published Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Hargis: Vandy has recruiting edge on UT

Because it’s never too early to begin the hand-wringing over college football recruiting, events of the last week have sent Big Orange fans inching closer to the cliff’s edge.

When Memphis East’s Brian Kimbrow committed to Vanderbilt, it was an unmistakable shot across the bow of the University of Tennessee by new Commodores coach James Franklin. Kimbrow, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound running back, is the state’s top overall prospect and the nation’s second-rated all-purpose back according to Rivals.com.

He had offers from at least 24 other schools, including Tennessee, Notre Dame and Auburn, but when he and two three-star rated players from Nashville announced their intentions to sign with Vandy, Kimbrow first put on a UT hat, then took it off with a smile, saying, “It doesn’t fit.”

He later admitted that move was a jab at “a lot of UT fans and people at UT.”

Kimbrow is the Commodores’ first commitment from a Rivals top 100 since the list began circulating in 2002.

The combination of coaching turnover, potential NCAA penalties and embarrassing on-field performances has reduced UT to not only losing out on the best of what few SEC-caliber prospects the state turns out, but having those players believe perennial punching bag Vanderbilt offers a brighter future. And having to hear those prep players mock the program on their way to choosing the Commodores, who have had just two winning seasons in the past 30 years.

As of this morning, Franklin already has put together a list of 12 commitments, 11 of which are at least three-star recruits, while UT has three total commitments, including one that isn’t rated by Rivals. Long considered one of the top young head coaches in waiting, the 38-year old Franklin, who was Maryland’s offensive coordinator, is the first minority head coach in program history.

Among Vandy’s collection is Baylor offensive lineman Barrett Gouger (6-5, 280), who said the combination of the uncertainty surrounding UT and Franklin’s enthusiasm led him to commit in the spring. He said those factors also helped Kimbrow choose Vandy.

“Coach Franklin is just so energetic and he makes you believe that we’re not just going to be playing for bowl games, but we’ll be playing for championships,” Gouger said. “There’s such a comfortable family atmosphere at Vanderbilt now.

“When you go up there, all the coaches greet you and ask personal questions and seem genuinely interested in your life.”

Gouger added that he and other Commodores commitments are currently working on Henry County’s Andrew Jelks, a 6-6, 265-pound offensive lineman rated a four-star by Rivals with a 4.0 grade point average. Jelks is expected to pick between UT and Vanderbilt in the next few weeks.

“There are a few of us talking to him and working on selling him on the idea of joining us,” Gouger said. “I definitely think the tide is turning around, and when you consider the academics, what a great city Nashville is and the fact that you can play early in the SEC, it’s a no-brainer when you’re picking between Vanderbilt and Tennessee right now.”

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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Livn4life said...

Wow, one top recruit for Vandy, which I know is big for them, does not mean they will be hammering the Vols in future recruiting. Personally, I hope Mr. Kimbrow gets a good education and lots of playing time in Nashville. But one loss, at what is really a down time or rebuilding at best, does not exalt them to no. 1 in Tennessee in recruiting. Let's look at the next 2 to 4 years and see what Coach Franklin can do. If he wins the recruiting wars for that amount of time, kudos go to him. As for the Vols, they will be fine even if struggling for a period of time.

July 9, 2011 at 8 a.m.
Winner said...

What an insanely weak argument.

July 9, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
Salsa said...

Kimbrow better get used to the numbers "2-10".

July 9, 2011 at 3:53 p.m.
SonofGryllus said...

Really. Come February, Tennessee will have a top 25 recruiting class (limited because we only have about 18 slots) and Vandy will be somewhere out of the top 25. Gouger didn't have, and wouldn't have gotten an offer from the Vols (his only other offers were Wake Forest and Memphis). We didn't even offer Blake Bars, a kid Vandy desperately wanted but went to Michigan. Until Vandy can even put a fence around Nashville, they will remain the weakest team in the SEC. Kimbrow is a good prospect and will be a big fish in a small pond at Vandy, whereas he would have to fight for touches at UT.

July 10, 2011 at 7:56 a.m.
Gerry_DiNardo said...

"while UT has three total commitments, including one that isn’t rated by Rivals."

Stephen, I think it may be prudent to note that the "one that isn't rated by Rivals" is a 4* on ESPN and the #16 OLB in the country. A prospect that has not been rated on Rivals means that prospect hasn't been evaluated by Rivals staff, not that the prospect was found unworthy of any ranking.

Assuming that you're aware of how Rivals rankings work, you would know this. As such, I think it would be prudent to include another source that has evaluated the prospect (such as ESPN). Your failure to do this leaves the impression that the omission was intentional and the evidence inconvenient to your agenda in this piece. Does not appear too objective and thorough which is a shame for the TFP. This type of writing is more on the Tennessean's level and it is disappointing.

Perhaps you were pressed for time.

July 10, 2011 at 11:55 a.m.
SonofGryllus said...

Dinardo, Dont confuse him with the facts. The article is obviously skewed and inflammatory.

July 10, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Lane Kiffin would never let those guys go to Vandy.....Dooley asleep at the wheel.......Let's not forget, In 4 years as a head coach Dooley has NEVER beat a team that finished the season with a winning record !......dark days ahead

July 10, 2011 at 10:26 p.m.
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