Positive momentum is difficult to keep and unfortunately for Derek Mason at Vanderbilt, he’s having to rebuild the Commodores from the ground up.

Entering the dead period this week, Vanderbilt’s 2015 class is ranked just ahead of Florida’s seven-member set at the bottom of the SEC according to 247Sports. The Commodores will welcome two four-star talents on the defensive side of the ball, but offense has been the primary issue.

Until Vanderbilt can sign comparable playmakers to compete with elite-level defenses every Saturday, it will continue to fall short in the SEC arms race.

OFFENSE: D+ (7 total commits)

The Commodores are stocking up on offensive linemen and are expected to sign at least three in this year’s class, but that won’t help overall production on a unit that finished last in the SEC this fall. Outside of Ralph Webb’s 907-yard output, moving the football was a headache. Vanderbilt’s hoping three-star verbal Josh Crawford will provide depth in the backfield and give the offense a potential playmaker. He’s the only player of intrigue this cycle offensively for the Commodores.

DEFENSE: B- (8 total commits)

Vanderbilt’s defense wasn’t the problem this season, a unit that bent often but managed to keep it together under Mason’s tutelage. The top prospect in this year’s class is cornerback Donovan Sheffield, a four-star defender out of Nashville. Sheffield has offers from several other Power 5 programs including Ole Miss and Stanford, but is strong with Vanderbilt. Four-star linebacker Josh Smith will play early next season. The Commodores have also secured verbal commitments from three defensive ends — T.J. Smith, Nehemiah Mitchell and Caleb Peart.


Mason must make it a point over the final 2.5 weeks of the recruiting season in January to find a highly-skilled wide receiver. The Commodores struggled mightily at the position this fall in the wake of Jordan Matthews’ departure to NFL stardom. Freshman C.J. Duncan showed flashes, but Vanderbilt’s group of receivers struggled to find openings as a unit leading to the Commodores’ heavy emphasis on the tight end position. Quarterback is another cause for concern. Unless Johnny McCrary steps up and secures the job during spring practice, incoming three-star Kyle Shurmur may be forced into action much earlier than anticipated.