"So I merely explained to Coach Grantham that, while hypothetical now, the Higgs-Boson was closer than ever to evolving beyond theory thanks in part to the advances made over in Geneva. Fortunately, our friends over at CERN have backed me up. Yeah, science!"
Maybe it was because he was no longer a Media Days rookie, but James Franklin seemed a bit more reserved than the outspoken coach that Vandy fans have become used to. He praised his players, downplayed his 2011 success, and displayed "tremendous respect" for the Georgia Bulldogs after last season's dust-up. Hell, he even sidestepped every opportunity he had to rag on Derek Dooley.
The second-year coach demurely handed 20 questions during Vanderbilt's opening session at Media Days on Tuesday, unofficially kicking off the Commodores' 2012 summer campaign. Franklin touched on everything from the development of his players to upgrading the football culture in Nashville in a comprehensive Q&A program that caught the media up on what this team has been up to since December's Liberty Bowl loss. As usual, the coach was insightful and comprehensive with his answers, but deliberately tight lipped when it came to offering up anything but respect to Vandy's rivals.
Below are a few excerpts from Franklin's breakout session on the Commodores. These quotes come from CBS affiliate WAFB-9's transcript. You can find the whole breakdown here.
The sky's the limit with us. I truly believe that. I think for the right kid from the right family, we can beat anybody. I truly believe that.
If you have a son, which I don't know if you do or not, he's a Division I player, he's coming to Vanderbilt. We have too much to sell. We have too much to sell. If you truly respect a world class education, there's very few schools that can compete with us.
I know what Vanderbilt can do for your son for the next 40 to 50 years of his life. An opportunity to play in the greatest football conference in the America.
If you're truly the best and the brightest, where else would you go? You have an opportunity to chase both of your dreams at the highest level.
The third factor is Nashville. When I got the job, the administrative staff showed me the city. There was an electricity to the city. I'm a huge believer that your education is more than what you learn in the classroom, a combination of cultural experiences, and Nashville can provide that, and the fourth thing is playing time.
We have the support of the administration and resources. When you have those things, you have a chance to be successful.
I think the sky's the limit for us. The fact that we can sell all these things. You're going to find certain institutions that might have one or two things better than us, but there's very few schools in the country that have the combination of traits that we do.
I think the sky's the limit and we're really, really excited about it.
You'd be amazed. Maybe you understand that. Maybe you've seen that. But these kids, they don't look at it like that. Especially after having success this past year, getting some of the recruits, those types of things.
When we get a kid on campus, we have a very good chance of getting him. It's an unbelievable campus. We have so many things to sell.
If it's the right kid from the right family, it's not a real hard sell. It's a no‑brainer, to be honest with you. I think a lot of times we spend, as adults, focused on the past and the history. That's not important to them. They want to know what the future holds and who's going to care about them and put them in positions so they can be successful for the next 50 years of their life, not the next four. That hasn't been a real issue. I think every year it's going to get easier and easier for us.
About that other school down I-40:
You also asked about the rivalries. I understand how important that game is to the people in our state, especially the Vanderbilt community. Our focus is on South Carolina. We have a Hall of Fame coach coming into our stadium with a top‑10 ranked opponent. What an unbelievable venue it's going to be. ESPN Thursday night, national television on our campus, being able to have a top‑10 opponent. What a tremendous challenge and a bigger opportunity that is for our program, so that's our focus.
I think we as an organization, as a team, take a lot of pride in the state that we're in, the great state of Tennessee, the people that have been unbelievable to us.
Once again, our focus is not on any certain game or rivalry. To be honest with you, I don't really consider it a rivalry. It has to be a lot more competitive before it becomes a rivalry. It's been one‑sided.
We have tremendous respect for that program, for the state that we're in. What we're trying to do is just develop our program so that we can consistency go out and compete with any team.
But our focus from the time the season ended has been on South Carolina and Coach Spurrier, those great players, that great program that he's built there. That's our focus.
...Do you feel that your arrival at Vandy has been at an opportune time perhaps because of your in‑state rivals have taken somewhat of a step backward?Again, I can't speak on that. All I can control and focus on is what happens at Vanderbilt, what we're doing on our campus.
I spend all my energy, my staff does, my team does, waking up every single morning and just trying to maximize that day to be the best James Franklin, to be the best Vanderbilt as a university as a whole, best football program that we possibly can. I believe the more days we have like that in the off‑season, the Saturdays will start taking care of themselves.
