Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is stepping in front of the mics and cameras in Hoover, Alabama to close out Day One of SEC Media Days. A year ago, no one knew much of anything about the former offensive coordinator at Maryland who’d just walked into the SEC’s most trampled-on program. He used his Media Days debut to show that Vandy had hired someone sharp, quick and confident. Since last July, he’s continued to be sharp (aside from a goofball statement regarding coaches’ wives needing to be pretty), quick and confident. To the point of getting under the skin of a number of rival fanbases.
Let’s see what he says to kick off his second SEC season…
* Franklin ran through a long list of new facility improvements coming to Vandy in his opening comments. He also spoke to the bowl game VU went to in his first season and the media attention his program has gotten. Then he mentioned Vandy’s improved team GPA. It was impressive list (though it would have been more impressive if he weren’t a fast-talker a la Dan Mullen and Gary Pinkel).
* Franklin says having so many starters back will be very important for his team this year. It won’t be a matter of learning new systems. He is concerned about leaders on his defense.
* “We had just enough success that it whet (the team’s) appetite.”
* As I said during Franklin’s comments last year, the guy knows how to recruit. I’d sign for him. The guy could sell an Esdel.
* Asked about the Tennessee rivalry, Franklin said he’s focused on the season opener with South Carolina, calling it a great opportunity for his program to open up with a top 10 program in Nashville on national television.
* Franklin expects quarterback Jordan Rodgers to make a big jump as a second-year starter.
* “If you have a quarterback you have a chance (to win).” Franklin says the SEC’s depth at quarterback should make for another good year in the SEC .
* The coach says the past isn’t as important to players as the future is. True or not, that’s exactly how a coach at Vanderbilt should pitch his program.
* “We still have a long ways to go and I understand that, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.” Franklin said the administration, students, fans and community have to pull the same rope together with his team.
* Franklin suggested that Vanderbilt might have the toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC because it features two BCS opponents — Northwestern and Wake Forest. Of course, a game with Presbyterian kinda/sorta eats into that claim.
* The coach says the administration has given him exactly the kind of support he expected when he accepted the Vanderbilt job.
* When asked about bad blood between his team and Georgia’s due to last season’s postgame dust-up, Franklin would say only that he and his program had “tremendous respect” for all of the programs and coaches in the SEC. He did say, however, that when a team plays Vanderbilt, it had better be ready to play from the first whistle to the last.
Our overall grade for Franklin’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 5 on scale of 1-5. Vandy’s coach may not be as entertaining a speaker as Steve Spurrier, but he’s as good a salesman for his program as there is in the SEC. If his team can take any kind of step forward at all in 2012, expect bigger name programs to come calling. ‘Cause he clearly understands the off-field portion of the job.