Recruiting at Vanderbilt is a bit different

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Scour the national recruiting rankings, and you won't find Vanderbilt's class anywhere in the Top 25.

Heck, you're lucky to find it in the Top 75, whatever that means. The Commodores won seven games last season and won a bowl game.

That's as many games as South Carolina won (and the Gamecocks lost their bowl game) and more games than Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee won in 2008.

Anybody taking bets that Vanderbilt's classes weren't ranked as highly as the classes of Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina or Tennessee three and four years ago?

Recruiting at Vanderbilt is a whole different animal than anywhere else in the SEC. For one, the Commodores rarely go head-to-head with other SEC schools on recruits. Then there's the whole matter of finding kids who not only can get into Vanderbilt academically, but have what it takes to keep up with that curriculum and also play SEC football.

Under Bobby Johnson, the Commodores have been exceptionally good at evaluating kids who might have flown under the radar a little bit during the recruiting process. In a lot of cases, they're going into talent-rich states in the SEC region and getting players the marquee programs don't want for various reasons ... and then turning around and beating those programs with those same kids.

Some recent examples: Earl Bennett (Birmingham, Ala.), Chris Nickson (Brundidge, Ala.), D.J. Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.), Chris Williams (Glynn, La.), Broderick Stewart (Newnan, Ga.), Myron Lewis (Pompano Beach, Fla.), Reshard Langford (Tanner, Ala.) and Marcus Buggs (Madison, Tenn.).

This year's Vanderbilt class was highlighted by three running back prospects -- Warren Norman (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Zac Stacy (Centreville, Ala.) and Wesley Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.). The Commodores also landed Parade All-America quarterback Charlie Goro (Park Ridge, Ill.).

Here are some of Johnson's overall thoughts on the class. The Commodores have 18 starters returning next season:

"We felt like certain needs were met. Of course we always talk about that, but defensive backs, offensive linemen and running backs were high priorities for us. We feel like we addressed those positions. Offensive line was especially important. We were also able to get some high quality talent in just about every position, so we feel good about it."

On the impact of the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl win:

"I think it's probably going to help us more this (next) year than it did this year. We had probably about 12 commitments almost halfway through the season, almost the first part of the season. I think the bowl victory helped us finish off this class and keep them interested in Vanderbilt and wanting to come to Vanderbilt. But I think the biggest push we'll get out of that bowl victory is when we start recruiting this year's juniors and hopefully help us get them on campus this spring and maybe get them to commit earlier to our program this coming season."