Johnson in a rush to see improved running game from Commodores

Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:00am

HOOVER, Ala. – Coach Bobby Johnson said Wednesday he believes Vanderbilt can do better in the coming seasons than it did in 2008, when it finished 7-6 and won its second bowl game. This fall, in particular, he expects the Commodores will benefit from an improved running game.

When asked whom he expected to get the bulk of the carries, though, he couldn’t say.

“Obviously (Jared Hawkins) has the most experience and he’s done a good job in the past,” Johnson said. “He’ll get an opportunity, but we’re looking for the best guy we have on the team. We’ll test all of them.”

Hawkins, a senior, is the top returning rusher (593 yards in 2008). Other candidates include Gaston Miller, Kennard Reeves, Jermaine Doster as well as the incoming freshmen.

One thing that Johnson does not expect to factor into the decision is Hawkins’ health. A foot injury caused him to miss two games and required offseason surgery.

“I don’t think it will be (an issue),” Johnson said. “I’ll be disappointed if it is.”

SHOULDERING THE LOAD

Myron Lewis has started every game at cornerback the last two seasons. The secret, he said, is simple.

“You just have to stay healthy,” Lewis, who was a four-year starter in high school, said.

Perhaps he should have clarified that by stating that the key is to stay healthy during the season.

Lewis sat out all of spring drills following offseason shoulder surgery.

His rehab is now finished. Thus his streak is not expected to end anytime soon.

“My shoulder is 110 percent,” he said. “I’m back to lifting weights and I’m going to be ready to go for the season.”

SPEED IT UP

Center Bradley Vierling was quick to admit that Vanderbilt’s offense was not as good as it could have been a year ago.

“Whatever we did last year just wasn’t working,” the captain and starting center said. “We were one of worst teams in the nation when it came to offensive production.”

He was similarly swift to point out at least one reason he thinks the Commodores will be better this fall – the no-huddle approach the team practiced often during spring workouts.

“That’s completely different from how we were last year,” he said. “Last year we were kind of a slower tempo team. … We’re not doing that this year. Not at all. We’re dictating to the defense.

“… You’ll have to wait and see (how often we use it).”

QUOTE OF NOTE

“I’m not that motivated by people patting you on the back and saying you’re doing real well. I like going back and talking to our team after we win games, talking to our fans when they meet you after an away game … at the back of the stadium. Those kinds of rewards are a whole lot better than – excuse me – the press.” – Johnson.

DIRTY DOZEN


The Commodores won’t have a chance to catch their breath once they begin pursuit of a second straight winning season and bowl appearance. The 12 games on their schedule are crammed into exactly 12 weeks on the calendar.

“I'm really not happy about it,” Johnson said. “I don't think there's anything anybody could do to avoid it. We certainly would have if we could have. In fact, you know, we tried to fix it up a little bit last year when we found out it would work out that way, but we just couldn't get it done.”

Johnson noted that the schedule is likely to have an impact on preseason workouts, which will begin Aug. 7.

“It is a challenge to play 12 straight games,” Johnson said. “You have to plan for it, you have to be smart in the pre season, not just work them to death.”

TIMES SET

Game times for the Commodores’ first three contests have been released.

The Sept. 5 opener at home against Western Carolina will kick off at 6:30 p.m.; the Sept. 12 conference opener at LSU will begin at 6 p.m.; and the Sept. 19 game at home against Mississippi State also will begin at 6 p.m. (all times CDT).