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Twenty-two Sign Letters-of-Intent to Play Commodore Football; Johnson: Offensive Line, Defensive Back Among Top Targets 2/5/03

Quotes | List of Signees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt celebrated National Signing Day by inking 22 prospects to the Commodore football program, Head Coach Bobby Johnson announced Wednesday afternoon in a press conference on campus.

"We are extremely excited about the young men we have joining our football program," Johnson told media representatives gathered in the McGugin Center.

"We tried to go after the very best players we could find, and we were in a lot of battles for those guys. Obviously, you win some and you lose some, but we are very pleased with the guys who decided to come to Vanderbilt. That's what it is all about. These guys want to be here, and we want them here," Johnson added.

Twelve states are represented in the class that was heavy on offensive line and secondary prospects. Of the 22 signees, 12 were either offensive line or defensive back candidates. "We were thin at both positions last year and lost several players this year. We were pleased with the way we were able to fill those needs," the coach said.

Johnson praised his coaching staff for their effort in securing this class. "This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by our assistant coaches. They did a great job of getting out and working extremely hard to get the Vanderbilt message across. I think David Turner needs credit as our recruiting coordinator," Johnson said.

Returning Commodores will begin preparations for the 2003 season in little more than two weeks when the team's first spring practice is scheduled February 20.

Bobby Johnson Press Conference
‘2003 National Football Signing Day’
February 5, 2003

“We are extremely excited about the young men we have joining our football program. This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by our assistant coaches. They did a great job of getting out and working extremely hard to get the Vanderbilt message across. I think David Turner needs credit as our recruiting coordinator. I think he kept us focused all year long and kept us on track. He had us going in the right direction the whole way.”

“I don’t know what kind of standards you use to judge recruits because it is extremely difficult to do, but we tried to go out and meet some of the needs of our football program. We are very pleased with the guys we have joining our class. Obviously, we wanted to make sure we had guys who could be successful academically and in football. We wanted to get some offensive linemen who could help our depth at that position and at defensive back. If you look at the situation here, we signed six offensive linemen and five defensive backs or guys who can play defensive back, so we are very pleased with that. We are pleased with the way we were able to fill those needs.”

“We got guys from 12 states, which is an indication that the Vanderbilt name is a good one. We are confident when we go out and talk about Vanderbilt football and especially Vanderbilt University, that we can be well received in most parts of the country.”

“We tried to go after the very best players we could find, and we were in a lot of battles for those guys. Obviously, you win some and you lose some, but we are very pleased with the guys who decided to come to Vanderbilt. That’s what it is all about. These guys want to be here, and we want them here. That’s how you start a football program, and we are very excited about these guys coming here.”

How many of these guys do you think will play next year?
“When you look at the defensive backs, we are going to have to find some guys in that group who are going to have to play. Depth is the key thing there. On the offensive line, someone is going to play for depth reasons. We may have some situations where we have a guy who practices with the varsity and travels with the varsity, but we will try to redshirt him.”

What position is the most difficult to project at this level?
"Obviously, one of them is quarterback. You see a lot of can't miss guys that can't get it done at the college level. It is a very demanding position. The other is offensive line. There is a lot of techniques and schemes to learn."

What did you tell prospects about the 2002 season to try and help your chances in the recruiting progress?
“I think the fact that we were in about seven games going into the fourth quarter gave some kind of evidence to some of the recruits that we are able to compete in this league (SEC).”

How much more comfortable was it to recruit this year as opposed to last year?
"Obviously, night and day. We started last Feburary working this class with the complete staff. We were about to search for guys that meet the Vanderbilt profile, seen him in camps over the summer, then watch him in person. Last year, we were scrambling, even though I'm proud of that class. A lot of them helped us and a lot more will help us this year."


Did you use the ESPN ‘No Cursing Policy’ segment in your conversations with potential recruits?
“Bleep yeah!
Actually, someone kidded me that it (no cursing policy segment on ESPN) ran more often than the promotions for The Junction Boys, which was about every other minute. I think it was done tongue and cheek, but I think it showed parents that we were going to treat their young men with respect, and we expect them to act the same way. I feel we got a ton of positive publicity from it. It didn’t quite present it the way I wanted it to because it is not really that big of a deal, but we did get some fine publicity.”

It appears your staff went head-to-head with other SEC schools in this recruiting class.
“Yes, we went head-to-head with a bunch of them. We were in a lot of battles where we defeated a lot of the schools, but we didn’t beat the final one. We felt better about that. We felt like we were attracting players that can compete in this league. Those are the kind of guys we want to target. We did end up getting some of those caliber of athletes in our class. When you go after the very best, you are going to lose some. We got some real good ones.”

It looks like you stressed speed and potential in this class. Is that a fair assumption?
“We are always looking for speed. You have to have the body to compete. You have to have some height. It’s hard to stretch them. You can add weight to them, but you can’t stretch them. You can increase their speed a little bit, but you are not going to increase it a bunch. We wanted to get some guys who could run and who were tall. We are going to let John (Sisk) get them in the weight room, and Majid (Noori) get them in the training room and start getting those guys to add some weight so they can help us a great deal more than they can right now. The heights that you see in our release are pretty accurate because we measured them here on campus. I think we took 13 guys that are 6'4" or better. We definitely wanted some height so we can work with those frames and be able to add some weight. ”

Do you think (basketball coach) Kevin Stallings will want any of those guys?
"No, I think Kevin is doing pretty well right now. We are proud of them."

Coach, how scary is to consider that your future depends on where an 18-year-old decides to go to school?
"Sometimes it's a bit scary. To some guys, it's hard to tell them to think about the next 40 years of their life instead of the next four. But at the same time, I think there are plenty of young men out there that understand the importance of a good education and the value of playing in the SEC. I think we are going to be able to find those guys. I'm more confident that we are going to be able to compete in this conference in football."

 


 







 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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