Coach Mason and his staff landed a tremendously talented 17 man early signing period class in December. We are ranked 34th by Rivals, 36th by 247 Sports, and 35th by ESPN. We've got 2 other commits in the fold we're trying to secure for the February 7th signing day, and we're in with a lot of other outstanding players for this 2018 class. Here's a look at our signees and our 2 commits.
1. Alston Orji
LInebacker, Rockwall Texas, Rockwall High School
5.9, 4 star Rivals, 91, 4 star 247 sports, 4 star ESPN
Alston is a consensus 4 star. He's rated 5.9 by Rivals, 91 by 247 Sports, and a 4 star by ESPN. He posted 87 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks, forced 4 fumbles and broke up 5 passes his senior season. He's a Zach Cunningham prototype linebacker. Alston's a playmaker and a leader. His team won district championships and a district title in 2015 in the highly competitive state of Texas. He's an honor roll student and lettered in football, basketball, and track. This is some kind of stud we're getting. He just looks tough and hard nosed in his photo. Sounds like a super young guy as well. I see Alston becoming an exceptional, game changing player for us. He looks like a re-creation of Zach. Alston's offer sheet was through the roof good. Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Washington all offered among others. I can see him playing this upcoming season and teaming up with Josh Smith, Jordan Griffin and Caleb Peart etc... Really like what we're getting here in Alston.
2. Camron Johnson
Wide receiver, Brentwood Academy, TN.
5.8, 4 star, Rivals, 91, 4 star 247, 4 star ESPN
We got some really good players out of Brentwood Academy with Cam, tight end Gavin Schoenwald, who I'll talk about in a minute, and, of course, Darius Garland in basketball. Cam lettered 4 years in football, basketball and track. His Brentwood Academy team won 3 straight state titles including going 12-0 in 2017. Cam caught 48 passes for 803 yards and 11 TDs his senior season and also returned 2 punts for house calls. He won 4 straight basketball and track state championships teaming up with Schoenwald and Darius on the hardwood. Quite a wide receiver we're getting here. Cam has great speed and super hands. He can be a game changer for us in the passing game and in the return game. His offer list included Ole Miss, Tennessee and Purdue among others. He'll be a stud and could play early with what should be a young, but talented receiving corps with upcoming junior Kalija Lipscomb leading the charges. Excited to see Kalija, speedster Donaven Tennyson, along with 6'4" Chris Pierce, 6'3", James Bostic, 6'3" former 4 star, Alex Stump, who transferred from Ohio State, along with fellow freshman C.J. Bolar, who I'll talk about in a minute,. I expect those guys will make a lot of plays for us in 2018 and in future years. DMase wants another receiver in this class and we're after some talented prospects. Receiver will be an interesting position for us that could very well be pretty explosive. Coach Mason says his 2018 team will be his most talented.
3. Brendon Harris
Safety, Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN.
Consensus 4 star, 5.8, Rivals, 90, 247, 4 star ESPN
Brendon earned All-State and All Region honors in 2016 and 2017 at Baylor. He lettered in football, basketball and track. He posted 78 tackles, and as a running back, rushed for 890 yards and 14 TDs. Brendon received offers from LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State and Oklahoma among others, so many programs, all elite, wanted him. He's got hard hitting toughness and skills with the football when he gets a turnover. Super pickup by Coach Mason and the staff. Brendon was 1 of 5 signees in the secondary part of the class. We have another secondary player committed. With Joejuan Williams at one corner and Donovan Sheffield or someone else at the other, and LaDarius Wiley at safety, these freshmen could make an impact with these guys and some other returners. Brandon can play a big role for us next season.
4. Dan Dawkins Jr.
Center, The Peddie School, Staten Island, New York
5.8, 4 star by Rivals and the No.1 center in the 2018 class, 87, 3 star by 247, high 3 star ESPN
Dan lettered in football, baseball and wrestling at the Peddie School. Captained both the football and wrestling teams. Like these overall great athletes we've gotten. Shows they can really play football with their overall athletic ability. Dan and his team won the MAPL championship in 2016 and 2017. Dan teamed up with fellow VU signee, quarterback Allan Walters. The MALP is similar to a state championship in other states. Dan had offers from Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Boston College among others. A dominant player with excellent toughness and a very good mean streak. You like that in your linemen. Dan will fit in well with a talented, deep group we have coming back, which includes our talented leaders, left tackle Justin Skule and center Bruno Reagan. Our starting O Line may very well be all seniors next season with some talented experience and youth backing them up. Excited to see what Dan can do for us in the upcoming years. Coach Cameron Norcross will field an excellent line. Feel very confident that our O Line coach will do that.
