For the first time in a very long time Vanderbilt football is starting to get some exposure on the recruiting front. Friday afternoon some of the state’s top prospects pledged their intention to become Commodores, including the state’s top prospect, Brian Kimbrow, a running back from East HS in Memphis. With these commitments and more to follow the 2012 class is shaping up to be the best ever for Commodore football. (To see a breakdown of the last eleven recruiting classes click on the slideshow to the left)
So just how do you judge a recruiting class? The only way to really do it is by looking at the ratings and see how it looks on paper. Evaluating on paper can be dangerous. Vandy star Earl Bennett was just a three star prospect by leading services scout.com and rivals.com. All he did was become the all-time leading receiver in SEC history. Former Vandy product DJ Moore who now plays for the Chicago Bears with Bennett was just a two star prospect by scout.com. Recruiting rankings are often a crapshoot, unable to predict the future and take into account coaching and how a prospect will fit into the system they have chosen to play in.
To try and make this comparison we must evaluate Coach James Franklin against former Coach Bobby Johnson. The recruiting styles appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Johnson seemed to focus on development, taking kids that were shunned by big time schools and trying to develop them into SEC players. To his credit Johnson took the classes from 2004-2008, classes filled with two star recruits, and developed enough talent to take Vandy to their first bowl game in 26 years. Johnson often took players and switched their positions, moving defensive backs to linebackers and linebackers to defensive line in an attempt to get more speed on the field. Johnson kept it conservative on offense and his teams played with discipline to keep them in games. Depth, as it always has been at Vandy, became a major issue and Johnson’s teams hung around but never closed out enough games to have sustained success.
Coach Franklin has a much different approach. His personality and high energy style has high school kids believing he will get it done at Vandy. Franklin made up for lost time by signing as many four star recruits in seven months as Johnson did in nine years. He also has cast a wide net and has gone against the big boys of college football, giving a sales pitch that resonates with kids that will listen. Franklin currently has the Commodores ranked #24 in the nation by ESPN.com in recruiting and should continue to rise with more days like Friday.
If the current commitments stay true the 2012 group will easily be the best class Vandy has ever had. Johnson used the 2008 Music City Bowl to his advantage and bringing in his best classes in 2009 and 2010. When you add Franklin’s 2011 and 2012 group the argument can be made that the 2012 Commodores will be the most talented group to ever wear the black and gold. That is enough to make Vandy fans smile and look forward to a bright future. Even if it is only on paper.