Kentucky Wildcat Football: Recruiting Trends Emerging?

Dec 2, 2012; Lexington , KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops spoke to reporters at press conference, introducing him as the new football coach at the Nutter Field House. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

If you have followed the Wildcats 2014 recruiting efforts at all so far you have likely noticed a trend. That trend is Ohio. Besides top in-state guys Drew Barker and Matt Elam, all of the recruits we are hearing about are from the state to the north. Kentucky has landed several early commitments, all from Ohio, with more expected soon. I think that is by design.

Recruiting in Big Ten country is different than recruiting in the South like Kentucky is used to. Fans can feel good about the early commits that UK has because the recruiting culture in Ohio is such that players rarely “flip”. When a player commits, that is the school he plans on signing with. In SEC country, a verbal means nothing. A kid isn’t really committed until Signing Day, because until then other schools will be hot on his trail.  That almost sounds like an indictment of regional morals, but it’s not. Different areas are simply different.

Stoops said that his staff would focus on three states in recruiting; Kentucky, Ohio and Florida. Obviously it is important for any school to keep the best talent in state. For the most part, Kentucky recruits are loyal once pledging to a particular school. Like Ohio. Florida on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Switching commitments is common and half of the schools in the country are sticking their noses in there and fighting for players. The two regions couldn’t b more different.

That’s why I think the coaches are recruiting the regions heavily at different times of the year. I think Kentucky will focus on what we Northern Kentucky residents refer to as the “Tri-State” area (Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio) in the Spring. This allows the coaches to find players who are likely already interested in the Cats and evaluate them. The Spring is usually a popular time for unofficial visits, where a prospect pays for his own expenses while visiting. Hitting the Tri-State hard in the Spring allows for the coaches to get a lot of these guys on campus without using up their official visits. A short drive down I-75 is an easy sell compared to having a kid’s parents buy a plane ticket.  The Spring Game is also a big event for the coaches to sell recruits and it’s easier to get local recruits in town for it.

Moving into the Summer camp circuit I think you will see the coaches casting a wider net, while still focusing on the Sunshine state. Once the Fall rolls around UK should have a dozen or so commitments, mostly from local prospects, to help sell to others. These committed players likelihood  of sticking with their pledge allows for the staff to really hit the remaining needs hard in the talent-rich South. With a little luck the team will surprise some people on the field and they will have another feather in their cap to sell guys on. This will allow them to identify and then attack priority players during the season. How many times have you seen a team get involved with a southern recruit late in the recruiting process and all of a sudden the player signs with the dark horse.

By recruiting the larger group of locales later in the year it also allows the coaches to schedule multiple official visits together like we saw this past recruiting cycle. It’s rare to sign a player who has never seen your campus. It’s a lot easier to get a kid to visit when it won’t cost them anything.

Now this is all conjecture, I’m not privy to any of the staff’s internal discussions about recruiting strategy. I just noticed what I think could be the beginnings of a pattern. So don’t jump to any conclusions. Considering the results thus far, just trust the coaches and enjoy the ride.

Topics: Football, Kentucky Wildcats

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