Posted: 11:06 a.m. Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Christian D'Andrea
James Franklin is ready to address reporters at the unofficial kickoff to the 2013 football season, but he won't be doing it alone. Franklin brought three outstanding seniors - Jordan Matthews, Andre Hal, and Wesley Johnson - to talk about Vanderbilt's plans at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
The Commodores are coming off of their best season in nearly 100 years, and the buzz around this team has never been hotter. Franklin has made Nashville a destination for recruits thanks to his gregarious personality, and that will be on full display this afternoon. In less than three years as a head coach, he's found a way to turn jokes (offering a scholarship to a fetus, proposing that all assistant coaches have hot wives, etc) into fodder that can fuel talk radio for days. This year, he'll have to handle the biggest scandal to hit Vandy football in the modern era. The 'Dores dismissed four players - Brandon Vandenburg, Tip McKenzie, Cory Batey, and Brandon Banks - from the university earlier this month amidst a budding investigation into a possible sex crime on campus. Since then, the team has been tight-lipped on the subject. This afternoon, we'll hear Franklin's first live reaction to the incident, even if it is a terse "no comment" due to the fact that the Nashville Police's investigation is still ongoing.
Franklin will have to balance questions about the team's discipline with inquiries about how he'll follow up last year's record-breaking season. The 'Dores are coming off back-to-back bowl bids for the first time in school history and posted a nine win season for the first time in nearly 100 years in 2012. While the bulk of that team returns, Vanderbilt will have to replace Zac Stacy, Jordan Rodgers, and Trey Wilson, three players who were the heart and soul of a team that finished their final season in Nashville with a seven-game winning streak.
Vanderbilt will have the honor of being the event's closing act. Unfortunately, they'll also be sharing their final day time spot with national champion Alabama, ensuring that the bulk of the SEC Media Days attendees will be down the hall listening to Nick Saban discuss his dark compact with the underlord. The presence of three potential All-Americans should help bring reporters back to their table, though. Matthews, Hal, and Johnson are three of the best players in the SEC, and they'll be the engine that drives this team in 2013. Matthews, who turned down a lofty spot in last spring's NFL Draft, should earn plenty of attention in particular.
The Commodores will kick off their breakout session at 11:20 CST. You can follow it on ESPN3 here. We'll have embedded videos here at AoG following the event, and we'll do our best to break down Wesley Johnson's true feelings about Jadeveon Clowney. Until then, feel free to use this post as a livethread and throw your comments below.