to you as a leader, so I'm trying to be that role model and leader for them. You know that we have Michigan for our first game as a great way to start off our season, and of course we're all preparing for that.
VM: What are you thoughts about starting the season with such a high profile opponent like Michigan?
Stamper: It's amazing, we are so excited about it. It's probably the biggest team that we have ever started a season off with. We get to play against another great conference playing against the Big Ten, a totally different style of football. It's going to be great to get to play against a team like that. You know with just the kind of buzz that is going on around here is just pure excitement. We are in there watching film on them every chance we get preparing for them as best as we can. We are definitely excited about it.
VM: How has the off-season training been going in comparison to your previous three years?
Stamper: We are far surpassing conditioning and training anything I seen before. We know for an opponent like Michigan we definitely have to step up our game, and that something we have been doing during the off-season. It started in the spring, we have broken all of our strength records and all of our speed drills. We have them up on the wall and we have almost broken all of those and we have continued to break more this summer. We had at least all of our starters up here all summer except one week that we took of for a little break. We've been up here working out, working hard, everyday. We also get together outside the required time, which we expect to do and get together when we don't have to. Because we are playing such a high profile opponent like Michigan our first game, we have to step up our game and I think we have been doing that very well.
VM: With you being the anchor of the offensive line, who are the guys that you are expect to step up this year?
Stamper: Everybody that is going to be starting this year has experience, we don't have the set five, but we have five or six guys that are going to be getting a lot of playing time. They all have game experience, which is great and we aren't throwing any new guys in the fire. I'm not saying that we might not have to, but we got a lot of guys like Hamilton Holliday. He played as a freshman and this is going to be his third year starting. We expect big things out of him this year since he got a lot of experience. Chris Williams our left tackle has improved greatly since he came here, he's always been a great player, he has great feet and a big body so we are expecting big things out of him. Josh Eames is another experienced guy, Merritt Kirchoffer one of our guards and Elliot Hood. They all have had experience and we are expecting big things out of them. Because you know that they are not rookies anymore, nobody is a rookie anymore, everybody is past that. Coach Caldwell says that "you're not a rookie anymore", so you know once you get that first couple of plays out on the field you're not a rookie anymore. So he expects us to get in there and play like a four year veteran.
VM: In your competition against the defensive line, what players have stood out to you in practice, and who do you expect to be major contributors this fall?
Stamper: We have Theo Horrocks who will be on the D-line, he started out at d-end and they moved him in to d-tackle. He's very powerful and really aggressive when he gets in there and he gets stuff done. You can tell when he's out there playing he just loves playing and that's a huge factor and that he's a great football player on top of that. So I think he's going to be kind of the anchor of the D-line, and kind of keep them all together. The D-line has a lot of experience coming back. Chris Booker will be here his fourth year, so we expect big things out of him, he's definitely been improving. The newer guy, Curtis Gatewood, moved from linebacker and he has gained some weight. You look at him and he's just a physical specimen, so we are definitely going to be looking for big things out of him this year. He's really, really quick off the edge so I'm excited to watch him. We have another D-tackle, Gabe Hall who is a pretty big guy, he has gotten into the weight room and lost some weight. He probably works out about three hours a day, he's in there starting with the first group and finishes when the second group is coming in. It's great to see guys in there just working hard, working their butts off getting ready for the season.
VM: Who do you expect to be the leaders of the offense this year coming out of the spring drills and who are some of the players that we might not have been hearing of much yet?
Stamper: I think Chris Nickson is doing a huge job stepping in after Jay. He's been in here just working his butt off, whether it's been in the film room, he's been in there on his own just watching film on Michigan, or out here throwing with receivers. Because we had Jay, he didn't get that much game experience. He's been in there trying to make up for that, by watching all that extra film and having our receivers go against our defense who are rotating like they are going to rotate and certain schemes. He's been in here running and getting as much experience as he can without having had the game experience. I think he's putting in a lot of hard word work and you will be hearing a lot about him, because he's such a gifted athlete and a natural leader. Marlon White, one of our receivers, is going to be a standout. One that you might not have heard as much about is George Smith; he got in later in the season and did a lot of great things for us. He stepped up when we needed him to and had a great catch over one of the Tennessee db's that gained a lot of yards for us. He going to be a big standout now, and of course Earl. Then at running back one of our redshirt freshman Jared Hawkins is a really fast and explosive kid who I think will be able to step in there and do some stuff for us. I'm just naming a few guys because I can't think of anybody that won't be hearing about because we are all in here working hard to get ready for the season. We all expect such big things out of our selves, I just think it's going to be great to see everybody and I am just excited about the year.
Senior captain and Outland Trophy candidate Brian Stamper stands ready to lead Vanderbilt football to the next level. (VM/Stan Jones)