A quick Q-&-A here with Joe Fisher, the voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Q: A coaching change often brings hope and enthusiasm for a program. How would you describe Coach Franklin's transition? Would you say he has gained the confidence of the fan base, and if so, how?
A: “I think Coach Franklin has done a wonderful job of gaining the confidence of the fan base. He hit the ground running in recruiting, with some high profile signees that garnered attention. He's been out in the community, and he has shown he understands the unique nature of being the coach at Vanderbilt.”
Q: Coach Franklin focuses on the future of Vanderbilt football. How has he gone about changing the culture?
A: “History and tradition can be wonderful things, especially for teams that have a history of success. Coach Franklin from day one has made it a priority that history here is not relevant. What happened in the past doesn't matter now. For years, Vanderbilt teams struggled in close games, only to lose down the stretch. That mindset of "Same Old Vanderbilt" is not welcome on his watch, and the rally to win in the fourth quarter against Connecticut is some evidence that the team has bought into that.”
Q: What has been the key component for success in the team's 2-0 start?
A: “Simply, playmakers have made plays. The defense has scored in each of the first two games. It has not been a team that's made a lot of mistakes. The team leads the SEC in sacks, and is among the nation's leaders in turnover margin. Those bode well for you historically.”
Q: Larry Smith has retained the starting QB job. Has he improved as a passer?
A: “I think Larry has improved not only in his touch on passes, but with his decision making. His stats might not be eye opening, but he has made good decisions and not put his team in jeopardy. This team rallies around Larry and believes in him. He doesn't have to be flashy to make good things happen. And as you well know, there have been a lot of quarterbacks in the SEC with tremendous success that have won a lot of games simply by managing the game. Larry can make an outstanding play with his arm, or with his legs, but he's not to this point made big mistakes. That is a key for this team to have future success.”
Q: What has enabled the Commodores' defense to make the improvement it has in turnover margin? How have they been able to make as many tackles behind the line as they have in the first two games?
A: “One of the biggest factors is the defensive line has been turned loose to attack instead of react. As you can tell by Rob Lohr's four tackles for loss, and the fact that Vanderbilt leads the SEC in sacks, the defense is in attack mode. The coaches are hoping the line can disrupt things in the backfield, either with pressure on the passer or just altering the plan of a running play. So far, so good.”