Vanderbilt football signs 19 players to kick off coach Clark Lea's tenure
Lea mostly held together recruits who committed to Derek Mason, who was fired on Nov. 29, while also finishing his tenure as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish will play Clemson in the ACC title game on Saturday.
Lea, a former Vanderbilt walk-on player, must replenish the roster after a flurry of players transferred over the past year. Vanderbilt landed 19 signees on Wednesday, in addition Temple transfer running back Re'Mahn Davis and West Virginia transfer offensive tackle Junior Uzebu.
Here are Vanderbilt's signees in the 2021 class:
DT Tyler Bence (6-3, 280)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 72 DT
Commit date: Feb. 1
Twitter handle: @tylerbence44
The final word: Vanderbilt’s first commitment of the class, Bence chose the Commodores over offers from South Florida, Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and others. He had 11 tackles-for-loss, 7½ sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a junior in 2019. Bence will help replenish numbers on a defensive line that was very thin at the end of the season.
DT Marcus Bradley (6-3, 270)
Quince Orchard (Gaithersburg, Md.)
247 Composite: 4-star, No. 15 DT
Commit date: Nov. 27
Twitter handle: @BackfieldBandit
The final word: Bradley is the only four-star prospect of the class. He chose Vanderbilt over several offers from premier programs. In the SEC, he was offered by Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Keeping him committed was a big win for Lea, who will need young talent in the front seven of his defense. Bradley had 41 tackles and seven tackles-for-loss as a junior, but his school did not play a football season in 2020.
LB Miles Capers (6-5, 225)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 98 WDE
Commit date: Dec. 16
Twitter handle: @MilesCapers
The final word: Capers was a late addition, committing on Wednesday. Vanderbilt landed him against some strong competition, including offers from Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, UCF, Virginia and West Virginia. Capers had had 57 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in his senior season. Curiously, Vanderbilt listed him as a linebacker while 247Sports.com put him at defensive end. He could be a long, athletic outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
WR Gamarion Carter (6-2, 185)
Stephens County (Toccoa, Ga.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 294 WR
Commit date: Dec. 13
Twitter handle: @therealcarter24
The final word: Carter committed to Vanderbilt after Mason was fired and before Lea was hired, so he’s firmly pledged to playing for the Commodores. He also had offers from Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Liberty. In his career, Carter had 76 receptions for 1,588 yards and 13 TDs.
OL Delfin Xavier Castillo (6-5, 310)
Osceola (Kissimmee, Fla.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 42 OG
Commit date: July 18
Twitter handle: @DelfinCastillo_
The final word: Castillo chose the Commodores over offers from Maryland, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. One of the deciding factors was his relationship with Mason's first-year Vanderbilt offensive line coach Pete Rossomando, who recruited Castillo at Rutgers. Castillo projects as an offensive tackle. He anchored an explosive offense at Osceola, which will play in the Florida state title game on Saturday.
OL Gunnar Hansen (6-5, 310)
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 74 OG
Commit date: Aug. 19
Twitter handle: @GunnarHansenn
The final word: Hansen is one of three signees in Vanderbilt's class from St. Thomas Aquinas, which will play in the Florida state title game on Saturday. Hansen is one of three offensive linemen at St. Thomas Aquinas signing with FBS programs this week. Six players from that school already are on the Commodores' roster. Hansen could play guard or tackle at Vanderbilt. He also had offers from Toledo and UNLV.
CB John Howse IV (6-1, 185)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 66 CB
Commit date: Sept. 29
Twitter handle: @johnhowse4
The final word: Howse was a key commitment from Vanderbilt's backyard. He has good ball skills and continues a string of talented Midstate defensive backs coming to Vanderbilt, including Joejuan Williams, Donovan Sheffield and others. Howse is ranked the No. 19 prospect in Tennessee for the class of 2021. He had 24 tackles, four interceptions, three pass breakups and one sack this season. He chose the Commodores over offers from Boston College, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi State and Nebraska.
RECRUIT PROFILE:John Howse IV, a Brentwood shutdown corner, among Dandy Dozen
DE Jacques Hunter (6-4, 225)
Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 83 SDE
Commit date: Aug. 13
Twitter handle: @JacquesHunter1
The final word: Hunter is the nephew of former Vanderbilt linebacker Funtaine Hunter (2002-06). In his career, he has 103 tackles, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Hunter, an all-state selection, played in the Georgia state title game last season. Lowndes will play in the semifinal on Friday. Hunter's size may put him at outside linebacker in some sets, but he projects long-term as a defensive end. He chose Vanderbilt over Ole Miss, South Carolina, Cincinnati and others.
OL Jake Ketscheck (6-4, 310)
St. Augustine Prep (Richland, N.J.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 119 OT
Commit date: March 10
Twitter handle: @JakeKetscheck
The final word: Ketschek was recruited by Derek Mason's first-year offensive line coach Pete Rossomando, who initially made him an offer at Rutgers. Ketschek also received offers from Kent State, UMass and Temple. He projects as an offensive tackle at Vanderbilt. Ketscheck was an all-state selection in 2019 but missed the last month of his senior season with a knee injury.
