Thursday, January 13, 2011

James Franklin Announces Offensive Staffing Decisions

CJF just held another impressive press conference in which he introduced his new assistants on the offensive side of the ball. Drum roll please...

Offensive Coordinator: John Donovan (former Maryland running backs coach)

Special Teams Coordinator / Tight Ends Coach: Charles Bankins (formerly in same position at Maryland)

Wide Receivers Coach: Chris Beatty (former West Virginia running backs coach and recruiting coordinator)

Offensive Line Coach: Herb Hand ("hired", not "retained", CJF was eager to point out)

Quarterbacks Coach: Ricky Rahne (former running backs and tight ends coach at Kansas State)

Strength and Conditioning Director: Dwight Galt (formerly in same position at Maryland)

Chief of Staff (apparently this will be CJF's "right-hand man"): Jemal Griffin (former director of football operations at Maryland)

Franklin also retained four Vandy staffers: Michael Hazel, director of operations; Andy Frank, assistant director of operations; Norval McKenzie, assistant recruiting coordinator; and offensive graduate assistant Joey Orck.

I confess that this list doesn't just completely knock my socks off, but that doesn't mean it's not a strong coaching staff. Among other names as I look back at this list, Beatty -- who's been recognized as a great recruiter -- stands out as a strong addition to the staff.

A few other things also jump out at you. For one, with the exception of Herbie, basically all of these guys are CJF's pals from previous jobs. Second, these are mostly young coaches (guys who will be "here for the long haul," says Franklin). Third, it would appear that we now have at least four black coaches (McKenzie may be counted as an administrative staffer rather than a coach). That puts Vanderbilt close to tying Auburn for the SEC school with the most black football coaches currently on staff. Fourth, and partly as a natural byproduct of the first observation, the recruiting ties for these offensive coaches are heavily tilted toward Maryland/Virginia and the surrounding region.

Stay tuned for defensive hiring announcements, but in the meantime, how would y'all grade the staffing decisions so far? Explain your grade in the comment section, should you care to elaborate.


Bobby O'Shea said...

I'm giving the staff an "A" because I'm just so impressed with Coach Franklin and the way he's gone about the entire process. The decision to announce the entire staff at the same time created a vacuum of information, but seeing the team he's assembled today, it is clear that he has a vision and is bringing in guys who share that vision.

It is obvious to me that CJF loves being a head coach and thirsts to be "the man." As far as I'm concerned, that's a great quality in a football coach or a leader of any kind.

I've also got to say I like that the staff has a very strong recruiting background, specifically to the Mid-Atlantic Region. Vanderbilt needs to recruit nationally, and some might argue that of all the regions in the country, the south will be the hardest nut to crack given how used to Vanderbilt losing everyone in the SEC is. Recruits are likely to be less skeptical outside SEC Country than they are in the rest of US that this time is different for Vanderbilt. That CJF and his staff already have great in-roads in the Mid-Atlantic will, in my view, serve Vanderbilt and the Commodores well.

Seamus O'Toole said...

I agree about recruiting inroads outside of the traditional SEC battlegrounds. It will be interesting to see what happens with that, seeing as Mike London taking over at UVA (and on the verge of assembling a top-20 recruiting class), as well as the hiring of Randy Edsall and Gary Crowton at Maryland, will likely increase the competition for recruits in the VA/DC/MD areas.

Anonymous said...

I like we have ties to the northeast. Its Vanderbilt football, lets try something different and try to recruit/ establish ties with athletes from the north to the SEC. What do we have to lose? Solid staff with experience. Also, I love the fact we kept Herb Hand. He is a huge asset and great OL coach. Lets see how the defensive staff shakes out now.

Anybody here him on 1045 today? CJF continues to win me over

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for any real facts as to why we should be impressed with Donovan as our OC. What has he done in the position of running backs coach at Maryland that makes anyone think he will be able to propel the VU offense, with all of its built in challenges, to score a lot of points against SEC defensive lines (y'all watched the National Championship right?)

SEC Defenses are not Navy, Wake Forest, and the other batch of ACC scrubs that Donovan faced as a running backs coach at Maryland. In addition, at Maryland Donovan did not have to face stringent academics that narrow recruitment options.

Basically the approach Franklin is taking amounts to "out recruiting" to win. By hiring Donovan (not an offensive guru or someone known for innovative schemes ala June Jones, Mike Leach, etc.) CJF is saying he thinks he can out recruit the rest of the SEC and win on talent.

I think history suggests a better system, with clever Xs and Os, is VUs only shot to win games in the SEC. We will never recruit the talent to line em up and play smash mouth football.

This hire of Donovan makes me fear CJF will not get us to 8/9 win seasons consistently.

Anonymous said...

What is everyone's fascination with Herb Hand???? For the love of god, our O Line stunk last year and Herbie didn't exactly do anything last year to make our offense look productive.

To listen to some of these Vandy fans on Herb Hand you'd think he had them in his will.

Anonymous said...

