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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Amadi Chooses Ole Miss

Ole Miss received good news this week when defensive back Ugo Amadi from John Overton High School in Nashville, Tenn., announced his commitment to Ole Miss.

 

The University of Ole Miss is starting to become one of the more prominent schools in recruiting – right up there with “the University of LSU.”

Amadi, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 20 cornerback by Rivals, chose Ole Miss over offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Purdue, among others.

“I chose Ole Miss just because I felt like it was a good fit,” he told Rivals. “Not just because of the coaches but because it’s close to home and I felt like I wanted to get out of Tennessee for a better situation. Now it’s a relief and I can just go out there and play ball keep my focus on getting better and getting ready for the next level.”

Amadi said Ole Miss has plans for him to help the Rebels immediately. He could make an impact on defense and specials teams.

“They said they’re going to let me play early,” Amadi said. “They want to give me a shot to earn the job as a punt returner and if I work for it I’ll be playing defense early, too. They told me they’re going to be playing five defensive backs and they’re only taking two in my class so that makes me feel comfortable knowing that they believe in me.”

Amadi is the fourth prospect and first defensive back to commit to Ole Miss’ 2015 class. He told Rivals he doesn’t anticipate any change with his decision.

“Right now my mind is made up about where I want to play the next four years,” Amadi said. “I don’t see that changing.”

 

Sheffield sticks with Vandy

Defensive back Donovan Sheffield from Ensworth High School in Nashville decided last weekend he wants to remain committed to Vanderbilt.

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Some Records In Vandy Rape Case Should Be Made Public; Do Vandy Fans Have A Different View Now?

James-Franklin-contemplativeLast year right on up through this January, anytime we wrote of the Vanderbilt rape case we would receive several nasty emails from Commodore fans accusing us of trying to hurt James Franklin’s reputation.  That was nonsense then — we said we didn’t think he was involved in a cover-up — and it’s nonsense now.  But are Vandy fans still so worried about Franklin’s image?

Here’s guessing they’re not.

A judge ruled yesterday that some of the records from the case should now be released to the media as the public has a right to see them.  ”Some text messages, emails and other material collected by Vanderbilt University” should now be given to the press.  However, the judge put a stay on his own order — delaying the release of the information — pending an appeal from the Metro government which has tried to keep the documents hidden.

You might recall that a lawyer for one of the four ex-VU footballers accused of sexual assault said last year that the defense team should be allowed to see all records of cell phone and text communications between the players and their coaches after the attack allegedly took place.  Depending on which text message transcripts are released to the public — if they’re released — we may soon see for ourselves whether or not Franklin or any other assistants were in communication with the players as they attempted to cover their tracks.

One wonders at this point if some, many, or most Vanderbilt fans haven’t flip-flopped on this case altogether since Franklin up and skedaddled to Penn State just weeks before National Signing Day.  It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to learn that some of the same people who wanted the press to stop trying to find dirt on Franklin while he was at Vandy would now want the press to dig away and expose their ex-coach as a fraud.

Let’s just say we believe it’s probably a safe bet that The Tennessean — which led the charge to get the records released — is getting fewer angry emails today than they would have if Franklin were still coaching on Nashville’s West End.  So now it’s Penn State fans’ turn to sweat and fret the possibility that something negative about Franklin might come to light thanks to this potential records release.

Now, the DA’s office has made it very clear that they found zero evidence of any wrongdoing tied to Franklin.  We still have absolutely no reason to doubt them.  But if these records are released, we’ll all be able to finally see for ourselves what — if any — involvement Franklin had in the players’ attempted cover-up.

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Mason Closes Fast At Vandy (And He Needed To)

derek-mason-portrait-vandyOne week ago today, Vanderbilt had just 10 commitments.  James Franklin’s departure had basically sliced the Commodore class in half.

Ah, but today, new coach Derek Mason has 19 signed letters of intent in hand and commitments for two more.  On the job for just two weeks, Vandy’s new coach deserves credit for quickly re-stocking his team’s cupboard.

However.

It’s clear that Mason’s race against the clock led to a drop in overall talent level (at least according to the recruiting service).

Vanderbilt has signed LOI from two 4-star players, 11 3-star players, and six 2-stars.  It’s entirely possible that Mason will get the absolute most out of the kids he’s signed.  But on paper, it looks as though he made the decision to add bodies… any bodies he could find.

