"See, I enjoy recruiting cornerbacks to Nashville, that way I can put a face and a history to the player that I eventually blow up on a blocking play in practice. Andre Hal knows what I'm talking about."
Vanderbilt's first football scrimmage of the year wasn't the only thing on James Franklin's mind this weekend. As his players finished off some of the toughest work of their young season, Franklin's staff was just as busy off the field. Their hard work helped secure three big commitments to the Commodores' Class of 2013.
Tre Bell, Oren Burks, and Mike Tyler all made verbal pledges to play college ball in Nashville, making them the 17th, 18th, and 19th players in Franklin's third recruiting class at Vanderbilt. The Vandy staff went out of their usual hunting spots to snag these three, heading north to sign high schoolers from New Jersey, Virginia, and Ohio, respectively. The haul was enough to lift the university up to 15th in Rivals.com's overall rankings for 2013.
Bell kicked things off on Saturday by flipping his commitment from Florida to the Commodores. The 5'11", 170 lb cornerback was a highly sought after recruit, and he chose Franklin's team over offers from Boise State, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin. He's rated as a four-star player by ESPN (where he's also rated as the 21st best cornerback in the country) and has earned three stars from Rivals.com. His combination of quick feet and soft hands will help the 'Dores carry on a tradition of strong cornerback play that has been passed down from D.J. Moore to Myron Lewis and to Casey Hayward.
Oren Burks, a 6'3", 200 lb outside linebacker, followed up Bell's good news by announcing his commitment to the Commodores. He's been rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN and he turned down offers from Miami, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and Maryland to come to Nashville. He's a fluid athlete but he'll likely need to add a few pounds to his frame to be an impact player in the SEC. Fortunately, he'll have plenty of time to bulk up and reinforce a unit that always needs more depth.
Franklin's staff finished their haul by luring an under-the-radar player from Ohio on Sunday. 6'5", 225 lb Mike Tyler chose the 'Dores over a handful of Ivy League schools along with Pitt, Minnesota, and Syracuse. While he doesn't fit the profile of some of the more highly-rated recruits on Vandy's list of targets, the coaching staff must have seen mounds of potential in the young player. He'll get the opportunity to join a defensive line that will be rebuilding in 2013 with the departures of players like Rob Lohr and Johnell Thomas.
It was a big weekend for the Commodores, but its effects won't be felt for over a year. Vanderbilt bolstered their defensive presence with some significant commitments. If these players stay with the Commodores, they'll add some much needed athleticism to a team that has struggled to keep up with SEC opponents in the past. With 19 commitments on board, slots for the class of 2013 are filling up quickly. However, competition for the last few scholarship spots could end up being tight if the 'Dores get off to a hot start in 2012.