There was so much to like about our basketball teams' 68-54 victory over Texas A&M last night before 7,508 fans at Reed Arena in College Station.
Both on offense and defense we dominated the game. We have really been bringin' it on the offensive end recently, but last night we brought our hard hats and lunch pales to the defensive end and on the glass.
We held A&M to under 40% from the field, 21-of-53, and 28% from the behind the line, 5-of-18. Our game plan was to double down on their stellar big men, Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, and we executed that to perfection. They shot 7-of-11 from the stripe and we only attempted three free throw attempts but we sank all three with Joe Toye going 2-for-2 and Riley LaChance sinking 1-for-1 to complete an, and 1 three point play.
I loved our defense. We built a 21 point lead, but A&M started sinking some shots and cut it to 8, 55-47, with just under 5 minutes left. Then Joe sank a deep 3 from the corner, and Jeff Roberson, who, along with Joe had another super game, connected from downtown to put us up by 14 again. We closed the game off well and moved to 11-11 and 4-5 in conference play. A&M dropped to 11-10 and 3-6. We now face Ole Miss Saturday at 2 PM CT/3 PM ET on ESPNU. The game will be at home. Need to get it loud in the gym on Saturday. This team is starting to really turn it on. I like what is developing with this group.
Luke Kornet and Matthew Fisher-Davis led the team in scoring with 12 apiece. They were both 2-for-5 from three. Jeff had 11 and 6 boards, another stellar workmanlike performance from our junior forward. Nolan Cressler really started off hot sinking a 3 on our first possession, driving to the rack and scoring, and sinking another 3 early in the game. Nolan finished with 10 points and 5 boards. Joe Toye played a phenomenal game. Joe finished with 11 points and 5 boards. Joe is only a sophomore and is peaking as a basketball player. Riley was Riley. Another solid performance from our junior point guard. Riley only had 3 points, but he added 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Riley will score more now with us taking it inside and scoring more that way. Like where Riley is at. Payton Willis played another solid game off the bench at point guard. Payton sank a 3, finished with 3 points, and had 3 assists.
And maybe the story of the night was the play of Clevon Brown. Our 6'8", 215 pound freshman finished with 8 points and 5 boards. Clevon had a couple of massive slams in there, and played aggressively and so well. Clevon and Joe give us very good athletic ability when they're on the floor together. We have a lot of good athletes, but those two are elite.
We shot 48% from the floor, 28-of-59, 9-of-27 from trifecta, 33%, and, of course, 3-of-3 from the line. Another key stat was our rebounding. We out-rebounded them 35-28. That's huge. If we can play defense and rebound like we did last night, we're going to win a lot more basketball games and be a threat to make a run in February and March. We also turned it over only 11 times and had 16 assists which led to 28 points. Just really loved the way we competed in a hostile environment against a pretty good basketball team. Next up, Ole Miss. Need this one at home. Ole Miss took No.2/3 Baylor (AP, Coaches poll respectively) to the wire before losing 78-75 at home, and just crushed Mississippi State last night, 88-61 at home. They have a really good big man in senior Sebastian Saiz, who averages 15.8 ppg, and 11.2 rebounds, which leads the SEC. He's a load at 6'*9", 240. Junior guard Deandre Burnett averages 16.9 ppg, and they've got some other good players. Luke and Jeff will have their work cut out underneath and Ole Miss teams always shoot it well under Andy Kennedy, who was a prolific shooter at UAB when he played there in the late 80's. So huge game Saturday at Memorial. Can't wait to see the guys play and continue their momentum. We'll go for 3 in a row on Saturday and 4 of our last 5 with the only loss coming in a heartbreaker to Arkansas, where we lost by a point at home. But that's behind us and we're trending very well.
Coach Derek Mason secured 20 signees for 2017, with possibly 1 if not 2 more to come. Here is a look at the guys in the fold.
