Franklin, Vandy no longer go unnoticed
Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 7:00 pm
By RON HIGGINS
SEC Football reporter
HOOVER, Ala. — A year ago, when he first arrived here at his initial Southeastern Conference football media days in the Wynfrey Hotel, Vanderbilt’s then-first-year head coach James Franklin walked the hallways unnoticed.
“I walked right through Radio Row,” said Franklin, referring to the 50-yard gauntlet of radio talk shows lining the corridor that connects the Wynfrey to the Riverchase Galleria. “Ended up in the mall. Walked back. Not one person said one thing to me.”
On Tuesday, when Franklin took the same walk, the man who never met a microphone he didn’t like was stopped almost every three steps for radio appearances.
Winning six games and going to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl suddenly gave Franklin and the Commodores program an identity.
Last year at this time, Franklin was babbling on, hoping his team would buy in.
“He’s a psycho,” Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers said, “but we love him. When he got here, we wondered, ‘Who is this crazy guy?’ He’s the same every day. He’s always confident. Always positive.”
The former Maryland offensive coordinator was a rootin’, tootin’ gunslinger last year when he took over the SEC’s perennial worst program.
He had a testy postgame exchange with a Georgia assistant coach. He publicly fired back at Tennessee coach Derek Dooley after Dooley dissed the Commodores in a postgame celebration that was unknowingly taped with a cell phone.
The more Franklin drew a line in the sand, refusing to play Vandy’s expected role of being the SEC’s doormat, the harder his players played for him.
And heading into Franklin’s second season, the feeling hasn’t changed one iota.
“Coach did a lot of talkin’ last year, and it’s up to us to do the walkin’,” Vanderbilt cornerback Trey Wilson said. “He gave us the attitude, ‘We’re not the little brothers in the SEC anymore. We’re not going to let you hit us in our mouths and we just take it, sit down and be quiet. You will not disrespect us. We will not turn the other cheek. We’re here to stay.’ “
Franklin, who was 6-7 overall in year one and 2-6 in the SEC with three league losses by five points or fewer and another in overtime, said his program has advanced to the next phase.
“Last year, we thought we could do some good things,” Franklin said. “I thought I had a good plan. I thought it was detailed and organized.
“This year, we believe. Our kids believe. I believe. The coaching staff believes. The commitments that have been made, the investment in our future, is the difference. We now know we can do some good things.”
Even if Vanderbilt has to plug in some new starters along the offensive line and has to replace graduated team leader Chris Marve of White Station at linebacker, the Commodores are unshaken in their resolve to build on last year.
“Yeah, we went to a bowl game last year,” said Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers, “but we don’t want to be one-year wonders. We’re not going to be the team that you overlook on the schedule. Everybody has worked to get better. No one is satisfied.”
Published in The Messenger 7.18.12