Buzz around Vanderbilt's football staff suggests that the team is looking to add a pair of skill players to their ranks over the last few months of the 2011-2012 recruiting cycle - one at tailback, and one at wide receiver. If James Franklin and his crew can secure the caliber of player that they have been getting commitments from all year, then 2012 and 2013 could feature the deepest offense ever to play in Nashville.
The Commodores will be well stocked at either position even without a final recruit fills out their ranks. The team will only stand to lose three players at the positions that saw any meaningful action in 2011 - running back Micah Powell (a redshirt junior who may graduate and leave the team) and receivers John Cole (ditto) and Udom Umoh (senior). While each player was a valuable leader for the 'Dores, none made a significant impact on the field during the team's 6-6 campaign.
All-SEC tailback Zac Stacy will be gearing up for his senior season in 2012. Former SEC Freshman of the Year Warren Norman will return from a series of injuries as a redshirt junior. Jerron Seymour, who was effective as a platoon back with Stacy in 2011, is going to be just a sophomore next year. His recruiting mate Mitchell Hester, a quick scatback with tons of lateral quickness, is lined up to begin his redshirt freshman season next year as well.
And that doesn't even get us to the prize of the 2012 recruiting trail, Brian Kimbrow. The lightning-fast waterbug of a back has been one of the 'Dores most vocal supporters on Twitter during the 2011 season. He rushed for 1,851 yards his senior season (10.58 yards/carry) and 18 touchdowns in 11 games for Memphis East high school. He'll likely see immediate action for Vanderbilt once he gets to Nashville - should he stay committed. Other players, like Wesley Tate and recruit Jaborian McKenzie, have experience carrying the ball as well. [EDIT: As MrManager (we just say Manager) points out in the comments, LaFonte Thorogood will also be moving to the backfield in 2012 as a power back.]
Even with this immense depth at the position, Franklin wants to add another impact player. Rivals 250 running back Wes Brown heads the list of potential candidates to fill that slot. Brown, a 6'1", 200 pound athlete is said to have narrowed his list down to Vanderbilt and Virginia as his high school career has wound down. He's a strongly built back with room to grow, and he projects as a potential goal line rusher and bruiser for a team that will have an abundance of finesse runners after Zac Stacy graduates.
If Brown or a similarly talented tailback chooses Vanderbilt, it would make 2012 the year of the running back in Nashville. Vandy would boast an embarrassment of riches in its backfield. A school that's only ever had four 1,000 yard rushers in its history would probably sport four different players who could replicate that feat in the same rotation.
The depth at wide receiver won't be as striking, but it's still a far cry from unit that this team produced back in 2009. Vanderbilt will return four players who have shown that they can be reliable options at wideout - Jordan Matthews, Chris Boyd, Wesley Tate, and Jonathan Krause. Matthews developed into one of the SEC's biggest deep threats and Boyd caught seven touchdown passes (24 percent of his total receptions) in his first year of action. Tate showed that he could make the adjustment from running back to slot receiver, while Krause slumped as a sophomore but still showed flashes of the playmaking ability that drove him up the depth chart as a freshman.
These four - along with holdovers like Akeem Dunham and Jameson Sackey - will be joined by a solid group of 2012 recruits even without the addition of one last wideout. Four star commit Andre McDonald is a top 250 receiver who is the team's second-highest rated recruit behind Kimbrow. He turned down offers from schools like Ohio State and Arizona to choose Vandy. Corey Batey, a local product from Ensworth, will also join the team next season and has the speed to be a difference maker downfield.
If the Commodores can fulfill their goals and add two more talented skill players, it would be a great gain for the team. Even if they don't, however, this team will still boast the most stacked depth chart at the skill positions that any Vanderbilt team has ever seen. The solid recruiting hauls of the Bobby Johnson/Robbie Caldwell era are getting kicked into overdrive by James Franklin and his unorthodox methods of challenging recruits. While the past generation of Vandy coaches stocked the cupboards, guys like Herb Hand and Chris Beatty are making sure that they won't run dry.
And that's not even considering the defensive guys that will hit Nashville in 2012.