1. Brayden DeVault-Smith
Brayden, a 6'3", 208 pound middle linebacker, is a late pickup for Coach Mason and the staff. Pretty impressive numbers though. Brayden posted 155 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles for a Pearl-Cohn team in Nashville that finished the season 12-2 and reached the finals of the 4A playoffs. The Firebirds played in the semis or finals all 3 years Brayden played. Brayden is underrated by Rivals and 247. Certainly a solid 3 star, though they both have him rated as a 2 star, which I don't buy at all. His numbers and his team certainly dispute that rating. Brayden's high school coach, Tony Brunetti, says Brayden is a super kid and will "blossom into a jewel". Vanderbilt inside linebackers coach Chris Marve is high on Brayden as a person and as a football player. Marve sees Brayden, with some work in the weight room and reps with the team, developing into a super linebacker for us. Just watched Brayden's film. Super hitter, tackler, saw him intercept 2 passes and force a fumble. He looks like a dominant player. Just get him in the weight room with Coach Dobson and Brayden'll be a force for us in the future.
2. Dayo Odeyinbo
Dayo is a 6'6", 255 pound defensive lineman out of Carrolton Ranchview High School in Irving, Texas. Dayo is the younger brother of our stellar rising junior defensive end Dare Odeyingbo. Dayo was rated as high as a 4 star recruit by ESPN and Scout, and a high 3 star by Rivals and 247. Dayo finished the season with 20 tackles for loss and 7 quarterback sacks to go along with 47 tackles and 3 forced fumbles. Ranchview Coach Terry Smith called Dayo " a warrior" who rarely came off the field. Coach Smith says Dayo's attitude is through the roof special. Dayo's film is beyond impressive. He gets to the quarterback, takes him down violently in a good football sense, buries running backs in the run game, and dominates the line of scrimmage. Dayo selected VU over offers from A&M, Oklahoma, Baylor, Colorado and Miss. State. Super pickup here. Defensive line coach C.J. Ah You says that Dayo will be "a disruptive force and physical presence." His film shows that there is no doubt about that. Love the addition of little brother Dayo.
3. Grant Miller
The 6'4", 260 pound consensus 3 star offensive tackle from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale helped his team capture a 7A state championship in Florida, the highest classification in the Sunshine state. His senior season, Grant was credited with 28 knockdown blocks, 11 pancake blocks and just one sack allowed. Also, Grant did not commit a single penalty this past season. Grant is a high academic achiever as well. Grant's coach at perennial national powerhouse Aquinas, Roger Harriott, said "Grant's work ethic, laser-beam focus, and moral compass have made a positive impression on our community. He possesses the size, strength and athleticism to perform at an elite level." Grant buries people on film. Super physical player who dominates his opponent both in the running and passing game. VU Offensive line coach Cameron Norcross loves Grant's size and physicality and says he is "highly intelligent and extremely athletic." Grant chose us over offers from North Carolina, Minnesota and Colorado State among others. Coach Dobson will get Grant up to 300+ then watch out.
4. Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Ke'Shawn was a consensus 4 star running back coming out of Pearl-Cohn High School in Nashville 3 years ago He has transferred to VU from Illinois. Ke ran for 2,646 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior. Wow. He's a take it to the house opportunity player every time he touches the ball. Ke is 5'10", 210 pounds, and on film, has ability to out-physical and break tackles and always take it the distance. His speed is superb, I saw take about two or three carries that went to the house for 60+ yards, and he's a serious student according to his high school coach. Can't wait to see Ke play in the SEC. He'll be available in 2018 as he is a transfer from Illinois. VU running backs coach Jeff Genyk says, "his physical running style, acceleration and shiftiness make him a very difficult challenge for defenders. He will excel in the SEC." As a freshman at Illinois, Ke'Shawn ran for 723 yards and 6 scores. And as a sophomore, he ran for 301 yards and 3 TDs. He'll excel at VU. His high school coach, Tony Brunetti, calls Ke, "one of the most talented backs to ever come out of Metro."
