After last offseason's completely unexpected retirement of Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson - a good, likeable coach who fought a constant uphill battle as the leader of the Commodores for nearly a decade - a whirlwind of speculation* arose regarding just who Vanderbilt would name as their newest head coach and whether or not he would be able to build off of Bobby Johnson's efforts to make Vanderbilt a competitive football program in a viciously unforgiving league.
Not succumbing to an act of desperation, Vandytook their time withthe process. Robbie Caldwell was hired in the interim and brought, along with a win over Ole Miss (His only SEC win he'll ever have as a head coach. WAOM.), a wealth of expertise in jolly bumpkinry and poultry reproduction to the Commodore program. He technically had the "interim" tag lifted by the Vandy administration, but once he "retired" late into the season to, eventually, take the offensive line coaching job at Clemson, it became pretty clear that Caldwell was only intended to bridge the gap between Bobby Johnson's Commodores and their future counterpart.
Enter James Franklin.
To say that James Franklin took a circuitous route to his first head coaching gig doesn't really adequately describe it. He began as a wideouts coach at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania - where or whatever the hell that is. He moved around a bit in Division II ball, then became the offensive coordinator for the Roskilde Kings, a club in the Danish Football Confederation of Denmark, or something. It's weird.
He moved back stateside and continued coaching wide receivers and tight ends. First he was at James Madison, then Washington State, then Idaho State (where the Bengals offense was ranked 9th nationally in total offense). In 2000, he was named the wide receivers coach at Maryland, where his career really began to take off.
After a few years in College Park, he had earned the role of recruiting coordinator, something for which he has gained a considerably favorable reputation. He left Maryland to briefly serve as the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers (so, for those keeping score, he went from Division II, to Denmark, to Division 1, then to the NFL) before returning to the college game as the wide receivers coach at Kansas State. In 2008, he returned to Maryland, but this time as the offensive coordinator and, in 2009, as the head coach-in-waiting.
He didn't do much waiting, because a year later he would take the Vandy head coaching job.
So he brings offensive expertise and significant recruiting experience ota program which could use a significant jolt in both. He is young, intelligent, competitive, and incredibly ambitious. This feature story from this week's Sports Illustrated does an excellent job of describing just what type of a coach James Franklin is and what type of a program he wants Vanderbilt to become. And while we all know, Franklin included, that he has one hell of a challenge in front of him, I don't think few of us doubt that he is capable of improving the lot of the football Commodores.
By all accounts, Franklin is a great hire by Vanderbilt. Of course, this can only mean bad things for our Rebels. Beating Vanderbilt has been frustratingly difficult for us over the past decade or so and, with coach Franklin leading the 'Dores, it won't get any easier.
*Okay, maybe there was some casual chatter over it.