(cross-posted from Anchor of Gold)
Is this really happening? Not content with raiding Virginia Tech the eve of National Signing Day for this year’s class, Coach James Franklin and staff appear to have poached SMU commit Elston Lane – yet another WR speed merchant to go alongside Batey and DeClouet and of course Brian “that guy’s faster than Walt Flannigan’s dog!” Kimbrow in next year’s crop of freshmen.
If. Big if.
Because now we have to consider something that we may never have had to think about previously. We have thirteen kids who are technically in the fold…in July. It’s a long way to February, and in between will be a football season. And that makes me uneasy.
See, despite the fact that he is already the single greatest recruiter to set foot on the Vandy campus, probably even including Dangerous Dan McGugin, James Franklin is still a first-time head coach in his first year at Vanderbilt. You have to go back twenty years to find a Vanderbilt head coach who delivered as many as five wins in his inaugural season, and Gerry DiNardo was coming from a stint as coordinator for co-national-champion Colorado. You have to go back to 1935 and Ray Morrison to find a new full-time Vandy coach who finished over .500 in a non-war year, and he basically inherited Dan McGugin’s last team.
Now, I could be totally off the grid here. We could be in for the shock of a lifetime. But guys who take over a program mired in the dreck generally struggle that first year no matter how good they are. Jim Harbaugh – who just took Stanford, STANFORD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD to the Orange Bowl – won ONE (1) game his first season on the Farm. Hell, I don’t think Nick Saban had a winning record his first year at Alabama, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to win in Tuscaloosa than in the West End.
And this is not a terrible thing. It’s not great, but it’s not doom forever if we don’t shock the world the first year out. Nobody will pronounce the James Franklin Experience a disaster if we finish up, say, 3-9.
But my question is: will we be able to keep thirteen guys in the fold through a 3-win season?
I’d like to think we can. CJF has apparently made much of telling everyone that nobody’s spot on the depth chart is safe and everybody he brings could take somebody’s job – and lose it to the next guy brought in. I think the 2011 new guys have to believe that a three-win season only makes it that much more likely they’ll get a shot at an SEC starting job immediately. I’m sure that’s what CJF is preaching, in any event.
This is all to day that while we’re having a dream summer – a summer that is literally without parallel in our history as a sports-playing institution – there’s a very real chance that autumn will wake us up like a ton of bricks through the window. If we get to Halloween with two wins, it’s going to be tough to keep the faith. But if we steel ourselves now, and commit to pushing on through, we’ll get there. Maybe not this year, maybe not even next year, but soon, this train is going to hit the rest of the league like…well, a freight train.
We just have to believe. And we have to hope that the new kids keep believing, too.