Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forget the SEC, Vanderbilt's football team would dominate the MAC and the Sun Belt

If there was any doubt that Vanderbilt’s in the toughest conference in America – at least, the last place it could hope to obtain a winning record – check out the preseason rankings for all 120 college football teams by The Quad Blog, the New York Times’ excellent college sports blog.

The Quad pegs Vandy at No. 65, way up from the No. 93 it gave the Dores this time last year. So let’s pretend for a moment that Vandy would beat all the teams ranked below it and lose to all the teams above it. So what will our record be in 2009? According to The Quad, Vandy should beat Miss State, Rice and Army. Assuming the Dores also beat Western Carolina, they should finish 4-8.

Of course, according to this same logic we should have finished 2-10 or maybe 3-9 last season. But it’s tough playing in such a touch conference.

Which has us wondering: In which conference would Vanderbilt have the most victories?

Vandy would have the upper hand over a whopping eleven teams: Temple (74), Buffalo (78), N Illinois (80), Ohio (82), Ball State (85), Bowling Green (86), Toledo (88), Akron (93), Miami-Oho (101), Kent State (109), Eastern Mich (113)

Instead of LSU, what if Vanderbilt got to play L-Monroe? Or L-Lafayette? Or any of the teams in the Sun Belt, of which Vandy is better than at least eight: Fla Atlantic (77), Ark State (87), MTSU (91), Fla International (97), La-Monroe (108), La-Lafayette (110), N Texas (116), W Kentucky (120)

Vanderbilt looks better on paper than at least eight teams, and one of them is Rice, which we play in the fourth game of the season: Memphis (75), UTEP (83), Rice (92), UAB (95), Central Fla (98), Marshall (100), SMU (102), Tulane (107)

A smallish conference, with at least six teams Vanderbilt would likely handle: La Tech (67), Hawaii (71), San Jose St (90), Utah State (115), New Mexico St (118), Idaho (119)

OK, the Dores would struggle against the likes of BYU and Utah, but could probably overpower at least five teams: Colorado St (73), UNLV (84), San Diego St (104), New Mexico (106), Wyoming (111)

Sure, Wake Forest, a small private school that found success in a big-time conference, is a role model for Vandy. But the Demon Deacs can hang with at least a handful of conference teams year in and year out. This year, they’d be one the Commodores could beat (and Duke’s a team we should have beat last year): Maryland (66), Wake Forest (69), Virginia (81), Duke (96)

7. BIG 12
Sure, we’re not scheduling Texas or Oklahoma any time soon, but we could probably beat at least four teams in the Big 12: K-State (70), Texas A&M (72), Baylor (79), Iowa State (112)

We could handle at least three Big East teams, and could compete against a whole lot more: UConn (68), Louisville (76), Syracuse (103)

9. BIG 10
The Quad has us way ahead of two Big 10 teams: Purdue (94), Indiana (105)

10. PAC-10
Thank God for the state of Washington. But I’d bet we could take at least two other teams in the Pac-10: Washington (99), Wash State (114)

11. SEC
Here’s a big surprise: The SEC is the toughest conference for us to play in. Supposedly, we could beat only Miss State (89). Of course, we lost to the Bulldogs last season. Of course, we beat four conference teams we weren’t supposed to beat.

Am I suggesting we should change conferences? No freaking way. I love the fact that on paper we’re not supposed to beat anybody. Because when we beat them, we feel great and those other teams – like, say, South Carolina and Auburn – feel awful.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vanderbilt football lands "best" recruit yet

Is Bobby Johnson on a roll or what? Remember how he predicted that the Music City Bowl victory would give a greater boost to the recruiting class of 2010 than the class of 2009? And remember how we told you earlier this week that he's already gotten verbal commitments from 10 players, by far his most ever in June?

Well, it's still June and he just got another verbal, this time from Davis Dudchock, a 6-4, 225-pound tight end from Birmingham whose father played at Auburn for Pat Dye.

