On Wednesday Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin gave Commodores fans arguably the best recruiting class the city of Nashville has signed in 20 years or more.
The discrepancy in recruiting services aside, even the most critical of Vanderbilt fans cannot argue about the tremendous amount of SEC-caliber talent Franklin signed to his 2012 recruiting class.
When National Signing Day finished the whirlwind of activities across the nation, Vanderbilt signed a class that included three 4-star prospects along with 18 3-star players including one 3-star prospect that will grayshirt this fall.
The biggest coups of the recruiting class may be linebackers Jakarri Thomas and Harding Harper, two prospects very high on SEC rival Arkansas.
Thomas was committed to the Hogs until Jan. 27 when he switched his verbal pledge from Arkansas to Vanderbilt after his official visit to Nashville.
Harper had been offered by Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Arkansas. He is considered the 32nd-best linebacker in this year’s recruiting class by Scout.com.
Franklin filled a need at middle linebacker with Harper and Jacob Sealand. With Chris Marve departing due to graduation, Harper and Sealand will both get an opportunity to compete for time at middle linebacker during fall practices.
Three big in-state recruits helped add overall quality to Vandy’s class. Running back Brian Kimbrow from Memphis, defensive end Caleb Azubike, and Andrew Jelks from Henry County High School were all considered 4-star talents on Rivals.com.
Azubike has the frame, size, and tools to be an All-SEC performer. He is listed at 6’5”, 240 pounds and runs a reported 4.65 40-yard dash. He was offered scholarships by Miami, Kentucky and Boston College among others.
Offensive tackle Andrew Jelks is listed as the 31st best offensive tackle in the nation. His 6’6”, 260-pound frame will need to add some weight once he gets on campus if he is to remain an offensive tackle in the SEC but his footwork and hand quickness coming out his stance are great.
Brian Kimbrow from East High School in Memphis has the game-breaking speed that every coaching staff covets, including teams like Alabama and Auburn.
He has been clocked at 4.2 in the 40-yard dash. He is a little undersized at 5’9” and 165 pounds, but the addition of extra weight should not slow him down too much.
Because of Kimbrow’s speed, he will get opportunities to contribute on special teams next fall on return and coverage units. If he can show improvement with his pass-catching ability, he could make an impact as a third-down back as well.
A few surprises came Vanderbilt’s way on National Signing Day. Safety athlete Chris Moody from Henry County High School in Georgia signed with South Carolina instead of with the Commodores.
Perhaps the least surprising but the most upsetting loss was 4-star defensive end Josh Dawson to Georgia. The Tucker, GA product was rumored to be a candidate to flip to Georgia leading up to National Signing Day.
The Commodores may have found their quarterback of the future in Patton Robinette. With senior quarterback Larry Smith departing and 2011 starter Jordan Rodgers having only one more year of eligibility left, Robinette will have an opportunity to push Rodgers in practice while learning the game during the 2012 season.
One of the biggest needs for the Commodores in 2012 that has gone unsigned is at kicker. 3-star kicker Colby Cooke from Goochland, VA had been committed to the Commodores since August but remains unsigned and is expected to grayshirt this fall.
Cooke’s scholarship will count against Vanderbilt’s 2013 recruiting class.
Cooke is considered the eighth best kicker in the nation per Rivals.com. If he is able to translate his prep career abilities to the collegiate level, he could make an immediate impact for Vanderbilt.
Another perspective for Vanderbilt fans to appreciate is Franklin’s class ranking among other SEC teams. For the first time in the recruiting era, Vanderbilt is ranked ahead of teams like Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Kentucky and SEC newcomer Missouri.
Coming off a 2011 bowl berth and another great recruiting class, Vanderbilt fans have a lot to be excited about in the coming years.
Here’s a list of the 22 Vanderbilt signees:
QB Patton Robinette, 6’5”, 200 pounds, 3-star, Maryville, TN
RB Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, 5’9”, 180 pounds, 3-star, Natchez, MS
RB Brian Kimbrow, 5’9”, 165 pounds, 4-star, Memphis, TN
WR Cory Batey, 5’11”, 180 pounds, 3-star, Nashville, TN
OT Andrew Jelks, 6’6”, 260 pounds, 4-star, Paris, TN
OT Will Holden, 6’6”, 271 pounds, 3-star, Green Cove Springs, FL
OT Blake Fromang, 6’8”, 280 pounds, 3-star, Orlando, FL
OT Barrett Gouger, 6’4”, 275 pounds, 3-star, Chattanooga, TN
OT Kevin McCoy, 6’5”, 275 pounds, 3-star, Seffner, FL
OG Adam Butler, 6’5”, 285 pounds, 3-star, Duncanville, TX
CB Torren McGaster, 6’0”, 180 pounds, 3-star, Daphne, AL
CB Brandon Banks, 5’11”. 170 pounds, 3-star, Brandywine, MD
SS Paris Head, 5’10”, 170 pounds, 3-star, Buford, GA
DE Ladarius Banks, 6’2”, 263 pounds, 3-star, Dallas, GA
DE Stephen Weatherly, 6’4”, 190 pounds, 3-star, Atlanta, GA
DE Caleb Azubike, 6’5”, 240 pounds, 4-star, Nashville, TN
DE Torey Agee, 6’4”, 250 pounds, 3-star, Opelika, AL
MLB Jakarri Thomas, 6’1”, 195 pounds, 3-star, Tallahassee, FL
MLB Harding Harper, 6’2”, 212 pounds, 3-star, Montgomery, AL
OLB Jacob Sealand, 6’1”, 220 pounds, 3-star, Tucker GA
OLB Darreon Herring, 6’2”, 195 pounds, 3-star, Stone Mountain, GA
*K Colby Cooke, 6’3”, 175 pounds, 3-star, Goochland, GA
* Denotes grayshirt
How the recruiting services ranked Vanderbilt’s class:
Scout.com No. 44
Rivals.com No. 29
247Sports.com No. 49