Saturday, October 16, 2010

You asked for it: A closer look at Vanderbilt's commitments for 2011

Mark was wondering about Vandy's current recruiting class. It's a nice class so far, and we shouldn't lose anybody like we did last year because (1) all these guys have committed to a 2-10 team instead of a defending bowl champion and (2) they're not being pursued by as many big-name programs as guys like Davis Dudchock and Bradley Roby were last year.

Here's a breakdown of our verbal commitments, starting with who we believe are our best prospects:

1. James Lewis
• Hometown: Arlington, Tennessee
• Measurables: 6-5, 275
• Stars: 3.0
• SEC offers: Kentucky
• Other BCS offers: Illinois, Duke
• Position at Vandy: This is the rare Vandy recruit who's a true left tackle. He's a high school basketball player with quick feet and long arms, and could be the second coming of Chris Williams.
• Earliest playing time: If he's putting on weight like some people say, he could be ready to play right away; he already looks like a better long-term prospect than any of the true freshmen Vandy signed in 2010.
• Chances he'll jump ship: Unlikely. People say he's a good kid whose parents have taught him to stick to his word.

2. Jake Bernstein
• Hometown: Crystal Lake, Illinois
• Measurables: 6-4, 276
• Stars: 3.0
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: Arizona, Illinois, Cincinnati, Colorado, Minnesota, Indiana
• Position at Vandy: Listed at offensive tackle but lacks the athleticism of Lewis and could play guard; seems like a similar prospect to Grant Ramsay, who has struggled with injury his freshman season and is redshirting.
• Earliest playing time: With Vandy losing only Joey Bailey to graduation next season, and with our five offensive line signees from 2010 with a year under their belts, Bernstein will almost certainly redshirt in 2011.
• Chances he'll jump ship: Offensive linemen are usually intelligent guys who value a good education, and as far as I can remember, Vandy's never had an O-linemen renege on a commitment. But if his home state team, Illinois, goes to a bowl as some are predicting, then who knows?

3. Keith Heitzman
• Hometown: Hilliard, Ohio
• Measurables: 6-3, 237
• Stars: 3.0
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana
• Position at Vandy: He's a solid football player but perhaps not athletic enough to excel at his listed position, defensive end. For example, true freshman Thomas Ryan was recruited as an end but is being redshirted and is already being listed as a tackle. Like Taylor Loftley, Josh Jelesky and Rob Lohr, this is the kind of guy who shows up on campus a DE, spends a year at the training table and in the weight room and then lines up at DT. Or in the case of defensive end signees like Ryan Seymour and Jabo Burrow, maybe he heads over to the offensive line.
• Earliest playing time: If Kyle Woestmann, one of our best defensive end recruits in a long time, is being redshirted this season, Keith Heitzman is a lock to redshirt unless he is pressed into duty at tight end, where he's also a solid prospect.
• Chances he'll jump ship: Unlikely if he doesn't get a better offer, which we don't think he will.

4. J.J. Keels
• Hometown: Melbourne, Florida
• Measurables: 5-10, 193; 4.4 40
• Stars: 2.7
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: West Virginia, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Maryland, Duke
• Position at Vandy: Keels is listed as a change-of-pace running back who won't play every down, and that would certainly be the case if he were headed somewhere like Georgia or Alabama; in fact, he'd probably move to cornerback at those schools. But at Vanderbilt, which doesn't attract prototypical tailbacks, so-called change-of-pace guys like Warren Norman and Zac Stacy do play tailback on any and every down. So he could be a fine running back for Vandy, or he could move to corner like Eric Samuels, who was more highly rated as a running back than were Norman, Stacy or Wesley Tate.
• Earliest playing time: Remember that Norman and Stacy played immediately because Jared Hawkins was injured, and Samuels and guys like Foster and Wilson played immediately because of shortages and injuries in the secondary. But Vandy will be stacked at both running back and cornerback, which means Keels will likely move to his best position and then play only if he can beat out one of the older guys. Our guess is for him to move to running back and play only in event of injury.
• Chances he'll jump ship: Unlikely he'll get a last-minute offer from Miami, Florida or Florida State, but he could easily be an SEC-caliber talent like Warren Norman. He'll likely stick with the Dores.

5. Damien Fleming
• Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
• Measurables: 6-3, 175
• Stars: 2.3
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: West Virginia
• Position at Vandy: He'll surely play quarterback unless we get a new coach or coordinator who installs a pro passing attack. He's a great prospect to run the spread offense, and get this: He's comfortable with defenders in his face. You kind of need that skill to be able to play QB at Vandy.
• Earliest playing time: A lock to redshirt. Larry will be a senior, Jordan a junior and Charlie a sophomore.
• Chances he'll jump ship: This guy is flying way under the radar. Only Southern, Hampton and West Virginia have offered him, so who knows what he'll do if a big school has a late opening? But Vandy needs a quarterback bad, and he's got a great chance to be handed the keys to the offense in 2013, when he's a redshirt sophomore. Plus, he'll have a pretty decent offensive line by then too.

