Ten days remain in June, yet the Vanderbilt football coaching staff already has 13 commitments for its 2013 signing class.
To most schools in the Southeastern Conference, a baker’s dozen before July isn’t unusual. But for Vanderbilt, this is uncharted territory.
“I don’t remember Vanderbilt having this many commitments this early,” Barton Simmons, who has spent the last seven years as a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, said. “Traditionally, Vanderbilt recruits at more of a Big East-type level. They’re not beating SEC schools in the past. That’s changing. They’re now battling with the powers of the conference.
"To compete in the SEC you have to have that sort of talent. I think they’re turning the corner on bringing that talent in.”
With the re-commitment of four-star linebacker Nigel Bowden on Sunday, the Commodores sit at 14th in 247Sports’ national rankings — behind Missouri and ahead of Penn State. James Franklin’s third recruiting class at Vanderbilt since taking over as head coach in December 2010 is 16th in the Rivals.com rankings and 26th according to Scout.com.
Bowden was Vanderbilt’s fourth commitment in four days, joining wide receiver Carlos Burse (Alpharetta, Ga.), defensive tackle Sean Spencer (Newnan, Ga.) and cornerback Darrius Sims (Memphis) — all three-star recruits. Rivals.com, however, lists Burse as a four-star recruit.
That gives the Commodores three four-star prospects, along with Bowden and quarterback Johnathon McCrary out of Ellenwood, Ga. Six of Vanderbilt’s commitments are from Georgia, a state heavily recruited by Franklin and defensive line coach Sean Spencer.
Bowden, out of Macon, Ga., had originally committed to Vanderbilt and then switched to Georgia Tech on June 1 after a campus visit. One day later, the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder de-committed from the Yellow Jackets because he believed he rushed his decision, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He spent last weekend at Vanderbilt on an unofficial visit before making his decision to re-commit to the Commodores.
“I think he sticks this time,” Simmons said. “It’s a big get because when you look at him he’s a college-ready guy. He’s physical. He’s got the body. He’s a guy that can be a cornerstone of that defensive class.”
The class is defensive heavy, but also features two quarterbacks, three wide receivers and one running back. Six of the commitments play defense, including three defensive backs. Simmons expects the secondary to expand soon.
The Commodores are chasing four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey out of Brentwood Academy. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has received 26 scholarship offers, which include Alabama and USC. Clarksville Northeast’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin is also a “high priority,” along with Leon McQuay III. The safety from Tampa has narrowed his choices down to USC, Michigan and Vanderbilt.
Challenging the top programs in the country is new territory for the Commodores. Actually stealing a recruit away from the likes of Alabama and USC and Michigan, is another thing altogether.
“They’re taking the approach that they can beat anyone on any kid,” Simmons said. “It’s an optimistic mentality and they’re going to lose a lot of kids with that approach but they’re also going to win a couple. I just don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Vanderbilt coaching staff as aggressive in the targets they go after. I think that confidence rubs off on recruits and they can sort of smell that it’s a genuine confidence."