[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Another weekend is in the books and, naturally, another batch of star-studded football recruits have spent their respective Fridays and Saturdays checking out what the University of Kentucky has to offer. On Saturday afternoon, as my friends and I prepared for the basketball game against LSU, we discussed various topics relating to UK sports. Since UK football recruiting is currently dominating that landscape, it didn’t take long for our thoughts to fall into that vein. What I am about to reveal next, is done for the sake of this story; I am not proud of it and I ask that it not affect your budding thoughts on me as a new writer here at KSR College. I have friends that cheer for the Cards. These friends often make for lively— though usually incoherent and devoid of facts on their part— debates regarding UK sports. This is an example of one.
This particular Saturday, we spent a large amount of time discussing the influx of talented visitors UK has brought in recently. The Louisville fans main point: It doesn’t matter that UK is getting all of these guys in for visits if none of the highly-coveted players commit. It’s an interesting point. Does it matter if guys like Rashaad Samples, Asiantii Woulard, and the others simply visit? While it certainly feels like we are in a good position with a lot of these guys (Badet, Hearns, McWilson, Timmons, etc.), football recruiting is an ever-changing process and guys whom much of this excitement centers around, are still works in progress on the recruiting trail. Many of them will continue to make visits to schools that have traditionally beaten UK out for talented players. This is the question: If a good portion of them end up committing elsewhere, does our excitement about having them on campus have to turn into gloom about not closing the deal? Or is there a lasting, positive effect on the football program simply for these highly-ranked players’ considerations? In my view, just having these guys visit is huge. Here is why:
–These talented visitors have not been isolated instances. We haven’t only had two or three visotrs that have been more talented than UK fans are accustomed to. This has been a complete recruiting overhaul. The staff is clearly selling a product that is appealing on a large scale and there is no reason to think that this will change next year and further down the road. Maybe a lot of these guys won’t commit to UK this year—but eventually, some dominoes will start falling. Stoops and his staff will continue to recruit at this level.
-Big time names have been visiting together. Football is not like basketball. In basketball, one player can come in and change a culture. In football, talent across the board is required for individuals to shine. In the past, we may have had one highly-touted guy in for a visit. This highly-recruited player likely might have asked himself how he could possibly succeed if his teammates were going to be made up of Joe Schmoe’s with offers from Ohio, Coppin State and Fordham. In the past month, it has been the norm for guys to have offers from the likes of Florida, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Oklahoma to name a few. These high school players are taking note of that and it will make it easier for them to choose the Cats in the future.
-The fan excitement has reached a record high—thanks to these visits. It is safe to say that a few short months ago most Kentucky fans were more dejected about the football program than ever before. A complete 180 has taken place due in large part to how fun it has been to follow football recruiting since the installation of the new staff. This excitement on the recruiting trail will lead to excitement in Commonwealth next year—as long as we are competitive. Kentucky fans have been rejuvenated in a major way—and dare I say it, Cat fans may even have some swag developing on the football front.
Most importantly, having these players in for visits has already been fruitful for reasons that have escaped my Louisville loyalist friends. The staff has already closed the deal on many of these talented players. While it is true that the Jason Hatcher’s and Ryan Timmons’ of the world have yet to commit anywhere, guys like Jaleel Hytchy and Javess Blue have already given their pledge to the Cats—and in that way, the proof is in the puddin’. That being said, with the surprise visit from Jason Hatcher this weekend (he did meet with coaches on Saturday morning—this wasn’t simply a fun visit with friends as has been reported), and the comments from McWilson and Hearns regarding their visits, it appears that it will only be a matter of time before more talented young men enlist as members of #StoopsTroops. And that will definitely matter.
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