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Ex-Vandy QB Rodgers’ Rant Might Lead To Change In School Policy

Squeaky-WheelAs Vanderbilt limps toward the finish line known as National Signing Day, former Commodore quarterback Jordan Rodgers did his alma mater no favors.  On Tuesday, Rodgers produced a string of angry tweets lashing out at the Vandy administration for making himself and other former Commodores pay to us the school’s new indoor practice facility.

The diatribe was not pretty.  But the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease.

According to The Tennessean, Vanderbilt administrators are now examining their policy regarding ex-jocks and the indoor facility.  Currently, because the indoor facility is part of the school’s recreation center and was funded in part by non-athletic sources, all non-students have to pay a yearly membership fee ($480) or a daily fee ($10) to use it.  If accompanied by a member of the football coaching staff or strength staff, ex-VU players could have used the facility for free.

Vanderbilt’s assistant vice chancellor of facilities and game operations Brock Williams — try to fit that on a business card — said the school was not even aware of the issue until now.

 

“This is almost a brand new building, and we are tweaking certain policies as we go.  We have a brand new football staff — most of them are on the road.  The strength coaches just got going at the end of last week.  We had a perfect storm here where we had some disappointment at a point when we’re in transition.”

 

That perfect storm also included a hot-tempered ex-jock with a Twitter feed.  And coincidence or not, Vanderbilt lost receiver prospect Kameron Uter yesterday, a day after Rodgers’ online rant.  Uter committed to Wake Forest and became the 11th former James Franklin commitment to back out on the Commodores.

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Vanderbilt Introducing Derek Mason As New Football Coach

Derek MasonThe 28th head football coach at Vanderbilt is Derek Mason.  The former Stanford defensive coordinator is meeting with the media this morning in Nashville.  Mason replaces James Franklin who left the Commodores to take the job at Penn State. Shortly before being offered the job on Friday, here’s how Mason described the position at Vanderbilt.

 

“Who’s not going to say yes (to the Vandy job)? I think it’s a great opportunity to be in a place that does it right. James Franklin did a wonderful job of putting this program on the map. He made it relevant. That debt of gratitude is definitely owed to him.

“It is a program steeped in the right temperament, the right acumen for success. It plays in one of the best football conferences in the country, the SEC, and I think when you put those two together between the academics and the football acumen, I think it can be a winning combination.”

 

Reaction to the news:

David Climer: “The fact that Mason even returned Vanderbilt’s call is an indication of how much better a job this is now than it was three years ago when Franklin was hired.”

Chris Low: “What Mason has going for him is that he knows what kind of students are going to make it at Vanderbilt.”

West Coast reaction: “Stanford suffered its most significant loss of the offseason Friday…” 

“The Commodores could not have made a better hire from a recruiting standpoint than the one they did…”

Jeremy Fowler: “This has been a landmark offseason for African-American coaches…”

Don’t confuse Derek Mason with Derrick Mason – the former Tennessee Titans wide receiver. “It’s already started.”

News conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Central time.  Watch a live stream here.

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Franklin Ad Fails To Woo Back Vandy Fans

Former Vanderbilt James Franklin has cooled angry Commodore fans by placing a thoughtful “thank you” ad in yesterday’s edition of The Tennessean newspaper.

Or not.

The ad featured the coach dressed in his old black and gold garb and carried the following statement above his signature:

 

“Thank you, Vanderbilt.  It was a wonderful experience.  I am forever grateful.  Anchor Down.”

 

He forgot to the mention that the money was on the dresser.

Franklin’s note didn’t win over much of anyone since the coach is still trying to woo Vanderbilt commits to Penn State.  If he lands them, he’ll surely also be grateful that the school paid for him to recruit those kids and their families to Vanderbilt.  If that hadn’t happened he wouldn’t currently have the pull to lure them away from Nashville and up to Happy Valley.

But here’s the thing.  It was quickly learned that Franklin didn’t even order for the ad.  Nope, Penn State placed the ad in the paper.  After being questioned about that fact, a PSU spokesman tweeted that “Franklin asked #Penn State staff to place Thank You ad in The Tennessean and he will pay the invoice when it arrives.”

Which is a little like asking your secretary to pick out some sort of nice little gift for the wifey.  It’s just not from the heart, James.

