By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What made Derek Mason’s 2018 signing class a success at Vanderbilt?
“Time,” Mason said. “Figuring out exactly who you are and what you need. Being able to invest in relationships longer.”
On National Signing Day, that recipe paid off for the Commodores. Vanderbilt signed five new student-athletes Wednesday to add to the class of 17 inked during the first-ever December signing period on Dec. 20. The new signees are wide receiver Amir Abdur-Rahman (Atlanta, Ga.), defensive back BJ Anderson (Andalusia, Ala.), defensive end Lorenza Surgers (Cary. N.C.) and a pair of graduate transfers in punter Parker Thome (Hortonville, Wisc./Columbia) and defensive lineman Louis Vecchio (Orange, Calif./Penn).
Vanderbilt’s full 22-member class features incoming players from 13 states that fill 10 different positions across the roster. The Commodores’ haul lands among the nation’s top 40 classes, per the three major recruiting services: No. 37 (ESPN), No. 38 (Rivals) and No. 38 (247Sports). That makes the 2018 crop of signees Vanderbilt’s highest-ranked group since 2013.
“This class rounds out as being the best class that I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Mason said.
Three of Vanderbilt’s five February signees bring depth to its defense. Surgers (6-5, 235 pounds) and Vecchio (6-4, 260) add length to the Dores’ defensive front, with Vecchio arriving in Nashville fresh off consecutive first-team All-Ivy League seasons at Penn. The California native ranked top-10 in the Ivy League with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season. Anderson, meanwhile, is a three-star prospect who played both defensive back and receiver at Andalusia (Ala.) High and will likely suit up in the secondary for the Commodores.
SIGNING DAY CENTRAL: Follow Vanderbilt's 2018 signing class
Mason praised Vecchio, in particular, as a veteran who can bring much-needed experience to the Commodores.
“On the defensive line, we needed to get a little older, and we ended up getting Louis Vecchio, who will be a great addition to this group,” Mason said.
Vanderbilt boosted its offensive depth and size with Abdur-Rahman, a 6-4 wide receiver from Atlanta. But the Dores also added immediate experience to special teams with the addition Thome, a talented transfer from Columbia. In 2017 Thome earned first-team All-Ivy League honors after leading the conference with a 42.9 yards-per-punt average. That average also ranked 11th nationally.
“Parker, he’s 6-3, extremely talented, first-team All-Ivy,” Mason said. “He fills a need right now. He’s going to step in and really give us a boost where needed and necessary in 2018.”
Vanderbilt’s full 2018 signing class includes seven prospects who rate as four-star recruits by at least one recruiting service, the most at Vanderbilt under Mason. Three December signees are consensus four-star players: defensive back Brendon Harris, wide receiver Cam Johnson and linebacker Alston Orji.
This class truly helps solidify Vanderbilt’s rise in the SEC, Mason said.
“In that process, that means we have some staying power at Vanderbilt,” Mason said. “People are educating themselves as to who we are, where we’re at, what the degree is and what type of football we’re playing. As all that’s coming to play, we’ve gotten guys to truly understand and look at Vanderbilt University as a place you can compete in the SEC.”
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.