By hiring James Franklin as its head coach, Vanderbilt will have one of the nation's top quarterback mentors guiding the program.
And Franklin, currently crisscrossing America in search of elite prep prospects as National Signing Day approaches, believes the Commodores will succeed in developing future stars at the quarterback position.
"Maximizing the talents of our quarterbacks, and doing a great job mentoring that position, is critically important to the overall success of our team," Franklin said. "It is a priority with this coaching staff."
With only three scholarship signal callers on the current Vanderbilt roster, Franklin's emphasis on the position likely is extremely attractive to highly regarded prep quarterbacks nationwide.
Indeed, the new Commodore coach knows what it takes to become a top quarterback. An elite signal caller at the Division II level during his playing days, Franklin has surrounded himself with great quarterbacks since getting into the coaching ranks in the mid-1990s. His resume includes time with National Football League legends, a current pro starter in Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, and others who have achieved individual and team successes.
Freeman, now in his second year at Tampa Bay, remains a huge Franklin fan.
"Coach (Franklin) has meant so much to me, both on and off the field," Freeman said. "One of the best things that ever happened to me was getting to work with Coach Franklin."
In three short years at Kansas State, Freeman evolved from a strong-armed prospect to the No. 17 overall NFL draft pick in 2009. In his last year paired with Franklin, Freeman emerged for the Wildcats, throwing for a team-record 3,353 yards along with 18 touchdowns.
Franklin's most recent pupil, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, blossomed as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Inserted into the Terrapins' starting lineup in the fourth game, O'Brien went on to garner Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
O'Brien, also named as a first-team freshman All-America last week, was recruited by Franklin and swayed by the coach's knowledge of the quarterback position, competitive drive and enthusiasm.
"Coach was a big factor in my decision (to attend Maryland)," O'Brien said. "We have similar passion for the game and I thought he was the coach to mold me into the player I thought I could be."
Under Franklin's watch, O'Brien spent a year improving his mechanics, learning to break down film and getting a solid grasp of the offensive scheme. Then, when given the offensive reins last fall, O'Brien never looked back.
"Coach truly knows the position, and really taught me how to be a college quarterback and what it meant to have that role. Everything from watching film the proper way and leading our team to how I should carry myself, on and off the field," O'Brien said.
O'Brien's rise at Maryland mirrored that of Freeman at Kansas State.
"I was very raw, and needed development in really every area," Freeman said. "Coach taught me proper footwork, how to better understand pass routes and schemes, just how to play the position. Truly, to this day, my fundamental foundation as a quarterback came from the time with him."
Franklin mentored Freeman after spending the 2005 season at Green Bay coaching wide receivers. The Packer quarterback was none other than NFL all-time leading passer Brett Favre. Years earlier, through the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship Program, Franklin also spent extended time with another passing legend, Miami hall of famer Dan Marino.
"I've enjoyed some unique coaching experiences, especially at the quarterback position, and learned from each opportunity," Franklin said. "Watching how Brett Favre went about his business and how he created his profession helped me coach and prepare Josh at Kansas State. I was better prepared to help Danny (O'Brien) after working with Josh, and I'll be even more prepared to develop Commodore quarterbacks after working with Danny."
At Vanderbilt, Franklin and his offensive staff will mentor a quarterback corps that includes senior Larry Smith and two untested prospects, redshirt junior Jordan Rodgers and redshirt sophomore Charlie Goro. The team has struggled at the position since Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year Jay Cutler took his game to the NFL in 2006.