In reality, the ad was nothing more than an attempted PR move by Franklin and/or Penn State to quell some of the rage in Nashville and quiet some of the negative publicity the coach and his new school are getting over his decision to pack a few Vandy recruits into his suitcase on his way out the door.

No wonder most Vandy fans were unmoved.

 

franklin ad

 

 

The coach had placed a similar ad in Vanderbilt’s student newspaper earlier this week.

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SEC Headlines 1/16/2014

headlines-thuSEC Coaching News

1. Alabama defensive backs coach Greg Brown reportedly stepping down. Alabama makes hiring of new defensive line coach Bo Davis official.

2. New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has a new three-year deal expected to be worth $850,000 annually. ”Where the Bulldogs’ defense could benefit most is in the secondary.”

3. New Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers has 34 years of college and NFL coaching experience.

4. New LSU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes coached the o-line at Auburn from 2009 to 2012.  Former LSU All-American lineman Kevin Mawae wanted the job.

5. Former Auburn and Tennessee assistant Trooper Taylor is now the cornerbacks coach at Arkansas State.

6. James Franklinthanks Vanderbilt fans with a newspaper ad.

*** Trustees make South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s pay raise official.  Coaching staff also gets raises and contract extensions through 2015. ***

SEC Football

7. Vanderbilt investigation finds insufficient evidence against one of the former football players charged in the rape case.

8. Athlon makes some early predictions for 2014.  Are Alabama and Georgia the favorites this fall?

9. Texas A&M offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi is 6-feet-5 inches tall and 300 pounds and  reportedly ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash.

10. Is Tennessee quarterback Riley Ferguson poised for a 2014 breakout season?

11. Boston College confirms that two former Florida players - quarterback Tyler Murphy and lineman Ian Silberman – are enrolled at the school.

SEC/NFL draft

12. A record 95 early entries for the NFL draft.  Total includes 27 players from the SEC.

13. Could Texas A&M players be the first two picks of the 2014 draft?

14. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson expected to go early, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper.

15. Mississippi State middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney says he’s coming back for another season. Redshirt sophomore had projected as mid-first round selection.

SEC Basketball

16. Missouri at Vanderbilt.  Why free throws could be the difference in this one. Vandy’s free-throw percentage worst in the league.

17. Where were Arkansas security guards after the game against Kentucky Tuesday night?

Sports Business

18. Sports apparel contracts are worth at $3 million or more annually to at least 14 universities. Biggest SEC deals belong to LSU and Alabama.

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Franklin Defends His Decision To Swing Vandy Commits To Penn State

gfx - they said itYesterday, James Franklin appeared on Dan Patrick’s national radio show.  He was asked about his decision to try and lure a number of Vanderbilt commits into following him to Penn State.  His response?

 

“I don’t know what the rules are, there.  I know that I’ve been sitting in living rooms with families and kids and selling them on a dream and selling them on a vision and our relationship.  A lot of people say that the kids should commit to a school, not a coach, but the reality is, they do (commit to coaches).  Families and kids want to make sure their kids is being taken care of.  It’s about the relationship aspect.

My responsibility is to do everything in my power to make sure I put a team together that can help Penn State be successful.  The people I’ve been recruiting for the last two years that I know inside and out, know the type of men they are, type of families they come from, that’s going to happen.  My job right now is to everything I possibly can to help Penn State be successful.”

 

In other words, “Thanks for the millions; now kiss off, Vandy.”  Hey, at least he’s honest.

Those comments remind this writer of all the times Vanderbilt fans defended Franklin against our charges that he was a loudmouth and that he could be jerkish, even Kiffinesque at times.  I remember the many times an email or comment came in this site’s direction claiming that we “must be fans of some school that’s scared of Franklin.”

Uh, no, we just thought Franklin — a great recruiter and a good coach — was all about Franklin and not Vanderbilt.  Now those who defended him so vociferously simply because he was wearing their school colors at the time are beginning to understand what we saw from an objective point of view.  Great recruiter, good coach, jerkish.

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D-Coordinator Shoop Heading To Penn State With Franklin, But We Know Who VU Should Pursue

greg-schianoAccording to Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will not be the man to take over for James Franklin in Nashville.  That’s because he’s going to join Franklin at State College as Penn State’s new defensive coordinator.  

