Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On Becoming a Commodore

From the Troy Daily News:

Troy's Custer commits to Vanderbilt
by David Fong, TDN Sports Editor

The wait was well worth it for Ryan Custer.

Less than three weeks before national signing day, the Troy football standout has made a verbal commitment to attend school and play football for Vanderbilt University.

By doing so, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Custer becomes the final piece of the Troy recruiting puzzle. Defensive tackle Todd Denlinger committed to The Ohio State University last summer, while free safety Shane Carter committed to Wisconsin last month.

“It feels good to have it over with,” Custer said. “It was really hard — there are so many things that go on, with other kids taking spots.”

Custer committed to the Commodores while on an official visit this past weekend.

He arrived in Nashville, Tenn. with his family Friday and was taken out to dinner that evening. He was taken out Friday night by a playerhost (offensive lineman Elliott Hood). Saturday morning, Custer met with academic advisors. That afternoon he attended the Vanderbilt basketball team’s 82-65 loss to Florida. That evening, he again was taken out by his player-host.

By Sunday morning, Custer’s mind was made up and he committed to the Vanderbilt coaching staff.

“They seemed pleased,” Custer said. Custer — a relative newcomer to the sport — opened plenty of recruiters’ eyes with a stellar senior season at Troy. Playing defensive tackle, he finished his senior campaign with 53 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and 11 passes forced/broken up.

More than likely, however, Custer will play offensive tackle at Vanderbilt — a position he played sparingly at Troy. He’s not worried about the transition, however.

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” Custer said. “I mean, they project me as an offensive tackle — there’s got to be a reason for that.”

Custer could get the chance to have an immediate impact on a football program that has been struggling. The Commodores went 2-9 (1-7 in the Southeastern Conference) last season. They were 2-10 (1-7) in 2003 and 2-10 (0-8) in 2002.

In the end, Vanderbilt’s academic reputation — it was ranked 18th (tied with Notre Dame) in this year’s U.S. News and World Report college rankings — may have had as much influence on Custer as anything else. Custer, who has a 3.8 grade point average — plans on majoring in mechanical engineering.

“Academics were important to me,” he said.

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