VandyMania obtained this exclusive interview with football coach Bobby Johnson at SEC Media Days Wednesday in Birmingham.
VandyMania: I want to take you back to the coaching search late last year. It leaked out that you were the front-runner for the Vandy job... then you won another game... then you won ANOTHER game... before they finally hired you. Talk about what that was like for you-- what was going on behind the scenes.
Bobby Johnson: To tell you the truth, I didn't know I was the guy at that stage. It was probably a little later that I knew for sure. I was trying to concentrate on competing for a national championship at Furman, but trying to answer questions from the Vanderbilt people when I had the opportunity. I think I did a pretty good job of giving my best effort to Furman. But when Vanderbilt people did call me... they were great about it. They always came to me-- I never had to travel. They made everything convenient. Todd Turner did a great job of saying, I DO NOT want to affect your team at Furman. He did a great job, and I appreciated that very much.
VandyMania: You come into Vanderbilt two days before Christmas, and suddenly you have to hire a staff and put together a recruiting class. Take me through a little bit of that.
Bobby Johnson: Oh, those days were really hectic. The bad thing was that it was a dead period. You couldn't go out, and they couldn't go in. You could only call them once a week. That went on for a week and a half. We were really hindered in our recruiting effort there, but it did give me an opportunity to concentrate on hiring a staff. We were able to get Bruce Fowler and Ted Cain immediately from Furman, and soon after that Jimmy Kiser and Warren Belin and Robbie Caldwell joined, and really ran the recruiting effort last year.
VM: The press is going to announce its picks for the SEC East tomorrow. Vanderbilt is almost undoubtedly going to finish...
BJ: Number one?
VM: Sixth, I would guess.
BJ: Oh, OK.
VM: Does that bother you, or is that something you can use to motivate your team.
BJ: I won't even try. They can read. They're very smart guys. They can see what people's expectations are. What we try to emphasize are the positive things-- our expectations, not others' expectations. I take it all with a grain of salt. I don't take it very seriously at all.
VM: How is your coaching staff going to address special teams this year?
BJ: There is one coach in charge of every special team. But each coach has the ability to pick any other coach on the staff, or all of them, to run that team. If he wants all of them, he can do it. For instance, Warren Belin is going to be coaching our kickoff team. He can ask me to help him, he can ask Coach Cain to help him, or Coach Fowler, etc. So we're going to give every bit of attention to that team. And every coach has that option. And I think that tells your players that we're very serious about special teams.
VM: Let me ask about a couple of players and their status with the team. Jason Tant?
BJ: Jason Tant will not play.
VM: Brandon Walthour, I hear, is on track to be eligible, correct?
BJ: As far as I know right now. And I'm proud of Brandon, because he has worked extremely hard. He had to take a lot of hours to become eligible. He did that without neglecting any of his football obligations. He made all the workouts, and all the spring practices. He did everything that was expected, both in the classroom and out of it. So I'm proud of Brandon.
VM: He has quite a bit of ability too, right?
BJ: I think he does. We're going to find out more and more about that, but he had a good spring. He's going to get better and better.
VM: I saw where Chuck Folino had come back after not being here in the spring.
BJ: Correct. Chuck had some health problems and didn't feel like he could go through spring practice, and really had to decide whether he could even play football. But he is a kicker who has some experience, and actually made some good plays for us last year. So it's good to have him available.