Dudchock is on ESPN's 150 Watch List, which makes him the highest rated player to commit to Vandy so far this season. He got three stars from scout.com and appears to still be unrated by rivals.com. He had offers from Florida State, Tennessee and Auburn.

Expect the players to keep rolling in over the next month or so. It's a battle all the way, but Johnson appears to be turning the ship around at Vanderbilt — and without the Commodores leaving the SEC.

I'll never forget sitting behind the Vandy bench in Columbia, S.C., in 2007 and noticing how big and athletic-looking the players were, even the players who weren't playing. It was a far cry from the Watson Brown years. And sure, Woody had some stallions on his defenses, but not as many as I saw on that day — they were everywhere.

Of course, Vanderbilt upset South Carolina and Steve Spurrier that day. Last season and the last week's recruiting news are further evidence that the Gamecock victory was only the start.

I'm not predicting SEC championships or BCS bids or anything like that. But I am saying we've got the athletes and coaches and support system and overall program — and especially the athletes — to compete.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ratings of Vanderbilt football recruits change before our eyes

When lineman Grant Ramsay verbally committed to the Commodores last month, he was unrated by ESPN. A couple of days later, he got a rating of 77, only a point lower than the rating of Eric Samuels, arguably our top recruit of 2009.

Then lineman Chase White committed. ESPN had him at a 63, but a few days later upgraded him to a 70.

Over the weekend, receiver Trent Pruitt chose Vandy. He was unrated, but now he's a respectable 72.

On Monday, speedster Jonathan Krause (above) announced he'd chosen the Commodores too. He was unrated, but today he's a 76.

I wonder two things:

• First, if Trent Pruitt had committed to Troy or MTSU, would he have received a 72 rating a couple of days later? I doubt it.

• Second, if Jonathan Krause had committed to Georgia Southern, where he had an offer, would he have received a 76 rating several days later? Or what if Krause, among the fastest players in the nation, had suddenly received an offer from USC? How high would his rating have climbed?

So perhaps a player's choice of school says as much about the player — and can even change the so-called experts' opinion of him for better or worse — as it does about what kind of recruiting class the school is having.

For example, Bobby Johnson now has a reputation for amassing talent, or spotting and developing raw talent. Especially in the summer, and especially after a breakthrough season, he's not going to sign somebody he doesn't think will improve his team. So when he signs Trent Pruitt, who'd been evaluated by none of the major recruiting services, everybody takes notice.

And several days later, ESPN praises him for his quickness and toughness, raises his rating from 40 (unevaluated) to 72, and he goes from being a Sun Belt prospect to sounding like a legitimate SEC skill player.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vanderbilt recruiting reaping benefits of seven-win season

Right after signing day in February, everybody wanted to know how winning seven games, finishing in the top half of the SEC and being Music City Bowl champions had helped Vanderbilt's recruiting.

Bobby Johnson's answer? Ask me next year.

He meant that while Vandy's strong finish in 2008 helped him grab some late commitments and make the 2009 signing class his best yet, he believed that the team's 2008 success would have an even bigger impact on the 2010 signing class.

In other words, it takes two years for gridiron success to translate into recruiting success.

And so far, he's exactly right. It's still June and Vandy has verbal commitments from 10 players. This time last year? We had commitments from only three recruits.

Here's a quick analysis of each of the last seven signing classes, including the current one:

2004 CLASS
Vandy records: 2-10 (0-8 SEC) in 2002, 2-10 (1-7) in 2003
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 0
• July-August: 3
• September-October: 3
• November-December: 4
• January-February: 7
Summary: Two terrible seasons meant only three commitments before the season started and the majority of recruits committing after the season was over.

2005 CLASS
Vandy records: 2-10 (1-7) in 2003 and 2-9 (1-7) in 2004
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 1
• July-August: 0
• September-October: 1
• November-December: 10
• January-February: 12
Summary: Vandy needed a big class, but another two-loss season meant it had to scrape together 22 out of 24 recruits at the end of the 2004 season.

