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Leaving his mark is important for Cincinnati’s Jaleel Hytchye. That’s why he’s “grinding” his way through track season now in hopes of winning a state championship before he heads to Kentucky to try and help rejuvenate the football program under new coach Mark Stoops.
“I am focusing on track, but I am lifting (weights) to get stronger and hopefully I’ll make a run at a state championship and leave a legacy as far as that goes,” Hytchye, a cornerback, said. “I am working out with my trainer.”
Track season has had “ups and downs” for him because he keeps aggravating a hamstring injury.
“It has been nagging me every time I step on the track,” Hytchye said.
Still, he has Ohio’s best time in the 100-meter dash and second best in the 200-meter dash — and he’s not run the 200 since the first meet of the track season.
“I have an opportunity to win state. It’s just a matter of staying healthy and fresh (for the state meet June 7-8),” Hytchye said.
That state meet will keep Hytchye from reporting to UK quite as early in June as some Stoops’ recruits, but he plans to be on campus by June 20.
“I came down for the spring game. I am actually part of the reason that (running back) Mikel Horton committed. I took him and (Conner quarterback) Drew Barker out to meet fans,” Hytchye said. “I got to meet a lot of folks. I knew that big crowd was coming. I have seen how great the Kentucky fans are. Once they get even more reason to believe, I know how passionate they are. It’s just a matter of giving them hope and Stoops gave them hope. I knew they would have a big turnout at the spring game. I am ready to rock and roll right now.”
What about UK’s chances with Barker, who will make his commitment public Friday?
“We’ve got to get him on the team,” Hytchye said.
Same goes for Hytchye’s teammate, receiver Derek Keif. He’s a 6-5 receiver who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and averaged 90 yards per game for LaSalle High School as a junior. He’s got offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama.
“He’s interested in Kentucky. I think it is between them, Alabama and Ohio State,” Hytchye said. “I basically leave him alone, but I do try to influence him a bit. I don’t want him to think he should go to UK just because I did. But I have told him with the type player he is, he would thrive at Kentucky. It’s the perfect opportunity for him. He loves it, too. It’s just a matter that he wants to take his time. As he gets closer to a decision, I will talk to him more.”
Hytchye said practicing against Keif and other Division I receivers LaSalle has produced “is what got me better” the last few years. “I go agains the best every day. Not every high school player gets to do that,” Hytchye said. “Derek catches the ball so well. He has real good body control and is great at catching the ball. He’ll be great in college.”
That’s why Hytchye has worked so hard to get Keif and others to Kentucky. He was the first player to verbally commit to UK after Stoops was hired. Hytchye — his father is Cuban and that’s where his name come froms — became a fan favorite on Twitter (his screen name is @TheRealLeel_9). He’s ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 cornerbacks by some recruiting services and has run the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He had scholarship offers from Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Purdue, and Vanderbilt as well others.
“I feel even better about Kentucky now than I did then,” Hytchye said. “It felt right for me and I wanted to be the first high school commit and be the one to get it rolling for the rest of the class. I know I have a shot to play and make early contributions. I have a lot of goals set in the SEC to make a name for myself on campus. I don’t think I could have made a better decision.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
New Kentucky football commit Jaleel Hytchye (6-0, 165) is ranked as the nation’s 50th-best cornerback prospect by Rivals.com. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at an Ohio State camp. He had received scholarship offers from Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Purdue, and Vanderbilt as well other schools.
Previous UK coach Joker Phillips and his staff had recruited Hytchye and he “loved” the campus and “everything about the school” on his visits. However, he was not going to come to UK.
“I just didn’t get that winning vibe from the previous staff like the program was ready to compete in the SEC. With Stoops and (defensive coordinator D.J.) Eliot, I just feel that vibe,” Hytchye said. “Before, the football program just was not there. Now I get a feel from all the coaches that they don’t believe in losing. With those coaches and players and now recruits buying in, I think we can do something special and start a new tradition. Being part of tradition is a good thing, but starting traditions is even better.
