NCF On The Trail: Vanderbilt Commodores

SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
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There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.

Completed class: Vanderbilt Commodores

February, 4, 2015
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Vanderbilt has announced its 2015 class:

ESPN 300
Kyle Shurmur, QB-PP -- La Salle College High School, Pennsylvania
Josh Smith, OLB -- Oakland High School, Tennessee

Four-star
Donovan Sheffield, CB -- The Ensworth School, Tennessee

Three-stars
Caleb Peart, DE -- Hamilton High School, Arizona
Nehemiah Mitchell, DE -- City College of San Francisco
Jared Pinkney, WR -- Norcross High School, Georgia
Dare Odeyingbo, RB -- Cistercian Prep School, Texas
Kyle Anderton, QB-PP -- Station Camp High School, Tennessee
Ean Pfeifer, OT -- Bentonville High School, Arkansas
Jordan Griffin, ILB -- Armwood High School, Florida
Sam Dobbs, WR -- Landmark Christian High School, Georgia
Josh Crawford, RB -- Edgewood Academy, Alabama
Andrew Rector, S -- Father Ryan High School, Tennessee
Justin Skule, OT -- Centreville High School, Virginia
Darion Debrossard, OG -- Shiloh High School, Georgia
Jared Southers, OT -- Seton Hall Prep, New Jersey

Ungraded
Jay Hockaday, ILB -- Christ Presbyterian Academy TN
Jaire George, ILB -- DeMatha Catholic High School MD

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 20, 2015
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National signing day is less than three weeks away and it’s coming down to crunch time. This past weekend was one of three remaining weekends for recruits to take official visits before signing day and some of the top prospects took full advantage of the available weekend. Auburn had a monster recruiting weekend and, though not to the same extent, so did Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Here’s a closer look at the top news from this past weekend.

Best of the visits: SEC

January, 18, 2015
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Auburn hosted an incredible seven five-star prospects over the weekend, while Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Texas A&M and other SEC schools also had big recruiting weekends. Here’s a closer look at some of the top sights and sounds from the weekend visitors.

Three-star linebacker Dwaine Thomas flipped his commitment from Louisiana-Lafayette to Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon. Thomas tweeted out a photo of himself wearing an Aggies jersey and helmet.


Auburn had a huge recruiting weekend. Here are several photos prospects tweeted out over the course of the weekend:

Georgia commit Terry Godwin posing with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.


Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson posing with a young fan after Auburn’s basketball game Saturday night.

Byron Cowart posted an Instagram photo of himself along with Jefferson and four-star linebacker Jeffery Holland on Auburn’s field.

#wareagle @holland_jeff @cecejeferson7

A photo posted by Byron Cowart (@byroncowart99) on


Auburn commit Jordan Colbert posted several pictures of other targets wearing Auburn jerseys in the Tigers locker room.


ESPN 300 defensive end Arden Key took an official visit to LSU with his family. Here are a few photos of his time in Baton Rouge.


Alabama also had a big recruiting weekend. Here is a photo of Arkansas wide receiver commit K.J. Hill, Miami receiver commit Lawrence Cager and Alabama safety commit Rico McGraw.


Here's Alabama commit Adonis Thomas in a Crimson Tide uniform.


Tennessee commit Kyle Phillips tweeted a photo of several Tennessee commits goofing around.


Mississippi State wide receiver commit Farrod Green tweeted a photo of himself in a Bulldogs uniform.


Virginia Tech commit Houshun Gaines poses for a picture with Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.


Kentucky commit Jeremiah Dinson poses with uncommitted cornerback Rashad Fenton at the University of Florida.


Florida commit Tyler Jordan and South Carolina commit Christian Pellage pose for a picture while at Florida.


Another Florida commit, Mike Horton, tweeted out a photo of him in a Gators jersey.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
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With national signing day less than three weeks away, it is officially crunch time. There are only three recruiting weekends left for visits, and most schools plan to take full advantage of those available weekends. Here are a closer look at some of the top visits around the SEC this weekend.

Auburn


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Semper Fi All-American notebook: Day 1 

December, 31, 2014
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SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Practices for the 2015 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl began Wednesday morning, as an extended walk-through period eventually gave way to one-on-one, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work. After Day 1, here's a look through some of the news and notes from the West squad.


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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 30, 2014
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From Alabama's big 55-44 win over Auburn on Saturday night to Ole Miss' 31-17 win over in-state rival Mississippi State, there were some incredible SEC games for recruits to watch this weekend. Some prospects attended the games, while others watched on TV and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend in SEC recruiting.

Several recruits posted pictures from the Alabama game Saturday. Five-star Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett posted a few pictures of himself at the game and some with other recruits who were also in attendance.


One of the top running backs in the ESPN 300, Damien Harris, also tweeted out a photo, as did ESPN 300 linebacker Ricky DeBerry. Harris has appeared to be a Kentucky lean, but Alabama certainly looks to have made an impression on him.


Recent Georgia athlete commit Jarvis Wilson tweeted out a photo of himself wearing a Georgia uniform and helmet.


ESPN Junior 300 safety Joejuan Williams visited Vanderbilt this weekend and posted a couple different tweets about his experience in Nashville.

ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the SEC 

November, 19, 2014
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The SEC already has five commitments from players ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN Junior 300. That list includes Greg Little, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 and a Texas A&M commit. As a whole, the SEC has 27 commitments in the updated ESPN Junior 300. Here’s a closer look at the updated rankings.


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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 9, 2014
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From Alabama’s big 20-13 come-from-behind win over LSU Saturday night to Texas A&M’s big win over Auburn Saturday afternoon, there were some incredible games for recruits to watch this weekend. Some prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

ESPN 300 guard Matt Burrell Jr. tweeted out a few photos of him during his time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for his official visit to LSU.
LSU commit Kevin Toliver II, who has visited other schools, used his official visit this week to attend the LSU-Alabama game. The five-star cornerback tweeted a picture of his visit itinerary he received when he arrived on campus. Auburn commit D'Anfernee McGriff has been working hard on flipping his friend and fellow Tallahassee, Florida, native John Burt. The four-star Burt took his second visit to Auburn this weekend. Former Florida linebacker commit Adonis Thomas backed off his pledge to the Gators after Florida lost to Missouri earlier in the year. The ESPN 300 took a visit to LSU this weekend and likes the Tigers along with Alabama and Florida. He tweeted out his thoughts on how a few of the games played out on Saturday. Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson took an official visit to LSU this weekend. He shared a photo of LSU's white uniform. ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Michael Divinity shared a photo of himself on the field before the LSU-Alabama game on Saturday night. 2017 athlete Jamyest Williams tweeted a photo from the Mississippi State-Tennessee Martin game.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 7, 2014
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Saturday's Alabama-at-LSU game, as always, is loaded with big-time prospects making recruiting visits. Auburn is expected to have at least two key visitors in for its game against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt is hoping to build some momentum by bringing in some visitors for the Florida game. Here’s a closer look at some of the top recruits making visits to SEC schools this weekend.


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SEC's top recruiting visits 

October, 31, 2014
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There are once again some big games around the SEC this weekend. The Auburn at Ole Miss game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Mississippi State is trying to capitalize on its success by bringing in several recruits for its game against Arkansas and Vanderbilt is hoping to build some momentum against Old Dominion. The Florida-Georgia game will be watched by many recruits but because its a neutral site game both teams have agreed not to allow visitors for the game. Here’s a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.

Auburn at Ole Miss

[+] EnlargeShea Patterson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsHighly regarded 2016 quarterback Shea Patterson says he likes the way Ole Miss uses Bo Wallace.
After a tough loss to LSU last weekend, Ole Miss is hoping to rebound with a big win over Auburn on Saturday. The Rebels will have several recruits in attendance including running back commit Eric Swinney, offensive line commit Drew Richmond, who has visited Tennessee recently, and ESPN 300 safety Cam Ordway. The 164th-ranked prospect in the country Josh McMillon is also expected to attend.

Former 2016 Arizona quarterback commit Shea Patterson will be making his third unofficial visit to Ole Miss. Patterson is the 35th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300. Patterson will be joined by an ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver Mykel Jones. Junior offensive tackle Javious Bardney, who already has offers from Ole Miss and Mississippi State and safety Donte Vaughn are also expected to attend the game.


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Help is on the way: SEC 

October, 8, 2014
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Almost midway through the season and teams such as Arkansas and Texas A&M have shown the obvious strengths of their teams with their running backs and wide receivers, respectively. But in most cases every team has an apparent weakness, too. Here’s a closer look at how each team in the SEC will address its needs through recruiting.


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#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 3 

September, 3, 2014
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ESPN 300 Hines to cut list today

ESPN 300 No. 149 Nyheim Hines will announce his Top 7 at 7 ET tonight. While he's not technically cutting schools from consideration, programs that don't make the Top 7 are essentially out of contention at this point. Among those that are near locks to make the seven are NC State and Duke with North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio State also good bets. Also in serious contention are Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia. The major factor in the speedster's recruitment is his twin sister, Nyah. Nyah has been offered by NC State as a hurdler. Duke was considered the favorite last spring, but things are certainly pointing to the Wolfpack as the current team to beat with the track offer resting with Nyah.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 2, 2014
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There were several key SEC games over the weekend and plenty of recruiting news to go along with them. From Texas A&M’s impressive victory over South Carolina to Georgia’s dominating second half performance against Clemson, recruits from all over the country had a chance to finally see teams they are considering in action. Here is a closer look at some of the top recruiting news around the SEC.

Texas A&M catches the attention of top recruits

Even though Texas A&M has put together a tremendous recruiting class this year, many expected it to be a down year on the field for the Aggies. After all A&M lost three first-round draft picks including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Much to the delight of the Aggie faithful, Texas A&M dominated SEC East opponent South Carolina last Thursday evening.


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Joshua McMillon announcement

August, 22, 2014
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Four-star linebacker Joshua McMillon, ranked No. 163 in the ESPN 300, is set to make his college decision. The 6-foot-3, 249-pound linebacker has big names Alabama, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the mix. Tune in at 11 a.m. ET for the announcement.

 

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