Normally, football coaches just prepare their student athletes on game week … unless you’re Vanderbilt Commodores head coach, James Franklin.
Franklin is coaching the officiating crew as well as his team this week in preparation for their game against Ole Miss Thursday night.
The Vanderbilt coach told reporters at his Monday press conference that he is not necessarily worried about his defense’s chances against Ole Miss’ up-tempo spread offense, rather, that the Rebels offensive line are set on every play.
The 41-year-old, third-year Commodores coach said that when he and his staff went back and watched the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss film from last season, they noticed that there were “10 to 12 plays” that the Rebels were not set on the offensive line nor was the referees ready to keep up with the game’s pace to combat it.
Ole Miss was flagged for four pre-snap penalties last season against Vanderbilt in Oxford. Three of them came from false starts.
The Commodores defeated the Rebels 27-26 in that game on Nov. 10 last season, after being shredded by Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace for over 400 passing yards after attempting 50 passes with 96 plays from the Rebels offense.
The Rebels took a 23-6 lead going into the third quarter, Vanderbilt then went on a 21-3 spurt in the last 20 minutes to win the game and spark a seven-game winning streak to end up 9-4 last season after defeating North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl.
There is no doubt that the Commodores need to get ready for their challenge of containing the fast-pace Rebels offense this Thursday.
But there is something else that James Franklin needs to “set” before anything else. Setting a new image of his program.
The dismissal of four student athletes for an alleged aggravated rape and wide receiver Chris Boyd getting suspended for being an accessory after the fact this offseason, has blackened the eye of that program and administration.
With Boyd’s suspension, the Commodores are lacking a compliment for Jordan Matthews at wide receiver. Boyd has caught 81 passes and has been a go-to-receiver in Vandy’s offense the last two seasons. Vanderbilt will be without star-power on offense after the loss of Boyd.
Franklin is all about tackling the next task at hand. This situation could define his career at Vanderbilt. Many prospective recruit’s parents and families will be watching to see how James Franklin responds to reshaping the image and perception of his Vanderbilt football program. The Commodores have won 15 games with Franklin as their head coach and their third nine-win season in school history last season. But this could end badly if Franklin doesn’t condemn those actions and mention team discipline to recruits and their families in the recruiting trail
So quit worrying about if the referees are prepared to officiate an up-tempo offense Thursday night, ask yourself are you prepared for the challenge your program faces off the field this season.