Tag Archives: Vanderbilt Commodores

In SEC recruiting game, focus of most teams starts in own backyard

A national view of SEC recruiting midpoints. See the maps below for zoomed-in versions.

A national view of SEC recruiting midpoints. See the maps below for zoomed-in versions.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Most SEC schools keep their focus close to home when signing recruits. That’s why the number of top prospects nearby is such an accurate predictor of a team’s success.

Consider this map a sneak peek of a story I’m working on for later in the month. I charted the high school of each recruit signed by an SEC school to produce the “geographic midpoint” for each team and the league as a whole.

(Yes, you know my obsession with geographic midpoints.)

The results weren’t that startling.

Collectively, the midpoint of every SEC prospect signed in 2014 was near Fayette, Ala., only about 45 miles south of the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses in Haleyville, Ala.

Only three teams travel a great distance from their home base, and I bet you could have guessed them before I charted this map: Missouri, Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt added a handful of California prospects, which pushed its midpoint west.

Vanderbilt added a handful of California prospects, which pushed its midpoint west.

Vanderbilt was much more pronounced because new coach Derek Mason added some California recruits and lost some in-state signees.

Although the Vols continue to recruit nationally, the midpoint of the class hasn't been this close to Knoxville in years.

Although the Vols continue to recruit nationally, the midpoint of the class hasn’t been this close to Knoxville in years.

What about the Vols? As we’ve written before, Tennessee has moved north under coach Butch Jones, but the new midpoint is in line with the SEC average. (That little pink line on the map points to the “expected midpoint” for each team based on the SEC average).

What schools are outliers, compared to the rest of the league?

Obviously Arkansas, Missouri and Vandy have to recruit nationally out of necessity. Both Arkansas and Missouri recruit aggressively in south Florida, which pushes their midpoint south and east.

Texas A&M and LSU, generally, stick to their own fertile territories without spending too much time fighting others in Atlanta or Florida. That’s reflected in their midpoints.

Alabama recruits nationally despite its talent-rich state, and prospects from Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota helped push the Tide’s midpoint north this year.

The green map marker circled in white is Fayette, Ala., the geographic midpoint of every SEC recruit signed in 2014. That's only 45 miles southwest of Haleyville, Ala., (the green circle), which is the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses.

The green map marker circled in white is Fayette, Ala., the geographic midpoint of every SEC recruit signed in 2014. That’s only 45 miles southwest of Haleyville, Ala., (the green circle), which is the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses.

Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have nearby midpoints. The Bulldogs’ midpoint is in Macon, Miss., which is just 38 miles from Starkville.

I thought this was interesting: Florida and Georgia have very similar recruiting midpoints. The Gators did have plenty of south Florida recruits, but their 2014 class had much more of a national flavor than you might expect. Recruits from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Wyoming pushed the midpoint north and west.

Georgia, meanwhile, had a smaller class (after signing more than 30 last year) and had a strong south Florida presence. (You’ll recall that Tennessee didn’t sign a south Florida prospect for the first time in five years).

What does all this mean?

* Even for a conference in the southeast corner of the United States, most teams still push even further south.

* Texas A&M and Missouri have expanded the geographic boundaries of the conference, but the Aggies rule Texas and don’t have to venture far from there.

* Next to Texas A&M, LSU has the strongest commitment to owning its home base.

* Even teams with strong local bases have a balanced national recruiting strategy.

* If you cover recruiting in the southeast, you should buy a house in Fayette, Ala.

Any other stuff I missed? Let me know.

Former Vandy commit Michael Sawyers, planning trip to Knoxville, could be last ‘free agent’ on Vols’ board

Michael Sawyers of Ensworth High (photo by 247Sports, a News Sentinel partner)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers is one of a dozen Vanderbilt verbal commitments who have jumped ship since the departure of coach James Franklin to Penn State.

He might also be the last free agent that Tennessee is pursuing in the final stretch before National Signing Day.

Sawyers visited Ole Miss last weekend and most prognosticators on the 247Sports Crystal Ball expect him to sign with the Rebels. The Vols, however, have kept in contact and Sawyer is expected in Knoxville this weekend.


As Barton Simmons noted on today’s #GVXAudio podcast, Sawyers would be able to connect with many other in-state friends in the Vols’ current class. But Simmons also said that Sawyers has always been one to do things his own way and not necessarily follow the crowd.

Simmons also raised another question: Just how much room do the Vols have? Sawyers would be No. 35 in the class, and while the Vols should be able to sign that many, finding scholarships for all of them this summer will be more of a challenge. So does the pursuit of Sawyers indicate a defensive lineman could be de-committing? Dewayne Hendrix now seems securely in the fold. But what about Cory Thomas?

Butch Jones uses radio show to speak out on critical replay call in Vanderbilt game

Butch Jones watches quarterback Joshua Dobbs throw in practice last week (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt last Saturday, Vols coach Butch Jones told reporters he didn’t want to talk about the officials.

On Wednesday night*, Jones did just that.

On the pre-Thanksgiving edition of Vol Calls, Jones needed little prodding from host Bob Kesling to address the controversial fourth-and-1 play at the end of Tennessee’s 14-10 loss. Officials on the field spotted the ball short of a first down, but Vanderbilt was awarded the first down after a review. Two plays later, Vandy scored the game-winning touchdown.

Jones’ objection was that in the jumble of players, it was impossible to see the ball and thus the replay couldn’t have met the high standard needed to overturn the call.

