Take a good look at Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore this fall. It might be your last chance.
Fresh off a spectacular sophomore season, Moore’s name is beginning to appear on rankings this spring as one of the nation’s best at his position.
With that comes speculation on his future, and some Web sites, including NFLDraftScout.com, already list Moore as one of the prime cornerback prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft.
Will Moore skip his senior year and only play one more season at Vanderbilt? Commodore coaches are already bracing for that possibility, just as they were at this time last year with wide receiver Earl Bennett.
Bennett did, in fact, leave Vanderbilt a year early and became a third-round pick by the Chicago Bears in last month’s NFL Draft. Moore figures to be an equally prized commodity a year from now.
That's one reason why VU this spring pursued Akeem Cunningham, a cornerback from East Orange, N.J., who was unsigned but committed to the Commodores and will be a late addition to the 2008 recruiting when he signs next week.
Despite standing barely 5-foot-10, Moore is a splendid athlete who can dunk a basketball in nearly every fashion. He tied for the Southeastern Conference lead with six interceptions in 2007 and is also one of the top kickoff returners in the SEC.
He is so explosive that Vanderbilt coaches even lined him up at wide receiver on occasion and got the football into his hands on reserve plays. Look for Moore to again get some offensive snaps during the 2008 season.
Fittingly, Moore, a native of Spartanburg, S.C., was named to the watch list for the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Former Vanderbilt linebacker Jonathan Goff was named to the watch list last year.
MORE TO COME: Vanderbilt has already sewn up a four-man basketball recruiting class that should rank among the nation’s top 20 this year.
Things are bright for 2009, too.
VU commitment John Jenkins, a guard from Station Camp High in Gallatin, is ranked as the nation’s No. 53 player on Rivals.com's initial top 150 for 2009, released this week. He is also rated as the 12th-best shooting guard in the nation.
The sharp shooting Jenkins was Tennessee’s Class AA Mr. Basketball award winner this year.
Vanderbilt is also recruiting 6-foot-9 forward Ryan Kelly of the Ravencroft School in Raleigh, N.C. Kelly, ranked as the No. 44 player in the 2009 class, is also considering North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Virginia.
FIRST ON BOARD: Vanderbilt picked up its first football verbal commitment for the class of 2009 this week in safety Jay Fullam of The McCallie School in Chattanooga, VandySports.com reported.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Fullam is a two-time Division II all-state selection and is considered one of the state’s top defensive prospects. He was offered a scholarship by Northwestern, Navy and Army and also heard from Tennessee.
MONEY TIME: Crunch time for the 19th-ranked Vanderbilt baseball squad arrives today when it opens a three-game series at Florida.
One win against the Gators or a loss by South Carolina or Arkansas this weekend will clinch a spot in next week’s SEC Tournament for VU for the third straight year and fifth year in six years under Coach Tim Corbin. Vanderbilt can wrap up the No. 3 seed by winning two of three games at Florida.
Proving how jumbled the SEC baseball race is, the Commodores, despite currently possessing the second-best winning percentage in the league, could conceivably finish in ninth place after this weekend’s play and be left out of the conference tournament.
Even while needing just one win to avoid such a fate, the Commodores say they won’t be satisfied with that.
“That’s not good enough,” outfielder Dominic de la Osa said. “Hopefully we’ll win a couple games and be off to the SEC Tournament.”
Brett Hait covers Vanderbilt athletics for The City Paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.