By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer January 14, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — New Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and some of his assistants found themselves sitting at a table during the annual football coaches’ convention when Oregon coach Chip Kelly walked up.
“Chip said, ‘That’s a tough conference you guys are playing in. I just saw it firsthand,'” Franklin said Thursday of a quick talk with the coach who lost the BCS national championship game to Auburn on Monday night.
Franklin announced six of his offensive assistants Thursday along with some other positions, and he tapped his Maryland ties in convincing four of his former co-workers to join him at a program at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference — the league that has produced the last five BCS national champs.
“Chip didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know before we took this job. … We’re all extremely competitive. We’re going to attack this thing head on. No disrespect for this conference. We know what we’re up against. With this staff, with the people we’re going to be able to attract, we’re very confident we’re going to be able to get the job done.”
Franklin introduced John Donovan as his offensive coordinator, noting Donovan replaced him well enough in Maryland’s bowl game that the Terrapins beat East Carolina 51-20. Franklin also brought over Charles Bankins as his tight ends/special teams coach and added Jemal Griffin, director of football operations at Maryland, as his chief of staff.
But Franklin’s biggest move might have been convincing Dwight Galt to leave Maryland after 27 years to join him as his strength coach.
“Nobody thought I could get Dwight Galt to come to Vanderbilt and really it only took about a three-minute conversation and my excitement for this place,” Franklin said.
Franklin has given Galt perhaps the biggest challenge. He wants the Commodores, 2-10 in each of the past two seasons, to be the SEC’s fastest team from top to the bottom of the roster, and he said he expects to see a dramatic difference immediately based on what he knows Galt can do.
The new coach also rehired Herb Hand as his offensive line coach. Chris Beatty is the wide receivers coach, someone Franklin recruited against when Beatty was at West Virginia working with Noel Devine and receiver Jock Sanders. Franklin worked with Ricky Rahne at Kansas State and hired him as quarterbacks coach.
Michael Hazel will be director of football operations with Andy Frank as an assistant. Norval McKenzie, a former Commodores running back, will be assistant recruiting coordinator.
Franklin, introduced Dec. 17 as Vanderbilt’s new coach, still is filling out his defensive staff. He sees the defensive coordinator as a key hire considering his own background as offensive coordinator when he was at Maryland with Ralph Friedgen.
With these hires, Franklin said the coaches will get busy immediately as Vanderbilt tries to finalize up to six more recruits before National Signing Day on Feb. 2.
Franklin isn’t giving any clues yet to what type of offense Vanderbilt will run, and he said a final decision on who calls plays may not be finalized until summer. But he said with their backgrounds with the option, spread and even the West Coast will be up for consideration as the coaches try to figure out what players they have now.
“We’re not going to force an offense down this team’s throat that doesn’t fit the personnel,” Franklin said.