NOTEBOOK; New Vanderbilt coach sends clear message to team

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith knew pretty quickly what new coach James Franklin expected of the team when he was hired in December.
“The first thing he said at the first team meeting when he arrived in Nashville was, ‘The Vanderbilt days of 2-10 are over.’ So soon as he said that, we knew he meant business,” Smith said.
Franklin, looking very professorial at the lectern, exuded confidence and set forth lofty expectations at SEC Media Days on Friday. He’s already gotten off to a good start at Vandy in the recruiting game, and he expects that area to become a strength under his leadership.
“I really believe there’s very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting,” Franklin sad, “because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.”
He emphasized three area: academics, athletics and social life. Selling the athletics side of things might not be so easy given Vanderbilt’s history.
Franklin is the program’s third coach in as many years. The Commodores went 2-10 last season (1-7 SEC) under Robbie Caldwell, ranking last in the SEC in scoring, total offense, total defense and rushing defense.
Yet Franklin’s expectations have been embraced by his team.
“The Vanderbilt future looks bright, starting this year,” Smith said. “So we’re going to set the tone this year with a bowl victory, and that’s setting the foundation for years to come.”
Avoiding the internet
Les Miles has some sage advice for his players.
When asked about some of the abuse quarterback Jordan Jefferson has taken on the message boards, LSU’s coach said, “I’ve certainly instructed my team to avoid the Internet. Those people that sign their name ‘Slick Willie’ don’t necessarily have legitimate opinions.”
Miles praised Jefferson for his production and leadership, and while there will be competition for the senior to fend off, Miles believes he’s the best option at quarterback.
The message board criticism doesn’t bother Jefferson, who last season ranked 11th in the SEC and 92nd in the country in pass efficiency (114.7 rating).
“It helps me work out harder, but at the same time it helps me improve what people feel I lack at,” he said. “I work at the things people say I lack at, and hopefully I can prove them wrong.”
Preseason All-SEC
The media preseason All-SEC team was released Friday, and Ole Miss placed six players on the squad. Mississippi State had three selected.
Two Rebels were first-team picks: offensive lineman Bradley Sowell and defensive lineman Kentrell Lockett. On the second team were offensive lineman Bobby Massie and punter Tyler Campbell, while the third-teamers were tailback Brandon Bolden and kicker Bryson Rose.
MSU’s selections were DT Fletcher Cox, a second-teamer, and offensive linemen Gabe Jackson and Addison Lawrence, both third-teamers.
Order of finish was predicted as well, with Alabama picked to win the Western Division as well as the overall title. South Carolina was chosen as the East champion.
MSU was picked to finish fourth in the West and received one first-place vote, while Ole Miss (two first-place votes) was tabbed sixth. Second was LSU, then Arkansas third and Auburn fifth.
brad.locke@journalinc.com