2006 CLASS
Vandy records: 2-9 (1-7) in 2004 and 5-6 (3-5) in 2005
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 4
• July-August: 3
• September-October: 0
• November-December: 9
• January-February: 8
Summary: After yet another two-win season, Bobby Johnson and company hit the trail hard and somehow had seven recruits before the start of the season. Jay Cutler's arm and the upset of UT helped the team land another 17 recruits before the next season started, but the real payoff would be the following year...

2007 CLASS
Vandy records: 5-6 (3-5) in 2005 and 4-8 (1-7) in 2006
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 6
• July-August: 3
• September-October: 0
• November-December: 3
• January-February: 1
Summary: Following the theory that a team benefits most two seasons later, Johnson landed nine recruits in the summer after Cutler's senior season and the UT victory. After a disappointing finish in 2007, Vandy closed with four recruits.

2008 CLASS
Vandy records: 4-8 (1-7) in 2006 and 5-7 (2-6) in 2007
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 5
• July-August: 5
• September-October: 0
• November-December: 2
• January-February: 9
Summary: While Vanderbilt staggered a bit in 2006, Johnson's signature victory over Georgia that season and the buzz that the talent level was improving helped him garner 10 commitments by the end of the summer. After his big victory over Steve Spurrier and another narrow miss at six wins and a bowl, Johnson landed 11 more players.

2009 CLASS
Vandy records: 5-7 (2-6) in 2007 and 7-6 (4-4) in 2008
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 3
• July-August: 7
• September-October: 0
• November-December: 2
• January-February: 6
Summary: More proof that sustained improvement over two seasons helps a school start and finish strong on the recruiting trail. An encouraging 5-win season helped Vandy land 10 recruits by the end of the the summer, two before the bowl, and another 6 players, five of them three-star recruits, after the bowl victory.

2010 CLASS
Vandy records: 7-6 (4-4) in 2008
Verbal commitments:
• June and earlier: 10
Summary: Exactly what Johnson was talking about on the last signing day. Summer's just starting, and he's already got commitments from 10 players, four more than he got after Cutler's senior season. If Vanderbilt can build on last season's success on the gridiron, then Johnson will land more talented players, even some four-star guys, between the end of the season and signing day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vanderbilt football gets two more commitments from Atlanta area — and a third from the Charlotte area

The Commodores now have an impressive 10 verbal commitments for the 2010 signing class. They are Kenneth Ladler and Jonathan Krause from the Atlanta area, and Logan Stewart from the Charlotte area.

We've now gotten commits from six Georgia boys, including four from Atlanta.

Krause is really fast, and would probably be faster if he lost the Kid N Play haircut.

Here's some info on each:

Position: WR
Hometown: Snellville, Ga. (South Gwinnett HS)
Hgt/wgt: 5-11, 168
Other offers: Ole Miss, Miss State, Stanford
Ratings: Three stars from scouts and rivals, unevaluated by espn
Other: Has run the 40 in under 4.4 seconds

Hometown: Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson HS)
Hgt/wgt: 6-0, 188
Other offers: East Carolina, New Mexico, Toledo
Ratings: 78 from espn (highest rating yet for 2010 commitment, unrated by scouts and rivals
Other: Visited Miami (Fla.) last week and like Eric Samuels last year is a sleeper that would have gotten other offers if he'd waited

Hometown: Boiling Springs, S.C. (BS HS, in Charlotte area)
Hgt/wgt: 6-4, 270
Other offers: South Carolina, East Carolina, Air Force
Ratings: 75 from espn, unrated by scouts and rivals
Other: Has a 4.2 GPA; that means he's smart

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vanderbilt football finally gets a three-star defensive lineman

Thursday was a big night for the Commodores. Bobby Johnson hosted a barbecue for recruits and the food must have been good, because three of them made verbal commitments.

