Vandy, Franklin trying to handle SEC success

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm •  Published: August 1, 2013
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Franklin said he also sees a difference just by looking at his players. He credits strength coach Dwight Galt with pushing the Commodores into working hard so that they are in physical condition year-round now. Franklin said the offensive line, which returns four starters led by Wesley Johnson, is dramatically bigger and he didn't even recognize the new muscles on defensive end Caleb Azubike.

"I don't know how he does it," Franklin said of Galt.

Police still are investigating an incident that led to four players being dismissed June 29.

The sex crimes unit of the Metro Nashville Police are involved in the investigation, which included evidence being sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab. Defensive back Brandon Banks, safety Cory Batey, receiver Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie and tight end Brandon Vandenburg are no longer on the team, though losing Vandenburg likely hurts the most with the junior college transfer expected to play early.

Franklin said the Commodores generally are two or three players deep at each position.

"We've never had that before," Franklin said.

Seniors who went through a 2-10 season before Franklin was hired should help reinforce their coach's message. Matthews, who decided to return to Vandy instead of enter the NFL draft, said he feels like a freshman every day because of the excitement around this program.

"Things that happened in the past don't matter anymore, and essentially this league is what have you done for me lately," Matthews said. "That's the way I look at it. It's not about each game. It's about going out each day."

Senior defensive end Walker May takes the attitude that the Commodores still have to prove themselves against opponents with years of winning tradition, and he said he's felt players looking down on Vanderbilt.

"We still have the chip, and it's still bigger and we're still disrespected in the SEC, looked at as one of the bottom teams and everything," May said. "Yeah, it's still there."

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker