"We're excited about the team we're bringing in here," said Johnson. "I'm confident, more confident than I've ever been, that we're going to be able to compete in this league in football."
Johnson's signing class included two players from the Midstate, (Marcus Buggs of Goodpasture Christian and Stephon Johnson of Marshall County), as well as players from as far away as Massachusetts and Utah. The class was especially heavy on defensive backs and offensive linemen, two key rebuilding needs for the 2003 season. The class included six offensive linemen, all 6-4 or taller, and five defensive backs.
Perhaps the class's two most highly touted signees were the two who were the first to commit: Marcus Dixon, a defensive lineman from Lindale, Ga., and Jonathan Loyte, a tight end from Gloucester, Mass. Both players remained committed to Vanderbilt despite numerous other offers, said Johnson.
The Commodores entered the day hoping to sign a total of 22 high school prospects. The only surprise occurred when Evandall Williams, a linebacker from Havana, Fla., signed with Central Florida. Williams was originally a UCF commit, but reportedly switched his commitment to Vanderbilt earlier in the week.
Vanderbilt also lost out on the services of Andre Fluellen, a defensive lineman from Cartersville, Ga., who had narrowed his choices to Vanderbilt and Florida State before announcing for Florida State late Tuesday.
But Johnson did also announce the signing of Bill Alford, a transfer from Middle Georgia Junior College who is already enrolled in school and expected to participate in spring practice. Alford is Vanderbilt-s first junior college transfer since 1994, but Johnson was quick to point out that Alford is not your average junior college transfer.
"Bill made close to 1200 on his SAT," said Johnson. "He was injured his senior year, and ended up not playing a lot. He went to junior college to hone his skills, not his academics. We saw some film on him from both high school and junior college.
"Our receivers work against our defensive backs just about every Wednesday. They say he's doing a good job. I think he'll be a valuable member of our secondary."
One signee, Tom Sorensen, will not report until January, 2004. Sorensen, who is Mormon, plans to enroll for one semester before embarking on a two-year LDS mission. He would then have four years of eligibility left after returning in 2006.
The list of Wednesday's signees as released by Vanderbilt's media relations department is as follows:
Bill Alford DB 5-9 175 Brunswick, Ga. Brunswick HS/Middle Ga. College
Nick Brigham TE 6-4 238 Leesville, S.C. Batesburg-Leesville HS
Marcus Buggs DB 5-11 200 Madison, Tenn. Goodpasture Christian HS
Antron Dillon DE 6-5 217 Independence, La. Independence HS
Marcus Dixon DE 6-6 250 Lindale, Ga. Pepperell HS
Sean Dixon DB 6-0 170 Tampa, Fla. Chamberlain HS
Josh Eames OL 6-4 280 North Cape May, N.J. Lower Cape May HS
Curtis Gatewood LB 6-4 215 Memphis, Tenn. White Station HS
Jonathan Goff LB 6-3 215 Stoneham, Mass. St. John's Preparatory School
Elliot Hood OL 6-6 265 Indianapolis, Ind. Franklin Central HS
Greg Jacobs DL 6-3 255 Midlothian, Va. Fork Union Military Academy
Stephon Johnson WR/DB 6-4 190 Lewisburg, Tenn. Marshall County HS
Merritt Kirchoffer OL 6-5 280 Roswell, Ga. Roswell HS
Jonathan Loyte TE 6-6 250 Gloucester, Mass. St. John's Preparatory School
Darnell Martemus DB 5-11 192 Cleveland, Ohio St. Ignatius HS
Lance Parker QB 6-2 185 Bryant, Ark. Bryant HS
George Smith WR 6-3 195 Hollywood, Fla. Hollywood Hills HS
Tom Sorensen OL 6-4 290 Sandy, Utah Brighton HS
Brian Stamper OL 6-5 265 Windermere, Fla. Lake Highland Prep
Khalil Sutton DB 5-11 180 College Park, Ga. Westlake HS
Marlon White WR 6-4 185 Macon, Ga. Macon Westside HS
Chris Williams OL 6-6 260 Glynn, La. Catholic HS