The most notable commitment of Thursday night, and probably the entire spring, was Kyle Woestmann of Marietta. A 6-4, 265-pound defensive tackle, Woestmann put a temporary halt to the recent trend of all those smart, athletic Atlanta kids with Vandy offers jumping to Georgia Tech. Woestmann had offers from Tech and UGA, not to mention South Carolina and Clemson, and Oklahoma was mighty interested in him too.

We do this all time, naming big schools that a Vandy commitment turned down so you'll be impressed. But Woestmann's commitment is a huge step for Bobby Johnson. As we've said before, defensive tackles are like gold, and there just aren't as many of them around as there are, say, defensive backs and wide receivers.

In fact, if Woestmann puts pen to paper as expected in February, this will be the first three-star DT that Johnson has ever signed. In his past eight classes, he's signed just seven prospects listed as true defensive tackles, all of whom were two-star guys. Florida and Alabama get that many DTs in a year or two, and they aren't two-stars.

Since 2002, we've signed the following guys listed as defensive tackles:
• Ray Brown, 2002: A redshirt who got solid playing time for three years.
• Lamar Divens, 2004: A two-year letterman who left the team after his sophomore year.
• Theo Horrocks, 2004: Played as a true freshman and is now in the NFL.
• Derrius Dowell, 2005: Never played a snap for the Commodores; injured last season as a redshirt junior.
• Rob Ashabranner, 2007: Redshirted and moved to the offensive line.
• T.J. Greenstone, 2007: Redshirted but was a revelation last season and named Freshman All-SEC
• Colt Nichter, 2008: Redshirted and will compete for playing time this season.

We did have a verbal commitment last year from three-star DT Darrius McMullin, but he lacked the academic skills to be a Commodore. His high school teammate, Jermaine Jackson, also a three-star DT, had a Vanderbilt offer but chose Arkansas last week.

Adam Smotherman (listed as a guard coming out of high school) and Greg Billinger (listed at offensive tackle by espn and defensive end by rivals) have since been moved to defensive tackle, are both starters and are playing great.

But for some reason it's always nice to get a guy who's listed as a DT. Ashabranner's the rare case of somebody listed as a DT who gets moved to the O-line. (Though it's been a trend of ours to move DEs to OT; see Reilly Lauer and Richard Seymour.)

Woestmann is extremely strong and extremely athletic. He's got a good motor, which means he keeps moving when he should be tired, but he's also fast for his size and has the frame to put on more weight. He needs to improve his pass rushing skills, but he's tough against the run and that's exactly what you need in the SEC.

The other two verbal commitments were CB Andre Hal (5-11, 170, Port Allen, La.) and WR Trent Pruitt (5-10, 175, Fitzgerald, Ga.).

Hal is a wiry, athletic corner who had an offer to Nebraska and every directional school in his home state of Louisiana. He lacks the blazing speed that LSU can now demand in all its DBs, so he didn't get a bite from the Bayou Bengals. The astute poster below says Hal's faster than Chevis Jackson of LSU, so that point's up for debate. Anyway, Hal got a decent 75 rating from ESPN.

Pruitt was as far under the radar as a player can be. He's unrated by seemingly every scouting service. He had offers from Georgia Southern and Troy and was expecting one from Middle. No, I'm not trying to impress you. He's pretty fast, and he'd better be to compete with the other little route-running receivers that Vanderbilt seems to be collecting (John Cole, Collin Ashley).

Study hard, Terance Jeffers. We're gonna need you.

NOTE: I've updated this since "anonymous" below made several good points, including that Smotherman and Billinger sure look like real defensive tackles.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

VanderBear update: Earl Bennett turning heads in Chicago Bears camp

In the Chicago Bears camp, everybody from the general manager to the radio analyst is raving about former VU wideout Earl Bennett. We knew having his old pal Jay Cutler around would help. Word was that Bennett struggled last season to learn the Bears playbook and adjust to the pro game, and now everybody's talking about his instincts and his talent and how all his hard work's been paying off.

