NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- James Franklin has been very busy since
arriving at Vanderbilt. Now his first kickoff comes Saturday night,
and the new coach knows it's time to start producing where it
matters most. On the field.
"We have to change the perception of who we are first, and then result of that will be what happens on the field," Franklin said. "And I think the results are what's ultimately going to affect the perception around our program, nationally, in the state of Tennessee, in this region, in the SEC, how we're perceived."
Franklin and the Commodores get an easier opening opponent
Saturday night with their first ever game against Elon of the Football Championship Series. A year ago, Robbie Caldwell made his coaching debut against Northwestern of the Big Ten and lost 23-21
before finishing 2-10.
Since being introduced last December, Franklin has been busy
recruiting with a class signed in February ranked the highest in
years for Vanderbilt. He's been promoting the program both on
campus and in Nashville, encouraging fans to show up early and stay
He put his team through a mock game to practice everything from the start to the end including singing the alma mater with the band. He also is tweaking the Vandy tradition by adding a Commodore walk through the tailgating fans for players heading to the locker room before the game.
Franklin, who had been assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Maryland, thinks he's ready for his head coaching debut.
"I like to consider myself a big picture guy," Franklin said. "There's some aspects of this job I think I'm going to be more comfortable in this role because I'm able to kind of control the big picture and the perspective."
But Franklin also understands some people are going to wait and
see improvement before supporting Vanderbilt.
"Winning counts as we all know," Franklin said.
The Commodores themselves certainly can't wait to hit the field. This is a team that finished 111th out of 120 FBS teams last season scoring 16.9 points a game and 110th averaging 298.3 yards total
offense per game.
Larry Smith is back as the starting quarterback, but he sees a team that feels better prepared to play with an edge after two challenging seasons.
"We're going to go out and play with a chip on our shoulder being that the past two years have been frustrating for us," Smith said. "So we know we have to live up to this year with a new staff, go out and take it one game at a time and hopefully it works out for us."
This game also marks the coaching debut for Jason Swepson at
Elon. He came in from Boston College, so he expects some
familiarity with whatever Franklin might run.
The Phoenix went 6-5 last season in the Southern Conference, but Swepson doesn't have quarterback Scott Riddle who threw for 3,231 yards and helped Elon rank second nationally among FCS teams with 306.4 yards passing per game.
Junior Thomas Wilson will start his second career game at quarterback, and he has played in 12 games throwing for 443 yards
and two touchdowns. But Swepson will be counting on plenty of freshmen Saturday night.
"Hopefully we can get them through the first couple series, and then they'll settle down and play the game the way it should be played," Swepson said.