Vanderbilt’s “helicopter recruiting” of Atlanta propels success

Best recruiting class in Vanderbilt's history was delivered by James Franklin (AP photo)

Best recruiting class in Vanderbilt's history was delivered last month by James Franklin (AP photo)

No coach recruited the Atlanta area with such a flashy style as Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

Frankin invaded the city’s fertile grounds in a helicopter, catching two metro high school football games overloaded with college prospects in one night – with the help of air transport.

When we talked to Vanderbilt’s coach about “helicopter recruiting,” he acted like it was no big deal.

“For us, it was more about trying to get as much work done in a limited amount of time,” Franklin told the AJC. “I’ve done this at other schools I’ve coached at. For us to go to two high-profile games in the Atlanta area with traffic and things like that, it makes it difficult to do. So the helicopter afforded us the opportunity to go ahead and do that.”

We couldn’t agree more with Franklin about Atlanta traffic: It sucks. But playing down “helicopter recruiting” as if it’s another day at the office … that’s funny. Somehow, many other SEC head coaches recruited the city very well this past year, appearing at two games in a single night, and they didn’t need a helicopter pilot. In fact, we haven’t seen “helicopter recruiting” in the city since then-Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin in 2009.

More from Franklin: “I was able to see one half of a high-profile game, and I was able to see another half somewhere else. Without a helicopter, it’s hard to do something like that. That was the main reason for us to do that. It was for me to be able to maximize my time and see as many prospects as I could possibly could.”

What do we think of “helicopter recruiting?” We love it. Props for Vanderbilt for the recruiting tactic. We talked to some of the blue-chippers who played in those two games that Franklin flew in for. There were other SEC and ACC schools represented at the games. Who were the kids talking about? That coach from Vandy in the helicopter. It worked.

How cool is arriving at a high school football game in a helicopter?

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A lot of things worked well with recruiting for Franklin this past season. He finished with the “best recruiting class” in Vanderbilt history, according to’s Andy Staples. Vanderbilt’s highly-regarded class had 22 members, including five from Georgia. The haul would’ve been more spectacular had two commitments from Vanderbilt not flipped at the last minute – Tucker DE Josh Dawson to UGA and Henry County DB Chris Moody to South Carolina.

Memo to the state of Georgia: Vanderbilt will be back for 2013 kids, and here’s the message:

“It’s just the same thing we’ve been selling since we arrived on campus: There’s no other program or university that can offer the combination of things that Vanderbilt can offer – that’s a world-class education, it’s a degree that’s going to set you up for the next 50 years of your life,” Franklin said. “We play in the greatest football conference in America, and that’s the SEC. It’s in a great town and great city. And the fourth factor, we’re still in a position in this next recruiting class where we can offer early playing time. Everybody knows in the past that that’s been a Vanderbilt issue – not enough depth. We have some good players; we just need more of them.

“So with the combination of those things, we feel like we can recruit with the best.”

Vanderbilt is off to a stunning start for next year in Atlanta with the recent commitment of Cedar Grove High School QB Johnathan McCrary, the junior who picked the Commodores over UGA and Alabama, among others. And, yes, Grayson’s DE Robert Nkemdiche, told the AJC that he’s planning to visit Vanderbilt on March 24.



– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

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65 comments Add your comment


March 7th, 2012
6:12 am



March 7th, 2012
6:23 am

James Franklin is building a program at Vandy. He is battling UGA for recruits and he provokes CTG into nearly uncontrollable rage. And he does this all without the benefit of an AD. Could it be an AD is useless overhead?


March 7th, 2012
6:45 am

…Yawn……Next story…..

Kneel Before THE BEAR

March 7th, 2012
6:54 am

Vanderbilt student-athletes don’t wind up in jail.

(Unlike those at Clarke County Correctional & State University at Athens, GA)

Ogeechee Dawg

March 7th, 2012
7:02 am

When Franklin was whining and crying to CTG about our players celebrating – the proper response from Richt should have been, “We will look into it and address that situation – AFTER you send our team a letter of apology for the cheap shot on Kwame Geathers after which you ran onto the field begging for a flag on Geathers after he punched your player. Really Coach Franklin? A knee shot from behind at full speed away from the play and you are complaining about a player of ours celebrating a victory?”

Dawg Bounty Hunter

March 7th, 2012
7:31 am

Franklin is a jerk… Grantham is the Man!!!!

Destin Dawg

March 7th, 2012
7:33 am

Richt is 2 for 3 vs. Saban in the SEC !! Just sayin”

Beast from the East

March 7th, 2012
7:38 am

He could use a spaceship but he’ll never land enough players to win an SEC title at Vandy. That said, he does have them headed in the right direction and he will continue to have an upset or two every year. That and a meaningless bowl game is about all you’ll ever get out of Vandy’s football program.

Kneel Before THE BEAR

March 7th, 2012
7:40 am

UGA good recruit and illegally sign the entire 2011 New York Giants Super Bowl Team, and Coach Richt could still not win the SEC East over Coach Saban.

Roll Tide!


