Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update: Signing Day: It's official! Brian Kimbrow tops ranking of Vandy's 21 recruits

About the time Josh Dawson was flipping to Georgia as expected, Brian Kimbrow was signing with the Commodores. So let's celebrate! It's been easy to take Kimbrow for granted because he's been in the fold for so long, but if he'd just chosen us out of the blue we'd be falling all over ourselves with joy.

He's the most highly regarded and sought-after high school football player that Vanderbilt has ever signed. Ever. That's a big deal.

Oh, and have we addressed our need at linebacker and offensive line or what?

Would be nice to have gotten another couple of wide receivers.

And if you're wondering what happened to kicker Colby Cooke, it appears that he'll redshirt after all, which means he won't count toward our scholarships for this year. It also means that Ryan Fowler's probably returning for another year so he and Carey Spear can take turns giving us another suspenseful year of watching the Commodores attempt chip-shot kicks.

Here's who we've signed so far, in the order of which ones were rated the highest and had the best offers (in other words, our best recruits on paper):

1. RB BRIAN KIMBROW (5-8, 170; Memphis, Tenn.)
• The scoop: Possibly the fastest high school senior in the nation and definitely the most decorated recruit in Vanderbilt history; offers include Alabama, LSU, USC, Auburn, Arkansas, Oregon, Ohio State, Miami and many more
• Best rating: Consensus four-star recruit; Rivals’ No. 4 all-purpose back
• Where he’ll play: Anywhere he wants to; at 170 pounds, he’s not an every-down back, but you can bet Franklin will get him the ball as many times as possible, starting with kick returns
• When he’ll play: I think he just lined up in our backfield; he’ll play right away

2. LB JACOB SEALAND (6-2, 215; Tucker, Ga.)
• The scoop: A hard-nosed, athletic inside linebacker with offers from Miami, South Carolina and Arkansas
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 14 inside linebacker, with four stars
• Where he’ll play: Everybody says he’s an ideal middle linebacker, and Vandy has an opening there with the departure of Chris Marve and his backup, DeAndre Jones
• When he’ll play: We’d be shocked if he didn’t play right away as a true freshman and eventually compete for a starting position

3. OL ANDREW JELKS (6-6, 270; Paris, Tenn.)
• The scoop: Perhaps Vanderbilt’s best offensive line prospect ever, with offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Missouri and Stanford
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 31 offensive tackle (four stars)
• Where he’ll play: He’s a natural at left tackle; think Wes Johnson, but taller and with a bigger frame
• When he’ll play: He’ll compete for a spot on the two-deep on the O-line, where depth is lacking; how soon he plays and whether he’ll redshirt may depend on the development of redshirt freshmen like James Lewis, Jake Bernstein and Jose Valedon

4. LB DARREON HERRING (6-1, 220; Stone Mountain, Ga.)
• The scoop: A rangy, athletic outside linebacker capable of staying on the field in nickel and dime situations; had offers from Clemson, Arkansas and Stanford
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 30 outside linebacker (four stars)
• Where he’ll play: Linebacker! An early enrollee, this guy will be a welcome sight in spring practice and will likely keep at least one safety from being converted to linebacker to shore up depth concerns
• When he’ll play: He needs to put on weight, but will be competing for a starting job the moment he steps on campus; our last early enrollee, Kenny Ladler, was starting by the third game of his first season

5. DL CALEB AZUBIKE (6-4, 250; Nashville, Tenn.)
• The scoop: A raw, freakishly athletic defensive end with offers from Miami, UCLA, Mississippi State and Kentucky
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 15 weakside defensive end (four stars)
• Where he’ll play: He’s a defensive end all the way, and is already bigger, faster and stronger than our current starters
• When he’ll play: Right away. Expect him to be competing for a starting job by the middle of the season

