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By LARRY VAUGHT
Cincinnati La Salle High School coach Tom Grippa thanks new Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops and his staff have a chance to make major inroads into recruiting in the Cincinnati area.
“I can already tell our area is going to be really important to the new Kentucky staff,” said Grippa, who has had one of his players — cornerback Jaleel Hytchye — verbally commit to UK and Stoops. “I had a kid who played for me, Chandler Burden, who went to Kentucky and is now on the Miami Dolphins practice squad. We’ve had some kids play for Kentucky, but I do think coach Stoops is going to recruit Ohio a lot more.
“Ohio has 70 to 90 Division I players ever year and half of those guys are Big 10 quality players. Ohio State can only take 10 to 15 at most. With the way it is going now, they may not take that many. It seems only prudent for Kentucky to recruit Ohio hard like that. There are too many guys here not to recruit Ohio, especially southwest Ohio that is so close to the UK campus.”
Kentucky added two more Ohio recruits — linemen Kyle Meadows and Lovell Peterson — over the weekend to back up Grippa’s belief.
He says Kentucky is “not very big” with high school players as Ohio State or Cincinnati are the primary schools of interest or Notre Dame for Catholic school players like those at La Salle.
“Northern Kentucky is different, but I do think Kentucky can make its presence felt in Cincinnati,” Grippa said. “Just our Greater Catholic League (in Cincinnati) will have 10 to 15 blue chip players every year. Guys that are big-time players. When UC is at its best, 20 percent of the roster will be just from the Greater Catholic League. That’s something teams around the country need to pay attention to and I think Kentucky will.
“If a kid is good, Stoops will want him. Cincinnati has got a lot of really good players and I don’t see why Kentucky cannot dip into that. If a kid is a blue-chip player and Ohio State does not recruit him, he seems to go to Cincinnati now. Maybe UK can cut into that.”
Kentucky did that with Hytchye, a 6-0, 165-pound cornerback who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at an Ohio State camp. He had scholarship offers from Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Purdue, and Vanderbilt as well other schools.
“What Jaleel is that you can’t coach is fast. Last year in the state track meet he was eighth in the 100 (meter dash), but his best events are the 400 and 200 (dashes). I predict he’ll be state champion in the 400 this year,” Grippa said. “He’s that fast. What he needs is to get bigger and more physical. He’s kind of thin.
“He has a great work ethic and is really mentally tough. He practices hard and he is a leader. He loves football and I think his best football is ahead of him. He’s equally good in track in football, and he’s very good in both.”
Grippa said Hytchye didn’t “get much action” at times during the season as teams avoided throwing his way.
“He is a good cover guy with good ball skills. I wish he could catch better (for interceptions). That’s the one thing I would like to see him do better. But he’s really a good player,” Grippa said. “He’s a great kid and Kentucky will be happy with him. I think hiring coach Stoops helped him make his decision. The uncertainty about (former) coach (Joker) Phillips — he had heard the rumors — kind of turned him off on Kentucky but hiring someone of coach Stoops’ magnitude was pretty important to Jaleel.”
Hytchye was La Salle’s team captain and Grippa says he relates well to everyone.
“He is very outgoing. He leads by example, but he’s also very encouraging to younger kids and is always talking to them and helping them,” the coach said. “I would not be surprised if he redshirted to gain weight, but he tells me he is going to play as a freshman. I am rooting for him, but I think he needs to get to be about 180 pounds. But he’s a player Kentucky fans are going to like.”
* * *
Kentucky also picked up a verbal commitment from Butler County (Kan.) Community College receiver Javess Blue Sunday after he made his official visit to UK over the weekend. The 6-1, 185-pound Blue had 65 catches for 1,064 yards and 12 scores last year. He also returns punts and kickoffs.
Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 78 junior college prospect by Rivals. He also had scholarship offers from West Virginia and Arizona State.