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By LARRY VAUGHT
When Neal Brown was considering whether to leave Texas Tech to become offensive coordinator at Kentucky, he kept thinking back to 2007 when UK beat eventual national champion LSU and spent much of the season ranked in the top 10.
Even though UK was coming off three straight losing seasons that got former coach Joker Phillips fired, Brown kept wondering if coming back home to coach at Kentucky could be good for him and his wife, who is also from Boyle County, and their two young daughters.
“What I kept coming back to is if we could continue the success we had on offense at Troy and Tech and combine that with coach (Mark) Stoops, who has been part of championship defenses, and hiring a young, energetic staff, we are the opportunity at Kentucky to be really good,” said Brown. “We could be the first to sustain this.
“It sounds funny, but everybody remembers the first. You can go through every first in your life. When you go down the line, you always remember your first. That is what kept drawing me to Kentucky. I am coming back here at some point to live. This is home to me. But if we can be the first to put Kentucky at a championship level, it would be a lot more fun to live here when I am retired and playing golf.”
Still, Brown admits he’s surprised at the rate UK is recruiting. The Cats have 22 commitments in the 2014 recruiting class, which is ranked among the nation’s top five classes currently.
“I thought a year or two after we sustain success we could be recruiting anybody in the country. It has been a pleasant surprise for it to happen this early,” the UK offensive coordinator said.
He says the success starts with UK’s “gorgeous” campus and “great” facilities.
“That is a huge selling point,” Brown said.
He notes Lexington is the “second largest town in the SEC but has a college atmosphere” players can enjoy.
“It is a welcoming place. When recruits and parents come in, they feel welcome. It is big enough to have everything you want, but not big enough to get lost in,” Brown said.
“We also sell the fan base. We have the most active fan base in social media and social media is huge now. Twitter, Facebook play as big a role in recuriting as anything. That really helps. We put out videos, and those things resonate with recruits. Coach Stoops is passionate about recruiting, too. He is extremely invovled and accountable. Every day he is on his phone working Twitter and Facebook. He wants to talk to someone.”
Brown calls it a “perfect storm” for recruits to turn on a video and see Stoops’ players making plays and then being drafted or see what Texas Tech did on offense the last few years.
“You see our guys make a lot of plays against the best teams in the country,” Brown said. “Then combine that with all the renovations that are getting ready to take place for football, and it creates the perfect storm for recruiting success.”