Bobby Johnson: Driven to win (part I)

Bobby Johnson is going into territory that no other football coach at Vanderbilt has gone to in over 20 years. While the program has continued to improve each year since the sixth year head coach's arrival, this may be the real test of where the program is at in comparison to the rest of the SEC.

While Johnson's record at Vanderbilt (15-43, 6-34 SEC) doesn't rank as the best in the last 20 years, his consistent improvement has been evident since his first year. He enters the 2007 season with probably the most experienced team since 1982 that appears to be poised to make a strong run at a postseason bowl appearance.

We talked with Coach Johnson about the upcoming season and where he thought his team was in their overall development.

VM: Going into the sixth season as the head coach at Vanderbilt, most people believe that the coach has developed his own program by then. Do you think the program is ahead, behind or on the level that you expected when you came to Vanderbilt?

Bobby Johnson : "I didn't make any goals or expectations that we were going to do.

VM: What are the biggest areas that you feel the team needs to improve on from last year?

Coach Johnson: "Probably consistency. We played well at times and then at other times we let games get away from us that we could have won. I think it's just a consistent level, at a high level, it's got a be in our league but it's got to be consistent. If we can play at a high level but we've got to do it all the time or at least most of the time."

VM: Do you feel like the SEC has improved since you've been at Vanderbilt?

Coach Johnson: "It was excellent when I got here and it has stayed that way. I think it might have improved a little bit. You've got the national championship in Florida and things like that. It was good and it still is."

VM: Where do you think Chris Nickson is in development as compared to Jay Cutler.

Coach Johnson: "I think Chris had a good sophomore year, probably had a better sophomore year than Jay did. I think it depends on how he continues to develop. I think Chris was probably just trying totake care of Chris last year and just make sure he gets through the game. Hopefully now he can develop more and throw some leadership in there and give guidance to our offense. Hopefully he'll take the next step as a complete quarterback and not just an athlete playing quarterback."

VM: What are you expecting out the the receiving corps with the return of Earl Bennett, George Smith and a more experienced Chris Nickson?

Coach Johnson: "It's going to be a challenge for our receiving corps because they are going to do a lot to stop Earl and George. Sean Walker and those guys have to step up and they've got to be ready to perform. I think George has shown he can do it and Sean has shown that he can be a threat out there; made some big plays and some big gains for us. We want him to continue to improve and that'll help Earl and that'll help Chris."

VM: One of of the biggest strengths of this years team is the offensive line with return of all-conference performers Chris Williams and Brian Stamper. What are you expecting out of them and the rest of the offensive line?

Coach Johnson: "Hopefully we are going to improve and be, again, I hate to keep saying that everything is more consistant. We were playing some middle guys when Brian Stamper got hurt last year. We had some young guys over there at right tackle. Hopefully Brian will be ready and, if he needs to be spelled, Thomas Welch and Reilly Lauer will be ready to go, give them quality time over there. I think that is a luxury that we didn't have last year as far as the quality substitutions we could put in there."

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