His official title might be head coach, but Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is also the Commodores’ executive director for sales.
“As the head coach at Vanderbilt, I’ve got to wear a lot more hats than a coach at a more established program,” Franklin explained.
To this point, he’s worn them well and worn them with the kind of confidence, energy and charisma that makes anybody a successful salesman.
And if you can’t sell in college football, you can’t coach.
Already, the Commodores are making the kind of waves on the recruiting trail they haven’t traditionally made. They have six verbal commitments for the 2012 class, and five of those are from Georgia.
Even more impressive, three are ESPNU 150 Watch List members -- linebacker Darreon Herring of Stone Mountain, Ga., linebacker Jacob Sealand of Tucker, Ga., and defensive end Stephen Weatherly of Atlanta.
The Commodores will probably only be able to sign a maximum of 18 players in the 2012 class. But if the early returns are any indication, Franklin and his staff are making a huge splash.
“I think people are understanding our message and where we want to take this program, and they want to be a part of it,” Franklin said. “We have a great product to sell.”
One of the keys for the new Vanderbilt staff was being able to get some heralded players away from more established schools in the 2011 class.
Quarterback LaFonte Thourogood was initially committed to Virginia Tech. Defensive end Barron Dixon was a Mississippi State commitment and tight end Dillon van der Wal was an Arizona State commitment.
Josh Grady, a multi-talented quarterback in that class from Seffner, Fla., is already one of Franklin’s favorite players.
For one, Franklin thinks the 6-foot, 185-pound Grady can be an impact player for the Commodores at a number of different spots. But just as important, Grady has been out there selling Franklin’s vision for Vanderbilt football as much as anyone.
“You’re going to love this kid,” Franklin said. “He calls or texts me every day, just to see if there’s anything else he can do.”
Even with 19 of the 22 starters returning on offense and defense, Franklin said the Commodores will need help this season from the newcomers.
They’re especially thin in the offensive line and have been searching for playmakers at the receiver position ever since Earl Bennett departed following the 2006 season.
Franklin was impressed with what he saw from sophomore Jordan Matthews this spring and his approach to the game. The 6-3, 200-pound Matthews made a lot of plays down the field for the Commodores and will need to be that guy who can keep defenses honest this fall.
“He thinks he’s one of the best receivers in the league, and that’s the way he practiced and worked all spring,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to have more of those guys.”