Roy Exum: Franklin Is Raiding Vandy

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It was dizzying enough as it was, James Franklin saying goodbye to his Vanderbilt football team on Saturday morning and hello to his new Penn State players that same afternoon, but you had to wonder when did he have time to convince some high school recruits who had committed to Vandy to quickly change their allegiance to the Nittany Lions. According to numerous reports, Franklin has offered as many as 10 Vanderbilt commitments the chance to follow him to State College, Pa.

It is hardly a new phenomenon, a successful coach going to a bigger program and taking several high-profile recruits with him. But sadness in losing the prolific Franklin turned to outrage by Monday in Nashville when it was learned Vanderbilt’s recruiting class, thought to be the 25th best in the country this time last week, has now been decimated and contains “only three or four players” who are still intent on playing for the Commodores.

Two high school stars who had promised their signatures to Vanderbilt, defensive end Lloyd Tubman and offensive lineman Chance Sorrell, had switched to Penn State by Sunday morning and four others had decommitted, saying they would now listen to other offers while awaiting word on Franklin’s successor.

What’s worse is that four more Vanderbilt commits publicly tweeted they had just received offers from Penn State over the weekend and there may be more. Most big schools won’t offer a player who has committed elsewhere – that’s why some of the players decommitted – but Franklin appeared pretty brazen in ignoring recruiting etiquette and swooping in on players he and his staff have recruited over the past two years on Vanderbilt’s nickel.

As one recruiting analyst told the Nashville Tennessean, “Normally, you're going to have staffs take some kids. But I don't think I've seen many cases where it seems like the entire class is trying to be taken to the next job."

Another recruiting expert told the newspaper, “A lot of them have mixed emotions. All the recruits, they all love Franklin, they all seemed to want to come to Vanderbilt because of Franklin. In the end, depending on how the new coaching staff is, they may be able to pull some of these guys back into the class. But it’s going to be open season for Vanderbilt recruiting the next three weeks.”

With the NCAA’s “dead period” ending tomorrow, allowing coaches to recruit players face-to-face, the recruiting process ratchets up before national signing day (Feb. 5) and Monday it appeared that Franklin will take most of his staff with him to Penn State. Since many of Vanderbilt’s commitments were recruited by the assistants and have budding relationships with them, there will be pressure to wear Penn State jerseys instead of the black-and-gold.

During his introduction on Saturday Franklin explained, "I am fiercely loyal as a person in general, and I'm going to be fiercely loyal to the guys that I've worked with in the past." Philadelphia newspapers reported Monday his assistants will include defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, wide receivers coach/offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis, tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Charles Bankins, linebacker coach Brent Pry, strength coach Dwight Galt and football chief of staff Jemal Griffin.

Meanwhile Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is feverishly searching for a replacement but he’s not panicky. "Our objective is to hire an outstanding football coach, one capable of running the program like a CEO, and do so in a timely manner," Williams told reporters. "We are confident in our process and ability to hire a coach that will be able to advance the tremendous progress our program has made over the past three years."

He also said, "Last time when we did this, quite honestly, we actually had to get on planes and go to a lot of places where people were because it was like, 'I'll meet with you if you show up at the Des Moines airport, and we'll meet behind the cookie counter.' And there were a lot of people that basically said, 'No, I don't want to talk you," This time already, there is a list of 20-25 people that have reached out to us. At least five of those people are people that we asked to talk to last time that said no."

On Saturday Franklin wowed Penn State in a lengthy talk after he was introduced as Bill O’Brien’s successor. He promised the Nittany Lions would be aggressive “even in the way we get off the bus and when a reporter alluded to 90,000 fans in Beaver Stadium, the new coach cut him off, asking what was the total capacity. Told 107,000, Franklin yelped, “One hundred and seven thousand every single game from here on out! That stadium will be sold out from here on out."

Here’s hoping they won’t be from Vanderbilt.

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