CFN SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On VU's Spring
James Franklin 'aint skaird
James Franklin 'aint skaird
Posted Mar 23, 2011

With spring ball kicking in, we start rolling out analysis from each team's off-season sessions. Check it out as CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on some key questions facing the Vandy football team this spring. What position is undergoing the biggest overhaul? Will QB Larry Smith still be the starter come April 17, and what to expect from the defensive line?

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SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring

Billy Gomila: On what changes we'll see under new head coach James Franklin

To start with, Franklin has scrapped the depth chart for spring ball and ranked everyone by seniority - and we love it. It's got everyone ramped up and competing for their job. Given Franklin's high tempo coaching style, we're not the least be surprised.

Franklin is a protege of Ralph Friedgen, who loved to attack defenses from multiple formations with the run and pass. Early on, he's made it known he wants the Commodores to challenge defenses down the field more. But given the passing talent on hand, that's easier said than done.

There are, however, a pair of solid runners to compliment the passing game. Zac Stacy and Warren Norman have excelled in Nashville, and they'll need to continue that production in 2011. Keep an eye this spring on who (if anyone) emerges as a legit SEC threat for the passing game, and whether Stacy and Norman continue to earn rave reviews.

With 11 starters back on defense, there probably won't be much of a drop-off. Vandy has always played solid defense despite generally facing a talent disadvantage. Cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Sean Richardson and linebacker Chris Marve could all play for any team in this league.

How Franklin balances what he wants to do with what his players are able to do, particularly on offense, will say a lot about him and his future as a head coach.

Brian Harbach: On whether Larry Smith is talented enough to hold off his QB competition

In Larry Smith's fourth and final season in Nashville, the questions about his play are once again the same: Is Smith accurate enough to be an SEC quarterback? Does Vanderbilt have enough talent around him to help? And is there anyone on the roster capable of replacing him in the starting lineup?

In two full years as a starter, Smith has done little to show that he's accurate enough to be an SEC quarterback. However, there hasn't been anyone else on the roster during that time to take the job away from him. Until now.

Last year, junior college transfer Jordan Rodgers was expected to come in, compete and grab the job away from Smith. But an injury at the beginning of fall camp put Rodgers behind the eight ball and he was never able to compete against Smith the way coaches expected. That will not be the case this season. Watch for Rodgers to earn the starting position this spring and lead the Commordore offense this fall.

Rodgers is the younger brother of Super Bowl Champion Aaron, and physically they are nearly the same person. Both are 6'2'', though his older brother has about 10 pounds on Jordan. Still, the younger Rodgers weighs in at a very respectable 215 pounds.

Right now Franklin has every position ranked by seniority, so Smith is at the top. And perhaps he'll appreciate the experience the senior brings to the table. But Rodgers only has to show Franklin he can be accurate to win the job... It's very difficult to see Smith impressing the coaches in practice when they have three years of film to review. And it's hard to see anyone but Jordan Rodgers starting for Vanderbilt come September.

Russ Mitchell: On what position is undergoing the biggest overhaul

Everyone knows Franklin is a high energy/tempo coach, and that's a good thing, ‘cause he's going to need all of that energy to coach at Vandy. A tough gig to be sure, but his timing was excellent - there might not be a single position facing a major overhaul in 2011.

Yes, everyone that follows the SEC knows about Vandy's recent trouble at quarterback. But there are a bevy of players that want the job, including three freshman that showed up in this year's recruiting class. Quarterback may be Franklin's biggest challenge, but with Smith a two year starter and Rodgers an upperclassman (and healthy), it's hard to consider the position an overhaul.

But if not QB, what? The offensive line is mostly young, but all five starters return - including its senior anchor, RG Kyle Fischer. All three RBs are back, and they're all talented. And the defense returns nearly everyone.

Some might argue it's the receiving corps, with underclassmen Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews vying for a starting role. However, Udom Umoh and John Cole are still on the roster and will have a thing or two to say about that. Not to mention sophomore Jonathan Krause also returns after getting considerable experience in 2010.

Vandy's a tough head coaching job, but the cupboards certainly aren't bare.

Gabe Harris: On will the defensive line improve this off-season


How am I so positive? Is it because Vandy was last in the SEC in rushing and total defense and has nowhere to go but up? Yes and no.

The Commodores were last in rushing D for a reason, but there is optimism in Nashville. Eleven starters return, another year bigger and wiser. And another spring working together will help.

Couple that with the fact that everyone will want to impress the new coaching staff, and you have the makings of improvement right away.

Vandy starts the season at home with Elon and UConn (also sporting a new staff), so they could get off to a fast start. Elon is not a creature from Avatar but a school, and UConn lost starting running back (and its workhorse) Jordan Todman to the NFL. Vandy's D line should therefore get an easy start out of the gate.

Renewed enthusiasm on the team always seems to start with the defensive line, and I look for that to be the case in 2011 for Vanderbilt. Keep an eye on reports this spring about the line - neutral to negative commentary would foretell a long October/November.

Barrett Sallee: On whether Vandy can expect to compete in the SEC East this year, really

No, not really. (You're smart - you can handle the truth.)

A "great" season at Vanderbilt is finishing above .500 and going to a bowl. For any other SEC school, that's unacceptable - period.

Give Vanderbilt credit for shooting for the stars during its coaching search, and backing up the Brinks truck for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. However, rather than risk his professional reputation at Vanderbilt, Malzahn opted to stay on as the offensive coordinator at Auburn - a team that will be undergoing a massive roster overhaul.

That alone speaks volumes on where the ‘Dores stand in the FBS pecking order.

There's no doubt that the SEC East was down in 2010, and probably be down again in 2011. But even in a down division, Vanderbilt doesn't stand a chance.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UF's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On USC's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs' Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring

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