VandyMania talked with Coach Bobby Johnson, senior wide receiver Dan Stricker, senior center Jamie Byrum, and senior wide receiver M. J. Garrett in the Coliseum locker room after Vanderbilt's 24-0 loss to Tennessee.
COACH BOBBY JOHNSON:
Q: How close was Kwane Doster to being able to play today?
A: Not very close. He did not do well in the warmups. He couldn't turn, couldn't put pressure on his ankle. I don't think it would have been fair to him to put him in there, and might have been dangerous too.
Q: As you look back on the year now, How close was it to what you expected?
A: It was pretty close to what we expected. We knew we were going to struggle all year long, and that we were going to have to battle just to stay in games. I'm very proud of the team. They worked hard, and practiced hard. We've had games where we stayed in the game, where if the team wasn't dedicated to winning, we'd have gotten blown out. But we've got a lot of work to do, no doubt about it. But everybody in the program knows it. It's no secret. We're working hard to turn it around, and I'm confident it's going to be done.
Q: Did you feel like it was going to be really tough today, as handicapped as you were with injuries?
A: We knew it was going to be hard to move the ball today. We went to some short passes just to keep them honest. Running the football without running backs... it's hard to do. You could see when we tried to drop back, we had a hard time holding them out. I guess the fake punt was our best play.
Q: What does the next week hold for you? What tasks have to be done to put a ribbon on this season and move forward?
A: We'll look at this game on film, obviously, and we'll analyze what happened during the season. Most importantly we're going to plan out what we're going to do in recruiting in December. The players are off, so it'll just be the coaches in the office next week. We'll have time just to be together, to sit around and analyze things. We can't go on the road next week, but we can certainly get ready. We're going to be ready to hit the road on Dec. 1 for recruiting.
SENIOR RECEIVER DAN STRICKER:
Q: Could you sum up what you're feeling right now?
A: It's tough to put into words all the things I'm feeling right now. We've had a lot of adversity. It really makes young men into grown men. That's something I can be very grateful for. I've nothing to hold my head down about at all. I've met some terrific fans, and had some really great times here. That's what I think the college football experience is all about. If everyone could have the same experience as me, this would be a really blessed sport. I'm going to be a Commodore for the rest of my life, and hope somehow, some way, that things can get better around here.
SENIOR CENTER JAMIE BYRUM:
Q: Your career is over now. Tell me what's going through your mind.
A: It's tough. I've been here for five years. We haven't had a lot of success. But it's been a great time. I've built some great friendships here. It's been a good run.
Q: What did the coaching staff do, and the seniors do, to prepare yourselves to play this last game today.
A: Nothing out of the ordinary. We just prepared for a normal game. We probably practiced the pass a little more, because we knew we'd have to utilize it a little bit more. I think all the seniors were ready to go. In pregame today, everyone was very excited. But it just wasn't happening.
SENIOR RECEIVER M. J. GARRETT:
Q: Other than the injuries, was there anything else that gave your offense problems today?
A: They came out and played a defense that we really hadn't seen. We'd been practicing all week for a certain defense, and they kind of threw us off. They were jamming the corners a whole lot more than they usually do. So a lot of the routes we'd been practicing all week weren't very effective. Hats off to UT. They played great today.
Q: Thoughts on your career being over?
A: It's unbelievable. I remember when I was a freshman, going up to all the seniors and saying, thanks for everything that you've done. Really, I didn't think it meant that much to them when I said it to them. But it does, and that's what everybody's been doing to all the seniors in there. Now that phase of my life is over. I just have to move on. I believe that all the seniors in this class are still successful, no matter what our record was. We played hard. We finished as many games as we could. So I'm going to keep my head held high.
Q: What do you stress to the young guys? A program doesn't turn around overnight. What's important for them to do?
A: You've got to finish. That's something that, while I've been here, and before I've been here, we've been known for. Getting into the fourth quarter, having a chance, and not finishing. I think a lot of that is mental. I think Coach Johnson and the staff are really going to stress that with the guys. We're going to have to have some wins, get our confidence up. I truly believe we'll do that.
Q: Is Bobby really different?
A: Without a doubt. He has control of his players. In the past, toward the end of the season, a lot of the players-- I won't say they didn't care, but they weren't all in it. This year, everybody was. That's why we've stayed so confident. The last few games we've played great, but today we didn't. But he has a great plan, and he's a great coach.