Everything else going on in the SEC, rules changes, that's outside of my control. I might have some influence on some of those things, but we spend our time focusing on Vanderbilt solely, completely.
About Jordan Rodgers:
Me and Jordan have probably had 40 to 50 conversations since that [Liberty Bowl] game. I actually think it's been a positive. He's been so much more open, very coachable. He's always been really driven and competitive. I think what's interesting is talking to Jordan the other day, he's been watching a lot of film. What's amazing is he's watching the film right now and getting frustrating because he's saying, I can't believe I did this, I can't believe I didn't see that. The light has really gone on for him.
We couldn't have a better relationship. I couldn't have more confidence in him than I do. I think all those things that we went through last year together was an opportunity to grow and to learn. I think because of those experiences, all of them, the good and the bad, Jordan is really going to be able to grow, and because of that we're going to be able to grow as a team.
I thought he did a lot of things last year, made a lot of plays with his feet. From the time the season ended till now, it's night and day. You guys have all been following the game long enough. You know the difference between a quarterback's first and second year, it's not even close.
I just see his work ethic that he's putting in. He's going to be graduating in December. He's in there watching film all the time. As we all know, he has a tremendous resource to make a phone call and ask questions. It's kind of like recruiting a coach's kid, I've always believed in that, because that player has learned more football being around it his whole life than he even realized.
It's the same thing with Jordan. With Jordan, it's specific to the quarterback position, which I really think is going to help him. He's been so much more open. He's always been driven. He's always been competitive. But I think last year we were able to lay a foundation and this year we got a chance to build on it.
Had a conversation with him the other day. Having that conversation with him, I could tell that he's getting to the point where he feels like he knows the offense so well that the defense can't be right. When you get a quarterback that feels that way, you have a chance.
About Zac Stacy:
What's amazing about Zac is as good of a player, he's a better person. I can say that about a lot of our guys. Zac gets a lot of credit, but we play ultimate team football at Vanderbilt. I think anybody that watched our team last year from the beginning of the year till the end, I think our offensive line improved as much as any unit in the SEC.
Also the fact having wideouts that people have to respect on the outside is going to help them as well. The development of our quarterback as well.
I think Zac could have a great year. The other factor is getting Warren Norman back, SEC Rookie of the Year, as well, creates more depth and weapons for us.
I couldn't be more pleased with Zac's development, how he comes to work every single day with a blue‑collar mentality. I think he's got a chance to have a really, really good year for us, and we need him to.
About the bad blood between UGA and Vandy stemming from 2011:
We have tremendous respect for all the programs in this conference, all the coaches, all the players. Our focus is on South Carolina. That's who we're opening the season with, that's who we're playing, and that's all we're really going to talk about, myself as well as our players.
I will tell you this. You play Vanderbilt, you better be ready to play from the beginning of the game till the end. That's whoever it is. I think that's one of the biggest changes that you're going to see, is how we're going to compete, how we're going to play the game. That's from the beginning of the game till the end. That's with tremendous respect for everybody in this conference.
About changing the culture behind Vanderbilt football after decades of mediocrity (or worse):
I think we've taken some steps, I really do. That goes back to talking about, like I talked about, all the facility things we have done, how we played. It wasn't just the games we won last year that affected the perception of us, but it's the play week in, week out. It's the excitement, buzz about Vanderbilt football right now.
We still have a long ways to go, I understand that. But we're taking steps in the right direction. That's what we have to continue to do.
There's also an understanding that it can't just be the coaches, the players, it's got to be the administration, the students, it's got to be the community and our fans and alumni as well. Everybody has to be pulling the rope in the same direction so we can create and put a product on the field that people can be really excited about and embrace and take a lot of pride in the black and gold, in the 'Star V,' who we are, what we represent.
That's what we're trying to do, we're trying to build traditions, a program. That's why whenever we get an opportunity to brand, throw up of the VU, talk about anchor down, which is something we talk about all the time as well, all these different things that we're trying to build, it's all a part of it, it's all a part of it, every step.
As usual, James Franklin proved that he can handle himself with the media, and his cool demeanor in July should help this team gain more recognition when the season starts in August. Vanderbilt has been blessed with a relatively easy schedule and will be looking to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. Franklin is confident that he can get this team there, and his squad's one-game-at-a-time attitude proved successful back in 2011. Can Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy help get this team there? So far Vanderbilt looks the part of a bowl team, but only time will tell.