6. OL KEVIN MCCOY (6-5, 285; Tampa, Fla.)
• The scoop: A big agile offensive lineman and high school teammate of Josh Grady with offers from Auburn and Florida; he must be special because we kept pursuing him after locking up five other offensive linemen
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 37 offensive tackle (high three stars)
• Where he’ll play: He sure looks like a tackle, but could move inside early and play guard
• When he’ll play: Ideally would redshirt, but will compete to play right away

7. OL WILL HOLDEN (6-6, 280; Green Cove Springs, Fla.)
• The scoop: A long, athletic tackle whose stock rose after his verbal commitment to Vandy; turned down a late offer from Florida
• Best rating: Scout’s No. 49 offensive tackle (three stars); high three stars from Rivals and ESPN
• Where he’ll play: Appears to be a natural tackle, but of course will play where needed on the O-line during his career; Vandy is concentrating now on stockpiling tackles with long arms and nimble feet and putting them in any of the five positions
• When he’ll play: Is bigger than some of our starters and, along with expected signees Jelks and McCoy, could compete to play as a true freshman because of our lack of depth on the line; philosophically, the staff would like to redshirt him

8. OL ADAM BUTLER (6-4, 285; Duncanville, Texas)
• The scoop: A big athletic lineman possibly capable of making a quick transition to guard; offers from UCLA and Oklahoma State
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 41 tackle (high three stars) and ESPN’s No. 43 guard (high three stars)
• Where he’ll play: With all these tackles in the fold, Butler will likely move inside; he’s a smart kid with the ability to read defenses and react quickly, so center might be a possibility too
• When he’ll play: Conventional wisdom says he’ll redshirt, but a true freshman lineman would likely play guard, and that’s Butler’s natural position; expect him to make a strong bid to crack the two-deep though he’ll have a lot of competition and he's capable of bulking up to 300+ pounds

9. OL BLAKE FROMANG (6-7, 285; Orlando, Fla.)
• The scoop: The tallest Commodore at nearly 6-foot-8, Fromang has the athletic gifts of a dominating tackle; had offers from Cincinnati, Virginia, West Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as SEC offers from Kentucky and Ole Miss
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 71 offensive tackle (high three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Has tackle written all over him
• When he’ll play: A good-looking prospect who’ll likely need a redshirt year to develop; after a year in the weight room and at Magic’s training table, he’ll be massive

10. QB PATTON ROBINETTE (6-4, 220; Maryville, Tenn.)
• The scoop: A brainy dual-threat quarterback who was hours from enrolling at UNC
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 31 quarterback (high three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Quarterback and only quarterback, as opposed to last year, when we took three athletes who could play quarterback or a variety of other positions
• When he’ll play: Will almost certainly redshirt and be ready to compete for the starting job in his second year (Grady and Kentera had better be ready)

11. LB JA’KARRI THOMAS (6-1, 200; Tallahassee, Fla.)
• The scoop: A speedy, edge-rushing outside linebacker and former Arkansas commitment; other offers from Miami, Stanford, Ole Miss and Kentucky
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 66 outside linebacker (medium three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Along with Sealand, Herring and Harper, he fills a big need at linebacker
• When he’ll play: Could provide immediate special teams help and linebacker depth, but might also redshirt and put on weight; a lot depends on the development of fellow freshmen Darreon Herring and Jacob Sealand, the recovery of Tristan Strong, and the ability of safeties like Karl Butler and Larry Franklin to pick up linebacking assignments

12. LB HARDING HARPER (6-2, 215; Montgomery, Ala.)
• The scoop: A tough linebacker with a knack for the ball and a gift for rushing the passer and stopping the run; offers from Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia Tech
• Best rating: Rivals’ No. 32 middle linebacker (three stars)
• Where he’ll play: A big part of Franklin’s plan to reload the roster at linebacker; can play inside or outside linebacker
• When he’ll play: Lanky at 6-2, 215, he could stand to gain some weight; will have a shot to make the two-deep in preseason camp, but may redshirt if two or three of the other freshmen linebackers develop as expected and a few other things happen, including natural safety Karl Butler continuing to make a smooth shift to linebacker, senior Tristan Strong recovering from injury, and senior Al Owens returning for a fifth year; still, his ability to play either middle or outside might give him a nod over Thomas in his first year

