TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Robbie Caldwell has been busy charming Vanderbilt fans and boosters, delegating tasks to his coaching staff and even started tweeting in his new job as head coach.
Now that game week is here, and the job gets tougher. Not that the coaching veteran is nervous just because he'll be the man in charge Saturday night.
"I'm not nervous," Caldwell said Monday in his first weekly news conference as Vanderbilt's head coach. "I mean, what the heck? I've been doing this a long time. We're going to go out and get after it and have some fun and try our durndest to win the game."
Caldwell has had people asking him what he's going to do and how he'll handle his newest challenge. Vanderbilt promoted him to interim head coach July 14 when Bobby Johnson retired and later took off the interim tag, giving him a contract.
"You don't know till you get there. I've been going out on the field for a long time. I've never had that sole responsibility, 'You've got to make the calls.' That's going to be a lot of fun," Caldwell said. "I've got very good coaches around me that'll help with that decision. I'm looking forward to it."
The schedule isn't making Caldwell's debut any easier.
The Commodores, coming off a 2-10 season, open Saturday night against Northwestern. The Wildcats went 8-5 last season and lost to Auburn 38-35 in overtime in the Outback Bowl.
Caldwell called the Wildcats very well-coached and very disciplined while complimenting coach Pat Fitzgerald.
"Obviously, he's done a tremendous job," Caldwell said.
Caldwell announced his starting quarterback Sunday night, keeping junior Larry Smith in the job he held last year before with nine starters before a hamstring ended his season. He hopes to have running back Warren Norman, the Southeastern Conference's freshman of the year, playing despite having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week.
The coach also started tweeting last Friday, debuting with posts about the Commodores' ship about to set sail and a link to a Tom T. Hall video about old dogs, children and watermelon wine.
Caldwell's biggest problem? Finding time to learn how to tweet from his phone for a man who's not much into computers.
"When I do, I kind of like peckin' on it. It's fun," he said.
Starting center Joey Bailey spent the last four seasons with Caldwell as his position coach. He said he sometimes feels like Caldwell's translator with the rest of the team and is able to tell just from a teammate's look that the player didn't understand the coach's Southern slang.
He can't pare down his coach's sayings to just one favorite.
"Usually whatever comes out of his mouth, I'm laughing at," Bailey said.
Caldwell knows one thing. He doesn't want his Commodores going out feeling the need to win one for the quipper. Vanderbilt is 10-15 in its last 25 openers and lost to Michigan in 2006 the last time the Commodores opened a season against a Big Ten team.
"The way I look at it we want to win every game. You can't win 'em all till you win the first one. We're going to go out there hopefully prepared to play the best we can, and we'll let that sort itself out," Caldwell said.
Lest anyone think Caldwell's just a funny man, he did have a quick reminder on how competitive he really is.
"I want to win at everything whether I pitch horseshoes with you or shoot marbles. I want to beat you, and that's just my nature."