Can Vanderbilt football be cool?


James Franklin wants Vanderbilt football to be cool.

Now in his second year as coach of the Commodores, the former Maryland offensive coordinator has already laid a foundation for recruiting success thanks to Vandy's academic reputation, SEC affiliation and its growing home of Nashville.

Franklin, however, knows those factors alone won't secure every commitment he needs. He'll need more to compete against better stadiums, facilities and tradition. And on Saturday, the Commodores will host No. 4 Florida at 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Just how cool Vanderbilt football can become remains to be seen. Here's what is known: Vanderbilt is already relevant in recruiting. Moreover, there are times Vandy seems even cooler than their in-state rivals.

Vandy has 21 commitments, including four from the ESPN 300 and ten four-star prospects. On the other hand, Tennessee has 17 commitments, including three from the ESPN 300 and five four-star prospects. Clearly, Franklin and the Commodores have taken advantage of the Vols' recent struggles. The 'Dores have also had success in Memphis, where the Tigers have struggled.

"You've got to take advantage when the timing is right," Franklin said.

Franklin intends on doing that with publicity. He's been willing to make himself available to the media and he can stir up fans, both his and his oppositions'.

"I think it's me," Franklin said when asked if his exhuberance was orchestrated. "I think it has to be you or it doesn't come off as genuine. Taking over a job like Vanderbilt with the challenges we have, you need somebody that is high energy is as positive as anything and is not going to get caught up in the negativity."

Franklin demands that trait in his assistants. He's also implemented a system in which his coaches truly recruit as a staff, not as individuals resigned to a particular territory. Vandy has two recruiting coordinators: defensive backs coach George Barlow and receivers coach Josh Gattis.

"At first it was as little different to me but now that I've gotten used to it, it's actually a pretty good idea," Barlow said.

Vandy also benefits from having several private schools nearby in Nashville. Those prospects see the significance of the education being offered down the road.

One prospect saw that early. Junior Jashon Robertson from Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy committed to Vanderbilt in June. The ESPN Watch List defensive lineman said he's not even considering interest from other schools. Two things stood out in Robertson's recruitment: the ability to build tradition and, of course, Franklin.

"He's very convincing, very convincing," Robertson said. "He knows what to say. When I first started off in the recruiting process, I considered Vandy, but I didn't know what was exactly there. Then, just talking to him, it was already done. I knew that's what I wanted to do."

Head coach Cody White from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy has also been impressed.

"He's an energetic guy and he believes," White said. "He's not one of those guys (that says), 'Here's what we're fighting and it's not a fair, level playing field' or any of that stuff. He's embraced the fact (and said), 'We've got great academics here and we're going to build a winner here.'

"He's been pretty aggressive with it. My dealings with his staff, they've done a good job recruiting. They know what they're doing and they get after it."

Aggressive and confident sounds great, but Franklin and Vanderbilt want to soon add cool to that description, too.