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By LARRY VAUGHT
Jason Hatcher and James Quick were teammates on powerful Louisville Trinity teams and two of Kentucky’s best players their junior and senior seasons.
Now they will be opponents Saturday when Kentucky hosts Louisville. Hatcher is a defensive end at UK and Quick, Kentucky’s 2012 Mr. Football, is a receiver at Louisville.
“I probably won’t talk to him this week,” said Hatcher, who was recruited by Louisville just like Quick was recruited by Kentucky. “I might give him a good luck text (message). We do talk when I get home. We might meet up or something. It’s going to be a good game, but I don’t think we will be talking until after the game.”
Hatcher shared these other thoughts going into Saturday’s rivalry game.
Question: How did it feel to get your first win at Kentucky against Miami (Ohio)?
Hatcher: “It was a great feeling. It was a lot of hard work to win it. We had a lot of corrections to make from last week and came out with a lot of energy and focus. Just a lot more wins to come.”
Question: How much does it help when the team plays with more energy like it did against Miami?
Hatcher: “People just did their job and played assignment football like we needed to do.”
Question: What will the game with Louisville be like for you?
Hatcher: “Obviously it is going to be a big deal with my connections to home rivalry and my relationship with some of the people on the team. But at the same time, it is just going to be another game. We have to go out there … we are going to prepare all week in practice and give it our all.”
Question: Is your family red, blue, split between red and blue?
Hatcher: “It depends on which part you ask. You know what I mean? But for the most part, my family is Kentucky.”
Question: Is that because you are at UK now or has it always been that way?
Hatcher: “Yes, because I am here.”
Question: How would you have answered before you signed with Kentucky?
Hatcher: “I would have been like we have a red and white basement.”
Question: Does that make this week fun or painful for your family?
Hatcher: “It is fun. It is all between the lines. Outside those lines, I still have good relationships with those guys. But inside those lines, we are going to get after it. But this is home. They are coming into our backyard, so we will have that on edge. It’s a tough week.”
Question: Do you know a lot of Louisville’s older players because of the way Louisville recruited you for so long?
Hatcher: “Yes, I do. They have some great guys and a lot of depth. It will be a great game. I know a lot of the younger guys and the staff, too. We just have to prepare for a great team over there.”
Question: Do you see with the younger players here a lot better times ahead for UK like what Louisville is enjoying now?
Hatcher: “Most definitely. We have a lot of good young guys on offense and defense. Our offensive guys are explosive and we have freshman playing on defense like Blake McClain. And myself.”
Question: Are you learning a lot backing up Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith?
Hatcher: “Oh yeah. I know a learn from Bud every day in practice, and Z as well because I played both sides. Bud is more of an athlete and Z is the technician of the defense. I get both sides of it.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Trinity receiver James Quick, a four-star recruit, says he’ll base his college choice on “whichever coach can connect with my family more than anything because family is the most important thing to me” and that was obvious by the turnout of family members recently when he received the Paul Hornung Award as the state’s top prep player.
He’s going to pick either Louisville or Ohio State during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 5 in Texas.
He admits Louisville “is definitely ahead of Ohio State” and that he likes Louisville coach Charlie Strong because “he is all about team” more than anything.
But what if new UK coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator had been at Kentucky longer and had been able to recruit him for more than just a week weeks?
“I think they are going to do a great job as far as rebuilding their program. Bringing in a great style of offense that I would love to play in and just coming after me as a good fit for them because I like to play in an offense that actually throws the ball, all that impressed me. With their offensive coordinator and defense, they are going to come in and have some fun,” Quick said. “WhenI talked to coach Brown, he talked to me about their offense. He told me to watch their offense and the way he did things. I did and really liked what I saw.
“They were in my head slightly. Not much, but I did give them a look to see if that is where I wanted to go. But these other schools just recruited me a lot longer and lot harder.”
Why? Why would UK not recruit the state’s best player at the state’s best high school program?
“Usually when coaches come to the school you see the coaches and you do not see the Kentucky coaches much at all. I really can’t tell you why,” Quick said. “At first, it surprised me that the Kentucky coaches weren’t at school. After a while, though, you just got used to it and knew they were probably not going to come. I think that’s going to be different now.”
It is and should be. However, for UK, it comes too late to have had a chance at a big-time receiver who would have been invaluable in Brown’s offense.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Since 2001, coach Bob Beatty has led Trinity to 10 state football championships and he has compiled a 165-21 record in 13 seasons guiding the Shamrocks.
He has been named the head coach of the East squad for the U.S. Army All American Bowl Jan. 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio where his five-star receiver James Quick is scheduled to make his college choice with Louisville and Ohio State the perceived leaders.
Beatty, an assistant coach for the West in last year’s bowl game, had senior defensive end Jason Hatcher (USC) and senior cornerback Ryan White (Vanderbilt) on this year’s team and has quarterback Travis Wright returning along with standout athlete Reggie Bonnafon.
He shared his thoughts on how new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and his staff have shown interest in recruiting Trinity players already as well as other thoughts recently during a ceremony at the Louisville Quarterback Club when Quick won the Paul Hornung Award as the state’s top player.
Question: What do you think of new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and his staff?
Beatty: “I have only met the coordinators and talked to the head coach on the phone, but the first thing I can tell you is that they were here. They were in our school and they were talking to us and spent a great amount of time with me on two different occasions. The fact that they are here and punching the clock tells me that they are making their faces known and that is the first step.”
Question: Have you sensed a stronger commitment already from this UK staff to recruiting Trinity than past UK staffs?
