Coach Franklin makes more history for Vanderbilt
James Franklin has been promising that he’s just getting started
at Vanderbilt. Now the coach has followed up the best season since
1915 by landing a recruiting class rated in the top 20 for the
first time in the program’s history.
Vanderbilt signed 26 players Wednesday, and a final commitment
from linebacker Zach Cunningham helped push the Commodores to No.
19 in the ratings by Rivals.com. Even with that success, Vanderbilt
still ranks seventh among Southeastern Conference teams and just
ahead of Tennessee. Still, Franklin and his coaches are bringing in
the type of talent that the Commodores hadn’t seen in, well, ever
to compete in the SEC.
”That’s going to be very important for us to do consistently
year in and year out,” Franklin said. ”We’re excited about it. We
still have a long way to go. This is two recruiting classes that
we’ve been able to put together that we feel good about. There’s
teams in this league been doing this for 80 years. So we still have
some progress that we have to make, and we’re making it. All you
can do is get better today.”
Vanderbilt went 9-4 last season for the program’s best record
since 1915, and the Commodores finished off by winning the Music
City Bowl for a seventh straight victory that is the longest
winning streak in the SEC. That success translated almost
immediately as Franklin topped a signing class rated 29th
nationally by Rivals a year ago with this class featuring 13
players on offense, 12 on defense and a kicking specialist.
Scout.com rated Vandy’s class 20th, while 247Sports.com had the
Commodores at No. 35. Barton Simmons, national recruiting
coordinator for 247Sports.com, said he still thinks Vandy’s class
is even better than a year ago as Franklin and his coaches keep
”They missed on a couple of guys late, so they haven’t quite
gotten over the hump to be able to really compete for an SEC
championship on a recruiting level, but they definitely look like
they’re here to stay as far as contending for that Top 25 (in
recruiting rankings),” Simmons said. ”As soon as they land a Leon
McQuay, a Jalen Ramsey or someone like that, at that level in the
future, that could really get them to be in position to be able to
truly compete with anyone in the country.”
For Franklin, the recruiting rating matters only from a
perception standpoint. It helps signal that Vanderbilt is bringing
in players that fit not only academically at Vanderbilt but also
physically in the SEC where he said they look and perform like
everyone they’re playing against. He noted all the players in this
class had national offers and all had multiple SEC offers.
”Times have changed, and I think that’s a real positive for
us,” Franklin said.
Vanderbilt got plenty of attention Wednesday with Jordan
Cunningham, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound receiver from Fort Lauderdale,
Fla., announcing on national television that he chose Vanderbilt
over offers that included Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida State and
Stanford. The final commitment to announce was the other
Cunningham, the 10th-overall player in Alabama according to
247Sports.com, picked the Vandy hat instead of Auburn, Tennessee or
Even with receiver Jordan Matthews back for his senior season,
the Commodores signed five receivers and three tight ends,
including tight end Brandon Vandenburg from College of the Desert
Community College. He’s a rare junior college transfer to the SEC’s
lone private university, but Franklin expects the 6-foot-5,
255-pound tight end to compete immediately on the field as well as
the classroom with a ”perfect GPA.”
Vanderbilt also features five defensive backs and four defensive
linemen, including end Landon Stokes whose father Fred played 10
years in the NFL. With starting quarterback having used up all his
eligibility, the class includes two quarterbacks in Chad Kanoff of
Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Johnny McCrary from Decatur, Ga.
McCrary enrolled in January after choosing from offers including
Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio State and Mississippi State.
This is Franklin’s third recruiting class overall since he was
hired in December 2010. He said they’re still trying to fill some
holes but he feels confident they’re improving their size and
depth. He pointed to the offensive line where they had seven
players on scholarship last spring and will have 15 this
”We keep raising the bar,” Franklin said.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed
to this report.
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