13. DE/LB STEPHEN WEATHERLY (Snellville, Ga.)
• The scoop: A beanpole at 6-5, 220, but a dazzling athlete for his size with the ability to be a dangerous edge rusher from either end or outside linebacker; he’s been rated as everything from a two-star to a four-star; offers from Stanford, Kentucky and Ole Miss
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 24 defensive end (four stars)
• Where he’ll play: The fact that Vandy lost defensive end Josh Dawson on signing day and just grabbed a fourth linebacker (Harding Harper in addition to Sealand, Herring and Thomas) suggests that Dawson may be groomed at end; the last DE/OLB prospect we had who was this skinny was Walker May, and he redshirted and became a starting defensive end; we think the same thing will happen with Weatherly
• When he’ll play: He’s gained a bunch of weight in the past year, but he’ll need to continue to do so; he’ll get a shot, but Azubike appears more game-ready, which means Weatherly may redshirt

14. WR CORY BATEY (Nashville, Tenn.)
• The scoop: A savvy, talented receiver who can play slot or outside and would be a great complement to a playmaking deep threat; offers from Cincinnati and Kentucky
• Best rating: Scout’s No. 95 wide receiver (three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Though he’s also a promising defensive back, this kid will play receiver at Vandy
• When he’ll play: The Commodores have had at least three receivers defect from this signing class, and Charlie Miller didn’t pan out; even though Vandy has four good dependable receivers, they’ll need some more next season and Batey’s a likely candidate

15. DL TOREY AGEE (6-3, 250; Opelika, Ala.)
• The scoop: A big, fast defensive lineman and son of an NFL player with offers from Stanford and Louisville
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 99 defensive end (medium three-star)
• Where he’ll play: With Josh Dawson flipping to Georgia, he may stick at defensive end; but until Vandy starts recruiting true defensive tackles, we generally bulk up guys like Agee and play them at tackle
• When he’ll play: Even if he stays at end, he’ll likely redshirt because of our deep front line; expect him to redshirt, switch to tackle and start beefing up, like Conor Hart did last season

16. OL BARRETT GOUGER (6-4, 280; Soddy Daisy, Tenn.)
• The scoop: One of Vandy's first commitments, the Chattanooga product hasn't garnered the flashy offers of the other O-linemen in this class, but he's a tough, talented prospect; had offers from Wake Forest and Memphis
• Best rating: ESPN's No. 61 offensive tackle (high three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Listed as a tackle, but the more you look at guys like Jelks, Fromang and Holden, the more he looks like a guard; we'll see
• When he’ll play: Of all the O-line prospects, he and Fromang look the most likely to redshirt, but we said the same thing last year about Pulley and Townsend

17. DB PARIS HEAD (5-11, 175; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
• The scoop: A fine defensive back with decent speed and great ball skills from a powerhouse Georgia high school; offers include Tennessee and Louisville
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 50 cornerback (medium three-star)
• Where he’ll play: Right now, he’s not big enough to play safety and maybe not fast enough for corner; he’s got room to grow so expect to see him bulk up and eventually play safety
• When he’ll play: Will likely redshirt

18. DB BRANDON BANKS (5-10, 170; Brandywine, Md.)
• The scoop: A speedy athlete who’s mostly listed as a cornerback but could play receiver; his best offer was from Cincinnati
• Best rating: Scout’s No. 52 cornerback (three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Depends on whether we sign more than one pure receiver to this class and how our other receivers develop; we have a solid first four (Matthews, Boyd, Krause, Tate) but need more WR depth; last year, Jacquese Kirk appeared to be a better prospect at corner but practiced at receiver and eventually redshirted
• When he’ll play: A likely redshirt; if Kirk and especially Derek King redshirted last season then Banks should definitely do the same

