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Reports Suggest Vandy’s Williams Searching High And Low For New Coach

Binoculars-300x197Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is apparently leaving no stone unturned in his search for a replacement for James Franklin.  Just three weeks from signing day, Vandy’s AD is up against the clock and an ex-coach who’s attempting to flip the kids he’d recruited to Nashville to his new home at Penn State.

So can Williams really afford to take his time on this hire and interview numerous candidates?  With National Signing Day fast approaching?

You bet he can.  And he should.  For all the worrying about a recruiting class, finding the right head coach is a hundred times more important.  The right head coach can win with the talent his predecessor left behind (as Franklin did with the redshirt juniors and seniors Bobby Johnson and Robbie Caldwell left him).  The right coach can recruit well and eventually make up for one disappointing class.

Reportedly, at least three candidates appear on Williams’ interview list:  Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.  Many view Mason as the favorite to land the job as he’s already a college recruiter and he’s already worked at a school with somewhat strict admission policies.

Others on Williams’ list appear to be Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.  Offensive line coach Herb Hand is the leading internal candidate for the job.

We believe the Commodores should reach out to former Rutgers and NFL coach Greg Schiano.

Meanwhile, reports claim that Vanderbilt secondary coach George Barlow is expected be named cornerbacks coach at NC State.  In other words, the man Williams eventually hires will have to basically piece together an entire staff.  One more reason Williams should worry more about finding the right head coach than salvaging a single recruiting class.

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Vandy’s Defensive Staff Is Complete

Vanderbilt fans, you have a complete coaching staff.  Question is — Do you feel good about it?

When Robbie Caldwell was forced out before the final game of last season, the scuttlebutt from Nashville centered around a newly committed VU administration.  It was time for Vandy to take football seriously.  The school would spend money, it would go after a “name” coach.

But when Auburn’s Gus Malzahn turned down an offer that was believed to have been worth at least $2.5 million per year, the Commodores went in another direction.  They hired the up-and-coming offensive coordinator at Maryland, James Franklin.

Franklin announced his offensive staff a few weeks ago.  Today he unveiled his defensive hires.  They are:

Bob Shoop — Defensive coordinator and safeties coach (from William & Mary)

Brent Pry — Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (from Georgia Southern)

Wesley McGriff — Defensive backs coach (from Miami)

Sean Spencer — Defensive line coach (from Bowling Green)

Add those four to Franklin’s five offensive aides — John Donovan (Maryland), Charles Bankins (Maryland), Chris Beatty (West Virginia), Ricky Rahne (Kansas State) and holdover Herb Hand — and you have a staff with very little experience recruiting in the Deep South.  On the defensive side of the ball you also have three coaches whose backgrounds consist mainly of small college experience.

The new Vandy staff might be the best bunch Commodore fans have ever seen when all is said and done, but for now it’s hard to imagine most VU backers taking anything other than a wait-and-see approach.  This new staff just isn’t filled with the recognizable names they had hoped for. 

Of course, if they win… that won’t matter.

(By the way, is it just me or is the bow-tie wearing Mr. Pringles a perfect advertising tie-in with Vandy or what?  He looks like a successful VU grad.)

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A Stocking Full Of SEC East Headlines

1.  If your school has been in a scrape with the NCAA this year, you might find this article by’s Stewart Mandel pretty interesting.  (Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky fans, I’m talking to you.)

2.  Is Florida ready for a bowl rebound?

3.  The UF basketball team is still having troubles with turnovers. (Somebody blame Steve Addazio!)

4.  Freshman safety Alec Ogletree has worked his way into Georgia’s starting line-up with big hits.

5.  Georgia survived a 56-53 thriller with in-state rival Mercer last night.

6.  The NCAA says it won’t be swayed by the comments of Enes Kanter’s father… and it won’t rule on the UK big man’s eligibility until 2011. (Why not just let him play now and then suspend him for 2011-12?  You know, Ohio State style?)

7.  Without Kanter, John Calipari needs Eloy Vargas to assert himself more.

8.  Six Wildcats are logging heavy minutes… and six may be enough for Coach Cal.

9.  In football news, UK quarterback Morgan Newton is looking forward to starting in the BBVA Compass Bowl.  (That might make him the only person looking forward to the BBVA Compass Bowl.)

10.  South Carolina could be facing a shake-up on its offensive line in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

11.  Tennessee survived a 66-65 thriller with in-state rival Belmont last night.

12.  This writer says the Vols go as Scotty Hopson goes.

13. has “learned” that James Franklin has re-hired Vandy O-line coach Herb Hand.

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Let the Interviews Begin

Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Jeff Lockridge reports in today’s Tennessean that Vanderbilt has officially begun to interview candidates to become their next football coach. According to Lockridge, David Williams will meet with at least 10 candidates in his first round of interviews. The report mentions some of the “usual suspects,” including Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn and Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster (both of whom coach today and will not be contacted until their regular season concludes), but also specifically refers to Air Force’s Head Coach Troy Calhoun. Calhoun’s name has previously been mentioned in connection with this opening in passing, but he has not received as much attention as he gets in this piece. Calhoun informed the University of Colorado early this week he was not interested in becoming their next coach, causing one to wonder if he’s got his eye on the opening in Nashville. Last year, Calhoun, when linked to the Tennessee job after Lane Kiffin’s abrupt departure, emphaticly and publicly stated he was not going to be the Volunteer next coach. So far, Vanderbilt’s search process has not be mired or undercut by such statements from potential candidates.

According to Lockridge: “While Williams expects there to be a second round of interviews, he added that someone could ‘jump out’ to him in the first round of talks that would produce an offer.” During the coaching seach, Vanderbilt assistant coaches Des Kitchings, Herb Hand and Rick Logo and assistant recruiting coordinator Norval McKenzie have been traveling all week visiting the 14 recruits who have committed to the Commodores. Of those 12 commits reached by the Tennessean, 11 described their committment to Vanderbilt as “firm” or “pretty firm.”

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