How's that for strange?
Lose eight games in a row, don't beat a single quality opponent, be surrounded by many more talented teams, and still ink your best class ever.
Being in the Southeastern Conference can be a blessing and curse like that for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Bobby Johnson announced the signing of 24 players, a host of whom were three-star recruits, that especially addressed the defensive line (notably 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound tackle Kyle Woestmann) and secondary.
Johnson continues to elevate the talent level in Nashville, as evidenced by the signings of Rivals.com four-star running back Rajaan Bennett, ace kicker Carey Spear (the sixth-best kicker in the nation according to ESPN.com) and the transfer of JUCO quarterback (and younger brother of Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers) Jordan Rodgers, who will compete for the starting job right away with Larry Smith.
Bennett's signing is especially exciting for Commodore fans. With Warren Norman and Zac Stacy also making big contributions at tailback, Vanderbilt will have its deepest set of running backs in recent memory.
So while Vandy benefits from playing with the big boys, the Commodores still have to actually, you know, compete with the big boys. Lord knows they didn't last season as they lost a lot of the good will they generated for the program with a breakout 7-6 year and subsequent Music City Bowl victory in 2008.
It never gets easier, though, as Vandy saw last season when injuries, a broken passing game, and a brutal schedule without a single bye week culminated in a disastrous end.
And a few people bailed.
Notable were the departures of three-star tight end Davis Dudchock, who bolted for Stanford, and wide receiver/defensive back Bradley Roby, ranked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as the 12-best player in the talent-rich state of Georgia, who pulled a Gordon Gee and went to Rose Bowl champion Ohio State.
While Vanderbilt may have pulled its best recruiting class in its history, it still has to contend with the rest of the talent-rich SEC.
To give you an idea, according to Rivals.com, Georgia signed the 16th-best recruiting class in the entire country, and that wasn't even close to best in the increasingly ridiculous SEC.
It was sixth-best, actually. Florida (2), Auburn (4), Alabama (5), LSU (6), Tennessee (9) all came in front of the Bulldogs in the Rivals.com rankings. It doesn't hurt that four of those teams have won BCS national championships.
The barriers that have always held Vanderbilt back, like its small size and strong academics compared to other SEC schools, have become more helpful recently as recruiting lures.
The question now is whether Johnson's staff can coach these increasingly talented rosters to more than two victories a season. They've done it before, but they've also lost 16 of their past 20 games dating to October of 2008.
Time will tell. A great recruiting class is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't mean anything until there are results on the scoreboard.
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