Shoop was expected to be on David Williams’ list of possible replacements for Franklin, but with the ex-Vandy coach taking as many Commodore commitments as possible with him, it might be best for a clean break from the previous regime.  And there’s certainly no shortage of potential candidates (at least in terms of who the media has been throwing out):

 

* Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh head coach who just finished his first year

* David Cutcliffe, Duke head coach with an SEC background at Tennessee and Ole Miss

* Herb Hand, Vanderbilt offensive line coach who was a holdover from before Franklin’s era

* Mark Hudspeth, UL-Lafayette head coach and former Dan Mullen aide at Mississippi State

* Pete Lembo, Ball State head coach

* Jim McElwain, Colorado State head coach and former Nick Saban offensive coordinator at Alabama

* Mike MacIntyre, Colorado head coach for one year whose father once served as Vandy’s head coach

* Derek Mason, Stanford’s defensive coordinator appears to be an early favorite for the job

* Chad Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator who some view as a potential Gus Malzahn clone

* Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State defensive coordinator

* Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator

* Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator

 

There is one name that’s popped up on very few lists and gotten little attention.  But it’s the one name we believe Vanderbilt’s athletic director should have at the tip top of his list — Greg Schiano.

Schiano’s no-nonsense approach didn’t work with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  In going 11-21 he never gave the grown men on his roster a reason to buy into his dictatorial system.  No surprise.  Nick Saban and Bill Belichick can shhh and criticize their players because they win.  Guys who take that approach and lose are typically run out of town on a rail (Derek Dooley, being a recent SEC example).

Forget Schiano’s brief NFL tenure.  The man built Rutgers — traditionally the very worst football program in Division I — into a program that’s now respected.  Before Schiano the Scarlet Knights had been to one bowl game in school history.  Since Schiano took over they’ve been to eight (six under the man who built them and two under his replacement, Kyle Flood).

Schiano — a former Miami assistant — recruited South Florida heavily and likely still has plenty of connections in that talent-rich area.  After a four-year building phase, Rutgers posted winning records in six of the coach’s last seven years at the New Jersey school.

Could a coach who just bombed out of the NFL afford to try and kickstart his career at a school with a sad tradition?  Good question.  Schiano might believe there are better gigs than the one at that toughest academic school in the toughest conference in America which also boasts some of the smallest and oldest facilities.  VU has made plenty of recent improvements, yes, but enough to lure in someone like Schiano?

Also, how would he handle the academic restrictions he would face on the recruiting trail as Vandy’s coach?  On that front, we suspect pretty well.  Hey, if you can sell South Florida kids on going to the worst D-I program in the country — in New Jersey — you can sell kids on getting a world-class education in a world-class city while playing football in a world-class conference.

Williams has shown that he can spot talent.  He offered Malzahn the Vandy gig three years ago and when Malzahn balked, Williams found Franklin.  Franklin came from way off the radar.  Vanderbilt’s next hire might come from off the radar, too.

But if we were manning the controls in Nashville, we’d make sure Schiano was on the radar and then we’d contact him.  Immediately.

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Franklin’s Departure From Vandy A Great Reminder: Don’t Put Blind Faith In A Coach

bowing to statueFor the past three years, anytime MrSEC.com has claimed James Franklin ran his mouth a bit too much (his aides have to have pretty wives, Nicky Satan, etc), many Vanderbilt fans have rushed to defend him.  Anytime this site has suggested he might leave — who didn’t see him eventually leaving Nashville? — many Commodore fans have tsk-tsk’d us and claimed that we “must just be scared of what he’s building” at VU.

All of that changed on Saturday.

Check Twitter.  Check a Vandy message board.  Check out this lengthy post from VandySports.com, the Rivals site covering the Dores.

In the eyes of many VU supporters, Franklin has gone from infallible god to used car salesman.  From a man others must fear to a man they themselves cannot stand.

We point this out not to mock Vanderbilt backers but to remind everyone that even folks with fancy degrees can fall way too deeply in love with a winning coach.  Franklin was good for Vanderbilt.  He improved the program.  He supplied a blueprint to his replacement.  And he deserved support for it.

But he didn’t deserve blind faith.  No man does.  If more of us remembered that you’d see less rage and pain after a winning coach hits the bricks for a better gig.

