Monday, August 25, 2008

Vanderbilt football notebook

Just got back from Vanderbilt's first weekly press conference and here's a look at what we learned from coach Bobby Johnson.

And the quarterback is...

As expected, Johnson did not say whether Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams would get the nod in Thursday's season opener at Miami of Ohio.

"We’ve got another important day of practice today and we’ll probably make a decision right after that," Johnson said.

Tonight's practice could be critical in determining the starter.

"We’re going to put them up against Miami of Ohio’s defense out there as best we can show it, and we’re going to make reads today and we’re going to make decisions today and we’re going to throw the ball today," Johnson said.

While Johnson did not plan to wait this long to name a starter, he said he is not surprised given the two quarterbacks' similarities.

"I kind of thought it would come this way because I think, again, they’re very capable," he said. "Both guys have done it in the past, both guys have played extremely well for us in the past, and I expected it to be a tough battle."

"I think both guys know they’re capable of running our offense, and they’ve done it before, and they’re both very confident," Johnson added.

Johnson said he plans to stick with a starter during the regular season, since it's important that one quarterback receives the majority of reps in practice. At the same time, he added that they're going to be prepared for all four quarterbacks to play.

"I think that’s the luxury that we have with two quarterbacks, and actually all four," Johnson said. "We don’t have to have a separate game plan for any of them. We can get them in the game and they can execute our game plan without having to make any major changes."

Vandy won't underestimate opponent

Johnson knows his squad isn't going to take Miami lightly, even with South Carolina on the horizon.

"Anybody on our schedule can beat us and we can beat anybody on our schedule," he said. "We have to plan to play well, and that’s what we’ve been preaching to our guys, all the little things – taking care of the ball, no penalties, be great on special teams – we’ve got to be good at right off the bat."

"I don’t care who they are, what conference they’re in, they’re tough," Johnson said. "I think it’s been proven a bunch here in the last few years that anybody can beat anybody. Appalachian (State)-Michigan, Louisiana whoever (Monroe) beating Alabama, it’s hard to win games. You’ve got to be ready to go every week."

Thursday night trade off

The fact that Vanderbilt plays back-to-back Thursday night games on ESPNU and ESPN, respectively, to start the season does not come without a price.

"Two Thursday night games really makes you think it out a little bit," Johnson said. "We’re running around saying, ‘Well today is Monday but it’s actually Wednesday’ and the next thing you know you think it’s Christmas. It is different, especially now that school has started."

Different does not necessarily mean bad, Johnson said.

"It’s not that bad if you do a little planning," he said. "We’ll have to practice next weekend. Saturday, you think you’re playing, but no, you’re not playing, you’re practicing. But, we appreciate the opportunity to go out and play two Thursday games and be on ESPNU this week and ESPN the next week. That is exposure for our program and we’re willing to pay the price of doing that."

Three more observations

1. Regarding the offensive line, Johnson said, "I think we’re more athletic there and hopefully that’s going to mean that as soon as we get those guys some experience, we’ll be just as good or better on the offensive line.

2. Johnson is expecting big things from running back Gaston Miller, who redshirted last season after playing sparingly as a true freshman in 2006. "Over that time, he’s gotten stronger, he’s improved his pass protection, he’s just as fast," Johnson said.

3. A number of true freshmen will contribute on Thursday: wide receiver Jon Cole, safety Sean Richardson, cornerback Casey Hayward and defensive tackles Ryan Seymour and Rob Lohr.

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