James Franklin has somehow found time between shaking hands at Penn State to re-recruit players committed to Vanderbilt. Eight of the 20 have been offered scholarships. Three, as of this writing, have flipped to the Nittany Lions. Some have accused Franklin of “pillaging” his former employer to unprecedented levels, giving the Commodores a “kick in the teeth” and being some form of nefarious super-villain. The criticism is a bit much.
This may be hard to grasp. But a “verbal commitment” means nothing. It is binding in no way. It’s a tool for media to track recruits. Schools do not possess recruits until they sign a letter of intent. They can’t even acknowledge them publicly. What Franklin is doing is not “stealing” or “poaching.” That implies a commodity exists. Until Signing Day, it is all “recruiting.”
Vanderbilt’s 2014 class will be decimated. Any coaching transition hurts. Vanderbilt, dependent on coaching charisma as the major selling point, is especially vulnerable. This is the most desperate time in the cycle. Other programs will pounce amidst uncertainty. The blood is in the water. Franklin just has an inside track.
The right players are essential. January hires must assemble classes in a matter of weeks. That scramble necessitates recruiting players committed to other programs. That may mean recruiting players where there is an established relationship. That may mean recruiting kids committed to fluctuating situations, such as the one at Vanderbilt. Franklin would be derelict if he was not exploring every opportunity to bring in the best players.
Vanderbilt will hire its next coach within a week or so. We’d suspect the first calls he makes are to players unsettled by his departure from his last program. College football’s natural order of things never claimed to be gentlemanly.
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