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Commentary by Joe Biddle: James Franklins job getting tougher by the day

It’s widely acknowledged that Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin has one of the most difficult jobs in college football.

It became much more difficult after Vanderbilt suspended wide receiver Chris Boyd from the football team last week. Boyd was charged as an accessory after the fact in the highly publicized rape case that involved four football players and a 21-year-old Vanderbilt co-ed.

The allegations are that Boyd had conversations with one or more of the four previously indicted players in regards to attempting to cover up evidence in the case.

Franklin was holding a team meeting when he was informed that Boyd had been suspended. Boyd was suspended by the school, and Franklin supposedly was out of the loop on it.

Prior to this case, Franklin had been in on any and all major decisions involving the football program. From the outside looking in, that might not be the case now. He has made himself the face of the program and that face isn’t very flattering right now.
There are a lot of undocumented stories circulating around Nashville about Franklin as it pertains to the type of recruits he is signing and getting in school. To this point there have been more questions than answers, but I feel safe in saying Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust cannot be pleased with the negative national publicity these criminal charges have spawned. It has shed an unwanted picture of Vanderbilt’s reputation as one of this country’s most respected universities.

The investigation is still active and local law enforcement has not closed the door as to whether or not there will be additional charges connected to those players currently on the football team.

The criminal charges will eventually work themselves out. It likely will take an extended period of time. And there likely will be civil suits piled up after that.

Meanwhile, Franklin and his team must find a way to concentrate as they prepare for the most difficult season opening game Vanderbilt could have asked for under the circumstances.

Ole Miss is an up and coming program under Hugh Freeze, who has upgraded his roster with outstanding young talent. Vanderbilt squeezed out a 27-26 win at home last year.

If Boyd’s suspension is not lifted, and it doesn’t appear likely it will be before the Ole Miss game, it will be costly.

With All-American candidate Jordan Matthews on one side and Boyd on the other, Vanderbilt arguably had the elite tandem of SEC receivers.

I would watch for Ole Miss to use double coverage on Matthews at least some of the time next Thursday night. It means someone else will have to step in for Boyd and whoever that someone is, will not carry the credentials Boyd had crafted.
Matter of fact, it was Boyd who caught the game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass late in the game against Ole Miss last season. It was one of five passes Boyd caught for 64 yards.

Will Vanderbilt have enough talent to make an unprecedented third straight bowl game? There should be four wins in the non-conference schedule. The four opponents were a combined 12-36 a year ago.

Of the Commodores’ eight SEC opponents, only Missouri (5-7), Kentucky (2-10) and Tennessee (5-7) posted losing seasons.
If they win the four non-conference games, they will have to beat two of those three SEC opponents to become bowl eligible. Only Tennessee will be played on the road.

It can be done. Don’t count James Franklin out.


Posted on: 8/22/2013


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