DT Devin Lee (6-3, 275)
Ola (McDonough, Ga.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 50 DT
Commit date: Dec. 16
Twitter handle: @devlee03
The final word: Lee was a late addition to class, committing on Wednesday. He chose Vanderbilt among at least 34 offers, including Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Duke, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Illinois, Kansas State, Arizona State and others. Lee was a very disruptive defender at Ola with 42 tackles-for-loss and 29 sacks in his career.
WR Ezra McAllister (6-0, 175)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 132 ATH
Commit date: June 2
Twitter handle: @ezra_mcallister
The final word: McAllister is a versatile player. As a wide receiver, he had 56 catches, 712 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior in 2019. He had 1,217 all-purpose yards while spending some time at running back. At safety, McAllister recorded 43 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception. He committed to Vanderbilt over Air Force, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Harvard, Navy, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
OL Gage Pitchford (6-6, 295)
East Coweta (Sharpsburg, Ga.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 122 OT
Commit date: June 28
Twitter handle: @gagecp
The final word: Pitchford projects as an offensive tackle at Vanderbilt, which has touted some large linemen on the outside. He chose the Commodores over offers from Mississippi State, Air Force, Arizona State, Buffalo, Kansas, Middle Tennessee State and others. His big frame is a big plus, and the depleted offensive line may give him an opportunity to play sooner than later.
CB Tyson Russell (5-11, 175)
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 113 CB
Commit date: May 9
Twitter handle: @tysonrussell__
The final word: Vanderbilt went back to a favorite recruiting source at St. Thomas Aquinas, the 2019 7A state champion in Florida. The Commodores have six players from that school on their current roster and three commitments in this class. Russell had three interceptions as a junior in 2019. And he will play in a 2020 state title game on Saturday. His father, Twan Russell, was an all-conference linebacker at Miami, and he played for the Redskins, Dolphins and Falcons in the NFL. Russell chose Vanderbilt over offers from Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and others.
CB Marlen Sewell (6-1, 180)
Shades Valley (Birmingham, Ala.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 125 CB
Commit date: Nov. 30
Twitter handle: @MarlenSewell
The final word: Sewell committed to Vanderbilt on Nov. 30, one day after Mason was fired. He chose the Commodores over offers from Duke, Kansas, Maryland, Texas Tech and others. Sewell told 247Sports that he planned to sign with Vanderbilt regardless of the coaching situation because of its high academic standards and proximity to home. It was also his only SEC offer.
WR Quincy Skinner (6-1, 185)
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 79 WR
Commit date: Nov. 3
Twitter handle: @QuincySkinnerJr
The final word: Skinner committed to Vanderbilt over offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Minnesota, North Carolina State, Purdue and others. He comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, where Vanderbilt has six current players and three commitments in this class. He will play in the Florida Class 7A state title game on Saturday.
DT Terion Sugick (6-2, 305)
National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Md.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 53 DT
Commit date: April 20
Twitter handle: @TankCertifiedd
The final word: Sugick’s nickname, “Tank,” is well-earned as a powerful 6-2, 305-pounder. He should find a role as a run-stopper. Sugick decommitted from Virginia in December 2019 and then chose Vanderbilt over North Carolina State and Wake Forest.
ILB Errington Truesdell (6-1, 215)
Woodward Academy (Atlanta)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 101 ILB
Commit date: Nov. 15
Twitter handle: @ErriTheTruth
The final word: Truesdell is one of two commitments in this class from Woodward Academy near Atlanta, where Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Mike Wright played. And as an inside linebacker, Truesdell will get a direct evaluation from Lea, who’s coached linebackers throughout his career. Truesdell chose the Commodores over offers from a long list of mid-major schools. He racked up more than 300 tackles in his high school career, finishing his senior season with 107 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks and three interceptions.
DB Alan Wright (5-11, 180)
Woodward Academy (Fayetteville)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 122 S
Commit date: June 3
Twitter handle: @alanmwright2021
The final word: Wright, nicknamed “Taco,” is the younger brother of Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Mike Wright. He chose Vanderbilt over offers from Air Force, East Carolina, Maryland, Memphis and Tulane. Wright is a versatile defensive back who could play safety, cornerback or nickelback. As a senior, he made 30 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, nine pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions, including one returned for a TD.
DB James Ziglor (5-11, 185)
Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.)
247 Composite: 3-star, No. 176 WR
Commit date: Aug. 12
Twitter handle: @jameszigloriii
The final word: Ziglor played wide receiver and cornerback at Harrison, which won a Georgia state title in 2019. He projects as either a cornerback or safety at Vanderbilt. In the past two seasons, Ziglor amassed 2,347 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns on offense and 65 tackles on defense. He chose the Commodores over Kentucky, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Central Florida, Indiana, Boston College and others.
Reach Adam Sparks at email@example.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.
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