5. Rutger Reitmaier
Defensive tackle, Lipscomb Academy, Nashville, Transfer from Oregon
5.8, 4 Star by Rivals in the 2017 class, 4 star ESPN, 89, 3 star 247
Really like this addition. Rutger transferred to us from Oregon in 2017 and there was a paperwork issue that took time to get through, but I'm close to positive he will be suiting up for us in the fall. Would really like him on the d line. Need some more size and talent there. We've got some good young guys, but Rutger will provide some leadership in the middle along with Dare and Dayo Odeyingbo on the outside, and quite a few others at d ends. Rutger is a big time talent and will be a major disrupter and playmaker for us up front. We're stocking up more and more defensive linemen and we're in the market for some more in this class. There are some prospects who like us. Rutger is a super addition to the line. Coming out of high school as an early enrollee in 2017, Rutger had offers from Ole Miss, Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon, where he signed first, Louisville and Duke. So an impressive list. Rutger made 56 tackles as a senior at Lipscomb Academy including 7 sacks and 24 tackles for loss. He earned all state honors his senior year in 2016. he also played in the prestigious US Army All-American Game. Rutger lettered in football, hockey and track and field. Like that hockey toughness, too. Hard nosed game. Like this pickup very much. We're going to like Rutger very much.
6. Tre' Douglas
Cornerback, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, GA.
4 Star ESPN, 5.6, 3 star Rivals, 88, 3 Star 247 sports
Excellent player here in Tre'. Key addition. Led his team to an undefeated 14-0 record his senior season which led to a state championship. Named All-State and All Region three straight years in football. Tre' intercepted 4 passes in 2017. He lettered all 4 years in football and baseball. His team won 3 straight state titles and now have a 36 game winning streak. Tre' had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Ohio State and Georgia Tech. He was an honor roll student four times in high school. Like the brains and ability of this young guy. Tre' will add a lot to our cornerback outfit.
7. Allan Walters
Quarterback, The Peddie School, Highstown, New Jersey
4 Star ESPN, 5.7, 3 Star Rivals, 88, 3 star, 247
I've watched film on Allan and all the players, and he's an exceptional QB. Allan passed for 2,266 yards and 31 TDs and rushed for 138 more along with another TD in 9 games. He was hurt a little bit, but is fine now. He was an All State player along with MAPL player of the year. Allan also lettered 2 years in baseball. He had other offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Michigan and Louisville among others. He won the MAPL championship along with teammate and fellow signee Dan Dawkins. The Peddie School is a boarding school that's why Allan and Dan are from different towns but still played for the same school. Allan looks like another superb quarterback on our roster to go along with Kyle Shurmur, Deuce Wallace and Shawn Stankavage. Unfortunately, 5.7, 3 star freshman Jacob Free decided to transfer to Northwest Mississippi Community College. We are looking for another possible quarterback option. Allan will be a super player for us.
8. C.J. Bolar
Wide receiver, Purvis High School, Purvis, Mississsippi
5.7, 3 star Rivals, 88, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
C.J. is another talent with great length on the offensive perimeter. He earned All State honors twice at Purvis High. He caught 45 passes for 896 yards and 11 TDs his senior season. He helped lead the Tornadoes to the District title in 2015. He's a four time Honor Roll member and won the Martin Luther King Jr award. C.J. also held offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Louisville and Southern Miss. Watched his film and really liked it. Catches pretty much everything thrown his way and takes it to the house quite a bit. Another game changer on the outside for us.
