BRYAN -- As Texas A&M enters the SEC this season, they know there are many challenges ahead of them. One team that certainly knows how tough SEC football can be is Vanderbilt. Like the Aggies, the Commodores will be looking for their first SEC football championship this season, and they hope their very enthusiastic coach can lead them to new levels.
“I’m a psycho. A football psycho,” said Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, who makes no bones about his love for the game of football.
After back to back 2-10 seasons Franklin helped the team make huge strides in his first season at the helm, as the Commodores improved to six wins and played in the Liberty Bowl. Franklin’s attitude toward turning Vandy into a contender went a long way, and the players think it will help the program going forward.
“Coach Franklin’s passion is still the center point for how we play. He’s a very passionate and very emotional coach,” said senior safety Trey Wilson. “When you see him willing to show that side of himself you commit to it. A guy that has that much passion for the game and has that much passion for his team brings out the best in his players.”
Quarterback Jordan Rogers added, “At this time last year we were just kind of buying into what Coach Franklin was selling, just kind of getting used to his coaching style, but this year we’re ready for it. We’ve been around him and we know what he expects from us getting prepared mentally and physically.”
“We couldn’t be more excited about the direction of our program and what we’re doing, what we’re creating,” said Franklin. “I think the biggest difference between last year and this year is last year we thought we would win. We thought we had a good plan. We were detailed and organized with where we wanted to go, but now after year two our kids believe it.”
The Commodores will have a veteran squad in 2012, as nine starters are back on offense and seven more return on defense. Jordan Rodgers is back for his senior season at quarterback, and looks to take over full time after splitting snaps with Larry Smith in 2011.
Franklin said, “He’s getting to the point right now where he has such confidence in what we do and how we do it that the offense has answers. You get to the point where you feel the defense can’t be right, if you do this, they do that. I’m excited to be able to continue to develop him and work with him this camp and then go out and watch him play this year. I think he’s really laying a foundation for some great things.”
The Commodores still have long way to go if they want to contend with the perennial powers in the SEC, but with Franklin at the helm, the team feels confident they can start to contend on a yearly basis.
“There’s a buzz about Vanderbilt football that probably hasn’t been in a long, long time and we want to continue to build on that momentum that we’ve started.”
“We’ve got more fans showing up to the games,” said running back Zac Stacy. “It’s definitely been a lot of changes. We’re upgrading facilities, getting new uniforms, so that’s definitely motivation for us going into the season.”
Rodgers said, “We really haven’t had a ton of success in the past. You don’t have a lot of teams to compare yourself to, so we have a chance to do something no other program has. Go to back-to-back bowls, win big games at home, some things that many teams have done in Vanderbilt’s history. We have a chance to do some of those things.”
Vandy does not ease into the 2012 season; they’ll open play at home against South Carolina on August 30.
Vanderbilt 2012 Schedule
Thu, Aug 30 (9) South Carolina
Sat, Sep 8 at Northwestern
Sat, Sep 15 Presbyterian
Sat, Sep 22 at (19) Georgia
Sat, Oct 6 at Missouri
Sat, Oct 13 Florida
Sat, Oct 20 Auburn
Sat, Oct 27 Massachusetts
Sat, Nov 3 at Kentucky
Sat, Nov 10 at Mississippi
Sat, Nov 17 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 24 at Wake Forest