Vanderbilt continues to enter uncharted waters in the world of football recruiting as the Commodores 2014 effort received a bit of a boost on Tuesday when prized defensive tackle commitment and Tennessee Mr. Football Award finalist Michael Sawyers became the fifth pledge to enter the new Rivals250 national rankings
The powerful and versatile 6-foot-2, 307-pound Ensworth High standout entered the rankings for the first time at No. 243 after being recognized for his performances during both the summer camp period and his senior season with the Tigers.
Sawyers also earned his fourth-star after being elevated to a 5.8 Rivals rating. The high school senior is also expected to rank among the nation's 20 best defensive tackle prospects when Rivals releases its updated position rankings later in the week, another sign of the progress that VU has made in recruiting under head coach James Franklin.
Vanderbilt has long struggled to recruit major interior defensive linemen, but with the signing of Jay Woods during the 2013 period, and the addition of a Top 20 level prospect such as Sawyers and another equally impressive commitment in MBA's Jashon Robertson, the staff is proving to make significant inroads.
Also in the latest Rivals250 rankings is four previously ranked Commodore recruits: Mikale Wilbon (166), Kyle Gibson (196), K.J. Carta-Samuels (220) and Trent Sherfield (247).
Wilbon rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in his first six games this before suffering an injury. The versatile back is considered one of the best in the Midwest region and is expected to compete for early playing time in Nashville next fall.
Gibson has posted over 50 tackles and five interceptions during his senior year at Armwood in Florida. The intelligent defender is considered one of the top defensive back prospects in the Southeast and still has the Hawks gunning for another state championship.
KJ Carta-Samuels is Vanderbilt's first-ever Elite 11 quarterback commitment and the Bellarmine Prep standout just completed his senior season in California, passing for over 1,500 yards in the Bells run-heavy offense. The athletic pro-style passer also ran for over 800 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Sherfield had a brilliant senior year at Danville High in Illinois. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound athlete is considered one of the top safety prospects in the Midwest, but has the ability to play other positions in college as well. Sherfield accumulated over 2,100 yards of total offense for the Vikings this fall, with 27 touchdowns. He also racked up 50 plus tackles while battling through a hamstring issue at the end of the season.
Vanderbilt's five Rivals250 commitments is a new record for the Commodore program and is tied for seventh in the SEC with three other schools.
However, the Rivals250 haul would compare quite favorably in other conferences too. The Commodores would match Oregon for the most Rivals250 commits among Pac 12 schools. The class would also place second behind Texas among Big 12 schools, tie for second with Michigan among Big Ten schools, and rank 4th overall among schools within the ACC.
While the news is welcomed on West End, the Commodores might not be done just yet as several other remaining targets such as Crete (Ill.) linebacker Nyles Morgan (77), Bolingbrook (Ill.) defensive back Parrker Westphal (229) and DePaul Catholic (NJ) athlete Kiy Hester (248) also rank among the nation's Top 250 prospects according to Rivals.
Vanderbilt's current class as a whole ranks 22nd among all schools according to Rivals.com and 10th among schools within the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt has never signed back-to-back Top 25 classes during the Rivals.com period.