VandyMania Interview: Bobby Johnson

Bobby Johnson (AP)

Vandy head football coach Bobby Johnson took time out from his busy Media Days schedule last week to go one-on-one with VandyMania's Brent Wiseman. [Part 2 in a series of exclusive reports, interviews and photos from SEC Media Days 2005.]

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VandyMania: Coach, probably the best thing that happened to this team in the off-season was Jay Cutler's decision to come back. I know publicly you always encourage your players to do what's best for themselves... but privately, I would guess you had to be sweating bullets a little bit while he was making his decision, and very excited when he announced he was returning. True?

Jay Cutler (Paul J. Levy / VUAD)
Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson: Yeah, I'll agree with that. I don't know about "sweating bullets"... I was concerned that we might lose Jay, but I knew Jay was going about it in the right way. You know, he was going to look at all the evidence, and if it made sense for him to do it, he would do it. And I agreed with Jay exactly on what happened. I agreed with his decision, I'm glad he came back, and I think this will be the best thing for Jay, and for Vanderbilt football.

VM: What does having a fifth-year senior with Jay's experience allow you to do on offense that you couldn't do if you had a freshman or sophomore?

Coach Johnson: Well, you move right along in practice. It's easy to install your offense in the preseason. Also, it gives your young guys a great model to watch... we get Chris Nickson now as our quarterback, a redshirt freshman, and we say, OK Chris, do it just like Jay does it. It's great for installation, it's great for teaching the young guys, and it's great for our confidence.

VM: Most people think a lot of the season's success rests on how well Jay performs... I know you wouldn't want to think about what might happen if Jay were to go down with an injury or something, but he certainly did last year... and knowing you, I know you have thought about that. What would the backup plan be?

Coach Johnson: Well, our backup plan right now is for Chris Nickson to be our backup quarterback. We've moved Steven Bright [returning junior, last year's No. 2 quarterback] to fullback / H-back. If it got down to it and Jay was hurt for a long period of time, we might have to move Steven back in that situation. But we've got a lot of confidence in Chris. He had a great spring practice and is having a good off-season. He'll be able to go in when Jay gets tired, or gets dinged up a little bit, and hold down the fort until Jay gets back. If it's going to be long-term, like I said, we'll have to go to another plan.

VM: Mackenzi Adams [incoming freshman] would probably be your No. 3 quarterback?

Mackenzi Adams
Coach Johnson: He'd be No. 3. Mackenzi's a great athlete, and proved last year that he's a winner by winning the Oklahoma 6A state championship, and we've got a lot of confidence in Mackenzi. He can run it, he can throw it, he can do it all too.

VM: You had a couple of fourth-year juniors last year who decided to give the NFL a try... that was really the first time Vanderbilt has been that deeply affected by that. Those were some guys that could have helped some this year. Matthew Tant, how do you replace a guy like that? What will happen at fullback this year?

Coach Johnson: Well, we're glad to have the guys we have, and we're going to work hard to get those guys ready to go. People make decisions to leave the program... that's up to them. We wish them the best, but we move on. But that's one reason we moved Steven Bright, because we don't have a lot of people at that position. Steven's going to have a chance to go in there at that position... I think he's bigger than Matthew, and he can run, probably can do a few things that Matthew couldn't. Zach Logan and David Whittington are two redshirt freshmen that we're going to bring along at that position. We think they've got a chance to help us at fullback too.

VM: You have to find two new starting cornerbacks this fall too. Who are your leading candidates there?

Andrew Pace
Coach Johnson: Andrew Pace and Sean Dixon. I feel very good about both of those. Andrew is such a steady performer, and that's one thing we needed to do, is have steady play at corner. The last three years we've been up and down, making some good plays and then making some bad plays. So I think we'll be much steadier there [at Pace's corner position]. Sean Dixon has got a lot of talent too. Backing them up will be Josh Allen and Jared Fagan.

VM: Are Theo Horrocks and DeMarcus Bradley in good standing with the team right now?

Coach Johnson: Theo will be. I don't know about DeMarcus right now. A lot of things still have to happen for him.

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