Bobby Johnson: Tough early schedule a plus

HOOVER- The Commodores earned the respect of their Southeastern Conference brethren winning tough road games against Tennessee and Arkansas, while giving South Carolina and Florida everything they could handle in tough Eastern Division losses. Head coach Bobby Johnson will have an early opportunity to impress upon the conference . . .

. . . and the nation that Vanderbilt is indeed a program on the rise, courtesy of a rigorous schedule.

Vanderbilt's early season schedule draw significant attention from the writers gathered at the Wynfrey Hotel for SEC Media Days. Many of the writers were envious that the ‘Dores were traveling to Ann Arbor for the season opener. There are no Directional State U's or Sisters of the Blind played here.

"Michigan, Alabama, both away, then come back to play Arkansas," Johnson said. "I don't know if any team has a tougher three games than we do. It's certainly going to tell us a lot about our football team. It's going to tell us about our quarterback situation- certainly going to be a challenge."

"We were approached by ESPN to play the Michigan game on television, first game of the season," he continued. "We discussed a lot- coaching staff, administration, it went back and forth. There wee some good arguments. But, when we finally decided to do it, you know, everybody's on board. We're a hundred percent behind the decision."

The difficulty of the Commodores schedule won't end with those three early season contests. Several writers rolled their eyes or exhaled a deep sigh at the Vanderbilt road contests. That didn't appear to faze Johnson at all- as he proudly pointed out.

"I think last year we proved that we're not afraid to go to big stadiums away and play," Johnson said. "We played very well at South Carolina. We played very well at Florida. We won at Arkansas. We won at Tennessee. You know, Michigan is a great, great, atmosphere, but I don't think our guys are going to be afraid to go up there."

"If it's any louder than South Carolina and Florida and Tennessee, I'm going t have to get an appointment with an ear doctor when I get back," he said. "Those places are extremely loud. The atmosphere to me is exciting. We don't look at it as bad. We look at it as good. I mean, it's great to be among 108,000 people at Tennessee that are interested., extremely interested, in the outcome of the game. You want to be in those situations. We're not dreading it at all."

It was obvious to a room full of SEC writers that the players are excited and plan on carrying that confidence over from 2005 into Ann Arbor.

"I am so excited about playing Michigan the first game," offensive tackle Brian Stamper said. "It was amazing to see how excited the team was when we found out. We all have been training hard over the summer. We are ready to get started with the season."

Johnson seemingly believes that the players surrounding quarterback Jay Cutler were not given the credit they were due. His belief coupled with an improved recruiting class provides some much needed depth that will be counted on during a twelve game schedule with no open dates.

The feeling among the writers was seemingly that while the Commodores may have improved overall, it is not enough to weather the loss of Cutler. Johnson's ability to pull off road wins in 2006 is not impossible, rather improbable.

Bobby Johnson will need another season of upset wins over the likes of Tennessee and Arkansas to establish himself and the Commodores as potential giant killers. It seems to be a situation in which Johnson thrives upon. Top Stories