VandyMania: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your summer?
Dan Stricker: My summer's been really busy. My typical day starts with going in to work about 9:00. I work for Backfield in Motion [a non-profit summer camp program operated by a number of former Vanderbilt players]. What I've been doing is trying to set up a computer program in their community center, and show them how to use computers. I do that until noon, then go grab some lunch. I go to therapy at 2:00 for a little shoulder rehab. Then we run at 4:00, and lift at 5:30. We have different runs that we do on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Of course, on Friday we've been having 5:30 a.m. workouts. And Wednesday we do the 7-on-7 drills with the Tennessee State team on the rec fields at 4:00. We keep pretty busy. I think just about everybody, except for one or two guys, is in town. We're doing a lot of good work.
VM: In one of these workouts with TSU, how many Vandy players would you have on a typical day?
Stricker: Well, you have to remember that it's 7-on-7, so that excludes the linemen. The linemen come up and do their own workouts at the same time, and when they finish, they watch. But on any given day I'd say there might be 55 to 65 Vandy guys there, and maybe 35 to 40 TSU guys there.
VM: Are you actually playing a game against TSU? Are you keeping score?
Stricker: We try to give TSU the benefit of every doubt. If it's a questionable first down, we give them a second down. We're just out there to get good work in. We're really not worried about scores-- generally we win by a few touchdowns. We're just working on techniques, making sure everyone has their assignments and is running the right routes, that the quarterback is making the right reads. Defensively, it's making sure they have their man coverages and their zone coverages down.
VM: Do you have a couple of true freshmen that work out with you?
Stricker: Yes, we have a handful-- a couple of DB's and a couple of wideouts. They're getting pretty good work in for the summer so far. They take more "mental" reps when we play than the actual physical reps. They're just trying to learn the system and see how things are done. When they can they get in there and try to do their best too.
VM: With you being a captain, do you tell the others what to do? Who takes charge in these informal workouts?
Stricker: On Wednesdays it has to be totally the players-- coaches, strength coaches can't have anything to do with football. So the captains basically schedule the TSU scrimmages. I call the plays on offense, and Rushen [senior defensive back and captain Rushen Jones] calls the coverages on defense. It works out well.
VM: Tell me about your shoulder rehab. Would you say you're 100% yet?
Stricker: I'm not 100%, but I'm well beyond the expected point of recovery. It's been only three months since my surgery, and my strength is about 90% there. I've been running routes full-speed and catching full-speed. It's not going to be an issue at all during camp. I'm going to do everything everyone else is doing. I'm right back in the flow and haven't missed a beat.
VM: That happened during spring practice, right? Did you separate the shoulder?
Stricker: We have to keep some of that [medical] information from the public now. But it was an injury that required surgery, and basically, I had aggravated my shoulder in years past, and it was the type of injury that could have gone without surgery, but I'd aggravated it so many times that my ligaments were loose. So they just went in there and did some arthroscopic surgery-- pretty minor for a shoulder surgery. They just tightened up my ligaments. The doc says my therapy has been going so well, that I've just been flying through everything. We just wanted to make sure I wouldn't have a repeat during the season. If it had been a major surgery, we probably wouldn't have done it, because I would have been out a few weeks during the season. So we went ahead and got it done. It was pretty much insurance that I'd be 100% by Georgia Tech.
VM: You and Greg Zolman had a special thing going on-- it seemed like you could almost read each other's minds. Is it going to be a lot different this year with the two new guys?
Stricker: It's a little different, for a few reasons. First, we're all learning a new offense, and we all have had the same amount of time to learn it. In the past we already knew all the plays, how to run the routes and make the adjustments. This summer's been more of a teaching session more than anything else, so that we get everything that we need to get done covered. The quarterbacks have to think hard about what their reads are before they do any certain pass, just because no one's really familiar with the offense. It just takes a little more time before they feel comfortable with the passing game. We've made great progress this summer, and I think we're just going to roll right into camp.
VM: How would you say the quarterbacks are progressing, compared to, say, where Zolman was last year?
Stricker: Zolman was, of course, a veteran. Everyone knew he'd be poised in the pocket, and would make the reads he was taught to. These two young guys are, to say the least, unproven athletes. They have great talent. Both of them have very strong arms and are accurate passers. We've just got to go to camp and make them feel more comfortable with what they're doing, and get the rest of the offense more comfortable with what they're doing. They need time to prove themselves-- 15 practices in the spring just won't allow that. But I think by the end of camp we'll be on a really good rhythm and be ready for Georgia Tech.
VM: Every year there's a lot of talk about the attitude really changing. A skeptic might look at that and say, well, yeah, they say that every year. But from your perspective, is it really different this year, with the new staff and everything?
Stricker: Well, I can take you back to Woody's second season. We had a lot of high expectations back then. We had some good athletes back then, but you know, in working as a team and playing as a team, we've really progressed. Woody did a great job of recruiting great athletes. Once we got these new coaches, it changed things a little bit. But the attitude is, we're still building on something great. I think every year since I've been here the attitude has gotten better. People are working harder. And it does show on the field. From an offensive standpoint, last year we averaged about 400 yards of offense every game. That's just a mountain ahead of where we were when I was a true freshman. So you can see that we're building on something great, and I think these coaches can take us where we want to go. You can always look back on the films and say, just a play or two here or there. Just in our first two games last year we had a dropped touchdown pass in the end zone against MTSU. We had a couple of big missed field goals against Alabama and Auburn. Against Georgia we didn't get in the end zone three times when we were inside the 5. If you take those plays and really execute, we're winning those games. Instead of 5-6 like we were three years ago-- we had a fumble on the 25-yard-line-- you can pick out one play in almost every game that would really turn it around for us. I don't know if they could say that in previous years. I know the record's been pretty much the same, 3-8 and 2-9. But I think if we can just get over the hump of those couple of plays, we're going to start winning a lot more games. I think the coaches' desire to get over that hump is going to be shared by the players. I really believe we can make those plays this year, and I think the team does too.
VM: What can fans expect from this new offense?
Stricker: We're going to spread it out. We're going to be very multiple, as we have been in years past. We may run the ball a little bit more than we have. At the same time we have great playmakers at the receiver position... and we have unproven running backs. So perhaps we will throw it as much as we did under the Crosby offense. But I know that Coach Johnson really wants to get the ball in the hands of players who can make plays.