9. Elijah McAllister
Linebacker, Rumson Fair Haven High School, Rumson, New Jersey
5.7, 3 star by Rivals, 86, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
Elijah brings super athletic ability and physical dominance to our linebacking unit. He recorded 23 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 pass breakups as a senior. He lettered 3 times in football and 4 times in basketball. He won 4 conference titles and 3 state titles in football and a conference championship and state championship in basketball. He's a member of the honor roll. I watched Elijah's film and it's impressive. Can be an enforcer at linebacker and a game changer with his ability to sack the quarterback and make multiple TFLs which can turn momentum in offensive drives. Elijah had additional offers from Tennessee, Michigan State, Virginia, Boston College and Wake Forest among others. Really like what we're getting here. Will be another edition to our linebacking unit along with Alston. Can dominate on the perimeter of the defense and make plays in the passing game both rushing the quarterback, and breaking up passes to go along with his ball skills in forcing fumbles and getting ints.
10. Dashaun Jerkins
Safety, Woodbridge High School, Woodbridge, Virginia
5.6, 3 star Rivals, 87, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
Dashaun was captain of his Woodbridge team twice, and earned all region twice and all state en route to a Regional Championship his senior season. He led the Vikings to a 12-2 mark this past season. He posted 85 tackles, broke up 5 passes and pulled in 4 interceptions, taking one back to the house. As a wide receiver, Dashaun caught 46 passes for 509 yards and 11 TDs. So obviously, Dashaun is a superb athlete and football player. He also possessed offers from Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Purdue and Wake Forest among others. Another excellent addition to our safety group. Like what we're getting in Dashaun.
11. Gavin Schoenwald
Tight end, Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, TN.
5.6, 3 star Rivals, 87, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
Gavin was a very high priority for Coach Mason and the staff as VU made a serious coup at BA. Gavin helped lead Brentwood Academy to 3 straight state championships including a 12-0 mark his senior season in 2017. He earned all state honors as a tight end as a junior and as a quarterback his senior year. As a senior quarterback, Gavin passed for 1,592 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for 482 yards and 6 scores. He and Cam Johnson along with Darius Garland in basketball give us quite a triumvirate out of BA. Gavin was a 4 year honor roll member and a two year National Honor Society member. He held additional offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Duke among others. As you can see, this class is high quality. Gavin will be an outstanding tight end for us next season to go along with returning studs Jared Pinkney, Sam Dobbs and highly promising redshirt freshman Turner Cockrell (6'5", 230). We also have another incoming freshman in this class whom I will talk about next.
12. Ben Bresnahan
Tight end, West Forsyth High School, Cumming, GA.
5.6, 3 star Rivals, 86, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
Ben lettered in football, baseball and track at West Forsyth earning All Region honors his final 3 years in all 3 sports. He recorded 742 receiving yards and 6 TDs to go along with 100 rushing yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Another super all around athlete on the roster. Coach Mason likes the tight ends and they can be serious weapons. Just ask the Patriots about Rob Gronkowski and how important he is to their team, and the Eagles with former Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, who is a super player and was highly instrumental in the Eagles blasting the Vikings last Sunday in the NFC Championship game as he caught 8 passes for 93 yards in a 38-7 Philly victory to advance to Super Bowl LII. The Eagles will face the Patriots Sunday, Feb. 4th at 5:30 PM, so the tight end position will have a major bearing on the outcome of the game. Gronk has a concussion but will most likely play a week from Sunday. These tight ends are high value players and Ben and Gavin can be stellar players for us. Ben had additional offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, NC State, Utah and Minnesota among others. Like what we're getting here in both these tight ends.
13. Maxwell Worship
Safety, Cardinal Gibbons High School, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
5.6, 3 star Rivals, 85, 3 star 247, solid 3 star ESPN
Max lettered in football and lacrosse at Cardinal Gibbons helping the Chiefs to an 11-2 mark in 2017. He was team captain his senior season in which he posted 55 tackles, one forced and one recovered football. He was an honor roll member all 4 years in high school. Looks like a natural leader here as his sister, Domonique, is a lawyer with the NBA, and his mother, Victoria, was named one of the 25 Most Influential African American Women in Business and Industry in South Florida in 2017. His dad is Sean. Max held additional offers from Kentucky, Iowa, UNC and Rutgers among others. We're getting a leader and a heckuva football player for what should be a loaded secondary in the future.