So is Earl better because he's gotten better, or is he better because he's suddenly got a quarterback who knows exactly where he's gonna be and what he's gonna do?

I'd say it's maybe a combination of both. But the star of the show has undoubtedly been Cutler, who's boggled everybody's minds with his arm strength and accuracy and leadership. Not to mention his pleasant disposition.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Georgia Tech grabs three players with Vanderbilt offers

In the past few days, three Georgia boys with Vandy offers have chosen to ride with the Rambling Wreck, and it kind of stings a little.

Cornerback B.J. Bostic made his verbal commitment to Georgia Tech public on Thursday, followed by safety Isaiah Johnson on Saturday and tackle Morgan Bailey on Sunday.

Losing Johnson and Bailey is no big deal. Both got three stars from scout.com, but neither have been rated yet by ESPN or Rivals.

Bostic is a much bigger deal, getting four stars from rivals and a 77 rating from ESPN.

I know, I know. We shouldn't worry about the people who don't sign with us. Still, Bostic would have been a nice addition to the Commodores.

And don't think it helps any that the year we finally win a bowl game, the university in the metro Atlanta area, where we're targeting so many potential recruits, also has a big year. Though maybe a lot of those kids were also at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome watching Tech get stomped by LSU, which finished behind Vanderbilt in the SEC.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Who cares if Chase White of Plano West, Texas, has only one star? Not me

You may have heard by now that Vanderbilt just got a verbal from Chase White of Plano West High in Texas. As far as commitments go, this one won't send you out dancing in the streets or tempt you to taunt a Vols fan. Rivals.com hasn't rated him yet, ESPN says he doesn't project well at the BCS level and scout.com has given him one star. These sites can't even agree on his height and weight. Scouts has him at 6-foot-5.5 and 255 pounds, Rivals has him at 6-3, 275, and ESPN has him at 6-4, 255. Who knows? — we're rounding up and going with 6-6, 280.

All this uncertainty is fine with me. Johnson and his staff wouldn't have offered White a scholarship if he couldn't play, and it'll be interesting to see how many stars he ends up with at the end of his senior year. Johnson's shown a knack for getting guys who fly under the radar. Chris Williams, a two-star high school player but future NFL first-rounder, is the poster boy for this. Patrick Benoist, another two-star guy but now a captain and the heart and soul of our defensive, is another one.

Remember Eric Samuels? He's a rising true freshman who should see playing time immediately. This time last year, he had no substantial scholarship offers, no star rating, no fawning press, nothing. And he played for a pretty lousy team. Also about this time, Vandy offered him a scholarship and he jumped on it. And by the time his senior season was over, Samuels had three stars and a bunch of teams wishing they'd had Vandy's foresight, and Samuels was the kind of kid who wasn't going to jump ship after he made a commitment. Oh, and now he's considered by many, including espn.com, as the gem of Bobby's best recruiting class ever. Remember all those star running backs we signed? By the time he signed with us, Samuels was rated higher than any of them at running back, though Johnson, who has an eye for DBs, likes him on defense.

Anyway, we won't know anything about any of these guys, including all the big-shot kids signing with Tennessee, until they get on the field. I for one am a believer in Johnson's system, which seems to be "steady wins the race." He started painfully slow but he's now built a talent base. In a lot of ways, he's doing what NFL teams do, drafting guys you've never heard of, drafting stars from lousy teams and role players from great teams. Oh, and they're usually a little bit too light but with big frames (Broderick Stewart was 190 when he signed with us, Thomas Welch has gained about 80 pounds, etc.) so he redshirts everybody but a few of the wide receivers and defensive backs and then he lets his outstanding strength coach and nutrition coach (yes, nutrition coach) work their magic.

So we'll see about Mr. White of Plano West. But I'm not worried about him.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Are three-star quarterbacks that big of a deal?

