Monday, February 7, 2011

Vandy football recruiting was on the upswing before James Franklin arrived on campus

Sure, everybody’s praising the last-minute recruiting trail heroics of Coach Franklin, us included. But Bobby Johnson had been making huge strides himself since the Music City Bowl victory. In fact, last year’s signing day class following a 2-win season was loaded with skill athletes and linemen on both sides of the ball.

This year's class of skill guys and linemen may be a notch lower than last year's but it's still solid and will nicely complement all those sophomores. But this year's collection of offensive backs and tweeners could be among Vandy's best ever.

Let’s take a look at how Vandy’s recruiting has improved position by position since 2007. Here’s the key:
4 — Player got 4 stars from either Rivals or Scout and 3 stars from the other.
3 — Player got 3 stars from both services.
3- — Player got 3 stars from one service and two from the other.
2 — Player got 2 stars from both services.

2007: QB Smith (3), RB Doster (2). Low on numbers.
2008: No players recruited. Miserable.
2009: QB Goro (3-), RBs Norman (3-), Stacy (3-) and Tate (3-). An unusually solid RB class for Vandy.
2010: QB Rodgers (3-). Death of RB Bennett (4) a huge blow.
2011: QB/ATHs Thourogood (4) and Grady (3), QB Kentera (2), RBs Seymour (3) and Hester (3-). A deep and versatile class, and one of Vandy’s best ever.
Summary: 2009 was a great year for running backs but no year has been great for quarterbacks. This year certainly appears to be different, with some exciting runners thrown in for good measure.

2007: WR Umoh (3) and ATH Graham (3-). Decent players but not nearly enough.
2008: WRs Cole (3-) and Dunham (2) and DBs Hayward (3-), Owens (3-), Richardson (2) and Powell (2). Not especially good on paper, but Hayward and Richardson were big-time sleepers.
2009: WRs Brown (3) and Ashley (3-) and DBs Foster (3-), Wilson (3-), Samuels (3-), Fullam (2) and Marshall (2). Deep and solid in the secondary but WRs haven’t panned out.
2010: WRs Krause (3), Boyd (3), Matthews (3-) and Pruitt (2) and DBs Hal (3), Butler (3), Ladler (3-), Simmons (3-) and Clarke (2). A deep and solid class all around. Franklin’s going to love these guys, nearly all of whom played as true freshmen.
2011: ATHs Kirk (3) and King (3) and DBs Franklin (3), McIntosh (-3) and Williamson (2). A versatile group that can plug holes all over the field.
Summary: We've been collecting talented DBs for three straight years now. But even promising receivers have been busts, which has caused fans to question the coaches developing our wideouts. 2010's receivers may still come up big.

2007: DE/LBs Stokes (4), Marve (2), Fugger (2) and Kadri (2) and TE/HBs Barden (3), van Rensburg (3) and Monahan (2). A reliable class. Stokes was never a superstar but Marve filled that bill. Barden could be NFL-bound.
2008: LB/DEs Jones (3), Strong (3-), Barnes (2), Thomas (2) and Daniels (2). A big class, these guys were supposed to be the future but time is running out.
2009: TE Johnston (3), DE/TE McHaney (3), DE/LB May (3-) and LB Southerland (3-). Impressive on paper; jury still out
2010: TE/HB Gowder (3), TE/LB Lassing (2) and LBs Garnham (2) and East (2). Not awe-inspiring; all these guys are still projects.
2011: TE/DEs van der Wal (4) and Bryant (3), TE Scheu (-3), LB/DEs Stewart (3-) and Hart (3-). One of Vandy’s best classes ever, but the DEs are all projects.
Summary: Since 2007's surprising class, we've gotten more 3 star players but they haven't quite panned out yet. 2011's TEs look great, unless they all go play defense. One thing's for sure, we need to recruit some linebackers in the worst way next year.

2007: OLs Fischer (3), Williams (2) and Ashabranner (2) and DT Greenstone (2). Not impressive on paper but three out of four were solid SEC linemen and two of those managed to stay in school.
2008: DTs Loftley (3-), Lohr (2), Nichter (2) and Jelesky (2), and DE/OLs Seymour (2) and Burrow (2). A big class that’s struggled to compete in the SEC.
2009: OLs Johnson (3), Brown (2) and Cabbagestalk (2). One 4-season starter and a couple of career backups.
2010: DLs Taylor (3), Morse (3), Woestmann (3) and Ryan (3) and OLs Ramsay (3), Kittredge (3), Stewart (3-), Bridges (3-) and White (2). Six consensus three-star linemen. One of Vandy’s best classes of linemen ever.
2011: OLs Lewis (3), Bernstein (3), Valedon (3-) and Pulley (3-) plus DL Dixon (3) and Townsend (2). Another rock-solid class.
Summary: The O-line has been a real weakness for two seasons, but we've got a ton of young talent — actually more than a ton.


