For the most part, National Signing Day came and went for the Vanderbilt Commodores with relatively little drama. The Commodores came into Wednesday with 18 players verbally committed and left with 19 signees, with California LB Michael Owusu surprising a few people by picking Vanderbilt rather than taking a reported blueshirt “offer” from USC.
The Commodores’ 19-man recruiting class is, according to pretty much everybody who does recruiting rankings, the 14th-ranked class in the SEC. As of this writing, it’s the 62nd-ranked class in the country per 247 Sports. Certainly, at least part of that is that it’s not a full class: with only 11 seniors on this year’s roster and relatively minimal other departures, Vanderbilt just didn’t have that much room. But there are also a few guys at the back end of the recruiting class who range from projects to highly questionable takes.
That said, there are some legitimate SEC players in this recruiting class. But this class looks pretty thin on paper, and Derek Mason is staking his reputation (and probably his job security) on some guys who might not have had any other FBS offers.
Here are 5 things to know about Vanderbilt’s 2017 signing class:
Vanderbilt cast a wide net geographically.
Unlike, well, most schools in the SEC, Vanderbilt doesn’t always rely on its backyard. In fact, the Commodores signed only one player from Tennessee — Nashville (TN) Pearl-Cohn LB Brayden DeVault-Smith, who was a last-minute addition to the class. That’s one fewer than the Commodores signed from Hawaii (LB Feleti Afemui and DL Jonah Buchanan) and the same number that they signed from Utah (OL Cole Clemens) and California (LB Michael Owusu.) There are three players each from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and two Texans. North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana are also represented in the signing class.
The Commodores focused heavily on the defensive front seven.
With Zach Cunningham off to the NFL and Nigel Bowden retiring from football due to injuries, Vanderbilt signed five linebackers. Dimitri Moore, the younger brother of Texas A&M linebacker Richard Moore, is an early enrollee who could see the field as a true freshman, and longtime commit Colin Anderson could be an early contributor as well. Late addition Michael Owusu might need some time in the weight room but has upside.
Two of the four signees on the defensive line — Dayo Odeyingbo and Jalen Pinkney — have older brothers who already play for Vanderbilt, and Stone Edwards, another late addition to the class and the younger brother of former NFL linebacker Kalimba Edwards, also has upside. The front seven is a definite strength of this class.
The offensive line class is nice, too.
Offensive line signees Cole Clemens and Bryce Bailey are big and athletic. Jonathan Stewart is a project and needs to hit the weight room before he’ll be ready to contribute — but he has a ton of upside at 6’8” and 305 pounds. The fourth signee in the class, Grant Miller, is the son of former NFL offensive lineman Fred Miller but is another project. Still, this is a good mix of a couple of guys with high floors and a couple of projectable guys with a ton of upside.
This class is light at the skill positions, though.
While Vanderbilt made a concerted effort to get better in the trenches, the offensive skill positions went largely unaddressed. Quarterback Jacob Free has upside but won’t be an immediate contributor (it’s a big jump from Alabama 1A football to the SEC, after all) — but then again, with Kyle Shurmur having two years of eligibility left, Vanderbilt won’t really need him to. The Commodores signed a couple of wide receivers who are big but aren’t terribly fast and... that’s it for the skill positions.
Of course, the biggest addition might be a transfer.
Nashville native Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a former four-star recruit who was Illinois’s leading rusher in 2015, announced on Tuesday that he’ll be joining the Commodores as a transfer athlete. Vaughn will sit out the 2017 season, but with Ralph Webb set to graduate, he should step in as Webb’s replacement in 2018.