Tennessee fans ignored all of the secondary violations, all of the jerkish comments, all of the general nonsense that surrounded Lane Kiffin while he was in Knoxville.  Anyone pointing out that he behaved like a nitwit was “anti-Vol.”  At least until Kiffin left Knoxville less than a month before signing day to take his “dream job” at Southern Cal.  Ironically, Kiffin left UT on a January 10th.  Franklin left VU on January 11th.  Like Franklin, Kiffin went from hero to zero in a matter of hours.

At Florida, anyone daring to criticize Urban Meyer for running a discipline-free program was viewed as a hater, someone who must root for a school that can’t beat Saint Urb.  But then he retired, un-retired, retired again and left Will Muschamp a penal colony to try to clean up.  Finally, when he finished up his “I need to watch my kids grow up” period and landed at Ohio State a whopping one year later — kids grow up so fast these days — many Florida fans arrived at one conclusion: “Hey, this guy won games but he was full of crap.”  Yes, he was.  In fact, most coaches are… because most people are.

Most of us are selfish individuals who’ll say anything to get ahead in life or to make an extra buck.  That may be a sad view of humanity, but it keeps this particular writer from being disappointed when people don’t live up to their word.  If our species is flawed, logic dictates that coaches will be flawed, too.  They’re of the same species (though some of us believe anyone coaching at good ol’ State U. must be an angel rather than a mere mortal).

Franklin, like many a coach before him, begged his school’s fans and administrators for full buy-in.  Vandy ponied up a lot of cash and they admitted a few athletes who might not have been let in to school for previous coaches.  Tens of thousands of Vanderbilt fans got in their cars and drove to Birmingham for a ho-hum January bowl game.  In their view, they bought in fully.

But no matter how many nine-win seasons Franklin had in Nashville, VU is still not a destination job.  Not yet.  That’s not an insult, that’s historical fact.  Vandy fans who’d been convinced by Franklin that their program was as good as any were therefore floored when he chose Penn State over Vanderbilt.  Roll that one around in your head for a bit.  Three years ago, would anyone planted on terra firma have expected a football coach to select Vandy over Penn State?  But Franklin said what coaches say.  Then he won games.  Fans and media fell in blind love with him believing anything he said and defending anything he did.  Commodore fans just didn’t see this coming.

So when it did come and he did leave there was hurt, anger, and scorn.  Consider these snippets from the VandySports.com column linked to above:

 

“Franklin doesn’t have a neck brace (like Bobby Petrino), but somehow he managed to find a way to leave a school he made into a national power as The Most Hated Man in Town…

For a coach who has never known how to stop talking, the silence coming from Franklin’s Tweet-a-minute camp was deafening…

Those of us who worked around him know why he bailed.  Franklin wanted to work where there was already a built-in fan base with a vast stadium.  He felt he was a big time coach, and big time coaches coach in big time arenas.  To each his own.”

 

If those aren’t the remarks of a person who feels betrayed this writer doesn’t know what would be.  Suddenly Franklin never knew how to stop talking?  Funny how that changes from a positive to a negative when a coach jets.  If this site or another had written that very same thing a week ago, Vandy fans would have been up in arms.

And the “to each his own” line reveals hurt feelings as well.  The writer of that piece knows full well that there’s not a coach in America who would prefer to work in an unfilled 40,000-seat stadium than in a packed 100,000-seat stadium.  None, zero, zip.  Yet the anger brought on by Franklin’s adios blinds Vandy supporters to that fact.  ”Well if he wants to go to one of the 10-15 best programs all-time, so be it.”  Uh, yeah.

Again, this isn’t to make fun of VU fans or anyone who grew to know Franklin while covering him.  It is simply a reminder that we all need to remember that these guys are human beings with human egos.  If they spot a better gig or a way to make an extra buck, all that we’ll see is a vapor trail in their wake.

They’re not infallible.  They’re not gods.  Most don’t looooooooove their school so much that they’ll turn down better jobs.  They’re people.  And we people are typically out for ourselves.  (Okay, Mark Richt is the exception to the rule.)

So from Columbia, Fayetteville and College Station out West to the other Columbia, Gainesville and Lexington to the East, you SEC fans should root for your coaches and support your coaches.  But don’t put blind faith in them.  If you do you’ll only wind up hurt feelings and rival fans yelling “told ya so” back in your face.  Ya know… like broken-hearted Vanderbilt fans today.

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