19. DB TORREN MCGASTER (6-0, 185; Daphne, Ala.)
• The scoop: A big, natural cornerback who appears physically ready for the SEC; flew under the radar until his commitment to Vandy but also had offers from Missouri and Kentucky
• Best rating: Rivals No. 64 cornerback (medium three stars)
• Where he’ll play: This kid’s a cornerback
• When he’ll play: He’s physically more ready to play cornerback than fellow recruits Banks or Head, so he’ll definitely get a shot to show his stuff in preseason practice; but again, if King redshirted last year then don’t be surprised if McGaster does the same this year

20. DL LADARIUS BANKS (6-2, 275; Dallas, Ga.)
• The scoop: The closest thing Vandy got to a defensive tackle in this recruiting class; offers from Cincinnati and Illinois
• Best rating: ESPN’s No. 156 defensive end (low three stars)
• Where he’ll play: With three upperclassmen in the rotation at tackle, we’re going to need some beef in the middle in the next couple of years; Joe Townsend, who played offense last year, is one possibility, and Banks is an even better one
• When he’ll play: With a rotation of Lohr, Nichter, Morse, Taylor and Dixon, expect Banks to take a redshirt year to add 30 pounds and learn the ropes

21. WR JABORIAN "TIP" MCKENZIE (5-8, 175; Natchez, Miss.)
• The scoop: A poor man’s Brian Kimbrow with the same Lilliputian size without the blazing speed, but still quick, shifty and versatile with great hands; had offers from Kansas State and Memphis
• Best rating: Scout’s No. 110 running back (low three stars)
• Where he’ll play: Like Kimbrow, he doesn’t look like an every-down back right now, and is being listed by Vanderbilt as a wide receiver; he could definitely contribute in the slot because of his quick feet, great receiving skills and ability to operate in open space, and Vandy has a big need at receiver after failing to close on verbal commitment Andre McDonald and other true receivers like Ian Thomas and Charlie Miller
• When he’ll play: If Mitchell Hester, the since-departed RB and returner who had a dazzling preseason camp, and other athletes like Jacquese Kirk redshirted last year then you’d expect McKenzie to do the same, especially with Warren Norman returning from injury and Wesley Tate establishing himself in the slot


Thomas Bright said...

What about the kicker, Colby Cooke?

Dimon K-H said...

Looks like he might be gray-shirting, which means he won't be a member of this class and won't enroll in school until 2013.

Alex said...

Noticed in the background of one of the war room pics that they have Barrett Gouger listed on the depth chart for center. Great Class!! Go Dores!!

Dimon K-H said...

Yeah, Coach Hand said today that Gouger would be playing inside and I could definitely see him at center. Last year, Valedon was listed as a center on the war room pics. It's always fun to try to figure out stuff based on glimpses from the war room.

Anonymous said...

Very impressed with the O-line and D-line prospects. Looks like part of CJF plan last season was to determine who the real playmakers on offense would be; now this class seems to be to create some depth and skill set on the O-line. Coach Hand I'm sure is very happy (as well as the skill guys QB, Wr's, and Rb's). With the talent in this class, our defense is re-loading while the offense (with O-line issues partially resolved)will put up some points next season. Already looking forward to the Spring Game. Go Dores !

Anonymous said...

i keep hearing rumors that there may be some mystery recruit that may be joining the class...any scoop on this?

Anonymous said...

I saw that on ESPN "College Football " they mentioned Vandy as one of the "5 surprise teams" for next football season. They spoke very favorable of what CJF is doing. I believe that it was the last College Football Live show of this season. Not sure if we are going to be able to handle all the love for Vandy Football.

Dimon K-H said...

Looks like your mystery recruit might be Anthony Standifer, a high 3-star cornerback from Illinois who visited Pitt last weekend and is visiting Vandy this weekend.