NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — James Franklin is changing nothing in his message going into his third season at Vanderbilt, no matter the expectations for a team with the Southeastern Conference's longest winning streak and the Commodores' best season in nearly a century.
"This team hasn't achieved anything," Franklin said Thursday. "That's going to be our focus."
That approach certainly has worked with Franklin winning more games in his first two seasons than any Vanderbilt coach since 1904-05. The Commodores open fall practice with 17 starters back from a team that went 9-4 in 2012, won the Music City Bowl and finished ranked No. 23 in the final poll for the first time in decades.
Franklin and Vanderbilt have been able to feed off the adversity of being seen as the SEC's also-ran, the popular team for homecoming. The coach knows he's facing a bit of a different challenge after going 15-11 since he arrived on campus, earning a second straight contract extension. The Commodores also help open the season hosting Mississippi on Aug. 29.
"Right now everybody's patting them on the back and telling them how wonderful they are, and when we arrived it could not be more negative," Franklin said. "We have to make sure we keep that mentality, that fighter's mentality."
Franklin even stopped to point at the word "CHIP" on his right shoulder. Every coach and player at Vanderbilt has had a similar shirt to wear over the past couple years. It's his way of stoking passion and excitement from both his assistants and the Commodores to continue building on their success.
"I don't think that there's any doubt that they've tasted a little success and they want more of it," Franklin said. "But that's what we've got to make sure of, we've got to make sure that we have that same chip and that same drive."
The Commodores have to replace quarterback Jordan Rodgers and the school's all-time leading rusher in Zac Stacy. Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt, is expected to start, and he will be helped by the best receiving duo in the SEC in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd.
The defense that ranked was in the top 10 against the pass in 2012 returns seven starters including cornerback Andre Hal, and Vandy also has the preseason All-SEC kicker in Carey Spear.
Continue reading this story on the...