New Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has landed a (we assume) fair-and-square commitment from Tucker High School defensive end Josh Dawson, a four-star Scout.com recruit courted by Georgia and Notre Dame. It's already the eighth commitment Franklin has secured for 2012, seven of which are from the Peach State.
Yeah, seriously. We had no idea they could do that either. Check for newly-leased helicopters in high school parking lots come fall.
So - that's recruiting upstart Vanderbilt, defending division champion South Carolina, a rudderless re-rebuilding Tennessee, a Bulldog running Florida and general malaise running the Bulldogs - your "SEC East End of Days" bingo card is just a Kentucky Cotton Bowl away.
Franklin placed the 'Dores 46th nationally on the Scout rankings this year, continuing a climbing trend for Vandy even with a regime change (after ranking 87th in 2007, they've climbed annually - 74th, 72nd, and 54th in 2010). So could Franklin really be creating the answer to every national sportswriter's helicopter profiling of college football recruiting as "dirty?" Certainly an eventual Vanderbilt bowl run built by strong classes housed entirely inside a "scholastically focused" model of student athletics created by none other than "He don't fire me, Bro" Gordon Gee would provide us all at least a half-assed rebuttal to such claims.
Rigorous academic standards AND on-field success? MY, THIS CAKE IS DELICIOUS! Maybe, but maybe Vanderbilt has finally begun to simply operate at a level they've been capable of this entire time. The 'Dores long-overused defense of poor seasons because of "academic standards" holds no water when fellow BCS nerds Northwestern and Baylor have found ways to win consistently. And that Stanford school is pretty hard to get into, too.
And lest we forget to snuggle up with that wet blanket of perspective: They're still recruiting rankings. We picked Scout's system at random, because the metrics of evaluating high school talent are equally inane across the spectrum. And if Franklin's pushing Vandy into the heat of the recruiting wars, it's fair game to assume that Dawson and his Georgia co-commits could and likely will waffle and/or change their pledge. That's right: No fair succeeding in November without sharing the hell of February like the rest of us.