Recruiting Rankings: Vanderbilt Finds The Right Tune

Tim Corbin (Photo by Bill Mitchell).
Tim Corbin (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

SEE ALSO: Recruiting Rankings: Top 25 ($)

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin stayed true to Nashville's musical roots to describe his coaching staff's division of labor on recruiting.

While Corbin is a significant part of the process, the bulk of the responsibility for putting the class of newcomers together each year lies with Travis Jewett, the Commodores recruiting coordinator, and pitching coach Scott Brown.
“They're the songwriters," Corbin said. “I'm probably the guy that sings the song, but I didn't write it. So give them credit."

TOP 25 RECRUITING CLASSES
1. Vanderbilt
2. Florida
3. UCLA
4. Georgia Tech
5. Mississippi State
6. Florida State
7. Texas Christian
8. South Florida
9. Louisiana State
10. Louisville
11. Virginia
12. Oregon State
13. Oklahoma
14. South Carolina
15. Washington
16. North Carolina
17. Arizona State
18. Texas
19. Ole Miss
20. Louisiana-Lafayette
21. Stanford
22. Maryland
23. Clemson
24. Cal
25. Wichita State

Jewett and Brown, both entering their fourth seasons at Vanderbilt, cranked out another hit for Corbin this year. With a 13-man recruiting class that includes righthander Donny Everett, the highest-ranked high school player from Baseball America's predraft player rankings to make it to college, and seven other players from the BA 500, Vanderbilt tops this year's recruiting rankings. It is the fourth time the Commodores have led the rankings during a record 11-year streak of Top 25 classes.

Vanderbilt had competition at the top of the rankings, however. Florida brought in six players from the BA 500. Out west, UCLA shepherded two potential aces to campus, as both lefthander Justin Hooper and righthander Kyle Molnar upheld their commitments. Georgia Tech landed its first top-five class in a decade, and Mississippi State hauled in a 22-man class with both elite talent and solid depth.

It was the unexpected arrival of two righthanders in Gainesville that pushed the Gators' class near the top of the rankings. Brady Singer, the Blue Jays' second-round pick, was the highest-drafted high school player to get to campus after he was unable to reach an agreement with Toronto. Jackson Kowar was originally committed to Clemson, but changed his mind after longtime coach Jack Leggett was fired in June.

The North Carolina native eventually settled on Florida.

Coach Kevin O'Sullivan is pleased with the incoming class that joins what was already one of the nation's most talented rosters.

“It's a well-rounded class," he said. “It's got some high-end pitchers we were fortunate to get, got some bullpen pieces and position players that are baseball players. It's one thing to get the talent to play at this level, but you need some baseball IQ and some moxie to play at this level."

All of the top classes needed a bit of luck to overcome serious defections during the draft. Singer and Kowar provided Florida a late boost and helped make up for the loss of four commits to pro ball, including No. 5 overall pick Kyle Tucker. Vanderbilt took some draft hits of its own, watching three of its commits get picked (and sign) on the first day of the draft. Two more signed well above-slot deals in later rounds.

Such losses are expected for programs that recruit elite talents. Corbin said Vanderbilt has to put those losses behind them and focus on the players that made it to school.

“We know we lost a few guys, but that becomes a non-issue once you get your kids on campus," he said. “You start looking forward and thinking about what you have and how they're going to grow inside your program. We're certainly happy they're here."

The losses were made easier by which players did end up in school. But with so much going on in the summer months, including working on future recruiting classes, Jewett said it wasn't until he was able to see the freshmen on a daily basis that he could appreciate the quality of the group.

“When it's all flying on us, you don't really have time to put it in perspective," he said.

Beyond the recruits' substantial physical tools, the Commodores coaching staff said they were pleased with the way the newcomers are meshing with the returning players. They said the freshmen have been an unassuming group, despite the many accolades they garnered during their high school careers.

“There's not a lot of pomp and circumstance, not a lot of noise with them, not a lot of talk with them," Corbin said. “They're really paying attention to the older kids. They're watching, they're asking questions when needed, but they're not leaving their nest so to speak. They're just very quietly emerging and trying to integrate themselves into the team and really that's all we want them to do."

Eventually, more will be asked of Vanderbilt's freshmen, and all the recruits across the country. How well they perform on the field will shape their programs for years to come and determine which ones pique the interest of pro scouts.
But, for now, Corbin will sing the praises of his “songwriters," Jewett and Brown.

“They take such a special interest in trying to learn the kids and get to know them and spend so many hours with them prior to getting them on campus," Corbin said. “I think it has everything to do with why these kids, A, are here, and B, why they're able to blend in so well. So those guys are highly responsible for this."

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