Is James Franklin Vanderbilt's "Bruce Pearl"?

At least he's wearing a shirt, right? via Vanderbilt's Flickr Photostream.

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It's been something that I've been thinking about for the last month or two. I even posed the question a couple of weeks ago to Bobby O'Shea from VSL at one of our weekly hoops pickup games. Is James Franklin Vanderbilt's "Bruce Pearl", albeit a non-walking-NCAA-sanction-per-minute version of the Tan Maestro?

I'm not sure any opposing coach had so evenly divided the Commodore fanbase as had Bruce Pearl [prior to all the investigation and turmoil of the last 10 months, of course]. If you had polled enough Commodore fans, you'd have no doubt found a healthy number who would have jumped at the opportunity to bring him to Nashville to coach the Dores, a healthy number who would have been on the fence with their opinion of him, and a healthy number who couldn't stand him, some perhaps out of jealousy not just for the success he had in Knoxville, but for the way he turned the program around -- with everyone buying in with almost mass hysteria. Most of those fence-sitters and a good portion of the haters would have agreed that had he been anywhere else but UT (except perhaps Kentucky), they would have probably been big fans of his (in the same vein as a Shaka Smart or a Brad Stevens). Pearl could have chosen any other profession and you'd have been a friend or a customer. You couldn't help but like the guy. And most found that deep-seeded affinity to be repulsive and shameful. And it was.

With less than five months at the helm, James Franklin has that same "it" factor that Bruce Pearl had at the beginning at Tennessee. He's young. He's energetic and charismatic. If you listen to him on the radio for five minutes, you're ready to run through a brick wall for him. You can't watch the following three videos and not feel the vibe:

You can't not like the guy. Impossible. Noted UT Vol-enthusiast and local Nashville radio personality Clay Travis recently mentioned the Bruce Pearl similarity after a quick interview with James Frankling on 3HL as well [audio].

Coach Franklin has surrounded himself with young, high energy coaches. They're tireless and they're enthusiastic. Imagine the appeal as a high school recruit. For the first time in my lifetime, Vanderbilt football looks like it finally has some sizzle.

The only question left is whether or not he can harness the vibe and turn it into success on the field. If so, he'll have done something even more impressive than what Bruce Pearl did in Knoxville, and he'll have done it without scandal.

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