A year after former Vanderbilt coach Robby Caldwell entertained reporters at the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, Alabama, new coach James Franklin took the stage on Friday with a different tone, ushering in a new era in Vanderbilt football. Franklin's opening statement lasted less than thirty seconds before taking questions from the media.
On Wednesday, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made headlines by proposing an increase in the minimum high school GPA for incoming freshman from 2.0 to 2.5. This proposal was the focus of conversation throughout the week.
"We already live to very, very high standards as you all know at Vanderbilt University, and always will," said Franklin. He went on to explain that he was not certain as to whether such legislation would benefit Vanderbilt, but expressed his support for increasing academic requirements.
"You can make either argument. But I'm all for as many rules that we want to institute, because we're already living at a higher standard than most schools across the country anyways."
Since accepting the head coaching position at Vanderbilt, Franklin and his staff have turned heads during the recruiting process by securing the commitments of highly sought after recruits. He described Vanderbilt's recruiting successes so far this offseason.
"The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt. We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I really believe there's very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can," said Franklin. "If you're the best and brightest from all over this country, where else would you go?
Throughout the spring, Franklin has expressed his support for senior quarterback Larry Smith, who has struggled at the starting position in each of the last two seasons. Franklin was the first to say that he has been defensive of Smith, although he said that no player has locked up a starting spot yet.
"Every one of our players is going to come in and earn their job in camp and what they've done all summer and off-season," said Frankln. "That's including Chris Marve, everybody. We want to create the most competitive environment we possibly can."
"I definitely think it will push me," said Smith about the competition for the starting job. "Competition brings out the best in you."
"I love it," said middle linebacker Chris Marve. "That just added fuel to the fire for me and I know it did for a lot of other players as well."
Marve, who was named to the second-team SEC Media Days Preseason All-SEC Team, will be an integral part of the Commodore defense this season. Marve and cornerback Casey Hayward, who was selected as a member of the third-team squad, were both extremely complementary of what Coach Franklin and his staff have done over the past several months.
"Coach Franklin had my respect from the moment I met him and shook his hand," said Marve. "I'm thankful to play for this coaching staff."
"He challenges us every day," added Hayward. "Everything is competing and I feel like that's going to give us the edge in the long run."
That competition will begin in earnest when preseason camp begins in Nashville on August 5th. The Commodores will kick off the 2011 season in Vanderbilt Stadium against the Elon Phoenix on September 3rd.
Vanderbilt at 2011 SEC Media Days
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