Franklin the fisherman, wins are his bait
By Matthew Osborne
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The best news for the Vanderbilt program is that James Franklins’ recruiting pitch will only gain credibility after what he has been able to accomplish in his first season in Nashville.
For decades, Vanderbilt football has been considered an afterthought in the mighty and powerful SEC. The Commodores have been the little brothers in the State of Tennessee and the punch line to numerous college football jokes for as long as I have been alive.
However, those days seem ready to come to an end.
With Saturday’s triumph over Wake Forest, the Commodores are now bowl-eligible for just the fifth time in school history, and only the second time since 1983.
New head coach James Franklin certainly deserves to be lauded for the coaching job that he has done with the current team, but Vanderbilt’s success in 2011 season can be attributed to more than just coaching strategies , game-planning and player execution. The fundamental success of Vandy’s 2011 campaign is rooted in the most important aspect of college football – recruiting.
A quick glance at recruiting statistics will show that Vanderbilt has slowly, but steadily, improved their recruiting since 2008.
According to Scout.com, Vanderbilt’s 2008 recruiting class ranked 74th in the country, and the average star-rating of their commits was a dismal 2.24. Since that time, the Commodores have finished each proceeding year with a higher ranked recruiting class, as well as a higher average star-rating for their commits. In 2009, Vandy’s class improved to 72nd in the nation, with an average star-rating of 2.28. 2010 saw a more significant increase, as those numbers improved to a No. 52 ranking and an average rating of 2.44.In 2010, the Commodore’s boasted a top 50 class nationally, ranking 46th in the country, with an average rating of 2.71.
As this year’s recruiting class has begun to take shape, there is little doubt that Vanderbilt will continue their recent trend of improved recruiting success. The Commodores currently hold claim to the No. 36 recruiting class in the nation. The average star-rating for their 20 current commits is 2.8.
Vandy still has room to add a few more prospects to their 2012 class, and they are still in the running for numerous elite prospects, including running back Wes Brown, who was recently ranked as the No. 40 overall prospect in our RealTree Energy Southern Top 100.
We often see new head coaches have recruiting success early in their tenure at a school because they are able to sell the idea of building the program to recruits. That argument loses its luster after a couple of sub-par season, which is why recruiting often quickly slips back to the level it was prior to the new hire when coaches fail to immediately turn the program around.
The best news for the Vanderbilt program is that James Franklins’ recruiting pitch will only gain credibility after what he has been able to accomplish in his first season in Nashville. Telling recruits that your program is on the rise is easy to prove. Providing tangible evidence of your program’s improvement is much more difficult to achieve, and that is precisely what Franklin has accomplished.
Whether other SEC schools want to admit it or not, Vanderbilt is no longer a pushover when it comes to recruiting high-profile athletes. The numbers show that high schools recruits have taken notice of the Vanderbilt program, and it is now a desirable place to play for many of the nation’s top athletes.
While we can never definitively say that Vanderbilt will become a perennial contender in the SEC East, there is no denying that they are narrowing the talent differential on the gridiron. The Commodores will not be pushed around, and they will not go down without a fight.
This is not your parent’s Vanderbilt. This team is serious about winning and their recruiting proves it.