14. Ja'Veon Marlow
Running back, Winter Haven Senior High School, Winter Haven, FL.
5.5, 3 star by Rivals, 85, 3 star by 247 and 3 star by ESPN
Another solid 3 star who can win you a lot of games. Just ask teams like Northwestern, which won 10 games this season and defeated Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. Plenty of super 3 star players who are game changers on that team. Ja'Veon rushed for 1,366 yards on 172 carries (8.0 yards per carry) with 16 TDs and 8 receptions for 100 yards. Ja'Veon lettered all 4 years in football and was a team captain in 2017 as a senior. Excellent weight lifter and track runner as well. Member of the honor roll. Ja'Veon had additional offers from Kentucky, UNC, Duke, Nebraska, Purdue, Arizona and Central Florida. Excellent running back we're getting to add to our running back group led by Khari Blasingame, promising Jamauri Wakefield, solid Josh Crawford, and 4 star Illinois transfer Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who will be a junior in 2018.
15. Wyatt Smock
Offensive guard, St. Xavier High School, Louisville, KY.
5.5, 3 star by Rivals, 85, 3 star 247, solid 3 star ESPN
Wyatt lettered in football 3 times and was a diver, where he also lettered three times. He helped lead the Tigers to state runner-up. Played for former VU standout and NFL veteran Will Wolford at St. Xavier. He was an All State player his senior year. Served as team captain for 3 seasons. Four time member of the honor roll and National Honor Society. Wyatt garnered additional offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Iowa State, Purdue and Wake Forest among others. Love the size and strength along with Wyatt's athleticism.
16. Tyler Steen
Offensive tackle, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
5.5, 3 star Rivals, 85, 3 star 247, solid 3 star ESPN
Tyler played offensive and defensive line for the powerhouse Tigers and captained them to an 11-3 record with district and regional championships in 2017. Love the size here and the fact that Tyler comes from such a football power that has won multiple state championships through the years in the highest classification in Florida. His father, Daris, played at LSU and is a retired Marine. His mother is Samantha. His grandfather is a Medal of Honor recipient for serving in Vietnam. Like the discipline and toughness we're getting from Tyler. He held additional offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Duke and Cal.
17. Javan Rice
Kicker, Belen Jesuit Prep, Miami, FL.
5.4, 2 star by Rivals, 81, 3 star by 247 and 3 star by ESPN
Don't let the 2 star ranking throw you off. Kickers don't get high rankings for some reason. Three star kickers are solid kickers. Javan lettered in football, soccer and volleyball in high school and was All-State in 2016 and All District in 2016 and '17. Converted 3-of-6 field goals and 39-of-40 extra points, and kicked 42-of-49 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks in 2017. He also averaged 42 yards per punt on 22 kicks. Won football district titles in 2016 and '17 and a soccer state title in 2015. Javan is a member of the National Honor Society and the National English Honor Society. Javan has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. His brother, Tavish, is a kicker at Princeton, and his sister, Sloane, is a 3 time rowing National champion at Wellesley College. Looks like we have a very good kicker. Javan also had offers from Army, Florida International and Yale among others. Like the smarts. Great to have a kicker with a super head on his shoulders. That'll allow him to concentrate and perform in the clutch. We need another kicker and I've heard that Coach Mason is looking at graduate transfers.
1. Rayshad Williams
Cornerback, Whitehaven High School, Memphis
5.7, 3 star Rivals, 87, 3 star 247, high 3 star ESPN
Would really like to land Shad. Really like his length at corner. Shad also has offers from Tennessee, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Memphis, Virginia Tech and Virginia among others. Shad finished with 6 interceptions this season and his team finished 11-3 in 2017. Would really like to secure Shad's signature on February 7th.
2. Tyree Thompson
Outside LB, Los Angeles Valley College, Van Nuys, CA.
5.5, 3 Star Rivals, 83, 3 Star 247, 3 Star ESPN
Watched about 8 minutes of film on Tyree and liked what I saw. Very good at sacking the quarterback and getting tackles for losses. We'll like Tyree when he signs and plays in 2018.
