In one fell swoop, Herb Hand went from the young guy to the old man on the Vanderbilt football coaching staff.
But Hand, just 41, is still on the staff. So far he is the only holdover from the previous regime as first-year head coach James Franklin announced his offensive coaches at a press conference on Thursday.
Hand, who will continue to coach the offensive line, now is part of a young group. Four of the five assistants are under the age of 40.
“When I sit down with these coaches, what I am looking for is enthusiasm,” Franklin, 38, said. “So I don’t care if you are 50 years old or if you are 32 years old. I want guys that are knowledgeable, that are enthusiastic, that are excited about the opportunity here and have the same vision that I do.”
Hand just wrapped up his first season with the Commodores. He was hired by Franklin’s predecessor, Robbie Caldwell, last summer when Caldwell — the offensive line coach the previous eight seasons — was promoted to interim head coach. Prior to that, he spent three seasons as co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Tulsa.
Still, Hand, said he had to “cover his bases” and actually turned down a couple opportunities before Franklin re-hired him.
“There was a lot of stuff going on in that three-week period. ... I believe in Coach Franklin and the vision he has for the program, the excitement he has generated,” Hand said. “I want to be a part of it.”
In addition to Hand, Franklin hired three staff members from Maryland, where he spent the last three years as offensive coordinator.
John Donovan, 36, comes over as offensive coordinator and running backs coach. He was at Maryland for six seasons, four as running backs coach. He called his first game as an offensive coordinator in the Military Bowl on Dec. 29 — a 51-20 Maryland win over East Carolina — just two weeks after Franklin left his post to take the Vanderbilt job.
Franklin and Donovan said they haven’t decided who will call the plays, though Franklin has a lot of experience with the game-planning.
“If he can handle it all, yeah, I think he would still like to do it,” Donovan said. “At the same time, he knows me so well, if he ever has to leave that room while we are game-planning for a team, he can leave that room and know it is going to be the same routine he is used to. He can have confidence in the fact that we are going to get it done the way he wants to get it done.”
Charles Bankins, 38, was the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach for the Terrapins the last two seasons and will do the same job at Vanderbilt. Dwight Galt was at Maryland for 27 years, the last 17 as the director of strength and conditioning. Galt, who actually (so far) is the oldest member of the staff at age 52, will also handle the same role with the Commodores.
Quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, 30, also has ties to Franklin. Rahne, who played quarterback at Cornell, was the tight ends coach at Kansas State when Franklin was offensive coordinator during the 2006-07 seasons.
As of right now, Rahne said he isn’t going to rush to name a starting quarterback. Senior-to-be Larry Smith has started the last two years but transfer Jordan Rodgers figures to be in the conversation.
“Right now there is no, 'Oh, he is the starter.’ There is none of that. Everyone is battling for the same spot,” Rahne said. “It is open competition. I want the best player for Vanderbilt. I’m going to try to make sure I teach them as well as I possibly can, give each one of them a chance to be the starting quarterback and move on from there.”
The only member of Franklin’s staff that didn’t actually coach with him somewhere is wide receivers coach Chris Beatty, who spent the last three years at West Virginia coaching the running backs and wide receivers. Franklin and Beatty, 37, both recruited the same areas.
Franklin also announced the hiring of several other staff members. Jemal Griffin will be the chief of staff. Michael Hazel is the director of operations, with Andy Frank assisting him and Norval McKenzie as the assistant recruiting coordinator.
As for the defensive side of the ball, which Franklin called his “most important hire” since his coaching experience has strictly been offensive, he said he is close to finishing the process.
“Every decision I make is going to be very, very well thought out and calculated and I feel very good about the direction of where the defensive staff is going,” he said. “But I am going to make sure that we make the right decisions so we can lay the foundation for the future.”
Turning around a program that has had just one winning season in the last 28 years won’t be easy, but Franklin doesn’t want to wait for the future to come to him, either. He thinks he has an offensive staff that shares the same mindset, regardless of their age.
“We don’t crawl. We don’t walk,” he said. “We are going to attack full speed ahead.”