6. Mitchell Hester
• Hometown: Neptune Beach, Florida
• Measurables: 5-10, 180; 4.3 40
• Stars: 2.3
• SEC offers: Arkansas
• Other BCS offers: Illinois, South Florida, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia, Iowa State
• Position at Vandy: Another "change-of-pace" runner who can catch passes out of the backfield and is a real burner. He may be a couple of inches shorter than 5-10; so is Zac Stacy, but Hester lacks his bulk. Expect Hester to play offense.
• Earliest playing time: Likely won't beat out Norman, Stacy, Tate or even Keels as a true freshman, but his speed could get him on the field right away playing special teams.
• Chances he'll jump ship: He's not highly rated, but he does have an offer from Arkansas, though he'd have a much worse chance of getting on the field for the Razorbacks.

7. Conor Hart
• Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
• Measurables: 6-4, 250; 4.5 40
• Stars: 2.3
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: Syracuse
• Position at Vandy: Holy crap, is this guy really a defensive end who runs a 4.5? Then why is his only BCS offer from Syracuse? His father played for Michigan State and his grandfather won the Heisman trophy at Notre Dame and Vandy is his best offer? Hey, we're not complaining. With his speed and size, he looks like a real SEC defensive end on paper. Or maybe he bulks up and becomes a defensive tackle like Rob Lohr did last season. But look for him to stay on defense.
• Earliest playing time: Again, if Kyle Woestmann is redshirting, then Conor Hart will likely redshirt unless he's just too fast to keep off special teams.
• Chances he'll jump ship: A privileged kid whose best offer is Vanderbilt? Sounds a bit like Nash Nance, huh? No telling what he'll do if Michigan State or — gasp! — the Fighting Irish make a late offer. Does he have a teammate who's a five-star wide receiver?

8. Spencer Pulley
• Hometown: Cordova, Tennessee
• Measurables: 6-5, 277
• Stars: 1.7
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: None
• Position at Vandy: A big offensive lineman who looks an awful lot like Rob Ashabranner, who never played much before leaving the team this season as a redshirt junior. This guy's a guard.
• Earliest playing time: OK, comparisons to Ashabranner are mean and unfair. The kid is plenty big and the staff sees something in him even though his only offers are from Navy and Arkansas State. But he's clearly a project and a lock to redshirt.
• Chances he'll jump ship: What, to play for Navy? This kid's ship came in when Vandy made an offer, and he's going nowhere.

9. Alex Barr, OL
• Hometown: Fayetteville, Georgia
• Measurables: 6-7, 285
• Stars: 1.3
• SEC offers: None
• Other BCS offers: None
• Position at Vandy: The guy is huge, but a relative unknown with no offers from anybody. Sure sounds like an offensive lineman, but we're going to wait until his redshirt year's over — and maybe even his third year on campus — before we see him on the field.
• Earliest playing time: Did we mention he'll almost certainly redshirt?
• Chances he'll jump ship: Come on, the kid plays in metro Atlanta and he has zero offers. Bet right now he's wearing a Vandy hat and putting a VU window decal on his car.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your board quite a bit. But....are you writing this during the game, today????


Actually, I started it on Monday and finished it this morning and it automatically posted to Monday so I just moved it up. And it seemed like a good time to focus on the future.

Mark said...

Thanks for the update. Earlier in the year I was reading how Vandy’s 2011 class wasn’t shaping up to nicely but it does seem like we have been adding some pretty good/ decent recruits. We can always hope someone like Lewis, Bernstein, or any of the other 3 star commits can move up to a 4 star if they have a good senior year. I know it’s just “stars” but it will look good from an image perspective for the program. Hopefully the blowout against Georgia doesn’t scare anyone away, but like you said, they are committing to a 2-10 team from last year. I also doubt this year’s team will go 2-10 again.

We are young in some areas but some guys and coaches need to step up. Robbie bringing in Herb Hand tells me he isn’t the loyal CBJ type, and if he gets the opportunity to helm this program again next year he knows he will have to make the cuts and promotions (Herb Hand) he needs too. Georgia had a lot to prove these past two weeks and I think this slaughter was strictly done for CMR’s job security. However, it isn’t an excuse for our guys to not put a single point on the board. I’d be shocked if this team didn’t win another game and think this South Carolina game has the potential to be interesting. We still have winnable games on our schedule and I hope our coaches aren’t letting this team get down and out of control.

Mark said...

Lets all stay positive, show up Saturday night, and dont sell our tickets to SC fans this weekend. Go Dores.