Would James Franklin Leave Vanderbilt?

Vanderbilt is beginning to make waves in the Southeast Conference thanks in large part to new coach James Franklin. He has upgraded recruiting and appears on the verge of making his new school relevant. Of course, that also makes him popular among those seeking new head coaches. Franklin is being mentioned for the Illinois job among others.

Illinois is looking for someone to inject instant excitement and energy into its football program.

If James Franklin can do that exact thing at Vanderbilt, he may get the opportunity to do it at a larger profile program.

Franklin has led the Commadores to their first bowl in a long time. In fact, Vanderbilt has only gone bowling five times since it opened in the 1800's.

On December 23, 2007, Ralph Friedgen brought Franklin back to Maryland as the Terrapins's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. In February 2009, Franklin was designated as Friedgen's successor at Maryland.

The Terrapins compiled an 9-4 record in 2010, finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division and posting a convincing postseason win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien earned the ACC Rookie of the Year and first-team Freshman All-America honors under Franklin's mentorship, ranking third nationally among freshmen with a pass efficiency rating of 135.2. O'Brien threw for 22 touchdowns against only eight interceptions after becoming the team's starter in week four.

Franklin's offense committed only 12 turnovers during the 2010 regular campaign, ranking No. 3 nationally in giveaways. Wide receiver Torrey Smith also flourished that year, catching 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-ACC honors.

In Franklin's first season as offensive coordinator in College Park, the Terrapins defeated four ranked teams en route to a victory in the 2008 Roady's Humanitarian Bowl and an 8-5 overall record. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was chosen by the Oakland Raiders as the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Franklin was hired to be the offensive coordinator for Kansas State in 2006. He helped the Wildcats to a 7-6 record that season, including a 45-42 victory over No. 4 Texas. Kansas State earned a berth in the inaugural Texas Bowl, making its first postseason appearance since 2003.

In 2007, under Franklin's guidance, K-State offense becomes first team in history to feature a 3,000-yard passer, 1,500-yard receiver, and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Franklin mentored quarterback Josh Freeman to numerous school records. Freeman threw for 3,353 yards, including 122 completions to All-America receiver Jordy Nelson. Freeman was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft (17th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is currently their starting signal caller, while Nelson is a key receiver for the 2011 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

Assisting head coach Mike Sherman, Franklin served as the Packers's wide receiver coach in 2005, mentoring a strong arsenal that included Donald Driver, Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson catching passes from legendary quarterback Brett Favre.

Despite losing Walker to an injury early that season, the Packers still posted the sixth-most receiving yards in the NFL that season. Driver established then-career highs with 86 receptions for 1,221 receiving yards, becoming just the fourth Packers player with 85 receptions in a season.

WHY JAMES FRANKLIN WOULD BE A GOOD HIRE FOR ILLINOIS: He would provide instant excitement to the program. He brings a toughness to his team. If he can do that at Vanderbilt, think what he can do with bigger and better athletes.

WHY JAMES FRANKLIN MAY NOT BE THE GUY FOR ILLINOIS: He only has one year of head coaching experience. While he has achieved great things in year one by Vanderbilt standards, is that good enough to prove he deserves to do that in the Big 10?


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