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July 1, 2013

Recruits, families still believe in Vanderbilt

The Vanderbilt community was shaken over the weekend by the dismissal of four unidentified football players amid a investigation by Nashville Metro Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit.

While some Commodore fans wonder what the alleged event might do to the perception of the program for the upcoming 2013 season, some have wondered if the investigation could have a negative effect on recruiting.

Not so says members and parents of Vanderbilt's current 2014 recruiting class.

Demetrius Smith, father of four-star safety commitment Emmanuel Smith, contacted VandySports.com recently to state that while the actions of a few are disturbing and disappointing, it does not change his family's view on head coach James Franklin or the Commodore program and university as a whole.

"We want the world to know we believe in Coach Franklin and what he's doing at Vanderbilt," Smith told VandySports.com on Sunday. "Throughout our interactions with him and his staff, it has be nothing but joyous. He has not only preached value and accountability, but he has been nothing but open about the family atmosphere he's bringing. This traumatic event should not be, and is not an indictment on him, his staff or the university.

"Coach has been the ultimate father figure and type of man I want to lead my son in his pursuit to become a man and productive citizen," Smith added. "This is an unfortunate event, and our prayers go out to all involved parties. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The good that Coach Franklin has brought, and will continue to bring, can't be taken if those who believe in him and what he's doing would stand and shoulder some of the weight in order for him to continue the good fight.

"So I want to say I appreciate the swiftness in accountability Coach has done. We know bad things happens to good people and good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations. We will make it through this together. Not to preach but a kingdom divided is a kingdom that will fall, so let's get behind Coach Franklin, his staff, and Vanderbilt and return the love he shown to the kids he mentors because love conquers all. Anchor Down."

"It doesn't affect me," Emmanuel Smith told the Tennessean on Sunday. "I'm 100 percent committed to Vandy. I talked to (fellow commitment) Bryce Lewis, and we're reaching out and talking to other recruits. Everybody is still solid.

"I'm more surprised some of (Vanderbilt's) players could make a bad choice. All of the players are usually outstanding, great fun to be around and outgoing. But if you slip up, it doesn't matter what it is, there are consequences for it. It's a good lesson for little kids and guys coming into college."

Parkview (Ga.) standout defensive back Bryce Lewis later echoed those sentiments to VandySports.com on Monday.

"I just feel like that's not what Vanderbilt stands for, that's not what the coaches have presented to us, Emmanuel and I, and the others [commitments]," said Lewis. "So, we just feel like that's just some kids making their own mistakes and not reflecting on anything that Coach Franklin or his staff does. So we just said let it be water under the bridge and keep going.

"It's not going to stop what we are going to achieve when we get there. We've reached out to other commitments too, to let them know that's how we feel and they're on board and feel the same way."

Other members of the class including Elite 11 quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels, MBA standout Jay Robertson and recent commit Chance Sorrell continue to be supportive of the program as well through social media and contact amongst one and other.

"I just feel bad that all of Franklin's efforts to build a class program like it has been the past couple years, has now been impacted by a unfortunate decision by a few players," Carta-Samuels told VandySports.com. "No, my view of Vandy does not change one bit because it was just a bad decision and a mistake, it doesn't represent the entire program."

All nine current commitments remain solid with their decisions and plan to visit the campus again in the future.

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