The buzz and excitement surrounding Vanderbilt’s upcoming trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis has extended beyond Nashville.
James Franklin says there is a difference outside the Music City as well.
“It has been a significant difference walking into high schools [to recruit] now in how the players react us to and how the coaches react to us, especially the coaches,” Vanderbilt’s first-year coach said. “I think in this part of the country, too, you have a bunch of people who really understand the game and understand the significance of what we’ve started to do.”
After a break for finals last week, the Commodores (6-6) stepped back onto the practice field on Monday as they prepare to play co-Big East champ Cincinnati (9-3) on New Year’s Eve.
Coaches have been hot on the recruiting trail, spending much of the last month out of town.
According to Rivals.com, the Commodores have received 20 commitments for 2012 — already one less than last year’s signing class. That list includes four four-star recruits.
“The process has started with changing the perspective of Vanderbilt football,” Franklin said. “The bowl game obviously helps but I think just how we played all year long and how we competed against everybody we played and how we conducted ourselves. I think that has really helped us.”
Under the new Southeastern Conference scholarship limit, signing classes may be no bigger than 25.
Franklin said some scholarships may free up if redshirt juniors who graduate early decide not to return for their remaining year of eligibility.
“They are going to have some opportunities to make some choices,” he said. “We are going to be in a situation where we are going to be turning down some really good players. I know a lot of people are going to say, ‘Why are you turning them down?’ Well, you only have so many scholarships.
“I think that is the position you want to be in every year where you have such a good pool of possibilities that you got to choose at the end who you want to take. We’re going to have to turn some good players down. That’s the position we’re in.”
• Bearcats QB practices: Cincinnati starting quarterback Zach Collaros participated in a full practice on Monday for the first time since having surgery on his broken right ankle five weeks ago.
The early progress could be a sign that Collaros will be back in time for the Liberty Bowl. Sophomore Munchie Legaux played in the last three games and is averaging just 68.1 passing yards and completing 47.4 percent of his passes. Collaros, before he went down against West Virginia, threw for 1,860 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 63.4 completion percentage.
Franklin said regardless of who plays, the Commodores must be ready to face a mobile quarterback.
“They all have talent so no matter what quarterback plays we have to be prepared,” Vanderbilt linebacker Archibald Barnes said. “Just being able stay low and move our feet. We missed some sacks early in the season and hopefully we can get after them.”