The 2022 signing class will start inking national letters of intent in December, and Tennessee touts high school talent in the Commodores’ backyard.
Expect Lea’s staff to attack the Midstate in recruiting. Lea is a Nashville native and former player at Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt. And former 247Sports.com recruiting guru Barton Simmons, who played with Lea at MBA, is Vanderbilt’s general manager/director of personnel.
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There’s stiff competition for Midstate players, so don’t count on Vanderbilt getting any of the top talent. But if Lea can sell the Commodores with a fresh look and tap into his Midstate connections, he could maybe land a high-caliber target.
Here are six Midstate prospects who Vanderbilt must recruit hard. Any of them would be a gem in the Commodores’ 2022 class:
ILB Langston Patterson (CPA)
Lea could make a big difference in possibly landing Patterson, a four-star prospect and the No. 13 inside linebacker in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports.com composite rankings. Lea was Patterson’s primary recruiter at Notre Dame, and now he gives Vanderbilt a chance to land a prized prospect at a key position in his defense. Patterson received a three-star rating by the 247Sports.com composite, which includes an aggregate of multiple recruiting services. But he got a four-star rating from 247Sports.com. Why does that matter? It means Simmons valued Patterson’s talent more than others.
OT Fisher Anderson (Franklin)
Anderson, a 6-foot-7, 275-pounder, may be a longshot. He is a four-star prospect at a coveted position, receiving scholarship offers from every SEC school except Alabama and Texas A&M. Anderson said Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan and Oregon are among his preferred options, but his list is subject to change. That’s where Lea could jump in and convince the Franklin standout to stay close to home and anchor the Vanderbilt offensive line for years to come. But it’s still an uphill climb for the Commodores.
WR Taylor Groves (East Robertson)
Groves, The Tennessean’s 2020 Male Athlete of the Year, is a football and basketball standout at East Robertson in Cross Plains. The 6-2, 175-pounder is a four-star recruit and the state’s No. 6 overall prospect in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports.com composite. He likely will play wide receiver in college, but some schools have considered him as a defensive back. Vanderbilt offered him a scholarship last summer under Mason, and Lea’s staff will continue to recruit him. Again, there is tough competition. Groves has received 27 offers, including 10 SEC schools, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Notre Dame and others. His uncle, Carlus Groves, was a Tennessee basketball standout in the 1990s, but it’s unclear if that gives the Vols an edge.
CB Myles Pollard (Ravenwood)
Pollard’s stock has skyrocketed recently. The 6-1, 180-pound cornerback has received 13 scholarship offers in the past month, including Vanderbilt on Monday. So it’s clear that Lea’s staff sees the Ravenwood standout as a prime target. Like Anderson, Pollard plays a coveted position. But Lea, as Notre Dame’s former defensive coordinator, could sell his vision as a defensive-minded head coach. Vanderbilt has a recent history of landing lauded cornerbacks from the Midstate in recent years, including Joejuan Williams (Father Ryan), Donovan Sheffield (Ensworth), John Howse (Brentwood) and others.
OLB Keaten Wade (Summit)
The secret is out on Keaton Wade. The 6-4, 210-pounder already had plenty of SEC offers, including one from Vanderbilt last March. But since mid-December, he’s received offers from Southern Cal, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Virginia and West Virginia. Like other defensive standouts on Vanderbilt’s board, he would have to buy into Lea as an elite defensive-minded coach to choose the Commodores. Keaten Wade is a four-star prospect and No. 4 overall in Tennessee, according to 247Sports.com composite. The bonus of recruiting Keaten Wade is that his twin brother, Destin, is also a prized prospect. But that also could be a challenge because Vanderbilt likely would have to convince both to pick the Commodores.
QB Destin Wade (Summit)
If Destin Wade goes with his brother, there are 13 schools that have offered scholarships to both. In the SEC, that includes Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Of course, that list could grow. Does Lea want a dual-threat quarterback rather than a pro-style passer? If so, Destin Wade has some impressive athletic skills. In only 11 games last season, he passed for 1,390 yards, 19 TDs and five interceptions and rushed for 1,507 yards and 18 TDs while leading Summit to the Class 5A state title.
Reach Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.