Vanderbilt Football Head Coach Bobby Johnson Weekly Press
September 2, 2002
Coach Bobby Johnson's Opening Statement
We're certainly disappointed in the way the Georgia Tech
game came out, but we're even more determined to try to get
better as a football team. We had a good practice yesterday
(Sunday). I think our guys are focusing on what we need to
do. I think it was a situation where we were playing a pretty
good football team and just did not react well enough to the
adversity we faced in the second quarter. When you give up
31 points in a quarter, it is going to be hard to play with
confidence in the second half. I was proud of the way they
came back and did not quit. We're just trying to get better,
and see if we can be a little more efficient when we play
Q: Can you discuss the Furman ties, especially head
coach Bobby Lamb?
A: Bobby was a great quarterback at Furman University,
and he was the son of a great high school coach in the state
of Georgia, Ray Lamb. He has had football in his family and
his blood for a long, long time. You could tell that when
Bobby played that he understood the game and he knew what
was going on. He stayed on right after he graduated as a graduate
assistant and actually helped me coach the defense for a year
and of course moved over to offense as soon as we could make
that change. He was our passing-game coordinator ever since
I was head coach. Obviously, I think they made a good choice
when they chose him.
Q: Have you talked to the Furman staff since you got
A: We talked a lot when we first made the change. We
tried to help each other out. After the season started, we
Q: What do you think Jay (Cutler) learned from the
Georgia Tech game?
A: Obviously, his (Jay's) first college game is a big
step. After making the decision to have him start over a guy
who is older, he was probably under a great deal of pressure.
I think, for the most part, he did a pretty good job. Obviously,
there were some errors that we've got to get corrected. That
just takes experience. I talked to Jay after the game, and
asked him what was the speed like? He said it was a lot quicker
than in practice. I said, did you see everything, did you
see the reads, and the things we were asking you to look for?
He said yes, I could do that. He did make some good checks
and got us in the right place a couple of times. He missed
some open receivers, but it is pretty typical for a first
start for a quarterback.
Q: Did you have any thoughts after the game of changing
A: He (Jay) is still the starter.
Q: How did Benji (Walker) do?
A: Benji did well. Benji is athletic, came in and ran
some options, and got us some good plays off the option fake.
He made a good throw to Grant Brigham. Benji is going to be
an important part of our offense, an important part of our
team. He knows that.
Q: What are Furman's biggest strengths?
A: I think Furman's biggest strength is that they expect
to win the football game. They expect to win, and they have
been winning for years. I think since 1978, they have averaged
eight wins a year. They expect to win no matter who they play.
X's and O's, I think you start with their quarterback, Billy
Napier. He's the son of a high school football coach. He's
been around the game forever, and he stayed in our camp for
years-and-years. When Billy got to Furman, he already knew
our offense. He's a steady player, and will do the right things
for you almost all the time. So, I think he is the leader
of their offense. The running game is very sound. They have
three good tailbacks who came in for Louis Ivory when he was
injured last year and proved that they could play. They also
have some good wide receivers. Bear Rinehart, Isaac West,
Brian Bratton, James Thomas all have played in big games and
made big plays.
Q: Will Furman be fired up, trying to beat their former
A: They will be fired up. They want to beat us in the
worst way. I don't think there is any animosity, they just
want to prove they can beat a 1-A team. They are going to
be convinced that they can beat us.
Q: During the Georgia Tech game, did you have any thoughts
of why this was happening to us (team)?
A: I don't think it was 'here we go again' as much as 'why
is this happening to us.' I don't think there was any finger
pointing or blaming of anybody. They were looking at each
other asking 'why is this happening.' There were a number
of reasons and we can all figure it out. We weren't protecting
the ball, weren't getting good field position. We were playing
fairly well and we got some tough breaks. They catch the punt
on the 1-yard-line, then get it on our 38-yard line. It takes
them12 plays to get in after two great catches. That guy just
made a great one-handed catch, but we were close to making
some big plays ourselves, but we just didn't make them.
Q: Since you were the Furman head coach, will you
feel as prepared for this game as any you have ever coached?
A: I know their personnel very well. Being prepared
for a game doesn't always mean you know their personnel. It's
getting your players ready, that's the key. We know what plays
they run, and they know what plays we run. Being able to execute
them and play against them is the key.
Q: Do you expect them to open up their offense?
A: "They may, but they have some good running
backs. They're not going to be afraid to try and run the football.
They have a good offensive line and running backs. After looking
at the Georgia Tech film, I'm sure they think they can run
Q: How do think Furman compares to Vanderbilt talent
A: Very close. In some positions, they are more athletic.
Q: Can you talk about the kicking positions for Vanderbilt?
A: Greg Johnson is our punter and averaged 42 yards
even though the first two kicks were maybe below average.
I think he is going to be a great punter for us. I made the
decision to have Greg kick the field goals because Chuck (Folino)
had kicked previously in a college game and I wanted to get
Greg a chance to kick in front of people. I thought he made
two good kicks. The second one was drilled from 37 yards and
would have been good from 57 yards. He has a powerful leg,
but he has to get more consistent.
Q: What are you going to do at right guard?
A: Everybody is going to have to learn two positions.
They are going to have to play guard or tackle, and we are
going to move up Steven Brent at center and Mack Pile to tackle.
They are going to have to be ready to play. We played a bunch
of players Saturday. We had five starters who were redshirt
freshmen, and we took 11 true freshmen and played 10 of them.
Q: Do you think the players will have a special sense
of urgency this week when they face Furman?
A: I hope we have a sense of urgency every week, no
matter who we are playing. We need to win the next one we
play. You have the SEC coming up, and you just don't look
down that lineup and see a couple of sure wins. We want to
win every game we play, and the only one we can win now right
is the Furman game."
Q: Considering the lack of winning in Vanderbilt's
history, how are you going to sell kids on coming to the university?
A: The past history of the program is really our only
negative. We have a great school, great city and great conference.
We have a chancellor that is committed to excellence. We're
trying to convince guys that they can come here and help us
early. So far we've had some success. There are a lot of guys
who like what they at Vanderbilt. The trick is getting them
here to Nashville. We feel like we have a lot to offer them.
We have been encouraged and not discouraged at all.
Q: What will be your emphasis at practice this week?
A: Fundamentals, tackling and make sure we execute
properly. We had a chance for some really big plays against
Georgia Tech, and we just didn't execute. We've got to get
everybody to do what they are suppose to do on the field,
and doing it as hard and as fast as they can, and just see
if we can get better.
Q: What was your feeling after the Georgia Tech outcome?
A: My first year at Furman, we went 3-8 and I didn't
enjoy it at all. Even when we went 12-3, I didn't like the
games we lost at all. I never like it. We're going to work
as hard as we can possibly work, and fight as hard as we can
possibly fight. That's all we can do.