NASHVILLE, Tenn. – New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason compares landing his first recruiting class to a 2-minute drill, and he certainly showed he can finish with a flourish.
Mason signed 22 players Wednesday on his 19th day since being introduced as the new coach.
A week ago, Vanderbilt had only nine commitments after James Franklin's departure for Penn State scattered a recruiting class that had been rated among the top 25 in early January. Mason had to hire assistants, then immediately send them out on the road recruiting. They closed strong off a busy weekend of official visits.
"It's been a busy two weeks of fast and furious recruiting," Mason said.
The highlight came Wednesday when defensive lineman Nifae (nee-FEYE) Lealao of Sacramento, Calif., chose Vanderbilt after being verbally committed to Stanford where Mason had been defensive coordinator. Vandy wound up signing two quarterbacks not counting a third who could be playing a handful of positions after having none committed a week ago.
Mason's class includes six defensive backs and six linemen, three wide receivers in a position of need with Jordan Matthews heading to the NFL, three offensive linemen and one running back in Dallas Rivers.
National rankings (Rivals 50; Scout 50).
Best in class: Nifae Lealao, DL, Sacramento, Calif. A 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman had a four-star rating by both Rivals and Scout, and Lealao also plays basketball and volleyball. His offers also included Mississippi, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.
Best of the rest: Ronald Monroe, athlete, Houston. Monroe played quarterback but is listed as an athlete. Mason said he's talented enough to play a handful of positions, and they plan to move him around to take advantage of his talents at some position. Shawn Stankavage is the son of two athletes, including his father who played in the NFL with Denver.
Late addition: Lealao came to Vanderbilt for an official visit last weekend, and Mason couldn't have been happier after watching the lineman play basketball last week. "To see him on the basketball floor was amazing," Mason said. "He made my ears perk up, and that doesn't happen often. Looking at him athletic, strong quick agile and extremely good court presence."
Tall and lengthy: Mason says he wants "space takers" to fill up lanes, and he got just that with 11 of the 22 players committed listed as 6-3 or taller.