Simply put, one bowl victory just won’t do for James Franklin.
“This is a significant day in Vanderbilt football history,” he said on Wednesday morning after receiving his National Signing Day commitments. “This signing class is further proof that Vanderbilt has arrived and intends to compete at the highest levels of college football. I’m incredibly happy to inform Commodore Nation that the future of Vanderbilt football is right now — and it’s brighter than ever.”
At the end of Franklin’s third signing day in Nashville, the Commodores received 26 official commitments along with the No. 22 class in the nation, Vanderbilt’s highest ranking in history. In the 2013 class, 13 players come in on offense, 12 join the defense and one kicking specialist boosts special teams. Of the 26 players, 17 earned four-star rankings from at least one national recruiting service.
“Overall, I think we’ve really helped ourselves from a talent perspective. I think we’ve really helped ourselves from a depth perspective,” Franklin said. “I could go through this (list) individually, but I think by far we keep raising the bar in terms of what we’re trying to do in recruiting.”
Later in the day, at the school’s Signing Day celebration, Franklin introduced the entire class by showcasing their high school highlight reels.
Leading the 2013 recruiting class for the Commodores are wide receiver Jordan Cunningham, quarterback Johnathon McCrary and defensive tackle Jay Woods.
At 6 feet 1 inch, 175 pounds, Jordan Cunningham, who received offers from schools such as Miami and Stanford, was one of the most sought-after wideouts in all of Florida. Cunningham brings Vanderbilt a serious deep-ball threat along with the ability to catch balls over the middle of the field. The Fort Lauderdale native also helped put the Commodores in the national spotlight by announcing his commitment on ESPNU.
“What you saw with Jordan Cunningham was a really, really good example of him getting up there on national television and how he handled himself, how he presented the information about why he made the decision,” Franklin said. “He talked about his 50-year plan, he talked about getting a degree in engineering, he talked about being an entrepreneur, he talked about making a decision from an academic perspective. And that’s really what we’re trying to do.”
A popular target of the Commodores since the end of Franklin’s first season, McCrary gives Vanderbilt a steady pocket-passer with a rocket arm. Listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 200 pounds, McCrary also has the size and speed to scramble when the situation calls for it.
“Johnny McCrary, when he committed to us, was one of the top quarterbacks in the country,” Franklin said. “We still feel that way.”
On the defensive side, Jay Woods is arguably the Commodores’ most exciting recruit. Considered to be one of the nation’s best defensive tackles, Woods is a walking wrecking ball at 6 feet 2 inches, 280 pounds. Already possessing an SEC-ready body, Woods has the opportunity to make an immediate impact in Nashville.
“He (Woods) looks like guys that are playing in this league right now,” Franklin said. “He’s got tremendous work ethic, he’s got an unbelievable attitude. Every time we would go visit him at the school, he would have Vanderbilt from head to toe. He’s been one of our more vocal supporters through Twitter and Facebook and everything else.”
Yet, Franklin was not all business when discussing his new signees. With his best recruiting class to date finally inked, the Commodore head coach plans to celebrate the moment.
“I can tell you what, we’re going to go out tonight, and we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” a smiling Franklin said. “Please don’t take any pictures or video because we’re going to get after it now.”
But make no mistake about it. After the Signing Day celebration and the rest of the week off, it’s back to square one.
“We’ve got to start to create the 2013 team, which has not been to a bowl game, which doesn’t have the longest winning streak in the country,” Franklin said. “This 2013 team hasn’t done anything. We’ve gotta build from the ground up just like we’ve done here in the past.”