By LARRY VAUGHT
He was an All-American receiver at Kentucky and spent time playing in both the National Football League and Canadian Football League, so Craig Yeast doesn’t see much on the football field that surprises him.
However, he did Saturday when his 15-year-old son, Russ, played so well at a one-day Kentucky camp that he got a scholarship offer from UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow.
“I thought maybe if I took him to camp, it would get him some exposure. I was going to take him last year, but something came up,” Craig Yeast said. “I wanted to take him and see if he could compete and let him get out there with older kids and run around a little bit. He likes to compete. He held his own, and he’s a good athlete like his mom and dad.”
His mother, Tori Tillman Yeast, won state track championships at Danville and was a basketball standout who walked on at Kentucky. Craig Yeast was a three-sport standout at Harrodsburg who left UK in 1998 as the all-time leader in receptions in the Southeastern Conference with 208 catches for 2,899 yard. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns his senior season.
He was the third pick of the fourth round in the 1999 NFL draft and played for the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets. His best NFL season came as a Bengal in 2000 when he caught 24 passes for 301 yards. In four seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Yeast has 158 receptions for 2,706 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Craig Yeast was recently named head coach at Freemont Ross (Ohio) High School after coaching receivers for two years at Tiffin University. Previously, he had been an assistant coach at Lincoln County, Marion County and Washington County as well as head coach at Bryan Station.
“Russ just had a good camp at Kentucky,” Yeast said. “They liked him because of the upside he has. He is a big, strong kid who has got a little bit of speed, runs good routes and he competes. The Kentucky coaches liked the fact he is confident and holds his own self accountable and wants to do well. He is hard on himself and wants to compete and make plays. There’s a lot of value in that.”
Russ Yeast is a 5-11, 170-pound receiver who just turned 15 in early May. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds — not the speed his smaller father had.
“Obviously he is almost four inches taller than I am and weight-wise in high school he is lot heavier than I was and he three more years to develop,” Yeast said. “He started varsity football all of last year (at Tiffin Columbian High School). If you could see his video, you could see the potential he has.
“We don’t do anything yet to work on his 40 technique. He just runs. However, he ends up, he ends up. He runs well for a 15-year-old kid. That’s pretty good.
Russ Yeast also started in center field as a freshman last season and hit over .350 from the leadoff spot.
“He played well, scored a lot of runs and had a lot of RBIs,” Craig Yeast, 1994 Harrodsburg High School graduate, said.
The former all-SEC receiver “likes what they are doing” at Kentucky. He was pleased with the improvements in facilities and ones that are scheduled to come. He likes the way coach Mark Stoops’ staff is recruiting.
“You will probably not see the true impact of how they are recruiting until next year, but they are going a great job,” Craig Yeast said.
Cincinnati’s coaching staff agreed because Russ Yeast got a scholarship offer from the Bearcats Sunday after another one-day camp.
“He was a little hesitant yesterday (at the UK camp), but as the camp went on he opened up and competed faster,” Yeast said. “Once they saw that, they knew the kid was pretty good. At Cincinnati, he already knew what to expect and was just flying around and had another good camp.”
Craig Yeast thinks it was a consensus of UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown, receivers coach Tommy Mainord and Marrow to offer Russ Yeast a scholarship.
“Vince is the coach that recruits his area,” Craig Yeast said. “He is the one that sat down and talked to us. But from talking to Neal, they are all on the same page. Russ is pretty excited about it. Not a lot of kids get their first offer from a BCS school in the SEC. I think the fact that it is Kentucky excites him, too. There are a couple of other schools on his radar that he would like to visit and see what happens.
“He’s just going to be a sophomore and still has a lot of time to develop. You never know what could happen in three years. The No. 1 thin is to stay healthy and his academics must continue to be good. Talent will speak for itself at some point. The biggest thing is to make sure his academics stay intact. I believe my wife will make sure they stay that way.”
Russ Yeast actually played middle school football with Lafayette lineman Landon Young, who verbally committed to UK last summer before his sophomore season.
“They can’t send anything to officially offer Russ a scholarship. It’s just a verbal offer,” Craig Yeast said. “But it is understood they want him to come and play. Things have changed so much since the days when I was being recruited. There are so many ways for coaches to find out about you now and so many ways via social media to contact each other. But getting that offer from Kentucky was still really, really special for Russ and all of us.”