5. Tae Daley
Tae is a consensus solid 3 star signee out of Northside HIgh School in Warner Robins, GA. The 6'0", 185 safety posted 5 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 84 tackles his senior year for the 11-3 Eagles which reached the Class 6A semifinals. Tae accumulated 13 interceptions and more than 200 tackles as a 3 year starter at Northside. Tae's film is superb. He is physical, a ball hawk, and a superb tackler. I saw him make 2 awesome interceptions on film and strip and take away a ball from a running back while the running back was trying to get extra yards. We're really going to like Tae. Looks like a player who could play as a freshman. Advanced skills. Tae is enrolled and will be participating in spring ball. Tae could play corner as well. Tae selected us over offers from Ole Miss, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Purdue and Central Florida.
6. Dimitri Moore
Dimitri, a solid 6'3", 208 pound outside linebacker, is another early enrollee. Dimitri was a consensus 3 star player out of Cedar Hill High School in Cedar Hill, TX. He was a 2 time captain and helped Cedar Hill to a 34-7 record as a 3 year letterman, which included 1 state title and 3 playoff appearances. Dimitri finished his senior year with 90 total tackles, 61 solos, 12 quarterback sacks, and 18 tackles for loss. Dimitri selected us over Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona State and Minnesota among others. Dimitri's film is outstanding. I saw him make a beautiful interception and make some massive hits. Highly physical, tough competitor, who is also a playmaker at linebacker.
7. Jalen Pinkney
Another consensus highly valued 3 star player, Jalen, a 6'4", 230 pound defensive lineman, d end out of Norcross, GA, Norcross High School, and is the younger brother of standout VU tight end Jared Pinkney. He was a senior captain and 3 year letter-winner at Norcross. As a senior, Jalen posted 13 QB sacks, 23 tackles for loss and 71 total tackles. Norcross finished the season 11-1 and reached the second round of the Class 7A playoffs. As a sophomore, Jalen helped Norcross win the class 7A state championship. Jalen's film is ultra-impressive. He's a sacking-tackling for loss machine. Very athletic, violent tackler. Outstanding football player. Jared's a stud and Jalen is going follow suit for Vanderbilt football.
8. Jonathan Stewart
This massive 6'8", 305 pound consensus solid 3 star tackle is out of Mountain View High School in Lawrenceville, GA. Jonathan was a senior co-captain like many of our other signees, Jonathan recorded 28 knockdown blocks leading Mountain View to an 8-3 overall record and the 7A state playoffs in the highly competitive class in the state of Georgia. Jonathan is also an honors student like many guys in our class. He picked Vanderbilt over offers from Virginia, Iowa State, Central Florida, South Florida and Western Kentucky, all solid programs. The latter 3 went to bowl games and South Florida and Western Kentucky dominated their bowl games, so we beat out some solid, on the rise programs for Jonathan's services. Jonathan's film is super impressive. Just a dominant player who enjoys burying opponents both in the running game and the passing game. Just destroys defensive players. Jonathan is part of our superb four player offensive line class.
9. Colin Anderson
Colin is a 6'2, 212 pound consensus high 3 star outside linebacker out of Brooks High School in Florence, AL. His senior season, Colin posted 56 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles for a Brooks team that finished 9-3 and advanced to the second round of the Alabama Class 5A playoffs. Alabama's classifications go up to 7A, but 5A is highly competitive in a state that loves its football. Colin picked VU over Tennessee, Arkansas, Miss. State, South Carolina, Michigan and Louisville among others. Colin took an interception 35 yards back to the house, blocked a punt and hammered ball carriers and quarterbacks on film. Colin's a stellar player who we're going to love.