No doubt that Vanderbilt's getting better and better athletes every year. But let's not get too excited that we just got a verbal commitment from a three-star quarterback (Nash Nance) to go with the three-star quarterback (Charlie Goro) we signed in February.

Yes, we should be excited that Nash Nance has a cool name and we can marvel in the wonderful coincidence that Nash will be playing in Nash-ville. And he may really turn out to be the next Jay Cutler.

But right now, he's just a three-star quarterback.

When the Commodores take the field this fall, they'll have FIVE three-star prep quarterbacks on the roster:
• Mackenzi Adams, signed in 2005
• Jared Funk, signed in 2006
• Turner Wimberly, signed in 2006
• Larry Smith, signed in 2007
• Charlie Goro, signed in 2009

In fact, in the past nine years Vandy's only signed two quarterbacks who WEREN'T three star guys. Yes, that would include Chris Nickson, and also Lance Parker, who ended up playing for Ouachita College.

Yesterday Douglas James over at VSL was warning against signing more than one quarterback in a class. Vandy's done that only once in Johnson's tenure, when he signed Funk and Wimberly in 2006. And how's that turning out? Funk's a four-year junior who's never played a snap and Wimberly, also a four-year junior, is now a wide receiver who's never caught a pass.

Right now, after making a play for four-star Andrew Hendrix who's holding out for Ohio State, Vanderbilt has made offers to four three-star quarterbacks. Nance, the lowest rated of all of them, was the first to bite. The other three — Devin Burns, Sam Gibson and Robinson — are all faster and more athletic. Burns and Gibson are even listed as athletes by some sites. Those guys could probably play other positions, and I don't mean like Wimberly is playing wide receiver right now.

In the future, a big sign for the Vandy program would be if it can get a marquee quarterback. Those guys are few and far between, and they usually go to the big-name programs. Of course, a marquee quarterback can bomb out like the rest of them (See: Jonathan Crompton).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nash Nance becomes third Vanderbilt football verbal commitment, and first quarterback, for 2010

Nash Nance, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback from Calhoun, Ga., is Vanderbilt football's third verbal commitment. A pro-style passer, Nance played for the run-oriented offense at Darlington, an elite private school, last season. Now he's transferred to Calhoun High School, which runs the spread offense, which is what the Commodores plan to run next season.

He should rack up big numbers this fall throwing to receiver Da'Rick Rogers, who committed to Georgia today. Nance gets three stars from rivals.com and scout.com, and has yet to be evaluated by espn.com.

Ted Cain recruited him, for whatever that's worth.

In addition to Vandy, his final three schools included Miss State and Hah-vahd. So he's smart. He also had offers from West Virginia, Central Florida, Eastern Carolina and Chattanooga.

According to scouts.com, Nance is an extremely accurate quarterback with nice touch on the ball, and lots of poise and leadership. But he needs to work on his field vision and arm strength.

Assuming that Bobby Johnson continues to slap a redshirt on every freshman quarterback he's ever had, expect this to be Vanderbilt's quarterback situation for the next three seasons:

• Mackenzi Adams, R-Sr.
• Jared Funk, R-Jr.
• Larry Smith, R-So.

• Jared Funk, R-Sr.
• Larry Smith, R-Jr.
• Charlie Goro, R-Fr.

• Larry Smith, R-Sr.
• Charlie Goro, R-So.
• Nash Nance, R-Fr.

Don't forget that Vandy has offers out to three other quarterbacks, all rated more highly than Nance, and all dual-purpose quarterbacks who are more mobile and stronger-armed than Nance but not as accurate.

They are:
• Devin Burns, 6-2, 183, Columbus, Ga.: Has an offer from Maryland and apparently really likes the Terrapins, but also hopes to get an offer from Georgia Tech. Also has offers from Arkansas and Georgia, both of which would probably move him to another position, and UAB.