“The definition says indisputable video evidence,” Jones said to Kesling. “To answer your question, I could not see the football.”

Jones was careful not to be critical of officials. He said UT and other schools routinely submit game video to the league office with questions or comments, and this week was no different. He said, in general, he thinks officials do a great job.

* Yes, this story is a day old, but I figured no one would read it yesterday, anyway. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. 

Hourly forecast for Tennessee-Vanderbilt game (Hint: cold, but no rain)

Neyland Stadium last week (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It’s sunny and pleasant right now, but temperatures should start to drop dramatically as the sun goes down and the wind picks up.

Here’s the hourly forecast courtesy of The Weather Channel.

5:23 p.m. — sunset, 47 degrees, feels like 43

7 p.m. — kickoff, 43 degrees, feels like 38

8 p.m. — 41 degrees, feels like 35

9 p.m. — 40 degrees, feels like 33

10 p.m. — 38 degrees, feels like 31

11 p.m. — 37 degrees, feels like 29

The wind will be consistently northwest at 9-11 mph. There is no chance of rain until late in the game and even then, it’s only 10 percent.

About 96,000 tickets sold for Tennessee-Vanderbilt game at Neyland Stadium

Neyland Stadium two weeks ago against Auburn (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — About 6,000 tickets remain for Tennessee’s game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, UT said on Thursday.

UT has sold about 96,000 tickets, including tickets claimed by students. The capacity of Neyland Stadium is 102,455.

The Vols (4-6, 1-5 SEC) play Vandy (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.) in the final home game of the regular season.

UT has essentially sold out of the discounted flex tickets in the upper end zones, according to a check of the UT ticket website. The face-value price for game tickets is $55.

Vandy’s James Franklin says there’s no ‘hate’ between coaches: ‘I like Butch’

Butch Jones speaks at a post-practice press conference (Photo by Evan Woodbery)

Butch Jones speaks at a post-practice press conference (Photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said the budding rivalry between his team and Tennessee in football hasn’t created tension among the coaching staffs, despite what many fans believe.

“There’s respect toward their staff. There’s respect toward their team, the history and traditions,” Franklin said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday.

As for the perception of a chilliness between Franklin and Tennessee coach Butch Jones?

“I like Butch. I know Butch,” Franklin said. “I know the fans on both teams get all worked up and think there’s hate, but there really isn’t.”

Jones said much the same on Monday. Jones and Franklin met, and seemingly got along well, when Vanderbilt played the Jones-coached Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2010 Liberty Bowl.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Franklin and what he has done at Vanderbilt,” Jones said.

Vandy QB on Jordan Matthews: ‘His strengths are endless’ (video)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt senior receiver Jordan Matthews is nearing the end of a remarkable career.

The Madison, Ala., native will go down as one of the best receivers in Vanderbilt history and many are bullish on his future in the NFL, as well.

He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the second season in a row with a 12-catch, 141-yard performance last week against Kentucky.

To say that he’s quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels‘ favorite target might be an understatement. They connect so often it sometimes seems like he’s the only target.

“I don’t see any weaknesses,” Carta-Samuels said. “His game is so complete. I see his speed, he’s got an unbelievable football IQ. His brain is unbelievable. He does a great job off the line of scrimmage. There’s not a knock on him. His strengths are endless to me.”

The Vols (4-6, 1-5 SEC) play Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.)

Watch the rest of the Vandy player interviews (including a steady stream of clichés about how the Tennessee game is just the next game on the schedule) in the video above.

In early offshore lines, Tennessee a 3-point favorite over Vanderbilt

We’re waiting for Vegas books to weigh in, but Tennessee (4-6, 1-5 SEC) has opened offshore up as a 3-point favorite against Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4). The teams meet Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.)

The line means the game would essentially be even on a neutral site. We’ll see if the numbers change when Vegas opens a line later today.

When home-field advantage is factored in, Tennessee is a 2.5-point underdog in the newly updated Sagarin predictor ratings.

Vols’ bowl chances drop to 29 percent, but 2-0 finish still possible (with video)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee Vols keep losing and its opponent keep looking tougher.

Those have been the two big reasons the Vols’ likelihood of being bowl eligible has continued to slip in each week of our projections.

After Tennessee’s third consecutive loss and Vanderbilt’s impressive win at Florida, I’m now projecting the Commodores as a 2-point favorite at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 23 based on the current Sagarin ratings. That drops the Vols’ estimated likelihood of winning to 47 percent (down from 53 percent the last time we ran the simulation.

If Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt, the final game at Kentucky on Nov. 30 won’t matter as much. I’m giving the Vols a 4-point edge based on the Sagarin ratings, although I predict the actual point spread (and the final score) will be larger. In any case, that gives UT a 62 percent chance of winning (down from 64 percent a week ago).

With only two games left, running a simulation really isn’t necessary. We can quickly calculate the odds of going 2-0 (29.1 percent), 0-2 (20.1 percent) and 1-1 (50.8 percent).

We ran the simulation about 1,000 times and it was, in fact, very close to those numbers. (The longer I run the simulation, the more it should approach the numbers above).

Simulated results of UT's season, updated Nov. 10, 2013

The Vols’ likelihood of making a bowl has continued to drop since we started these projections.

Infographic  UT's bowl chances over time

Later in the week, we’ll take a look at where Tennessee might end up if the Vols reach .500. I’ll update last week’s bowl projections to reflect recent games and change some bowl estimates that people complained about (like Mizzou to the Sugar).