View from the locker room

VandyMania talked with linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, receiver Dan Stricker, safety Justin Giboney and receiver Brandon Smith Saturday immediately after Vanderbilt's 31-6 loss to Auburn.

Linebacker HUNTER HILLENMEYER was unofficially credited with eight tackles, three of them for loss.

Q: Tell me about the defensive game plan for Auburn. Obviously you had to stop Cadillac number one, but how did the coaches approach that with you?

A: When you've got a great back-- and we'll face a lot that are just as good this year as he is-- you just have to emphasize breaking down, and making sure you wrap up. We missed a few tackles that were very costly today. There's no pointing fingers, just everybody didn't make the plays. If somebody missed a tackle, you should have somebody else there to wrap up and get him down. We didn't do a good enough job of that today. The problem with crowding the box and trying to stop him the way we did is that, if he does break through there, there's nobody back there. We had a good game plan, but we've got to watch the film and see what we did wrong.

Q: Are you enjoying the scheme more this year, or did you like it better last year when you had those four linebackers?

A: Obviously it takes some getting used to, a new scheme. I like it. I'm emotionally involved at middle linebacker. It takes some getting used to, but I do think we're improving. That first game was not pretty. We played better last week. It might have been a small step back this week, but we did a lot of things right. Hopefully we can build on those.

Q: After three games, you know, occasionally you'll have a guy out of position-- how much of that is due to the fact that it's an all-new scheme?

A: I really think we know the scheme as well as if we'd been doing it for a lot of years. You're going to have misalignments. Mental errors can be costly, but I don't think we had a lot of them in this game. We just missed too many tackles. We were in the places to make the plays. Our defense really didn't play THAT bad-- I'm talking like we just got KILLED. We only gave up 17 points. Their defense made big plays. We've got to see what we did wrong, and get ready to move on.

Q: You had one pretty good hit there on the quarterback toward the end. I enjoyed watching that one.

A: Yeah, basically it was a good call by the coaches. I didn't even get blocked. That's a linebacker's dream to come clear and grab the quarterback. I think he dropped the ball. When you come completely free like that, you're not doing anything especially right-- that's just the coaches.


Receiver DAN STRICKER had three catches for 33 yards, and one carry for one yard on an end-around.

Q: Dan, in the first quarter you had an almost-catch in the end zone. Was that one that, in your mind, you should have had?

A: Definitely. Any ball that's thrown near me, I expect to catch it. I felt like I should have had it. That's just the way it goes sometimes. You can't reflect on it. You've just got to move forward and play again through adversity.

Q: Last year I remember you had some comments about [the dirty ploy of] the Auburn secondary. Were they a little more gentlemanly this year?

A: They were. They had a couple of new DB's this year, and they were very sportsmanlike. It was a good environment to play in today, other than the rain.


Safety JUSTIN GIBONEY blocked a field goal, and was credited unofficially with nine tackles.

Q: There weren't too many highlights today, but to block a field goal the way you did, that had to feel good.

A: Yeah, we saw earlier in the week that they had a little crack there, and I thought I might be able to exploit that and take advantage of it, and we got that opportunity.

Q: In practices this week, have you been working hard on special teams and things like blocking kicks?

A: We didn't really do anything differently. Coach just tells us to keep going hard. It's not a time to take a play off on those field goals. You just keep on going hard, and sometimes good things happen.

Q: I notice he's putting some fast guys on the edge like Walthour, Dominique and you on that kick-block team.

A: Yeah, definitely, you want to get your fast guys out on the edge who can try to get around the corner and try to make a play.


Wide receiver BRANDON SMITH had four receptions, a career high, for 58 yards.

Q: You caught four balls today, and were the team's leading receiver. Tell me which one you enjoyed the most.

A: It was just routine, just like practice. You've gotta catch the ball with your hands. My best catch, I guess, was the one where I broke that tackle and got upfield.

Q: You guys showed a three-wide receiver set against Auburn, with you as the third receiver. Is that something that was put in just for this game?

A: No, we've been running three-wide, four-wide throughout practice. We just never got around to putting it in in a game. We kind of wanted to get to that for today's game plan, so I guess we did.

Q: Was the game plan to throw the ball a little more today?

A: I think so. We showed a little more of our passing game this week. Hopefully we'll continue to do that next week. But we'll just take them as they come. Top Stories