• Sean Robinson, 6-4, 210, Illinois: Big, strong kid with the speed of Larry Smith. Has offers from Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin, and is hoping for an offer from Illinois as well.

• Sam Gibson, 6-1, 205, Prattville, Ala.: Quarterback from Larry Smith's old high school who is listed as an athlete by some services. Like Larry, Sam's got a cannon and is an elusive runner. But he's also got some problems with accuracy and throwing mechanics. Offers from Stanford, Virginia and UAB. Hoping to hear from Alabama, Auburn and LSU, where his chances of playing quarterback would likely be slim.

Vanderbilt battles rest of SEC for football talent

Yesterday we told you that Vanderbilt has made a bunch of offers to guys who are currently entertaining other offers, some would say better offers, from other SEC schools.

Here are some specific numbers:

According to scouts.com, Vanderbilt has now extended 79 offers to high school football players. Of these, two have verbally committed to the Commodores, six have committed to other SEC schools, six have committed to schools in other conferences, and 65 are still mulling their options and presumably being lured by the thought of wearing black and gold and hearing a foghorn after they make a big play (they do still play the foghorn at Dudley Field, don't they?)

Anyway, these 79 players have received a total of 74 offers from SEC schools. Which SEC schools have made offers to the same players Vanderbilt has? Glad you asked. Here's the breakdown:

Kentucky, 11 offers (1 verbal commitment)
Auburn, 10 (1 verbal)
Ole Miss, 10
Alabama, 8 (2 verbal)
Miss State, 7
South Carolina, 7
Tennessee, 6
Arkansas, 6
Georgia, 6 (1 verbal)
LSU, 3 (1 verbal)
Florida, 2

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vanderbilt football recruiting in familiar position in June

Maybe you've noticed that 15 kids have already committed to play for Alabama in 2010. The count is 12 at Florida and 11 at LSU.

It's two at Vanderbilt.

But not to worry — this happens every spring and summer. See, everybody offers scholarships to the top athletes, who get to pick from schools like USC and Texas and Alabama.

So the 17-year-old kids who look like players get snatched up by the big boys. But don't worry, there will be plenty of solid guys and late bloomers left in the fall.

It's best not to get too emotionally invested in following Vandy's recruiting right now. For example, QB Andrew Hendrix and OT Matt Rotheram have offers from the Commodores and have shown interest; but both are from Ohio and are also interested in Ohio State, who I hear will continue to field a football team.

Linebacker Justin Maclin of Memphis had an offer from Vandy but he had an offer from LSU, too, and guess where he just announced he's heading.

The Commodores also like ATH Julian Horton and OT Max Garcia, both of Georgia, but Alabama likes them too. Vandy might have a decent shot at landing Horton, but I wouldn't put any money on it.

Another possibility is DT Jeremiah Jackson (above) of Spain Park, Ala. He's a really nice looking tackle prospect, and those guys are gold on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, he was a teammate of Darrius McMullin, the DT who committed to Vandy's 2009 freshman class but didn't qualify academically. But he also likes Ole Miss.

Traditionally, the top six teams on the gridiron in the SEC are Alabama, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia, followed by South Carolina and Arkansas, then Miss State, Ole Miss, Kentucky and, alas, Vanderbilt.

Here's how SEC teams have fared with early commitments:

1. Alabama: 15
2. Florida: 12
3. LSU: 11
4. Tennessee: 8
5. Auburn: 5
6. Georgia: 4
6. South Carolina: 4
6. Arkansas: 4
6. Miss State: 4
10. Vanderbilt: 2
10. Ole Miss: 2
12. Kentucky: 1

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Smile, Mackenzi, somebody just voted for you

For the last couple of months, we've been asking Vandy fans who they want as their starting quarterback next season.

Up ’til a few minutes ago, 46 of you had voted. And 41 of them wanted Larry Smith to be the starter. Oh, and three votes for Jared Funk, who's never played in a game for the Commodores, and a pair of votes for Charlie Goro, who's never even practiced with the Commodores.

