NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said relationships helped keep together his first full signing class with players who saw all the growing pains the Commodores went through during his first season.
"They had a chance to see the good, the bad and the ugly ...," Mason said Wednesday of his 3-9 debut. "They got to the chance to see what changes have been made, what corrections were made, where we're going now. And I think that was probably the most important piece of this class staying together."
Mason signed 18 players Wednesday following a rough debut season after he made scheme changes both offensively and defensively. The coach made more changes at season's end, firing both coordinators and a couple other assistants. Mason didn't hire a new defensive coordinator and instead will call the defense himself.
The Commodores wanted depth on the offensive line and linebackers who fit Mason's 3-4 defense after playing 31 combined true and redshirt freshmen in 2014 — most in the nation. Linebacker Josh Smith highlights the class along with quarterback Kyle Shurmur, whose father Pat is offensive coordinator for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles, and Jaire George, son of former NFL running back Eddie George.
Barton Simmons, national scouting director for 247Sports, said it's a small class but ranks in the Top 50.
"Coming off a rough season with a lot of coaching changes, so I think if you're Vanderbilt, you're thrilled with this group all things considered," Simmons said. "I also think they got probably the single most recruit Vanderbilt's ever landed, and that's Josh Smith, who's an elite linebacker that was being heavily chased by Oregon, Oklahoma, Georgia, Georgia Tech late in the game, and he chose Vanderbilt. That's as important a piece of the puzzle in this class as anything."
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Josh Smith, LB, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Best of the rest: Kyle Shurmur, QB, Philadelphia.
Late addition: Jordan Griffin, a three-star linebacker by 247Sports, flipped from Wisconsin, while three-star athlete Jay Hockaday of Nashville, flipped from Colorado to Vanderbilt.
One that got away: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, of Nashville to Illinois.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report