Franklin's departure has Vanderbilt's recruiting class in state of ruin

Defensive end Lloyd Tubman is following James Franklin to Penn State. (Provided)
Defensive end Lloyd Tubman is following James Franklin to Penn State. (Provided)

The departure of James Franklin to Penn State has left what was once a promising 2014 recruiting class at Vanderbilt smoldering in ruin to a certain extent. Most of the major damage has been done and chances are, it will get better, but it could get worse.

Defensive end Lloyd Tubman, quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine Prep) and running back Mikale Wilbon (Chicago, Ill./De La Salle) were arguably the three most highly-touted prospects in the Commodores’ class- Tubman flipped to the Nittany Lions, joining Franklin, while Carta-Samuels (whose brother was a quarterback for Vanderbilt this season) and Wilbon simply re-opened their respective recruitments.

Offensive line/tight end prospect Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio) also switched to Penn State from Franklin's former school. Sorrell flipped from the Commodores to the Nittany Lions on Saturday, the same day as Tubman and the same day Franklin was announced in State College.

In all, six prospects have de-committed from Vanderbilt since Franklin’s departure with defensive tackle Michael Sawyers (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) being a soft commit at best (he’s getting new offers and scheduling official visits. Vanderbilt has tumbled to No. 49 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings for 2014 and is No. 14 (last) in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores have 13 verbal commits as things stand this minute.

Tubman and Sorrell aren’t the only current Vanderbilt commit Franklin has targeted. Four-star safety Emmanuel Smith (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Oakland) picked up an offer from Penn State earlier this week, but told Barton Simmons of 247Sports he’s currently firm to the Commodores. Three-star offensive lineman Jashon Robertson (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell Academy) also picked up an offer from Penn State and subsequently de-committed from the Dores.

This situation is a little unprecedented on a couple of levels. First and foremost, it’s rare for a coach to go to a new school and immediately target a player that is committed to the school he previously coached at, as has been the case with Tubman, Sorrell, Robertson and Smith. It’s even more unprecedented for the players to flip on the day the coach is announced at his new school

There’s an unwritten rule, a gentleman’s agreement if you will that you don’t actively pursue prospects that were committed to you at the previous school. That’s something that Lane Kiffin and staff drew criticism for when they departed Tennessee for USC in early 2010.

That being said, all is fair in love, war and recruiting. Franklin has to win football games at Penn State and if some talented players want to follow him to State College, then he can’t exactly turn them down.

It’s also interesting that judging from the early recruiting returns after Franklin’s departure, many of the prospects committed to Vanderbilt were more so committed to the dynamic coach’s vision for the Commodores program rather than to the program or the university itself. There usually isn’t this high of an attrition rate when a coaching change occurs.

Chances are, whoever takes the Vanderbilt job will get some of these prospects back in the boat (no pun intended) and finish with a solid recruiting class- all things considered. Also, with Penn State sitting on 21 verbal commitments for this cycle, the Nittany Lions don’t have a whole lot of space remaining unless they have some de-commits themselves. Penn State currently has the nation’s No. 19 overall class, No. 3 in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.

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