This is Coach Mason's best class yet and we have some super players returning. I can see some of these guys playing a lot for us early. We're setting up for a very bright future with this class and adding 5 or 6 more in early February. We're after some more very good prospects along the defensive line, and at receiver among other positions. But this is a loaded 2018 class already. We're going to really like these guys. Just gotta keep it coming with more signatures on February 7th and in the ensuing years. Like what this team can do in 2018, too. With Kyle and the arsenal on offense, and Joejuan Williams, LaDarius Wiley, Josh Smith, Jordan Griffin, Caleb Peart, the Odeyinbo brothers, and the awesome pass rusher Charles Wright, we're going to be loaded on defense. We can win several games in 2018 and see where that takes us.
Both Adam Butler and Stephen Weatherly played and did very well in the AFC and NFC Championship games respectively last Sunday. Adam is lighting it up for the Patriots. He posted a key sack on Blake Bortles last Sunday. It was 3rd and 10 and the Jaguars were up 14-3 and putting together a pretty good drive when Bortles went back to pass, and was scrambling out of the pocket when Adam took him down for a 7 yard loss. The Patriots got the ball back and scored a TD right before halftime that got them right back in the game which they won 24-20. I expect Adam to play a pretty big role in the Super Bowl. Adam is 6'5", 300.
Stephen played for the Minnesota Vikings against the Philadelphia Eagles and made a little noise. Stephen is 6'5", 255 and can be a major disrupter in the upcoming years. Stephen's background is extremely interesting. His grandmother received degrees from MIT and Harvard. Stephen has an affinity for chess and math and can solve a Rubik's Cube. He also enjoys puzzles, paintball and skateboarding. He can play 9 musical instruments; the flute, the clarinet, the trumpet, the trombone, baritone, tuba, tenor saxophone, the drums and the piano. He picked the last 2 up at VU. Something else this young man. Pulling for Stephen and Adam along with our other pros to excel. Hoping Jay can find a team and shine next year and JMatt (Bills) comes back from injury and excels. Zach (Texans), Andre Hal (Texans) and the great Casey Hayward (Chargers) are fantastic pros as are Wesley Johnson (Jets) and Spencer Pulley (Chargers).
We are on the verge of possibly hiring Jason Tarver as our defensive coordinator. Tarver has super pro lineage having coached outside linebackers for the 49ers and was co-defensive coordinator at Stanford with Coach Mason in 2011 along with a defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Like this move because Tarver sounds excellent, and also because Coach Mason can concentrate on being the head coach and not have to focus totally on defense. Coach Mason did a good job of managing the entire team while he was also running the defense, but this would be a really good move for him. Will keep you posted on this development.
It was a valiant effort by Coach Drew and the team that just came up short to our rivals from the east on the eastern school's home court. We were down by 20 in the second half and cut it to 59-57, but fell just short, 67-62. We fell to 7-13 on the season and 2-6 in the SEC. They moved to 14-5 and 5-3. I don't like admitting it, but they're a good team, a tournament team. But we went toe to toe with them on their floor and had a shot. Riley was awesome, finishing with 25 points and hit huge 3 after huge 3 in the second half. Jeff added 21 and pulled down 6 boards. We ended up out-rebounding them 37-31, but our shooting in the first half really was our Achilles Heel. We just had too much ground to make up. We played super ball in the second half though and showed a lot of fight. Clevon Brown, Larry Austin Jr., Payton Willis, Joe Toye and Maxwell Evans did a lot of good things. Young Maxwell, a freshman, is a superb defensive player and an awesome athlete. I like what we can get from Maxwell this year and going forward. Larry played very well at the point. Saben didn't have his best game. Just an off night for him. Djery played hard and so did Ejike. We fought no doubt. We've got TCU, a top 25 team for quite a while this season, coming into Memorial on Saturday for a 3:15 PM CT tip on ESPN2. TCU is 15-5 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12. They are coming off an 82-73 victory over No.7 West Virginia at home Monday Night. So this will be a challenge in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. A lot of good bball on Saturday. Can't wait for our game. We're not out of it. You're never out of the NCAA tournament until the SEC Tournament is over with. We can keep digging away and get back in that conversation.