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Since Ohio receiver Derek Kief is considered one of the nation’s best high school receivers, it’s no surprise that he has Ohio State and Alabama — in no certain order — as his top two schools. However, he has a surprise at No. 3 — Kentucky.
“I would say Kentucky is No. 3, but he had definite interest in Kentucky,” said Cincinnati Lasalle High School coach Tom Grippa. “He is 6-5 and runs a 4.5 (second) 40 (yard dash). He is a great receiver and special kid. He is a legit 6-5, is long and can jump and run with great body control.”
Kief, who went to the Ohio State spring game instead of UK’s Blue-White Game, has related well with UK assistant coach Vince Marrow, Kentucky’s primary recruiter in Ohio.
“Vince offered him early and he also thinks coach (Mark) Stoops is going to get it turned around at Kentucky,” Grippa said. “Plus a bunch of Cincinnati area kids have committed.”
He listed receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass of Springfield as one player committed, and he did make his verbal pledge public last week. Grippa also noted that he thought Cincinnati Winton Woods cornerback Mike Edwards had also committed. However, Edwards, who did attend the Blue-White Game as did Snodgrass, has not made his pledge public.
“They were texting him and telling him they needed him to come to Kentucky,” Grippa said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if he picked Kentucky because he did like Kentucky a lot. He will not drag out his decision.”
Kief’s teammate, cornerback Jaleel Hytchye, is part of UK’s 2013 recruiting class. “He is trying to talk Kentucky to him all he can,” Grippa said.
Hytchye is a special talent, too. He just broke the school record in the 200-meter dash that was held by receiver DeVier Posey of the Houston Texas with a time of 22.4 seconds. Grippa believes he’ll win the state in 100-meter dash.
“He ran a 10.7 100 and that is when he actually injured his hamstring and pulled off a little bit,” Grippa said. “He thinks he can get down to 10.5. He is legitimately fast, just like Derek.”
Kief had 44 catches in eight games in 2011 and 65 catches in 10 games last year — averaging about 90 yards per game — even though Grippa says Lasalle has not had a strong-armed quarterback throwing to him.
“He has been good from day one. He was outstanding as a freshman and started as a sophomore,” Grippa said. “He has 20 touchdown catches in two years. He is already close to all our career receiving records. He is pretty special. We run the spread offense and if teams played him one on one, we would have thrown it to him every play, but we never got that.
“He is a physical player. He is very tough. He is not afraid to go over the middle and make a catch. He had multiple catches were he would get drilled by big linebackers. For Alabama to offer a kid from Cincinnati, he has to be special. They do their homework and are very thorough in their recruiting process. Ohio State did not offer at first, but as they kept looking for receivers across the country they kept saying this kid or that kid was not as good as Kief.”
Kief has a 3.7 grade-point average and Grippa said he “doesn’t make mistakes” on the field.
“I just think all things considered, he is one of the better receivers in the country,” Grippa said. “He won’t just take off and run through or past the secondary. He can catch deep balls, but we just didn’t throw many. We play in the Greater Catholic League, the best league in the country. Against Moeller, and they were state champions and had 12 Division I players, they put a linebacker going to Michigan State at safety to counter Kief and he still had 12 catches.
“I think his best football is still ahead of him by far. He will have a big-time quarterback throwing him the ball and will get even more opportunities to make plays in college. He’s going to be really, really good for somebody.”