“I am a fast guy, cover corner. Probably a little feisty. I definitely want more bulk. If I can do that, I can play a lot more physical, and that’s the way I want to play. I can cover a lot of ground. I like to hit and stop the run. I can’t put a big hit on now like I want to because I don’t have that much weight. The challenge for me is to put on weight and bring it even more when I hit somebody.”
Hytchye, who didn’t play cornerback until his freshman year at La Salle High School, sounds similar to another Ohio cornerback — Cody Quinn — who made significant contributions as a true freshman last season at Kentucky. He’s from Middletown, which is only about 30 miles from Cincinnati.
“I went to see him play once in high school and knew who he was. We’ve talked briefly,” Hytchye said. “I can see myself helping out as a freshman like him.”
Hytchye thought it was important to commit now rather than wait to take other official visits.
“We’ve got to get other guys on board. We need other guys to do something special at Kentucky,” the new commit said. “I am willing to buy in and do all I can to help make our class special. We could be the cornerstone class to get it done at Kentucky. We need to get as many good players on board and then we can do special things.”
He’s not sure if he will run track at UK, but he has that option. He’s run the 100-meter dash in 10.9 seconds, but he’s so versatile that he has also been timed in 1:55 for the 800-meter run. Seldom do sprinters try a distance event like that, and Hytchye admits running the 800 is not good for his football because the training causes him to drop weight.
“I do it all from sprints to the 800,” Hytchye said. “Kentucky coaches gave me the option to run track, and the track coaches were happy with that. I’m not sure what I will do. I am thinking about track and preparing for a big senior year. Depending on how that goes and then how my first UK season goes, then I will know whether to consider it.”
However, he knows playing football at Kentucky is going to be popular with family and friends.
“Everybody here is excited. A whole bunch of people at my dad’s job wanted me to pick Kentucky. They had a little party when I made my choice. We went out with some family and friends to celebrate,” he said. “This whole weekend has been great. I just know I made the right choice.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s not easy for any Kentucky football recruiting to overshadow basketball recruiting, especially when the basketball news involves the top-ranked center in the 2013 recruiting class.
Yet Cincinnati cornerback Jaleel Hytchye’s verbal commitment to new UK coach Mark Stoops over the weekend seemed to generate a bigger buzz among UK fans than center Dakari Johnson’s verbal commitment to coach John Calipari’s already dynamic 2013 recruiting haul.
“I was a little surprised at just how excited UK fans got,” said Hytchye. “I was not expecting that, but it is a blessing and I’ll go with that. It’s kind of fun.”
Fun? It was more than fun from him seeing the way Kentucky football fans reacted on various social media to Stoops’ first high school commitment. On Twitter, @TheRealLeel_9 (his screen name)started getting messages from UK fans as soon as he made his commitment public Saturday night.
Hytchye — his father is Cuban and that’s where his name come froms — spent a lot of time over the weekend seeing what he could do to help UK’s recruiting as well. He made a phone call to Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons, who seems down to Ohio State and Kentucky, urging him to play at Kentucky. He planned sometime Sunday to reach out to junior college defensive tackle Ben Bradley, who visited UK Saturday and was at Auburn Sunday.
He says he “hit it off” with Florida cornerback Blake McClain, who has committed to UK, and immediately joined him in working on Asianti Woulard, McClain’s teammate and one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks who also started drawing attention from Florida last week.
“I watched Asianti and know he is a great quarterback,” Hytchye said. “Bradley, we need those defensive linemen. Anybody who can hit, I want on our team. I know a couple of guys from Ohio who are considering Kentucky, so I am going to hit them up.”
What did Timmons, who did not have any real interest in UK until after the coaching change, tell him?
“He is pretty much wrapping it up. I feel really good with where he is at with Kentucky, but that is his thing. I want him to come on board and I’m hoping he does. Me and him could be good friends and I know he is really a good player. But I don’t want to say too much about his recruiting. That’s for him to do,” Hytchye, who is ranked as a four-star player by some recruiting services, said.