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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Vanderbilt gets ESPN 300 LB

By Dave Hooker

Zach Cunningham, the No. 16 outside linebacker and No. 257 overall prospect in the ESPN 300, has signed with Vanderbilt.

The decision was hardy a surprise. Cunningham had long shown strong interest in the Commodores. He took an official visit to Nashville on Jan. 25 and spoke highly of Vandy head coach James Franklin.

“Things went great,” Cunningham told ESPN RecruitingNation shortly after the trip. “I met all the coaches. I talked to James Franklin again. I like him a lot. His vision for the future and what he has going on with the program, that’s what really kind of got me pulled into Vanderbilt. I really like his personality.”

Cunningham also took official visits to Auburn and Oregon. Coaching changes at both of those schools hurt their chances to land the No. 12 prospect in Alabama.

Cunningham had strong interest from schools across the nation. However, he always seemed fond of Vandy.

“Vanderbilt’s a building program,” the 6-foot-4, 195-pound prospect said. “They’re starting to get better and better. Along with that, they have the academics. It’s kind of the best of both worlds if you’re going there.”

What is the impact of Cunningham's decision?

Instant Analysis

What it means for Vanderbilt: Cunningham is further proof that Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is a stellar recruiter. Franklin went against a perennial top recruiting program in Oregon and a red-hot recruiting program in Auburn and won.

What it means for Auburn, Oregon: The loss means more to Auburn than it does Oregon. The Tigers need to upgrade their talent level. Losing out on in-state four-star prospects isn't the way to do it.

Turning point: Undoubtedly, the visit meant a lot to Cunningham. He spoke glowingly of the trip and a fondness for Franklin. The city of Nashville has also been known to woo a prospect or two.

Surprise (scale of 1-5): 2. Cunningham looked Vandy bound for quite some time.

Immediate impact (scale of 1-5): 2. Cunningham is a little lean to be considered a no-doubt, impact player. Eventually, however, he should be.