10. Bryce Bailey
Bryce is a 6'5", 305 massive offensive tackle who was a consensus high 3 star playing for Castle High School in Newburgh, Indiana. Bryce was an All-State performer who was credited with 25 domination blocks, and 12 pancake blocks for an offense that averaged 35 points per game. Bryce was a three year starter for Newburgh and senior captain. He's an honors student and a four year student council representative. The team went 8-4 this past season and reached the 5A quarters. Bryce selected us over Louisville, Purdue, Illinois and Cincy among others. Our O line coach Cameron Norcross loves Bryce's physicality and "mean streak." On film, Bryce buried not one but two defenders on a run play, his pass blocking technique is perfect, and his run blocking is dominant and physical. Bryce will be a force for us up front in the coming years.
11. Stone Edwards
Stone is a 6'5", 245 defensive end who played at Orange High School in Hillsborough, N.C. He is a consensus 3 star player. Stone was a senior captain. As a senior playing defense tackle and end he played a major part in the defense only allowing 35 points during the regular season. Stone registered 15 sacks, 23 tackles for loss among his 67 tackles, and helped his Panthers team finish undefeated in the regular season 12-1 overall. Stone was an All-State performer. He's called a high academic achiever. Stone chose us over Ga Tech, Marshall, Miami of Ohio and Old Dominion among others. 247 sports Barton Simmons calls him possibly the most dominant player in our class. Stone is a physical, violent pass rusher. The quarterback will dread seeing Stone coming after him in college. This is a major late addition for the staff as Stone committed on Sunday.
12. Jacob Free
Jacob is a high 3 star quarterback out of Brantley, AL. He has super size at 6'4", 212. He was senior captain and a three year starter for the Brantley Bulldogs. He was a first team All-State for the Class 1A team that went 7-5 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Jacob accumulated 7,425 passing yards and 92 TD passes as a 3 year starter. He was a standout baseball player and also played basketball. Jacob is an honors student. He chose us over Louisville, Purdue, Memphis, Troy and Western Kentucky among others. Jacob can throw the deep ball and the intermediate ball with perfect accuracy. He's got a cannon and has superb mobility. I saw him run for a 10 yard score and a 35 yard score. This is an exciting pickup to go along with the excellent quarterbacks we already have on the roster.
13. James Bostic
James is a 6'3", 205 pound consensus 3 star wide receiver out of Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale. As a senior, James caught 26 passes for 415 yards and 7 TDs for a team that finished 9-2 and reached the 2nd round of the Class 5A playoffs. James chose us over N.C. State, Wake Forest, Temple and Middle Tennessee among others. Saw James catch and run for 6 house calls on film. He has deceptively good speed. Sometimes 40 speed doesn't equate to field speed. His speed and explosiveness on the field are much better than his solid 40 time. He has super hands and athletic ability. Love the size as well. He will be a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks and a playmaker for Vanderbilt football. Super pickup.
14. Randall Haynie
Randall is a teammate of James Bostic and is 6'0" 180 pound a 3 star cornerback out of Cardinal Gibbons, who was a 4 star by Scout recruiting service. As a senior shutdown corner, Randall posted 43 tackles, 9 passes defended, forced 2 fumbles and blocked 2 punts for a team that went 9-2 and reached the second round of the Florida 5A playoffs where they lost to the eventual state champion. Randall chose us over Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Maryland among others. On film, quarterbacks have a really difficult time completing passes against Randall. He is lockdown. He's an awesome tackler and I saw him block a punt which he took to the house and also blocked an attempted extra point. Another stud signee for Coach Mason.
15. Chris Pierce
Chris is a consensus 3 star wide receiver out of Smithfield High School in Smithfield, VA. He has super size at 6'4", 208, much like Bostic. He was a 2 year captain, and caught 43 passes for 709 yards and 11 TDs his senior year for Smithfield which finished the season 8-3 and reached the 4A East Region playoffs in Virginia. As a junior, Chris caught 45 passes for 776 and 13 TDs. He's an honors student. Chose VU over Virginia, Old Dominion, Maryland, Wake Forest, Boston College and Temple among others. Chris has super hands and he's just so much bigger than the secondary players on film. He caught a pass for a TD in which he used super footwork to keep a foot in. He's also a tackle breaking machine after he catches the ball. He broke 2 tackles as he took a 45 yarder to the house. Very good speed. Along with James, Chris gives us 2 terrific receivers in this class to go along with the stellar guys we already have on the roster.
