Sports Illustrated recently released its 2011 high school All-American football squad, and for the first time ever, Vanderbilt has multiple recruits earning accolades.
Kicker/punter Colby Cooke (Goochland - VA) was a second team All-American selection. Running back Brian Kimbrow (Memphis East - TN) and wide receiver Andre McDonald (Hopkins - MN) both earned honorable mention status. Kimbrow and McDonald are rated as the team's top two recruits by both Rivals.com and ESPN. Cooke, who made the AA team as a punter, is ranked the seventh-best kicker by Rivals and 58th by the Worldwide Leader.
This is a stark contrast for a team that struggled to land high level recruits over the past two decades. While Bobby Johnson made strides in his eight years at the helm, his biggest achievement on the recruiting trail was shifting the balance of the Vanderbilt roster from two-star athletes to three-star players. His 2002 haul maxed out with three of those prospects. 2004 and 2005 brought just four three-star high school players in total (although one was Earl Bennett).
According to Rivals, Vandy has had only had two four-star recruits in the past, John Stokes and the late Rajaan Bennett. James Franklin's projected 2012 class has four of them. More impressively, every player currently committed to Vanderbilt has earned three stars or more by Rivals' scouting service. This list should expand as we head into the final two months before signing day - although decommitments are also a possibility in Nashville.
Vanderbilt quarterback target Gunner Kiel (Columbus East - IN) was also named as an honorable mention. He's likely to make a college decision in the days leading up to Christmas. The five-star passer has reportedly narrowed his list of potential destinations to Vandy and Notre Dame. However, LSU is rumored to have made a late push in recent weeks to put the Tigers into the conversation. Could this lead to another Alex Poythress situation where an established SEC powerhouse swipes the Commodores' biggest recruit at the finish line?
However, unlike the basketball team's 2012 class, Franklin's crew already has a deep squad that's headlined by some major league players. Even if this team loses out on some of the top-level talent that they've been eyeballing, this will still almost assuredly be the best Vanderbilt recruiting class of the modern era. Where February had once solely belonged to basketball, the Commodore coaching staff will make sure that we're paying attention to the football team in the depths of winter this season.