I'd take second rate athletes from the Southest over first tier athletes from the Mid-Atlantic any day.

Whatever your thoughts on recruiting vs. Xs and Os (and it's a valid arguement), CJF is a recruiting first guy, so we have to assume that Williams and Zeppos are too. The ideal recruit is out there, we just have to get him. In some ways, I think recruting is a much bigger challenge than Xs and Os - there's a finite number of systems you can run in football, and plays you can call, but the range of recruits in terms of quality is very wide. At this point in Vandy's program, I'd take a stronger recruiter.

Anonymous said...

Id take this offensive staff over last years any day...

Herb Hand did a good job with the o-line last year. Pretty sure they had an o-line of freshmen and they got better as the season went on.

Go Dores

Anonymous said...

"Herb Hand did a good job with the o-line last year."

On what basis do you make such a claim. Vandy's O-line gave up the 3rd most sacks of any SEC team last year. And hek, we had a mobile, non pocket-passing QB who can scramble. Plus we rarely threw last year.

You only end up with those kinda stats if your O-line is as holed up as swiss cheese.

The o-line sucked. Did you watch any of the games last year. Herb Hand hasn't shown anything. Yet people worship him. I don't get it.

Vandygal78 said...

I like what CJF has done here - young enthusiastic coaches will appeal to the players. I live in Virginia and there does seem to be a lot of great football talent that the ACC uses, however now some of these guys will have the opportunity to play in the SEC against the best conference. This could be a good move for us. Hopefully he can bring in afew surprise recruits for 2011. Concerning the Herb Hand comments above, we had a very young o line and I assumed it would be a disaster for the entire year, but I thought that they improved to the point that they weren't the problem with the offensive production. I hope that CJF can hold press conferences weekly! He is really really impressive.

Alex said...

Maybe I'm just missing it but I don't see any Running Backs coach up there. Is Donovan going to be coaching the strongest portion of our team?

Concerning Coach Hand: people are impressed with him because he is 1)a dedicated recruiter 2)ran one of the most potent offenses in the country at Tulsa (along with Gus Malzahn, who everyone was head over heels for, myself included) and 3)an older, stabalizing force on this staff. Production wise this year, he was brought in very late in the preparation period and told to take a group decimated by injuries and get them ready for SEC defenses. The EXTREMELY young o-line did improve late in the season. Without seeing his work with older, experienced players I don't know how you can call him a failure, which is exactly what the many "Anonymous" comments are saying. Let's all wait and see what happens this year, I for one am very optimistic about this staff.

Anything but Gatorade said...

LOL at the guy who doesn't think Franklin et al. can get Vandy to 8/9 wins every year. Vince Lombardi couldn't get Vandy to 8/9 wins every year. Try 6 or 7 first, that'll take long enough.

Anonymous said...

Whoever voted "D" or "F" probably wanted to keep the cain-kiser-caldwell bunch here...record 2-10 that's a winning % of 16%

Those must have been ut fans who don't want VU to win.

Bobby O'Shea said...

Without assigning motives, I am inclined to agree with Anonymous 11:55 on those who votes "D" or "F." Who did you want him to hire?

If you are unhappy with the Franklin hire than it's unlikely that you'll like any staff he puts together. He's not a clear emphasis on recruiting. He's not a "system guy," but appears inclined to run an offense based on the talent he's got. For me, that makes sense wherever you are coaching, but especially with a program like Vanderbilt's.


Anonymous said...


The point isn't that a "system approach" is better than a "recruit more talent" approach. The point is that we still have no reason to think we can turn this program around based on "improving recruitment" as opposed to going gimmick with a Mike Leach type system.

Explain for me how all of the sudden Franklin is going to land 4 and 5 star athletes at VU? These guys don't want to come here. They don't want to work hard when they are first and foremost concerned with going to the NFL only. A few might, but why would they choose VU over Stanford and Northwestern which already have decent programs in place?

I just think we're buying into a myth that Franklin - even if he was a good recruiter at Maryland (which is not even analogous to Vandy - academic standards aren't the same) is suddenly going to get us on equal or close to equal footing talent wise with our SEC brethren.

Hell, CBJ upgraded our talent, but he still had less of it than our foes. We need an X's and O's advantage to win consistently. VU will never have equal talent so we need to simply get more out of our talent by having a better system.

Explain your viewpoint though... I just don't see it.

Anonymous said...

It's like making a can write a great script, but if you don't cast the right people, it doesn't matter.

Unknown said...

For an off-the-wall take on the mind of Jay Cutler, including thoughts on Vanderbilt, visit

We're live-blogging this weekend's playoff games.

Anonymous said...

So far I am very impressed with the staff. A HUGE upgrade from last season. Hand did a really solid job with a young inexperienced line that had major injuries last season. I like that Hand will be able to give some input on last season's players to Franklin during the evaluation period of the roster. I love that fact that Franklin is looking for a qb (and play-makers) during the last few weeks of recruiting. Last season's staff was awful.