16. Cole Clemens
Cole is a 6'6", 305 pound consensus 3 star offensive lineman out of Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah. Cole's size is superb like our other o line signees. He was a multi-year captain for a national powerhouse that captured 14 consecutive victories and a Class 5A state championship in 2016. Bingham won back to back state titles Cole's junior and senior seasons. Cole registered 30 knockdown blocks and was a three-time All State selection. He earned multiple letters as the pitcher on the baseball team. He is called a high academic achiever. Cole chose Vanderbilt over BYU, Virginia, Utah and Air Force among others. On film, Cole likes to knock defensive players down and hit'em some more when they're on the ground. Massive, violent blocker. Love this guy. Cole will be a dominant offensive lineman at VU.
17. Allan George
Allan is a 6'1", 182 pound 3 star cornerback out of Andalusia, AL. He was a senior co-captain. As a senior at the 4A power, Alabama goes up to 7A, Allan was first team All-State. He finished the season with 7 interceptions, 49 tackles and 9 passes defended for a 12-2 Bulldog squad that advanced to the 4A semifinals. He also returned 2 punts and an int for a TD. Allan was a standout guard in basketball, he is currently starting for his fourth consecutive year on the bball team and is a National Honor Society and student government member. Allan selected VU over Richmond, Navy and LA-Monroe among others. Allan's film is highly impressive. Saw 3 ints, a 50 yard punt return for a TD, and some super tackling ability. Allan was a late pickup. The Vanderbilt family will be glad we got Allan on board.
18. Michael Owusu
Michael is a 6'5", 210 consensus 3 star linebacker from Oaks Christian High School in Oxnard, California, one of Southern California's top private schools. Michael had 54 tackles as a senior and four quarterback sacks for a playoff team. He is a standout in basketball also. Michael selected us over Southern Cal, Michigan, Missouri, California, Washington State and Boise State among others. Michael was a huge signee this morning. He chose us over an offer from USC. He was down to the two schools and chose us. Huge pickup. Michael is highly athletic, has super length, I saw him bat down a couple of balls on film, and he's a terrific pass rusher and run stopper. Michael was high on our board for a long time, so this was a spectacular pickup today.
Feleti is a 6'3", 222 pound consensus 3 star linebacker our of Maui High School in Kahului, Hawaii. He was a 2 year captain and 3 year starter for the Sabers. He was an all-state player as a senior registering 61 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Ranks among the top of his senior class academically. Feleti chose us over offers from Washington State, Utah, UNLV and others. Feleti is a physical, dominating linebacker on film. He lays the lumber on running backs and QBs and took a fumble return back 75 yards to the house. He's highly athletic and like all of our players, he has a massive motor. This is an excellent late pickup by Coach Mason and the staff.
20. Jonah Buchanan
Another from the Poly pipeline out of Hawaii, Jonah is a solid 6'4", 270 pound defensive lineman out of Iolani High School in Honolulu. He was a captain as a senior and a two year starter on the defensive front and led his team to the Division 1 state finals this season. Jonah recorded 39 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He was a contributor on the Division II state championship squad as a sophomore. He threw the shot put and discus in track and field. He has earned two letters in basketball. Jonah is a member of the Latin Honor Society. On film, Jonah is a disrupter, an excellent tackler who lays heavy lumber, and is another tough, physical player that Coach Mason loves. Awesome late addition to the class.
I love this class. Highly athletic. Many of them are basketball, baseball, track or wrestling standouts. It's a highly athletic group with both power and skill. We can win a lot of games with this class. We're going to win a lot of games next year.