The Year of the Lineman

The verbal commitment from Ohioan Kyle Ralph started the summer off with a bang. Ralph's good buddy, and fellow Cincinnati native Ricky Brown committed as well, but it was Ralph's decision that stopped the presses.

By now, everybody knows about the 6-4 ½ 277-pounder who spurned offers from the homestate Buckeyes, the likes of Tennessee, South Carolina, Northwestern, and Boston College, and growing interest from such national powers as Nebraska, Georgia, and Notre Dame. No commitment is binding, but if (when) he signs with Vanderbilt in February, Ralph will be the biggest "name" lineman prospect to head to The Music City in close to ten years, when Gerry DiNardo signed "national" recruits Owen "Tank" Neil, Trey Crusan, and Trey Champagne.

And it's a good thing Ralph is coming. Vanderbilt's offensive line corps will desperately need an influx of new, young talent after this coming season. Duncan Cave and Pat Green will head into life-after-football (unless an NFL future is in store) and, with a limited number of open scholarships available for this signing class, the futures of seldom-used redshirt-juniors Brent Peacher and Jordan Hill are likely up in the air. That would leave a total of nine scholarship linemen on the roster and, consequently, not much depth.

With the explosion of the internet and the ever-increasing amount of recruiting information that is available to "recruitniks" like me, it is now easier than it has ever been to follow Vanderbilt's recruiting efforts. I am already amazed at the number of prospects I've run across (see database) and, more specifically, the number of offensive linemen who are either expressing an interest in Vanderbilt or claim scholarship offers from the VU coaches. It is very obvious that recruiting offensive linemen is priority Number One.

As it looks right now, there will probably be (attrition aside) around 15 scholarships to give for the 2002 signing class. It wouldn't surprise me to see a third, or more, of those signees be offensive linemen.

In addition to Kyle Ralph, Vanderbilt has also received a commitment from 6-4, 260-pound Adam Dossett of McComb, Mississippi. Dossett will probably get a first look at center, behind Jason Tant and Jamie Byrum. The remaining spots could go to any number of the top-flight prospects out there who have been linked with Vanderbilt.

Jeff Edwards (6-7, 250) from Atlanta-Marist and Kyle Williams (6-6, 265) from Dallas-Highland Park are two highly regarded players who mention Vanderbilt prominently and are, likewise, at the top of the VU coaches' wish list. Both are outstanding students and have expressed a strong interest in their suitors' academic programs. Look for schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC to be the top competition for these top talents. Just southeast of Nashville, outside of Florence, Alabama, resides a behemoth lineman named Josh Sutton (6-5, 310). Like Edwards and Williams, Sutton is also a very good student who has VU in his top three along with Alabama and Florida. Over near Charlotte, North Carolina are two of the area's better prospects: Zach Bevilacqua (6-3, 305) and Brandon Jefferies (6-5, 260). Jefferies, in fact, is considered by some to be the top lineman in America. A little closer to home, a handful of Tennesseans have been offered scholarships by Vanderbilt and have VU high on their lists. Twins Kurt (6-4, 267) and Kyle (6-4, 282) Baggett of Obion County-Central are also looking at Arkansas, Tennessee, and Ole Miss and Memphis-Fairley's Antonio Sanders (6-5, 300) claims an offer from Memphis as well.

Other prospects to keep a close eye on are Texans Adam Wood (6-4, 270) and Jeremy Mesek (6-4, 280); Lexington, Kentucky's Frank Straub (6-5, 305); Joseph Karaska (6-6, 315) from Southfield, Michigan; Shadu Moore (6-4, 300) from Paterson, New Jersey; and Jay Kirkland (6-4, 300) from New Albany, Mississippi Top Stories