The Commodore staff announced Wednesday that Ryan Vance, a 6-foot-3, 272-pound senior offensive lineman from Bellaire (Tex.) Episcopal High School, has inked scholarship papers. He joins 24 other seniors who signed with Vanderbilt on Feb. 2 as members of the 2005 signing class.
Vance was a two-way starting tackle his junior and senior seasons, and a team captain last season. In his three varsity seasons, Episcopal went 19-8 overall. He made an official visit to Vanderbilt the weekend of Jan. 28 and made a tentative commitment at that time, but administrative paperwork delayed his signing until a few days ago.
"What attracted me to the school was its academic reputation," Vance said. "Once I went up for the visit, everything just kind of fell together.
"It felt like home, as far as the coaches go. I really felt it would be a good place for me, a place that I could succeed at."
"Ryan was an excellent player for us, and has the potential to be a really good college football player," said Episcopal coach Dick Phillips. "Ryan has really good temperament on the football field, and will get after it with the best of them."
Phillips said Vance's strongest asset was his strength and quickness. "Ryan's an outstanding drive blocker who has excellent agility and foot quickness for his size."
In the past year, Vance has become a devoted weightlifter, raising his maximum bench press from 275 to 425 pounds.
"I've got pretty good feet movement, and I've got a lot of upper body strength," said Vance, asked to describe his best attributes as a lineman. "I can run pretty well, and I think that's what attracted colleges to me."
Vanderbilt's signing class included four other offensive linemen: Ryan Custer (Troy, Ohio), Drew Gardner (Hoxie, Ark.), Eric Hensley (Clinton, Tenn.), and Bradley Vierling (Warminster, Pa.).
Vanderbilt's football recruiting efforts for 2006 also got an early jumpstart when Smyrna lineman Adam Smotherman accepted an early offer from the Commodores. Smotherman, a 6-4, 260-pound junior, is Vandy's first commitment for next season.
"I had to talk it over with my coaches and my family, but I decided not to wait," Smotherman said Wednesday. "Vanderbilt had everything I wanted, so I didn't see any point in waiting for offers from other schools. Vanderbilt's my number one. It's where I wanted to go."
"I think they're recruiting me to play offensive line, because Coach Caldwell talks to me quite a bit," he said. "My sophomore year I was an offensive guard. This past year I played left tackle and defensive end. Next year I'm supposed to play tight end and defensive end."
As a 265-pounder, Smotherman runs the 40-yard-dash in 4.9 seconds. He bench-presses 320 pounds, squats 495, and power-cleans 260. Wrestling is also big for Smotherman, who will almost assuredly be one of the top ten wrestlers in the state in his weight class next year.
"I'm feeling really good about my decision," he said. "I was afraid that would interfere with my official visits next winter. Now that I've committed, I don't have to take any visits, so I can concentrate on my wrestling."
Smotherman plans to sign with the Commodores Feb. 1, 2006, the first day juniors can sign letters-of-intent under NCAA rules.
Photos by Brent Wiseman, copyright 2005 for VandyMania.com.