Throughout the offseason I noted the stellar job first-year Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has done on the recruiting trail, as the former Maryland offensive coordinator has compiled an impressive list of verbal commitments for the Class of 2012.
And because of his tireless work ethic and bright mind, Franklin seems to be a good long-term fit for a program known mostly for being a bottom-feeder in the SEC.
ICONJames Franklin and the Commodores remain unbeaten after their win over Ole Miss.
But who could have predicted such early success for the Commodores after three weeks of the 2011 season?
Behind the strength of five interceptions, the Commodores beat Ole Miss 30-7 on Saturday afternoon to move to 3-0, making Franklin the first new Vandy head coach since World War II to begin a season with three straight wins.
The Commodores returned an interception for a score for the third time this season and Franklin's bunch scored 21 straight in the second quarter to move to 3-0 for the first time snce 2008 when Vandy won its first bowl game since 1955. They also outgained Houston Nutt's Rebels 387-234 in total offense.
Behind a defense led by Trey Wilson, Vandy is making life difficult for its opponents in 2011. With Zac Stacy pacing a solid rushing attack, Larry Smith remains the X-factor for this ballclub. He was subpar in the team's first two wins against Elon and UConn, but he played much better on Saturday against an Ole Miss defense that surprisingly was playing well early in the year. If Smith can play turnover-free ball, this is a Commodores team that can compete with the second-tier SEC programs this season.
A big opportunity presents itself next week when Vandy travels to South Carolina to play a Gamecocks squad with a Heisman Trophy contender at running back and one of the best receivers in the nation. Can the Vandy defense force South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia into enough mistakes to keep them in the game? And will Smith be prepared to face a fierce Gamecocks defensive line?
No matter what happens in Columbia next Saturday, Franklin clearly has this Vandy program on an accelerated pace to respectability.
And that has to make Commodore fans very pleased this fall.
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