If Kentucky is going to improve at football, they are going to have to start signing better players than they have in the past. That’s not to say that there is some nice talent on campus, SEC talent, because even good players will struggle under poor coaching. But Kentucky is traditionally rated in the bottom 3 of the SEC when recruiting rankings come out mid-February. While some of this is due to the inherent bias that exists on such sites, location is also an issue.
The state of Kentucky doesn’t produce a ton of talent and the talent that it does produce often have bad mental image of UK. So Kentucky has always had to mine talent rich states like Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina for other schools’ leftovers. In all of that time one of the most talent-rich states in America was an hour up the road. UK has never had success recruiting Ohio, no matter how hard they tried. Offensive tackle Antonio Hall is the only premier player that the Wildcats have signed from the Buckeye state this century.
Enter new coach Mark Stoops and tight ends coach Vince Marrow. During his introductory press conference Stoops said that UK would recruit Ohio harder and use his contacts there. They are off to a good start with defensive back Jaleel Hytchye (pronounced “Hiesh”). Hytchye is rated 4* by ESPN and a high 3* (almost 4) by both Scout and Rivals. He chose Kentucky over Pitt, Northwestern, Louisville, and perhaps most importantly, Tennessee.
Before the 2013 class wraps up Hytchye may have some familiar faces joining him in Lexington. Kentucky was a little late in their work on Nebraska commit Courtney Love who will enroll early this week in Lincoln, though they might have made a game of it with more time. The Wildcats are in the top 3 of 3* ATH Aregeros Turner, 4* Shelton Gibson, 3* DE Antoine Miles, and 3* OL/DL Lovell Peterson. They are also believed to be among the finalists for 3* OL Kyle Meadows if he qualifies. It was also announced that they have offered 2014 4* RB Mikel Horton of Lakota West, the same high school that produced Kentucky standout John Conner.
It’s not reasonable to expect Kentucky to raid Ohio for their best players year in and year out, but with the connections that Stoops and Marrow have there, 3 or 4 commitments per year isn’t far-fetched. Pair that with a healthy-dose of Florida talent and you have a winning formula. It will be interesting to see what kind of recruiting connections that the last 2 coaching additions will bring to the table.