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July 22, 2011

James Franklin


THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue this morning. We have with us head coach of Vanderbilt, James Franklin.
COACH FRANKLIN: Good morning. Really appreciate being here. Excited about an opportunity to represent the SEC, and more specifically Vanderbilt University. Take a lot of pride in this position and opportunity that we have and looking forward to getting to know everybody in this room better.
I'll open it up to questions.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the commissioner's suggestions or proposals on changing some of the eligibility for incoming freshmen, and in some ways could that make it easier for a school like Vanderbilt that already has high academic requirements?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I think that's important. I think it's important to understand both ends of the spectrum. We already live to very, very high standards as you all know at Vanderbilt University, and always will. You could make the argument that by raising those standards it will help level the playing field a little bit. But what it's also going to do, it's also going to make sure those better students are more attractive to all these different institutions as well.
You can make either argument. But I'm all for as many rules that we want to institute, because we're already living at a higher standard than most schools across the country anyways.

Q. Describe a little bit of your recruiting philosophy, particularly in light of the increasing success that Northwestern and Stanford seem to be having with similar academic standards.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, our recruiting philosophy, my philosophy in general is about relationships. Obviously now being here since December 17th, we've had more of an opportunity. That first recruiting class was a challenge getting in with the last minute and hustling.
The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt. We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I really believe there's very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.
You can come to Vanderbilt and get a world class education, so for the next 40 years of your life you have a degree that matters. When you walk into a job interview, and they get to know you, and they ask you where you went to school, you'll demand respect from everybody in that room right away.
We also play in the greatest football conference in America, the SEC. If you're the best and brightest from all over this country, where else would you go?
The third factor is we're in Nashville. I'm a big believer that your education is more than what you just learn in the classroom. It's a combination of all these cultural experiences, and we can provide that at Nashville.
There's going to be some schools that maybe have one aspect. There's going to be very few schools that have all three aspects that I think people are looking for: the academic experience, the athletic experience, social experience.
The last factor is these guys want to play early. We can offer that. We have some good players, we just don't have enough of them. From a depth perspective, we can allow young men to get on the field as well.
That plan, that vision, that mentality has really been helping us.

Q. Talk about going head-to-head like with Tennessee, going into Georgia, going against the Bulldogs, and South Carolina. Are you just throwing the education out there that they can come to Vanderbilt for that world class education? How is it compared going against Tennessee, Georgia, all the others?
COACH FRANKLIN: We obviously have tremendous respect for all the other institutions and the coaches in this conference and what they've done.
But the other thing that we're selling is an opportunity to differentiate yourself. You have an opportunity to come to a place like Vanderbilt, you can name school X or school Y, that a lot of young men have gone there and won, or you can come with me and my coaches and this program and you have a chance to build something with your own hands and differentiate yourself. You have a chance to build something, to be able to change history, to be able to lay the foundation for a future.
So I think that's attractive to young men as well. They can come to Vanderbilt and be the first guy that did something, that's win on a consistent level and build something for the long haul.

Q. The history suggests you're in for a tough time at Vanderbilt, not for academic standards obviously, but just the numbers themselves. With Stanford playing in their conference and Vanderbilt playing in the SEC, what are the different challenges you see specifically for building a competitive program year in and year out?
COACH FRANKLIN: Great question. I think first of all we talk about big challenge, but bigger opportunity. You brought up Stanford. Four years ago Stanford was 1-11. You talk about the transition they were able to make. I also understand the conference that we play in with the last five national championships, the emphasis in this part of the country, the traditions. I understand all those things. Yeah, it's a tremendous challenge.
But, again, I'm going to reach out to young men, I'm going to reach out to families and say, Look, you're going to have an opportunity to differentiate yourself. I need young men to make decisions based on the long haul. Don't commit to the logo on the helmet, don't commit to the jerseys. Make the decision for the right reason, which is being able to get an education that's going to set you up for the long haul.
The more days we win in the off-season, the more Saturdays we'll win. We've been very honest and open with these young men and their families. We understand we're not going to come in here and flick a light switch and change everything overnight. This is going to be a process.
What I want people to do, when they watch us, see us play, I want people to be very comfortable and say, They're doing it the right way, heading in the right direction, building this the right way, and we're about to do some very special things at Vanderbilt.