Vandygal78 said...

You are correct that recruiting has been really good for several years now. Even after the 2009 2-10 record, Johnson was able to bring in a great class. But I can't tell you how impressed I am with the job that Franklin has done; with less than 2 months, he was able to get a huge class of awesome players. The fact that so many players decommited from other big programs to come to Vandy is just huge. Plus two 4 stars. Wow. Btw, you are doing a terrific job analyzing all this football/player stuff.

Anonymous said...

I too, feel that BJ had a solid class last year. CJF will likely focus more on this year and last year's class as the base of the talent pool. I also agree that the position coaching was awful for the last 2 years. Cain was not very good at special teams; the qb and wr coaching was also bad; word around coaching circles was that Kiser and fisher were not very good. I for one am very impressed with what CJF did in just a few weeks. We went from a somewhat stale good-ole-boy coaching staff to a young, agressive, and competitive group of coaches that have something to prove. This new staff will be strong on coaching detail / technique to our younger players and I expect some very lively and spirited battles in the spring at all positions. Coach Herb Hand will bring great value-add this spring in helping to evaluate talent.

Dimon said...

Thanks, Vandygal. You are right that it's a terrific class. The big difference, like you say, is that on signing day Franklin convinced great players to switch to Vandy from great programs like Virginia Tech and Nebraska. In recent years, Johnson was trying at the last minute to convince great players who'd verbally committed to Vandy not to jump ship.

Anonymous said...

I was a freshman at VU in 2000 and watched the transition from Woody to CoBoJo. When CoBoJo was announced I was neither excited or bummed. But, I'm very pumped about Franklin.

My question to some of the more "seasoned" Vandy fans out there is: should I be cautious, cautiously optimistic, or optimistic about Franklin? In other words, have previous new coaches given you as much hope out of the gates only to fail, or are you believing that Franklin is a new breed?

Vandygal78 said...

Reply to anonymous question - As a fan for over 35 years, I am extremely optimist about Franklin. I haven't seen anything like this before. And I am really seeing a difference in how the university is planning for football success. Franklin looks like a guy who has a plan for himself and Vandy- and it is winning. I may be wrong but my sense is that since Franklin and VC Williams are friends, they will pull out the stops to make this a success for themselves, and also for Vandy. This may be the guy we have been waiting for. Go Dores!

Anonymous said...

nice, thanks Vandygal

Dimon said...

That's a good assessment, Vandygal. I would add that in the past we've hit rock bottom whenever we change coaches. My freshman year, when Watson Brown replaced George MacIntyre and only three years after a bowl bid, we went 1-10 and then Brown had four more miserable seasons. Then Gerry DiNardo put the Dores on the cusp of becoming a bowl team before bolting to LSU. He was replaced by Dowhower and then Woody, and we won three SEC games in the next four years. Then Woody got us on the verge of a bowl, then digressed and got fired. He was replaced by Bobby Johnson, who lost to Ga Tech 45-3 in his first game and had three straight 2 win seasons. Franklin's got the talent to turn things around quicker, but two questions remain:

1. Can he sustain his success instead of reaching 5-7 wins and then collapsing like everybody else before him has?

2. Will he stay at Vanderbilt if he starts to turn the program around?

Will said...

and, question #3....After CJF raises expectations of the program with consistent 4-8 wins a year, will ticket prices stay at the best athletic value in town?? Where would you rather be on a sunny Fall afternoon than at a college football game....and a game that we have a chance to win is even better!!

Dimon said...

Will, I predict you'll always be able to get Vandy football tickets at reasonable prices regardless of how high the athletic department raises them, as long as you know how to use StubHub. I bought eight tickets for the Music City Bowl and paid a total of $25, and six 50-yard-line tickets for the Northwestern opener last season and paid a total of $65. Remember the last time we played Wake Forest at their place? They were ACC champions and their little stadium wasn't even full. That's because, like us, Wake is a small private school with a small group of alumni spread out all over the region and the nation. Sure, locals will come out to see a good Vandy team play as long as the weather is nice, but Vandy games will rarely be sellouts (unless Alabama or another nearby SEC power is playing and brings a bunch of their fans).