NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- James Franklin seemingly knows how to
make the best of any situation.
The coach who has been waiting for the start of practice since being hired in December finally got to take his team on the field Friday, and heavy thunderstorms hit Nashville a few hours before taking the field.
So Franklin decided to move up the wet ball drill he originally had scheduled for a couple weeks into fall practice.
"We've been very, very happy with what we've done so far, but probably the first day I've probably woken up since taking the job that I've been really, really excited," Franklin said. "I felt great about the job obviously all along and what we're doing, but today I was excited to get out on the field and start working with them."
His Commodores are equally enthusiastic, even though they're on
their third coach in as many seasons. Franklin was introduced Dec.
17, and he has been busy recruiting better players, filling his coaching staff and trying to sell Vanderbilt football to both the students on campus and people in Nashville.
Vanderbilt is the Southeastern Conference program best known for
bringing up the rear in the league with one bowl victory since 1955
and only one winning record since 1982. Franklin is the program's
eighth coach since 1979.
Franklin also has been busy sprucing up the program. He convinced Vanderbilt officials to renovate the players' locker room before the start of fall practice, and his Commodores talked to reporters Friday during the program's first official media day in years.
Flat-screen TVs hang from the ceiling surrounded by posh lockers in a big upgrade. Senior linebacker Chris Marve likes the changes and is glad he's getting the chance to enjoy the improved facilities in his final season.
"No doubt. From the day I walked in here in 2007 versus today is like night and day," Marve said. "I'm very thankful to have had this opportunity to be in this locker room when the updates came around. I know the guys are really enjoying it."
Franklin has 19 starters, including all 11 on offense, from a team that went 2-10 in 2010 under Robbie Caldwell, a late replacement once Bobby Johnson retired. But Franklin has warned his players that all starting positions and playing time must be earned on the field, though he did say some spots might be filled quicker than others.
That includes the 21 freshmen coming in, including touted signee
quarterback LaFonte Thourogood.
"I've already told them we're going out recruiting players to take your jobs," Franklin said. "That's the environment we want to create."
The biggest competition will be at quarterback. Larry Smith has started the past two seasons with his first start in the Commodores' Music City Bowl win to wrap up 2008. Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers, finally is healthy after needing surgery on his labrum in his right shoulder late last year.
"He's got that quarterback moxie to him all the time," Franklin said. "His dad's been involved in athletics and training athletes. His brother, the fact he was able to go to the Super Bowl and being around him, he has all those intangibles. He has all those other factors. Physically, I'm interested in seeing what he's going to do. He's had a great summer. He looks unbelievable."
Franklin credits his strength coach, Dwight Galt, with helping the Commodores get stronger and faster during the off-season. Senior
cornerback Casey Heyward sees his teammates eager to get to work.
"Everybody worked hard," Heyward said. "We have more people out here than ever, more people dedicated and wanting to get better, doing things on their own, one and one, seven on seven on the weekend. That's things we didn't do in the past, and it's the things this year's team is doing."