The Vanderbilt Commodores are trying to build some momentum this season, but that’s momentum that Derek Mason and his team are still trying to find on the recruiting trail as well.
Recruiting at Vanderbilt is tough.
Grade requirements are high, and that’s not even considering the fact that the Commodores have to recruit in the SEC. With schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, and the like all hogging both limelight and real estate in SEC country, Vanderbilt usually has an uphill battle to face on the recruiting trail. Speaking of real estate, just about ever other major college football program in the country is always trying to get a foothold in SEC territory, so for a school like Vanderbilt, sometimes the pickings can be slim.
Yes, recruiting at Vandy can be tough.
In fact, when James Franklin was head coach he gained national recognition for both his ability as a recruiter and the fact that he led the Commodores to a few good seasons in a row. They weren’t elite seasons — he went 7-6 followed by two 9-4 seasons — but they were simply good.
And if that doesn’t highlight Vanderbilt’s struggles, nothing will.
When a coach relatively succeeded at Vandy on the recruiting trail and on the field, the nation took notice, and that led to a step up to another “bigger” and “better” program. Franklin was the perfect example of how good-to-great coaches use “middle of the pack” schools like Vanderbilt to move up the ranks.
Franklin is now leading Penn State into the Top 25, while Mason is 11-21 in three seasons.
That doesn’t mean Vanderbilt has to be inept on the recruiting trial, though, because Franklin proved that success is attainable in Nashville. He also proved that good recruiting decisions can lead to good results on the field of play, so there is hope for the Commodores.
Getting there is easier said than done, but there still is hope. And that’s because Mason has picked up a few very interesting recruits.
Chief among them in Vanderbilt’s 2017 class is three-star outside linebacker Dimitri Moore, who’s the Commodores’ top-rated recruit.
Moore is from Cedar Hill, Texas (Cedar Hill High), and if you know anything about high school football in Texas, then you know that Vanderbilt is getting a quality player in the 6-foot-3, 205-pound backer.
According to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite, he’s the No. 41 outside linebacker nationally and the No. 85 player from the Longhorn State. It’s worth noting that the 247Sports-only rankings are a bit higher on him, though, slotting him at No. 37 nationally at outside linebacker and No. 68 in Texas.
No matter which rankings you trust, the fact of the matter is that Moore does have some nice potential for Vanderbilt.
Keep in mind that the outside linebacker category is usually very deep, and that once again is the case this cycle. There are two five-stars on top of the group, Alabama commit Dylan Moses and undecided recruit Baron Browning, but overall there are nearly 230 players ranked at the position this cycle — 229 to be exact. Of those 229, 17 are ranked as four-star recruits and there’s obviously the two five-stars.
In terms of three-stars, there are plenty of them, but Moore is in the upper echelon of that group.
And if the rankings don’t prove his potential, his offer list certainly will. Notably, Moore committed to Vanderbilt over Arkansas, Cal, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports. In all, he has 22 offers. Kansas State, Arizona State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Nevada, SMU, Texas Tech and Tulane had also offered. Baylor and Texas A&M were two big-time schools mentioned on his interest list.
So it’s rather obvious that Moore had somewhat of a national recruiting brand before committing to Vanderbilt, a decision he made recently, on Oct. 27. It’s also obvious when watching his film that he brings a lot to the table for the Commodores.
He’s a tall, lanky athlete with long strides — perfect for what defenses are looking for in an outside linebacker. He covers a lot of ground quickly and will be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks because of his length. He’ll be able to get his hands into passing lanes, but he also has a bit more reach on him than the average linebacker, which will help him wrap up for sacks or open-field tackles.
Though it’s really easy to project Moore out on the edge making plays with his length and athleticism, he’s not just a pure open-space defender. He can play tough and fight through the wash and he does get physical with ball-carriers. In fact, he’s tough enough that his high school head coach, Joey McGuire, told Wiltfong of 247Sports that he could see Moore playing inside linebacker with a few changes.
“I like him at outside but if he goes to college and puts on 30 pounds, which he could very easily, he could be really good inside,” McGuire said. “He’s a very intelligent, instinctual football player. You love coaching those guys because you can coach them at a higher level.”
Whether it’s inside or outside, there’s a reason Moore is Vanderbilt’s highest-ranked 2017 recruit. He has potential as big as his wing-span, and that has got to be scary news for future SEC quarterbacks and running backs looking ahead at Vandy on the schedule.