Not a single vote for Mackenzi Adams, who has the most starting experience and the most big-game experience.

Now there's a 47th vote. And you can smile, Mac. It's for you.

Isn't this incredible? The national media is talking about how Bobby Johnson is undecided between Larry and Mac, but 90 percent of the fans are behind Larry and the rest are behind guys who've never played a down for us.

It's incredible how uninformed most SEC football "experts" are about the Commodores, but it's especially incredible how little faith the Commodore faithful have in Mackenzi.

You know where I stand. I've been wanting to name Larry Smith the starter since last spring. But I'm still amazed at the lack of people in Mac's camp.

Anybody have any thoughts? Hey, what about you, the person who actually voted for Mac? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vanderbilt's four top sports programs built on hope

Well, the Commodores just lost to Louisville 5-3. Got to say that I don't feel the same despair I do after we lose in football or, on a smaller scale, men's basketball.

Anyway, thought I'd recap how our four marquee teams performed this season. All our men's teams were very young, green and not expected to do anything. Football, of course, was the biggest surprise, men's baseball had the strongest finish, and men's basketball alternatively built and dashed everybody's hopes. And women's basketball tasted the most success, as expected.

Preseason outlook: SEC's worst talent and a very weak offense
Predicted finish: Dead last
Regular season: An unbelievable start and a middle-of-the-pack finish in the SEC
Postseason: A rousing victory in the Music City Bowl
Early forecast for next season: Hopeful, with so many returning starters

Preseason outlook: One of the nation's youngest teams
Predicted finish: Toward bottom of SEC, possible NIT bid
Regular season: Won some we shouldn't have, but lost a lot we could have won; bottom third of SEC
Postseason: Typical miserable performance in the SEC tourney, no post-season invitations
Early forecast for next season: Hopeful, with so much young talent and one of the top recruits in the nation

Preseason outlook: One of the nation's top teams, with two star seniors
Predicted finish: Top of SEC, Final Four
Regular season: Injuries contributed to some bumps in the road, but finished strong
Postseason: SEC tournament win, nice run deep into the NCAAs
Early forecast for next season: A contender, but won't reach last year's heights

Preseason outlook: Huge losses to pro baseball, a talented but young and green team
Predicted finish: Middle of the pack
Regular season: Barely made SEC tournament
Postseason: Surprising trip to SEC finals, NCAA tourney with a decent showing
Early forecast for next season: Even with possible loss of Mike Minor to draft, should be even better next season

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bobby Johnson meets Steve Martin (who is who?) and baseball Dores smack down Blue Raiders

Sorry to be off line so long. Wish I could say I've spent the last week at the beach or doing something interesting. Nope. No excuse. And I know you've been dying for some Commodore football news on the last week of May/first week of June. Again, sorry.

Here's what's been going down in Vandyland:

• After all those Steve Martin jokes and comparisons, Bobby Johnson finally met the silver-haired Wild N Crazy guy, backstage at the Ryman on Saturday night. Know who introduced them? Whisperin' Bill Anderson. Here's Joe Biddle's take on it.

• The baseball Dores are right now playing Louisville in the elimination game. If they win, they're bound for the Super Regionals. Talk about a strong finish to a season. After staggering a bit at the end of the regular season and backing into the SEC tournament, Tim Corbin's crew has won six of their last eight games, three wins and a loss in the SEC tourney and a loss and three wins in the NCAA regional in Louisville.

• That first loss in the NCAAs was to MTSU, which has a fine team and was actually a higher seed than the Commodores. Still, it's MTSU, which means any loss to those guys brings back memories of football losses to the Blue Raydahs in 2001, 2002 and particularly 2005 when we were 4-0 and had a quarterback named Jay Cutler. But after our baseball loss, the Dores beat Indiana, then got revenge against the Raiders, then beat Louisville. I think that's the right order. Now they're playing the Cardinals again.