March 7th, 2012
7:43 am

It’s good to be Gold.



March 7th, 2012
8:04 am

Man, the hate from UGA folks is funny to watch. I wonder what kind of vitriol would be coming from this board if that blocked punt had been returned for a touchdown…


March 7th, 2012
8:14 am

if CJM is all that, he ain’t going to be at vandy long.

[...] The AJ-C‘s Michael Carvell is developing one serious mancrush on James Franklin. [...]

Vampire Bill

March 7th, 2012
8:26 am

Anyone know about the legalities of landing a helicopter at a public event? Can any overbearing obnoxious knucklehead do it?


March 7th, 2012
8:34 am

I’d want to secretly pull for Vandy… if Franklin wasn’t such a D bag. So here’s hoping he goes 0-12.

Ya know… Franklin would a perfect fit at Tech.

david taylor

March 7th, 2012
8:42 am

Wow!CMR will have another reason to look to the sky,and be afraid,just amatter of time before theyare getting nailed to the wall by Vandy and the Jackets.You guys will be sacrificing you Herscal W.and Matt S. highlight vids.on the 50 yard line praying for ”THE DREAM TEAM” to save you.

A Franklin

March 7th, 2012
9:00 am

Greatest Article in 2012:

Vandy, kicking GA’s a&& in the state of GA regarding football recruiting!

Josh Dawson made a huge mistake by allowing outsiders to talk him out of what he knew was right for him and that was Vandy. ( this is the case for any young man and any school )


March 7th, 2012
9:07 am

Carvell has a mancrush………………

Pilfer Dawg

March 7th, 2012
9:08 am

Ok folks the stupidest comment of the day award goes to………….A Franklin

“Vandy, kicking GA’s a&& in the state of GA regarding football recruiting!”

A Franklin- If Vandy is kicking UGA butt in recruiting, tell me please how many recruit we have offered and lost to Vandy?

Stank Wren

March 7th, 2012
9:22 am

Vandy will still get the scraps that no other major SEC school wants. He could fly a 747 and land it on the practice field and major recruits wouldn’t give him a second look. He is a decent coach but will be worth nothing more that an occasional upset every other year or so. Vandy is a great school but Franklin needs to quit posing as a major SEC football program

A Franklin

March 7th, 2012
9:23 am

Vandy puts character into play with football recruits, something GA fails to do evidenced by over 20 players being removed for such issues as of late and one more that should have been removed for physical assault of a female.


March 7th, 2012
9:25 am

FYI the player in question for the “dirty” hit is no longer on Vanderbilt’s team. Coach Franklin continues to do things the right way not the Richt way.


March 7th, 2012
9:27 am

I would love to see Franklin and Grantham in a no-holds-barred cage match. Grantham would bounce a chair off Franklin’s shiny dome, pile-drive him, and put him in a figure four. One, two, THREE!!


March 7th, 2012
10:06 am



March 7th, 2012
10:08 am


A person SMART enough to know......

March 7th, 2012
10:11 am

Richt talked to God and this year Richt will be riding on puffy white clouds to multiple games to see recruits games.

A Father

March 7th, 2012
10:11 am

I am a fan of Grantham, but his lack of self control is very concerning to me and others and it is a major issue with his future at Georgia. Passion and desire can be overtaken by stupidity and ineptness and this is huge issue with Grantham. Todd Grantham will be leaving GA at the end of 2012 if Mark Richt gets an extension. Todd Grantham, although a spark plug, has the looks of a fat slob today.

Big Albany Dawg

March 7th, 2012
10:27 am

Ha ha ha. But it’s STIll vandy no less….kids might as well go to tech


March 7th, 2012
10:29 am

If Stanford can win, so can Vandy.

If they have a schedule like UGA’s of this and the past year, they have a chance to win SEC East too.

If you are good, you can be a pro from Vandy too. Just ask Jay Cutler.

Randall "Pink" Floyd

March 7th, 2012
10:32 am

Franklin is doing some things right but he’d help his cause immensely if he’d simply grow up. Never seen a bigger baby running a football program.


March 7th, 2012
10:37 am

” Passion and desire can be overtaken by stupidity and ineptness and this is huge issue with Grantham.”

Wrong. Glad your not my father. Ineptness? He couldn’t be more ept. What you call stupidity I call fire and loyalty to one’s players. Grantham is getting an extension too and will be at UGA long after next season, unless he gets an offer for Head Coach somewhere special. You’re no Dawg fan.

A person SMART enough to know......

March 7th, 2012
10:47 am

Dawg fans have now added VANDY to the list of teams they hate. Hahah the dawgs are getting scared of a lot of the SEC powerhouses. Can Ole Miss be far behind?


March 7th, 2012
10:55 am

OMG – Tech fans are now having to live vicariously through Vanderbilt.

Just let that sink in, Jacket fans. Actually hide the guns and sharp objects, then let it sink in.

A Father

March 7th, 2012
10:55 am

Grantham’s defense got pushed all over the field by BS, USC,Vandy,LSU, M ST, several other schools had good halves against our defense, although much better, still not van gorder level defense and far short of championship quality.


