Brandon Vandenburg, the nation's No. 1 junior college tight end and No. 10 prospect in the ESPN Junior College 100, committed to Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound College of the Desert (Calif.) tight end, originally out of Xavier Prep in Palm Desert, Calif., knew that this time around he wanted to position himself at a place where he could have the best chance to succeed on and off the field. During an official visit to Vanderbilt this weekend, he found it.
"Only a few schools can compete with Vandy on an academic and football level," Vandenburg said. "Out of those schools, Vanderbilt has the most stable coaching staff, which is important. No other school had the combination of those three things."
Vandenburg held offers from schools such as Arkansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Mississippi and Texas A&M. He took an official visit to Connecticut this past December and had visits scheduled to Miami and Tennessee the next two weeks. But he ended his recruiting process on Saturday night, during a meeting with Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
"It's definitely a relief to be done and over with the whole recruiting thing," Vandenburg said. "It's been fun and exciting, but I'm ready to move on and get mentally focused to come into a new program and be the starter. I have some work to do, but it's good that I can now focus on just one program."
The idea of stepping into a starting role isn't one Vandenburg created on his own. That's the plan from the Commodores coaching staff, which sees big things coming from the newly-committed tight end.
"They want me to stretch the field and be a big third-down possession receiver as well," Vandenburg said. "They have two of the top wide receivers in the country coming back, but I was kind of the missing piece. There was nobody over the middle and nobody to check it down to. The spot is wide open and it's a great opportunity to come in as a junior and be able to compete for the starting spot for a program that is on the rise."
Though Vandenburg has three years to play two seasons at Vanderbilt, the idea of using a redshirt year isn't one he is exploring at this point. He said he hopes to finish at College of the Desert as quickly as possible, in order to arrive on the Vanderbilt campus in June and get to work on learning the playbook.
"I don't just want to be a starter," Vandenburg said. "I want to be an impact player."
Fitting in with the offensive personnel once he arrives shouldn't be a problem. Vandenburg was hosted on his trip by presumptive starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, and the two spent plenty of time with the aforementioned wide receiver tandem of Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews.
The ability to play in the SEC was also a lure to Vandenburg, who is excited to get started on the next chapter in his career.
"There aren't too many schools where you can play at the highest level of college football and compete at a high level in the classroom," he said. "I wanted the best of both worlds and I feel like I got it."
Vandenburg is commitment No. 23 for Vanderbilt and is now the Commodores' highest-ranked recruit in the 2013 class.