James Franklin capped off one of the busiest weeks of Vanderbilt football's summer on Sunday, adding to what is poised to be a historical class of Commodore recruits. The annual recruit cookout, which brings Vandy targets from across the country to Nashville to revel in Commodore camaraderie, helped Franklin and his staff net commitments from some big time players from across the south.
Defensive stalwarts Nigel Bowden, Darrius Sims, and Sean Spencer pledged to Vandy's recruiting class of 2013 just days after the team snagged four-star receiver Carlos Burse. The haul has the 'Dores shooting up the national rankings. Rivals.com has Franklin's team ranked 16th in the country when it comes to commitments and eighth in the SEC. 247Sports ranks them 13th nationally.
Franklin and his crew of coaches had promised big things this weekend, and they didn't disappoint. Defensive end Sean Spencer, a 6'4", 255 lb brute out of Georgia was the first to commit. Spencer, who is a three-star player according to both ESPN and Rivals, has the base to bulk up and become a run-stopping presence in the middle for the 'Dores and the experience to remain at end depending on the team's needs. He'll be a versatile addition to a class that needed to add some bulk. He turned down offers from South Carolina and Ole Miss to choose Nashville.
Spencer's commitment was followed by Sims's. The 5'9" cornerback joined his Memphis high school teammate Gerald Perry in Franklin's class of 2013. He is considered a top in-state prospect who should add depth to one of the SEC's most consistent defensive backfields, but he'll probably need a redshirt year to add some size in the weight room.
The weekend was capped off by the announcement of inside linebacker Nigel Bowden. Bowden is a familiar face to Commodore fans. He had originally committed to the team back in the spring, only to reverse course when Georgia Tech offered him a scholarship. Bowden originally changed his commitment to Tech before reconsidered. After leaving his options open for a brief period, the highly ranked linebacker confirmed that Vanderbilt had won him over once again on Sunday.
Bowden's recruit rankings vary across the board, but Rivals, ESPN, 247, and Scout all agree that he'll be a capable player. Both Rivals and 247 list him as a four-star player (247 rates him as the best prospect in Vandy's current class), while Scout and ESPN have him as a solid three-star presence. Bowden has the physical tools at 6'1" and 230 lbs to make an immediate impact at a position where Vandy has craved depth in the past. He should draw some comparisons to another slightly short inside linebacker who had four extremely productive years at Vanderbilt - Chris Marve.
That's a lofty comparison for Bowden, but he's a tough player who seeks out contact in the same mold as Marve before him. He'll bolster a linebacking corps that will graduate Archibald Barnes and Tristan Strong after this season, and could be pressed into action early in his Vanderbilt career. He'll join players like Harding Harper, Darreon Herring, Stephen Weatherly, and Jacob Sealand as the next generation of Commodore linebackers.
It was a big weekend for what is shaping up to be Vanderbilt's most hyped recruiting class of all time. James Franklin's haul so far isn't just impressive for a mid-June lineup, it could stand as one of Vandy's greatest classes of all-time even if he failed to add another player this year. Still, the coach and his staff have plenty of work left to be done, and it's a certainty that this won't be the last time we report on a high profile player spurning other SEC schools to come to Vanderbilt.