Published February 11, 2012 - 11:26am
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Biggest Needs: When James Franklin took the job at Vanderbilt, it didn’t take him long to raise the eyebrows of anyone that follows recruiting. Franklin wasn’t going to sit idly by and take the leftover recruiting scraps after the big dogs got who they wanted. Not only is Franklin a fierce recruiter, his teams take on his personality on the field. Following Franklin’s lead the Commodores made a bowl game, but came up short and ended with a 6-7 record. With one year under his belt, Vandy doesn’t lose a whole lot, but let’s look at some of those losses. Offensively the ‘Dore’s backfield returns completely intact, and after losing one back-up receiver (Udom Umoh), the skill positions are looking really nice in 2012. Up front Vandy only loses one offensive lineman on the two-deep depth chart with the loss of offensive tackle Kyle Fisher. TE Brandon Barden is the biggest loss on offense. Barden was third in receiving, but his 243 yards receiving can easily be made up.
The Commodores lose a few more guys on the defensive side of the ball, but if they can fill these holes, the future is looking pretty bright. The biggest hole to fill is LB Chris Marve. Marve led the team with 91 tackles, but he was clearly the defensive leader on the field. Up front the ‘Dores replace defensive end Tim Fugger, but Fugger’s team leading 7 sacks will be tough to replace. Vandy also loses key defensive backs with the losses of CB Casey Howard and S Sean Richardson. Howard was third on the team in tackles, and he led Vandy with 7 interceptions. Richardson was equally important as he was second on the team in tackles, and he was key in covering the middle of the field. Even though it’s only four losses, all of these guys led the team in some defensive category.
Needs Met: While this class isn’t in the top 10 in the nation, it is a great class relative to Vanderbilt’s recruiting in years past. Offensively Vandy looked to add a lot of depth to the O-Line by signing six offensive linemen. Andrew Jelks looks most ready to play, but I don’t expect any of them to start next year. That isn’t such a bad thing, because after a year of development, these guys could be a force. QB Patton Robinette is a dual-threat QB that will benefit from a year of learning the system. Vandy signed two receivers, but it will be interesting to see if Corey Batey can come in and immediately stretch the field with his 4.4 speed. Easily, RB Brian Kimbrow is the gem of this class. Kimbrow is the type of playmaker that Vandy fans haven’t seen in quite a while. While he isn’t a between-the-tackles type guy, he has the ability to break games wide open.
Defensively the Commodores bolstered their defense by signing some quality guys. Vandy signed five linebackers, and while Darreon Herring and Jacob Sealand have been getting a lot of fanfare, I think Harding Harper could be the sleeper of the class. Harper is a great linebacker that would have been rated higher if not for a move between his junior and senior years in high school. Up front the Commodores signed three defensive linemen, and DE Caleb Azubike is a speed-rush end that could push for immediate playing time. They also signed three defensive backs, and even though he is a small guy, Brandon Banks’ speed could get him on the field quickly.
Biggest Get: Brian Kimbrow, Caleb Azubike, and Andrew Jelks. Vandy’s top players in the 2012 class were all in-state guys that in years past would have went elsewhere.
Biggest Miss: Blake Bars was not only and in-state offensive lineman, he was a top lineman from Nashville. Singing another top lineman couldn’t have hurt at all
Final Evaluation: Clearly James Franklin is sending a clear message that Vandy is becoming a presence in recruiting, and if a team is a presence in recruiting, soon they will be a presence on the field.
Final Grade: B+