March 7th, 2012
11:00 am

What you call stupidity I call fire and loyalty to one’s players.

Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.


March 7th, 2012
11:30 am

“Grantham’s defense got pushed all over the field by BS, USC,Vandy,LSU, M ST,…”

Wrong again. Did you actually watch those games or just look at the final scores?

Tweedle Dee

March 7th, 2012
11:34 am

Can you say ‘in Lame Kitten fashion”? A real hotdog. Living like a king while the peons suffer. Sorta like the current incumbent in the White House. Arrogant is the term that comes to mind.

Rick James

March 7th, 2012
12:14 pm

@A person SMART enough to know……

Dawg fans have now added VANDY to the list of teams they hate. Hahah the dawgs are getting scared of a lot of the SEC powerhouses. Can Ole Miss be far behind
I know you you’re not as smart as you think you are but Georgia flipped one Vandy’s prized recruits on signing day.Remember? Georgia also owns Vandy and Ole Miss like they do Tech on the field so there’s no reason to “hate” either.Franklin is taking recruits that qualify to go to Tech so maybe you should get CPJ a helicopter.


March 7th, 2012
12:35 pm

LOL; thanks for censoring my comment AJC. I love the fact that an UA fan can bash the hell out of UGA but if somebody points out inaccuracies in your column you throw it out. Leather Helmet Blog it is from now on. Good bye “Alabama Journal-Constitution!”

A Father

March 7th, 2012
12:35 pm

yes, the GA defense got pushed all over the field by those teams and yes I was at the games etc watched vandy on TV. Our defense got handed their a^^ in those games. The coaches indeptness allowed it to get worse.

B ST 2,3 4 qrt
USC 2,4
Vandy 3.4
Lsu 2,3,4
M St 3,4

We were manhandled in those quarters listed above, 4 loses and 1 win

Stank Wren

March 7th, 2012
12:40 pm

@ Buzz Off: Good bye “Alabama Journal-Constitution!”

Classic and Awesome. Also, sad but true

WV Dawg

March 7th, 2012
1:23 pm

I totally agree Buzz Off this rag of a paper makes me sick. I’m headed back to Leatherhelmetblog where the best news can be found. True Georgia Bulldogs fans are invited to see the difference.


March 7th, 2012
1:31 pm

I get it…”props”…as in helicopter??? I see what you did there…


March 7th, 2012
1:51 pm

How many names does 5150 use on the ajc blogs? He has added A father and Kneel before the bear to the list.

I guess he will do anything except work or look for a job to support his baby mama. LOL LOL LOL That ga text education really helped him.


March 7th, 2012
2:14 pm

Maryland refused to promote this guy, their designated head-coach-in-waiting. There is a reason.


March 7th, 2012
2:24 pm

It does not matter what this Ahole does. He is a scrub and so is their football program. James Franklin can use all the bells and whistles he wants Vandy will never be on par with UGA!!!!! Go Dawgs!!!!

It's called robbery in most circles

March 7th, 2012
2:40 pm

sounds like a low life trying to milk freebies and “bling” with someone elses money. As if he’s another entitlement baby.
Others don’t have to do it.
Low class, ghetto act.

Grantham should've kicked his you know what.

March 7th, 2012
2:44 pm

What the heck do helicopters have to do with a recruits decision?
He just conned somebody at the school into letting him use their toy.
Sounds like another look at me, me, me jerk.


March 7th, 2012
2:55 pm


Slow news day, huh?


March 7th, 2012
3:00 pm

@A Father: you need to check at least some of your stats, rather than looking at the scores during each quarter. In the Boise State game, UGA had held BSU to one score in the first half until Murray threw a short field pick. Boise’s first half possessions consisted of three punts, a fumble, an interception, one touchdown off of a turnover and a single drive of greater than 30 yards. Boise’s fourth quarter consisted of 45 yards of total offense and two punts. So, the only quarter where Boise did particularly well against UGA’s defense was the third. I could go through all the games like this, but I’ll address the LSU game since the score was so lopsided.

LSU had 240 yards of total offense against UGA. LSU’s offense had exactly two sustained drives against the UGA defense during the whole game. The difference in the game came from two great special teams plays be Matthieu (sp?) and a short field after a turnover. That loss was totally on the offense and special teams.

The rest of the games are similar. South Carolina was lost primarily by special teams play. Almost half of SC’s points were scored while the defense wasn’t even on the field; a fake punt, a fumble and interception all for touchdowns. Against Vandy, the 3rd quarter is the only one where they had any real success with two scoring drives. In the Michigan State game, UGA dominated the Spartan’s offense until the fourth quarter; in the first three quarters, Sparty had exactly one drive greater than 34 yards, and all the rest ended in either a punt or a turnover. In my opinion, the main reason UGA lost that game is because the offense couldn’t stay on the field.

So, I appreciate your opinion, but your assertions about when and where UGA’s defense was “dominated” just aren’t supported by the facts.