Q. Could you tell us for the record how many quarterbacks you have on your roster, how you go about keeping them all straight, how that derby is going for us?
COACH FRANKLIN: This spring we had one healthy scholarship quarterback. So it's going to be a little bit interesting. I didn't think it was fair at any position, especially the quarterback position, to name any starters. Every one of our players is going to come in and earn their job in camp and what they've done all summer and off-season. That's including Chris Marve, everybody. We want to create the most competitive environment we possibly can.
Larry's got an opportunity. He did have a great spring, a very good summer from what all the players and strength coaches have told me. So I'm excited to get to camp and give him an opportunity to compete against a Jordan Rodgers, compete against the three freshmen we have coming in, then also some of the walk-ons as well.
Our job is to create the most competitive environment we possibly can at every position just like the way this country was built, be the most competitive society in the world, and let's see what happens.

Q. Greg Schiano generated a lot of discussion this summer with a radical proposal to eliminate kickoffs. Do you think something should be done or will be done to address the issue of player safety on kickoffs? What was your reaction to Schiano's proposal?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think player's safety and the well-being of the student-athlete is something we take very seriously at Vanderbilt, and I think the SEC is always going to make a priority.
What I will tell you is my focus has really been on our program, our kids, on and off the field, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package. Rather than me getting into any discussions or statements that have been made nationally, I have my hands full with what we're doing here at Vanderbilt, changing our program, building for our future. I'd like to stick to that if we could.

Q. You're the third head coach at Vanderbilt in three years. How tough do you think that is on the players? What are you doing to help them overcome that situation?
COACH FRANKLIN: Once again, my focus is on things that we can control. The past I have no control over. All I can do is from the day that we got on campus is make sure that we have the right communication with our players, that they understand our plan, that they understand our vision, that they understand the direction we're going, and how we're going to do it.
I've just been blown away by the commitment that our players have made. They've bought in completely to what we're doing. It's been exciting as a first-year head coach to watch that all come together with the staff that I've been able to put together.
These kids are very, very hungry, as you can imagine. You're talking about kids that have been highly successful in everything they've done their entire life. They want to get back to that. To me this is a great opportunity for us as a staff. It's a great opportunity for them as well. That's really our focus. Things in the past, I can't control. I'm going to make sure the things that we can control at Vanderbilt that we do from here on out.

Q. How important are recruiting services to your recruiting process? How much of a financial commitment do you make to that?
COACH FRANKLIN: When I got the job, recruiting in general was something that was very, very important to me, and our budget. More so to the point, I wanted to make sure we could recruit nationally. We have areas that we focus on across the country. The reality is if there's a good player out there, anywhere in this world, that's the right fit for Vanderbilt, we're going to go after that. We have the ability to do that now.
Recruiting services are good. For us it's really just a starting point. It gives you the ability to get names that high school coaches have turned in as their top prospects, into the database so you can start mailing.
We're handling all the recruiting ourselves as coaches. We want to get out there, build relationships with high school coaches, young men and their families. That's how we're going to do it at Vanderbilt, based on relationships, people that we know, people that we trust, people that we think are a great fit for Vanderbilt.

Q. I know you haven't coached Chris in a game, but talk about what he's meant in your transition, what he's meant to the team?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, right away obviously understanding Chris' history at Vanderbilt, the impact he's had in games, been a very well-respected player. Not only in this league. But nationally. Then you spend five minutes with Chris, you're talking about the whole package on and off the field, the classroom. When he talks, our team listens. Right away he has instant credibility with our players because of how he's handled himself, because of what he does.
You look at what he's done in the classroom. You're talking about a guy that's going to go to law school. You talk about what he's done on the field. It was very obvious to me and my staff the power this young man had to influence his teammates. We've used that. We've built on that. We've had discussions with Chris, what our expectations are of him.
But we need more of that. Our goal is ultimately when we get to September 3rd and open this season that we have 125 leaders, not one, two or three.

