The Vanderbilt Commodores began their game week preparation on Monday with the programs weekly press conference for the greater Nashville media. Head coach Bobby Johnson addressed several for a 30-minute presser, highlighting several things about the Commodores win over Miami last Thursday as well as his thoughts on preparing for the SEC home opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The following is a summary of what Johnson as well as Commodores Ryan Hamilton and Sean Walker had to say to the members of the media on Monday.
Coach Johnson's Opening Statement:
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"We are very pleased with our victory on the road over Miami last Thursday. I thought the first game was a good test for us and we had to overcome some adversity right off the bat with the fumble. We made some big plays and we did a good job of protecting the lead in the second half. The competition is going to pick up. This is a huge game for us to play South Carolina on a Thursday on ESPN. We are extremely excited about the opportunity and it's just right around the corner."
His thoughts on the offenses performance against the Redhawks:
Johnson: "I think our offense played well. I mean if we would have had to throw it more, we would have. We were running the ball and had some big plays to get the lead. I don't care who you are playing against; you play to win the game, not to get more yards. We were trying to run out the clock,so keeping the ball on the ground was what we did."
His thoughts on D.J. Moore's versatility:
Johnson: "He just knows how to play football. He just has that knack of knowing where the ball is going. Against Miami he had an interception, a sack, a long punt return and he tackled real well, so he can do it all. D.J. is different than most of the players that I have ever seen. He is one of those players where you don't have to remind him that the quarterback is going to read this and then go to that. He has it down the first time you tell him. I know one thing, he is a lot of fun to have on your football team."
On Myron Lewis' improvement as well as teams possibly scheming away from Moore:
Johnson: "Well I think Myron has gotten better and better. He did a fantastic job in man coverage versus Miami and that allowed us to run some defenses where we could get some people in the box to stop the run. Myron not only plays well on defense but he also did well on punt return. He's the guy that man's up the gunner on the outside and he kept him from making the tackle. He is really starting to become a complete player. One reason people don't notice him as much is because D.J. lines up on the other side. He is a physical specimen."
Thoughts on last year's game against the Gamecocks:
Johnson: "We did play well. We executed well on defense and we put some pressure on South Carolina's offense. Then when we got the ball away from them, our offense capitalized several times. We got just enough points because we didn't get the ball in the end zone in the second half. We were disappointed with that. We went into that game upset because we thought we should have beaten Georgia the week before, so our guys went into South Carolina and played hard. I was real proud of our team's effort. Sometimes you have to step up and say, "we didn't win last week, but we're going to do something about it this week."
On the importance of the game against the Gamecocks this year:
Johnson: "It's the second game on our schedule and that is the way our team is treating it. We know we are playing a quality opponent in South Carolina. I've said to our team that we have to play well every game if we want to win. You have to go at it every week and we had to play well against Miami last week to win."
Thoughts on South Carolina's defense:
Johnson: "That was impressive. N.C. State had the ball several times with good field position but South Carolina's defense went out there and snuffed them. That really put a stop to all of the momentum that N.C. State was building in the first half. The South Carolina defense played with a lot of confidence. They play a lot of man defense and crowd the line of scrimmage. Their defensive line is very aggressive and they get up field with good penetration. Our offense had a little problem with that last week against Miami so it will definitely be a challenge for our offense to meet USC intensity.
"I'll tell you Emanuel Cook might be one of the best tacklers that I have ever seen in college football. He does a form tackle everytime he brings somebody down. If somebody gets by their defensive line and linebackers he seems to always be there for the big hit. Captain Munnerlyn is a great cover corner and a very dangerous kick returner. I think their entire defensive line is athletic and like I said before, they really get off the ball. Linebacker Eric Norwood has a great knack for the ball. He is sort-of like D.J. Moore, if the ball is somewhere you can find Norwood there."
Thoughts on South Carolina's receivers, an All-SEC performer Kenny McKinley in general:
Johnson: "South Carolina has excellent schemes and excellent receivers. Kenny McKinley and Dion LeCorn and all their skill players can light you up. We've got to be ready to play. I don't have to tell my team that they need to be ready to go Thursday because they know that Kenny McKinley is that good."
On South Carolina's uncertainty at quarterback, and scouting possibly three different players at that position:
Johnson: "I don't know because I haven't seen one of them. We played against one of them last year and the other one I have seen on film. We're going to do what we do and I think that is one of the best things our football program has done the last couple of years. We have our defensive scheme and we stick to it. We're playing faster and are bringing more pressure and I think it has paid off for us. We're going to do the same things no matter who is playing quarterback."
Commodores starting free safety Ryan Hamilton on the Miami victory and the upcoming contest against the Gamecocks:
Hamilton: "It was a good win, I think it was really good for the team. It's always great to start out 1-0 but I think we all know that we've got to keep it rolling. Last week's over and we're probably going to have to play better with playing in the conference this week. I think we're all happy, but we've already got our game faces on for this week."
Hamilton on South Carolina all-conference receiver Kenny McKinley:
Hamilton: "He's a good player, they try to get him the ball as good as they can and we know that. We know that wherever he's at, he's there for a reason, so we're definitely going to keep our eyes on him. I think if we do a good job of limiting him getting the ball, I think we'll be in good shape."
Vanderbilt senior wide receiver Sean Walker's thoughts on South Carolina:
Walker: "South Carolina's a great team, we know that we have to come out here and bring our A game on every play. It's going to be a lot different than the Miami of Ohio game because they are a great SEC team and the SEC is on a whole other level. I feel like our offense has been so prepared all throughout camp, all throughout last week and will be this week, I feel like we have a great offense and they have a great defense, but I feel like we can come out on top."
Walker on how the Commodores younger receivers have performed:
Walker: "Jamie [Graham] and Udom [Umoh] have stepped up. Also John [Cole], he was stepping up too but he's gotten hurt. I feel like some of the younger receivers have been watching some of the older receivers such as me, Justin Wheeler and George Smith before he got hurt. They've been watching us, and just learning from us and I feel like they've stepped up to the plate very well. I feel like their progress throughout the season will be even more and I feel like they will get more involved with the passing game here soon."
Extended thoughts on Smith's absence and what it means to the other experienced receivers:
Walker: "I feel like George has been a big loss, but at the same time, me and Justin knew coming into the season, that we were going to be needed to go all out. I feel like with George gone that I just have to continue to play my game and continue to focus how I normally focus and I'll step up to the plate that way."
Walker's thoughts on teammate D.J. Moore:
Walker: "DJ's a great guy on and off the field. He's a person that I saw coming into his freshman year that just had so much talent, probably more than anybody I've seen. He's the type of guy that can go out there and you tell him to do this, he'll do it good, tell him to that, he'll do it great. Playing with a guy like DJ makes you feel comfortable about your defense and also your return game and everything by knowing he's one play away from breaking something."