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Redshirt Juniors Departing, VU’s Franklin Responds To Tweet Suggesting He’s Running Guys Off

College football is a cold, cruel world to athletes.  If a school recruits you and signs you only to learn that your upside really isn’t as good as they initially thought… you’re adios’ed so fast your head spins.

Ah, but if you do all that you can for the school, find yourself unhappy, and want to transfer out… good luck getting clearance to do so.

That’s the lay of the land in this, the year of our Lord two-thousand-and-twelve.  And it’s the same all over.  Even at Vanderbilt.

Wait, what?  Even at Vanderbilt?

If there were any doubts that James Franklin is turning around the Commodores program, this next wee bit of controversy should put them to rest.

Following the Liberty Bowl, senior tight end Brandon Barden tweeted the following message:

“If you go to Vandy now, you seriously sign a ONE year scholarship #dirtygame #gladtomoveon”

Sour grapes from one disgruntled player in serious need of some gruntling?  Maybe.  But Franklin also told The Tennessean yesterday that a number of redshirt juniors have decided not to return for their senior years.

“A lot of guys walked for Senior Day and a large number of those guys decided (not to return),” Franklin said.  “That’s not based on our decision, but guys graduating and guys who haven’t been playing or not playing a significant role who are going to go get jobs or may go play at smaller schools.”

More players leaving means more spots are open on the VU roster.  And that means Franklin can better cash in on the positivity created during his first season in Nashville which ended with a 6-7 record and a bowl trip.

But like every other football coach on the face of the planet, Franklin is shocked by the suggestion that he might have encouraged some of his players to look elsewhere.

“I would put our record of what we’ve done this year and what our athletic department and university have done for a long time against anybody.  Most new coaches come in and there’s all kinds of new turnover in the program.  I find (Barden’s twee) really interesting.

When you have 105 guys on a team and you’ve just suffered a tough loss, here’s going to be some things said.  There are decisions made where guys don’t know the whole story behind it.  It’s like I told the team, I have no problem with them coming in and talking to me and I’ll explain it to them.”

Our take?  Franklin has Vandy in a position where it can act like other big-time football programs.  And if a coach — any coach — can run off a few guys to open up more slots on signing day, he’s going to do it.

That doesn’t make it right, of course.  But Franklin’s not doing anything at VU that isn’t being done elsewhere.  The surprising part is that he’s got Vandy in this position after just one season.

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Barden, Hayward make AP All-SEC team

ATLANTA, Ga. – A pair of Vanderbilt junior standouts – tight end Brandon Barden and defensive back Casey Hayward – were named to the Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team today.

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Vandy’s Changes On Offense Only Lead To More Questions

Last week, Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell decided that changes were necessary on the offensive side of the ball.  Play-calling duties were stripped from Jimmy Kiser and given to new offensive coordinator Des Kitchings.  Heading into a game with an Arkansas squad that had given up more than 1000 yards in its previous two games, expectations were high for the Commodores.  More carries for Warren Norman and Zac Stacy were expected.

Here’s how things played out in Fayetteville:

Vandy’s first drive — 0-0 tie
Warren Norman rush for 2 yards
Warren Norman rush for 51 yards (15 yard Arkansas penalty)
Jonathan Krause 21 yard touchdown run on a reverse
Vandy 7, Arkansas 0

Vandy’s second drive — 7-6 Vandy lead
Larry Smith run for 7 yards
Zac Stacy run for 4 yards
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Larry Smith run for 13 yards
Larry Smith pass complete to Tray Herndon for 6 yards
Larry Smith run for 4 yards
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Larry Smith incomplete pass
Warren Norman run for 6 yards
Larry Smith pass complete to Brandon Barden for 12 yards
Vandy false start (-5 yards)
Larry Smith touchdown pass to Brandon Barden for 8 yards
Vandy 14, Arkansas 6

Not a bad start.  Two series, two touchdowns.  And then the Commodores lifted Smith to give backup quarterback Jared Funk some playing time. 

Result: An interception on his second pass which gave Arkansas the ball on Vandy’s 20… along with all the game’s momentum.  The Commodores gained 140 yards on their first two possessions.  They gained 13 total over the game’s final three quarters.

Final score: Arkansas 49, Vandy 14.  And for all the talk of giving more touches to Norman and Stacy, the two finished with a combined 17 carries.

To be honest, the Razorbacks likely would have picked apart Vandy’s secondary eventually anyway.  But the coaches’ decision to toy with a good start won’t be a highlight of their season-long audition.

You can bet that a lot of Vandy fans and boosters were saying what we often write on this site — If the plates are spinning, don’t touch ‘em.  For a quarter, the plates were spinning for VU’s offense.  But rather than ride the flow of the game and scrap their pregame plans to give Funk the third series, Caldwell and Kitchings chose to mess with success.

The head coach defended his decision after the game, saying that Funk had earned the playing time in Series Three with good practices.

“And it might have helped Larry play better, having a little pressure on him.  Who’s to say whether it did or didn’t?”

True enough.  But who’s to say a coach can’t change his mind if things are going well for his team?

Caldwell didn’t.  He rewarded Funk for his practice work and benched a hot hand.  By doing so he cost his team all its momentum.  And he might’ve cost himself more than that.

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