While we'll have to wait to see how life on the field at Vanderbilt changes without James Franklin, we can immediately see a negative effect in recruiting for the Commodores in what was once another solid recruiting class.
Since Franklin left Vanderbilt to become Penn State's head coach last Saturday, the Commodores have lost seven commitments and are down to just 12 verbals in their 2014 class. On Jan. 9, Vandy ranked 29th in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings. As of Thursday, they are out of the rankings altogether.
"Losing seven commits, including ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels, right before signing day is devastating for Vanderbilt," ESPN recruiting analyst Derek Tyson said. "A lot of times, recruits will take the wait-and-see approach when a coach leaves, but it was obvious how important Franklin was to these recruits. Three former Vandy commits, Brendan Brosnan, Lloyd Tubman and Chance Sorrell, switched their commitments to Penn State almost immediately after Franklin left for Happy Valley."
Decommitments are natural after a coaching change, but the ones who are leaving to join Franklin have Vandy's fans upset with their former coach. They view it as disrespectful and unethical, considering all the good Franklin did for the Commodores. You'll see the term "scorched earth" thrown around when it comes to the crippling effect Franklin's departure has had on this recruiting class.
The problem is that a lot of these recruits were and are invested in Franklin more than Vandy. They were heavily recruited by him and want to play for him, no matter where he is. Vandy was just a sweet incentive in the deal to some. Now, that's certainly not good news for the Commodores, and some people might even say it's unfair, but it's the nature of the business.
Some of the players who are currently committed to the Commodores are still looking around, and you can't blame them. Franklin meant a lot to that program. All the firsts in Vandy history and all the good fortune this program has had in the past three seasons can be heavily attributed to Franklin. He developed great relationships with these recruits, and he's now gone. Unfortunately for the Commodores, Vandy hasn't named a coach and national signing day is only a few weeks away.
These recruits have been put in a tough position, but the best way to put this class back together is to find the right coach and hit the recruiting trail, like, yesterday.
"At this point, the only way to really salvage this recruiting class will be to name a head coach and convince the current commits to stay in the class," Tyson said. "The Commodores will have a difficult time adding any big-name recruits this late in the process, but they may offer some two- and three-star prospects just for sheer numbers. Carta-Samuels is still considering Vanderbilt and he has family ties to the school, so if they can hold on to the four-star quarterback that will certainly help ease the pain."
It's going to take a special coach to keep Vandy's momentum going and help restore this class. There are plenty of worthy candidates popping up, and there's no question this is a more exciting job than it was before Franklin arrived. The first order of business is clearly getting the ball rolling with recruiting again.