Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Stanimal's Take on the Sleepers

Recruiting is, at it's core, an attempt to project the future. For every great recruit that produces for their team, there are several that have high-hopes and eventually bust. For instance, did you know that there were six other receivers ranked ahead of Calvin Johnson according to Rivals for 2004? One was Early Doucet, who has been a productive player for LSU over the past 2 seasons, but can you tell me who Cameron Colvin, Fred Davis, and Xavier Carter are? The only other is Lance Leggett, who has seen plenty of field time in a Miami offense which was basically stagnant last year.

My point is this, recruiting services can get everyone fired up about who's coming in, but it's not an exact science to determine who is going to stand out for your squad. If it were, well, then all the services would agree on who's gonna stand out. To me what matters is not what rank they get placed according to these services, but their intangibles (those things that cannot be improved or built upon), their success at the high school level (stats), and obviously their attitude and desire for success.

Of course, no one can predict success like the coaches who travel to the games, who interact with the players, and who really formulate how their prospects will fulfill their needs. I think Vandy does a remarkable job at this. And I think there are five key players who committed to the Dores today that we should be on the lookout for in our near future. We all know John Stokes is a stud, and reading about Larry Smith's ability is extremely exciting, but these five could be big times players for us, some in the near future.

1. Udom Umoh, WR, Peach County HS, GA
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 175
40: 4.47

To say that Umoh's athletic career at Peach County was a success is an understatement. He helped lead his team to two state championships in his junior and senior seasons, placed third in the 400 at the Georgia State Championships with a 48.92, and placed third in the 200 as well with a time of 21.85. Mind you those track times are as a junior, he hasn't even run as a senior yet. This guy is lightning in a bottle, and while he may be undersized at this point, he had over 1,000 yards receiving and 14 TDs. His coach says he also has a knack for catching the ball in traffic, which is a testament to his concentration and hands. Look for this guy to be a productive weapon in an area which I feel we need some support (aside from Earl of course).

2. Ryan Van Rensburg, FB, The Bolles School, FL
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 220
40: 4.56

Van Rensburg according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. is "a versatile fullback with legitimate running back skills who reminds us of a young Mike Alstott." This guy is not someone you want to see barrelling at you as a middle linebacker on a dive play. He's already big and apparently the guy hits like a tractor-trailer. Perhaps most notable about Van Rensburg is that versatility. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and he can also line up at tailback, because the guy can juke you if he has to. Plus, he comes to Vandy from a program that has a ton of history in Florida football. And if you don't think they know how to develop players, take a look at who took Wake Forest to the ACC Championship. Rushed for 1,049 yards and 15 TDs as a senior, 20 TDs and almost 1,000 as a junior.

3. Chris Marve, ILB, White Station High School, TN
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 230
40: 4.65

Marve is arguably the biggest enigma in this class because of the massive disparity between recruiting services about his ability. Rivals and Scout say he's a two star prospect, but Scouts Inc. grades him as our #2 recruit behind John Stokes. Either way, you can't take away the fact that he was Tennessee's 5A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year and was on the Tennessean's Dream Team. The knock on him is both his height and his game speed. There is some question as to his ability in pass coverage, but this guy is extremely good against the run and has tremendous strength. He's smart, doesn't overrun plays, and displays excellent technique in tackling skills. He had 178 total tackles, 4 sacks, and 8 fumbles as senior, and 120 solo tackles as a junior. Region 8-5A most outstanding player.

4. Jamie Graham, CB, Whites Creek High School, TN
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 175
40: 4.58

Graham's athletic ability enables him to be used in any number of situations. The guy played wide receiver, quarterback, tailback, and defensive back, much like current Vanderbilt standout Earl Bennett. He's got very solid speed, although he is not incredibly agile. Graham's greatest asset is his experience and versatility. He was also a Kick Returner and Punt Returner in high school. He threw for 570 yars and 5 TDs as a QB, ran for 640 yards and 12 TDs as a TB, and caught 25 passes for 285 yards and 4 TDs. He also had four INTs and 15 for his entire high school career. Oh yeah, and the kid has scored over 1,500 points for the basketball team too.

5. Kyle Fischer, OT, Spring Valley High School, SC
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 300
Bench: 290

Fischer is very well sized and can play either the guard or the tackle spot. Most notable about Fischer is his mobility on the offensive line. He has no trouble pulling on sweep plays, and when he has to get to the second level he can pick up most any linebackers. Fischer's ability means that he has a high ceiling, which is what pretty much any coach wants to get out of their prospects. He displays good technique but certainly can improve in some facets, most notably in that he needs to keep his feet driving after contact on a lot of plays. Recorded 120 career pancakes and was a prep All-American. Look for this guy to provide some great protection for one of our solid QBs within the next couple of years.

Overall, we've gotten some guys who can continue to progress our program. As Seamus, Bobby, and I have discussed, our recruiting efforts rely on finding the diamonds in the rough, the prospects that some schools overlook. They are the key ingredients to bringing our program to our first goal of making a bowl game, and perhaps more further down the road.

5 comments:

Bobby O'Shea said...

First off, I think this is seriously one of the best threads I have seen in a while. Stan has really hit the nail on the head as far as Vanderbilt's mission in recruiting and the inexact science of recruiting.

For me, and perhaps I am overly sentimental, I am cautiously optimistic about Jermaine Doster. Never underestimate a player with something really big to play for. For Doster, he is not only playing for himself, but also for his brother who never got the chance to finish his career at Vanderbilt. The Commies will need a running back who can make plays. Kwame, for a season, was that kind of player; I am rooting for Jermaine to follow in his footsteps.

Douglas James said...

Stan that was an awsome article. I was wondering if you or anyone else knows why we seemed to have signed so few players compared to other SEC schools? Is it just because those schools lose more players that declare early or just leave school than us?

Stanimal said...

That's an interesting observation and I have noticed that as well. Perhaps someone else has some first-hand knowledge. My best guess is that there are only certain players who fit into our criteria, and that comes from a combination of factors. For instance, Georgia has 23 commits, but I believe five of those are JUCO transfers, which we don't accept. Considering how much we harp on academics, there has to be some speculation that GPA and SAT or ACT scores play in to who we can actually accept. Finally, Vandy's program prestige is going to limit the number of players they get. There aren't too many four-stars we can convince to come to Vandy over LSU, Auburn, UGA, Florida, etc. At the same time, we can't take too many players who the coaches feel can't compete, otherwise we'd essentially be wasting roster spots.

Anyway, that's my best guess.

Seamus O'Toole said...

There are two other points of note in response to Douglas James's question:

1) Money - Vandy simply doesn't have the funds (in athletics, that is) to support our coaches going to as many places, talking to as many players (and their families and coaches), and building networks and pipelines with high schools.

For evidence of the difference between how Vandy's athletic programs are funded and how other SEC schools are funded, note the difference between Florida (http://www.gatorboosters.org/) and Vandy (http://vucommodores.cstv.com/commodore-club/vand-commodore-club.html). Oh, and don't forget to check out the--dare I use the word "pathetic"--"call to action" (http://vucommodores.cstv.com/ot/action-center.html).

2) Because we have high academic standards and not a ton of money to throw around recruiting kids left and right, we rely heavily (probably more than any other SEC school) on walk-ons. Also, word on the street is walk-ons at Vandy get treated better than at most programs, probably because (a) they've all got a legitimate shot at seeing serious PT, and (b) we need the scout-team manpower more than the big schools.

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