Focus on skill players earns Vanderbilt Signing Day recognition

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 10:27pm

The stars next to the names don’t matter to James Franklin.

It is their potential to become stars in the Southeastern Conference that excites the Vanderbilt football coach when he looks at his 2013 signing class.

“We’re recruiting guys that look and act and perform like everybody else [in the SEC] is playing with,” Franklin said. “You look at this entire class — all of them had national offers, all of them had multiple SEC offers. That is going to be very, very important for us to do consistently year in and year out. We’re excited about it. We still have a long ways to go.”

Coming off their best season in 97 years, the Commodores took another step Wednesday with arguably the most highly regarded signing class in program history. The 26 players who signed national letters-of-intent earned the school’s highest ranking ever from Rivals.com, 19th — 10 spots up from last year. Scout.com also ranked the Commodores 19th; ESPN.com had them 22nd and 247Sports rated them 30th.

Fifteen of the incoming freshmen were considered four-star prospects by the four recruiting services. For the first time in the history of Rivals.com, Vanderbilt has signed five four-star athletes.

“I think it is important from a perception standpoint,” Franklin said. “The ratings aren’t really that important. There are some guys that Rivals and 247 and ESPN has ranked as two-stars that we think are four-star and five-star guys. I ask every kid when they commit to us who is the best running back, or whatever position they play, in the country? The answer should be them. They have to believe that in themselves just like we do as coaches.”

Franklin’s third signing class at Vanderbilt features 13 offensive players, 12 defensive players and one specialist. The Commodores reeled in a handful of wide receivers (five), defensive backs (five) and defensive linemen (four).

After addressing offensive line issues the last two years just two signed this year. Commodores coaches wanted to focus on skill positions and pass catchers.

Wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis believes the additions will fill a void and offer more options behind wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd.

“This year we wanted to focus a little more on playmakers,” Gattis said. “We felt like we needed to create some depth and get some skill positions into our program. Each and every one of those guys brings a different trait to the table that they are going to be able to use to help us.”

Four-star prospect Jordan Cunningham (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) highlighted the wideouts. Vanderbilt received letters of intent from two highly touted tight ends — four-star recruit Mitchell Parsons (6-5, 230) and junior college transfer Brandon Vandenburg (6-6, 270).

Four-star quarterback Johnathon McCrary, Vanderbilt’s first commit of the 2013 class, and offensive lineman Sean Dowling are already on campus after enrolling for the spring semester in January. Both players joined Franklin on stage at the Student Life Center on Wednesday night as more than 500 fans gathered for a signing day celebration.

Perhaps the biggest thrill of the day for the coaching staff came in the morning when Cunningham announced his decision on ESPNU. Surrounded by friends and family at University School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., he explained that he had a 50-year plan which included college and NFL careers and becoming an engineer. He then chose Vanderbilt over Miami and Florida State, among others, to set off a raucous celebration among the Commodore coaches in the “war room” at the McGugin Center.

“There is a relief when [the fax] actually comes through,” Franklin said. “It was a really good opportunity for the world and country to see what Vanderbilt is doing and what Vanderbilt is recruiting — that caliber of kid. I couldn’t have scripted it out any better for him, if I would have written his speech for him. I couldn’t have done it any better. That is exciting because people see you can be one of the top players in the country and choose a place like Vanderbilt.”

9 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 2/6/13 at 9:51

So far.So good! I still cannot believe Vanderbilt won five SEC games last season.

I was not around for all of the games played in the last 94 years but I did see theGator Bowl team as a small boy. That was the best team in the last 57 years. I think their record was six wins three losses and two ties.

By: TITAN1 on 2/7/13 at 6:00

Great recruiting class, Vandy!

By: Pmd12931 on 2/7/13 at 6:26

Now with this great football recruiting class, the same thing needs to happen with our men's basketball recruiting with prospects not too good for any better team next season, badly in need of a big man to bolster the inside game.

By: TITAN1 on 2/7/13 at 7:53

I think the men's basketball team has done very well considering how young they are. They have lost several very close games. These young guys have a lot of talent and will be much better by the end of the year. Next year with a year of experience under their belt they will win some of these close games. I think the future is very bright.

By: joe41 on 2/7/13 at 9:20

I watched the videos of all the signing players. I was impressed as to the fact that these kids were the cream of the crop at their respective schools. Also, when you read their bios, you understand that they were not just athletes. They were good students and school leaders as well. These people will be an asset to the University and to Nashville. I doubt there is much difference in football skills in the top ten of the SEC schools, however, I give the coaching staff a lot of credit for recruiting coachable football players. I look forward to these guys being on campus.
Joe

By: wiseguy1 on 2/7/13 at 11:37

Great looking class. Loads of potential in this group. I certainly hope the 2013-14 team stays healthy under the tutelage of Dwight Galt.

ps ... I felt the need to quanify 2013-14 as Rasputin probably remembers the 1913-14 team. Small boy for 1957 team ... I'm not convinced. You claim to have heard Red Sanders make a comments about the challenges of winning at Vanderbilt, which would be probably around 1947 or 1948.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/7/13 at 12:43

Yes ,Wise Guy, childhood lasts several years. Red Sanders left after the 1948 season and the Gator bowl team was 1955.

By: garrthom on 2/7/13 at 1:46

Red Sanders was dead wrong!

By: Rasputin72 on 2/7/13 at 3:14

Garrthom............If RedSanders was wrong it took 62 years fot someone like ypu to challenge his wisdom of that era.

Red Sanders was a Vanderbilt graduate and I would be willing to bet that he would be delighted to be proven wrong even if it took 62 years.