James Franklin has finally taken the head coaching job at Vanderbilt and departs College Park with a mixed record. Many fans have latched on to the last few games and the development of QB Danny O’Brien as evidence that Franklin’s departure will be detrimental for the football program. The game against N.C. State was the best performance the offense had all season against a credible opponent. Against the better defenses on the schedule: West Virginia, Miami, Clemson and FSU the offense did next to nothing. Overall Franklin’s record as an offensive coordinator was mediocre at best. The 2010 offense was probably the best of the bunch but if you judge Franklin on his entire body of work it is obvious why so many folks in College Park, including AD Kevin Anderson were not sold on Franklin.
Franklin’s offenses ranked in the bottom half of the NCAA in virtually every category for all the seasons he was the coordinator. In scoring offense the rankings were 100, 99 and 42. Franklin never seemed to value the running game even though he had decent talent at running back. This past season the yard per carry in ACC games was 11th in the conference, in yards per game was 10th and ranked 94th in the NCAA in rushing yards. Certainly the offensive line injuries were a problem and you have to factor that in evaluating this season but his shaky playcalling against Clemson, Miami and West Virginia doesn’t indicate a coach that is great a preparation.
To be sure Franklin was the kind of package that most schools want: charismatic, young, good with the media and a black coach in a profession where minorities are woefully underrepresented. I always felt that Franklin had the whole package except coaching acumen. As the face of a program he may fit many of the criteria that athletic directors and university presidents are looking for but in the end you have to succeed on the field. Franklin’s resume was a little thin in that regard.
Maryland gets to keep the $1 million payment, the legacy of former AD Debbie Yow’s ridiculous head-coach-in-waiting contract, and move on with Anderson’s plans for the future of the football program. Clearly those plans did not include Franklin so it is better for all concerned that Franklin moves on now.
A modest extension for Ralph Fridgen is probably in the offing. As long as the contract includes a modest buy out that would allow Anderson the freedom to go in a different direction if the 2011 season is a failure I don’t have much problem with it.