The toughest thing for James Franklin is going to be telling David Williams that he’s leaving for Penn State.
That’s because over the past three years Williams and Franklin have developed a bond that’s almost father-son like.
Now, barring a last minute change of heart from Franklin, David Williams is going to be looking for a new coach to replace Franklin. Coming off back-to-back nine win seasons that ended with top 25 rankings, brand new facilities being built, and three solid recruiting classes — that could be four if a new coach can keep the commits — Vanderbilt is in infinitely better shape than it was before Franklin was hired.
But make no mistake about it, Penn State hit an absolute homerun with this hire.
Texas will regret its decision not to hire James Franklin for a long time to come.
And David Williams, who told us yesterday on the radio that he believed Franklin was the best coach in the country, has a tough job ahead of him.
So where does Vandy look now?
Keep in mind that David Williams did a great job with his last hiring process, identifying Gus Malzahn as his first choice — Malzahn actually accepted before changing his mind — and then James Franklin was the second choice. That’s two of the hottest names in coaching right now.
Also keep in mind that Vandy pays Franklin north of $3.5 million a year and was prepared to pay more to keep Franklin. There aren’t very many jobs in the country that can pay that much to a football coach. That alone makes Vandy a very good job.
So what’s Vandy’s coaching big board look like.
Here’s my best guess:
1. David Cutcliffe
He’s won big at Duke, but he’s also spent most of his career in the SEC.
Why not call him and make him say no to you?
He’s only making around $2 million a year at Duke, Vandy might well be willing to double his salary. Would that be enough to persuade Cutcliffe to move back to Tennessee?
2. Mack Brown
He played at Vandy, grew up in Tennessee, and doesn’t really seem to want his coaching career to be over.
Sure, his age isn’t ideal, but he’s won everywhere.
Could Mack be the guy at Vandy?
3. Kirby Smart
Sure, he’s making a great salary as Nick Saban’s protege at Alabama, but how much longer is Nick Saban going to be in charge in Tuscaloosa? Does he really want to wait another five or six years for that job when Vandy could double his salary and give him a head job right now?
Plus, how much fun is working with Nick Saban.
It seems to eventually drive every coordinator insane.
4. Chad Morris
The current Clemson offensive coordinator is, purportedly, the next Gus Malzahn.
Vandy already hired Malzahn once, why not do so again?
Franklin’s leaving behind very good talent and Morris may be wondering what he has to do to notch a big-time job.
Morris makes a lot of sense.
5. Mike MacIntyre
The first year coach at Colorado is a former Vanderbilt football player whose name was mentioned a ton last year when Franklin was connected to several job openings.
Would he leave Colorado after just a year to take over at Vandy?
6. Bob Shoop
Remember when Jim Harbaugh left Stanford after four years and everyone said it was the end for Cardinal football?
Then Stanford elevated David Shaw.
Since that time the program has been even better.
Could Shoop be Vandy’s Shaw?
I don’t know, but his defense has been outstanding for three years and his brother’s been an NFL offensive coordinator and is presently OC at Purdue. That seems like a pretty good tandem for the Dores.
7. Mark Hudspeth
He’s killed it at Louisiana-Lafayette, running up three straight nine win seasons there.
He’s also charismatic and Vandy will need someone to help keep the enthusiasm rolling.
Why not give him a call?
8. Greg Roman
He was interviewed by Vandy three years ago so you know David Williams is familiar with him.
He’s the current 49ers offensive coordinator.
But why has he interviewed for so many jobs and kept coming up short?
9. Lane Kiffin
You thought the Tennessee-Vandy rivalry was intense with James Franklin at the helm?
Good Lord, can you imagine what this would do to the Volunteer state?