Q. Coach, in the past Vanderbilt players have become accustomed to seeing opposing team's fans come in there and taking over their stadium. Is there something you can do to change that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the most important thing we can do is put a product on the field that our fan base can be excited about. That's the most important thing. We're going to do some things facility-wise to create a better home-field advantage as well, give a better game-day experience.
The other thing, my staff, myself, the players, administration, we have to reach out to the entire Vanderbilt community, that's worldwide. I think that's one of our challenges as well, is because of our education, what we offer young men, our graduates go all over the world, we have to reach out and bring the community back together.
Everybody has to understand we can't do this alone. It's not the players, it's not just the coaches. It's our alumni base, it's the community, everybody. We need this fan base to unite like it never has before.

Q. Can you talk about Jared Morse this year?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, really excited about Jared specifically. But also our defensive line. It's been a group that I've been impressed with. Our depth at that position. I think you better have eight to ten guys at that position that you can rotate in and stay fresh and also allows you to stay healthy as well.
I've been impressed with him. He had a great spring. He's got a great work ethic. He naturally does things extremely well. Then Sean Spencer, our D-line coach is doing a great job in developing him in some pass-rush moves and other things as well. Excited about what he's going to be able to do this year. Build on what he was able to do last year and go on from there.

Q. The demographics of Nashville, with the Titans, the Predators, Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, how do you get your piece of the pie in such a metropolitan city that has so much to offer? Secondly, what lessons from Maryland, which is also an urban campus, can you instill at Vanderbilt that you had from Maryland?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think you just said it. First of all, we have all those opportunities for people to enjoy when you come to Nashville. You can come there, get a great experience academically, you can see a Predators game. I went to my first Predators game. The Titans, building a relationship with them as well.
Those things aren't going to change, so let's embrace them and use them to our strengths.
The last part of it is we have to make sure our piece of the pie is the best tasting, the most delicious piece of the pie.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FRANKLIN: I think that helps. All these schools in urban areas, having to compete with other markets, I think that's going to help us. I understand what the challenges are. We knew that when we came here and took this job.
All these experiences we've had as a staff, we're going to use them to our strengths here.

Q. What coaches influenced you or did you pattern yourself after? What has been the biggest surprise since you took the job?
COACH FRANKLIN: I've had the fortune to work for great people all across this country. I've coached in the ACC, I've coached in the PAC-10, I've coached in the Big 12, I've coached in the NFL, and now the SEC. So very, very fortunate. What I've tried to do is any coach I've come in contact with, any coach I've worked with, really try to steal some of their ideas, add them to my repertoire. Also anything maybe I thought they could have done better, taken notes about that, maybe things I would choose to do a little bit differently.
I've been fortunate to be around really good people. All of those have had an impact on me in my career and really our staff as a whole. So we're really, really excited about the direction we're going. All this background and foundation is going to allow us to do that.

Q. What has been the biggest surprise?
COACH FRANKLIN: Probably the biggest surprise is just the excitement that we have right now that we're doing as a staff, being able to reach out. Really up to this point I haven't said no to anybody. Been able to reach out to the community, just like our players, our fan base, the alumni, the students on campus, everybody is so excited about the opportunities that we have to build something special.

Q. Coach Dooley yesterday talked about in-state recruiting. How big a priority is it for you guys to keep that talent locked up in the mid-state area?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's always important. Recruiting your state, your area is important. We're going to go wherever a good player is. To be able to keep the best players home is always important.
About your fan base, getting people in the stands, as well, that's always going to be very important, going to be a foundation of who we are. We're going to compete with the best of 'em.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.
COACH FRANKLIN: Thank you very much for having me.

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