Beatty: “I think the past Kentucky staffs were in there, but I think at times there was maybe a word spread that the kid wasn’t interested so they would maybe kind of fade away. These guys came in strong and said, ‘Hey, we have a package to sell and come and look at us.’ That is where it has to start and they have been persevering pretty hard and that is what you have to do.”
Question: How did Brown come across on his visit to Trinity?
Beatty: “We immediately went to the board and started talking some X’s and O’s. I am a lot older than he is, so we go way back. A lot of our philosophies meshed and we could kind of along the way have touched different people that have influenced us on the offensive side of football. (Defensive coordinator) D.J. Eliot, I don’t know very well yet and do not know that much about their package yet because we run a little bit different defense than they do. Just getting to know them initially is a good step and I felt like we did that.”
Question: How would junior quarterback Travis Wright (244 of 374 passing for 3,314 yards and 36 touchdowns) fit into Brown’s system at Kentucky?
Beatty: “I think he could pretty much fit into anybody’s offense. We are a very, very multiple offense. He can run it and he can throw it, but more than anything he has a lifetime completion percentage of about 70 percent. That says a lot. We average throwing about 25-26 times a game. The key thing about him is he has three state championship rings and knows how to win. That’s a key. When you play the kind of schedule we have and you still come out on the winning side, then he knows how to handle competition, he has played in front of big crowds and he knows how to win. I think that is one of the big leading factors on why he could play anywhere.”
Question: Is he thinking about college choices yet?
Beatty: “I think so. The question is how many people are going to take a look at him. You hear this a lot, ‘He is a system quarterback.’ My reply is maybe you need to design a system to let him be successful because he’s been pretty successful in our system. It is their job to find the talent and if they don’t, they won’t have jobs. Somebody is going to find him.”
Question: How good is defensive end Jason Hatcher?
Beatty: “As good as he wants to be. His potential has just barely been tapped. He has a got a ways to go maturity wise to make sure he plays every down. But is it there? Yes. Is he hungry? I hope so. When he gets to that level, there is no such thing as plays off because the next three guys behind you are as good or better than what you are. I think he is going to realize that very quickly but I think he is going to be very good at the next level.”
Question: Even though he has verbally committed to USC, is there any truth to rumors he might reconsider that and could be interested in Kentucky?
Beatty: “If he listens to his head coach, he will open all of his doors. This business of early verbal commitments, it holds no stock on their end and really there is no stock on the athlete’s end. My philosophy is to protect my athlete, so open as many doors as you can and then don’t shut it until you have to. If it were up to me to open all those doors and take a look, absolutely because I wouldn’t trust those guys any farther than what I could throw any of them. I have been in those recruiting rooms because I coached five years of college ball and know how they operate. He should keep every door open that he can.”
Question: While it sounds like Mr. Football James Quick has done that, is he set to make his college choice at the U.S. Army Bowl Jan. 5?
Beatty: “I think so. He will know when the time is right. If it is there, it’s there. If it is sooner, it’s sooner. He has my support. He has family support as well. He will know when the time is right.”
Question: How do you feel about players playing multiple sports as Quick did with football, basketball and track?
Beatty: “That is something we relish at Trinity. We want kids to play multiple sports. We have a tremendous amount of football-wrestling. A tremendous amount of football-baseball. James played basketball as well. We don’t have a tremendous amount of guys that do basketball because they are right after each other and they overlap, but James does that. (Former Louisville/NFL quarterback) Brian Brohm did three. It is not unusual for us. We do cherish it, but if you are not out for another sport you are expected in that weight room in the offseason. That has a lot to do with our success at Trinity.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He grew up a Kentucky fan and always dreamed of playing, and then coaching, at the University of Kentucky. That’s why new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Monday he has a simple recruiting pitch for in-state players like James Quick of Trinity, Ryan Timmons of Franklin County, James Hatcher of Trinity and others.
“Come be a hero. You look at the guys that have played well at the University of Kentucky that are home-grown products, they come back here to live — and they have good lives,” said Brown. “Some of the guys that have gone on other places, they come back home and the name recognition, the notoriety is not the same.
And the other thing is: If you build this football program, if you’re a Tim Couch, you’re an Andre’ Woodson, you’re those type of kids — and those are just quarterbacks, I could go into position players, too — in a place where you have a personal investment, where you grew up a fan, because we all know in here that most kids in this state grow up to be a Kentucky fan. They wear blue from an early age. I was one of them, I can tell you that— if you can do that at the state school, then it’s going to be a special thing. And do it, there’s a good opportunity that you’re going to stay employed for a long time here.”
A video that Texas Tech media relations put on various social media early last season for fans and recruits to see has been beneficial for Brown since he took the UK job 10 days ago.
“We used it at Texas Tech to sell (the program), used it through social media on our Twitter, Facebook and those types of things,” Brown said. “Kids really relate to those. It’s one thing to talk about and tell people, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do,’ and listen to it vocally and show it to them on the board and all that kind of stuff but when they see it with their eyes and hear, ‘Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown’ a lot then they can feel the excitement in it.”
Brown says recruits he’s seen have ben “excited” about Kentucky football.
“I think anytime you go into a new situation, and you have something to fall back on — we had a lot of success at Texas Tech and at Troy. When you’re talking to skill players in particular, you can talk about how you’re going to get them the ball and you can show them, you can show stats and proven results, that’s going to pop their eyes open,” Brown said. “At certain spots, our scholarship numbers are low and the opportunity to play early is going to be here. That’s another thing that perks their ears up.”
Brown, a former UK walk-on receiver after his standout career at Boyle County, says he was “very average” as a college player and that he has to get “better players than I was” to play at Kentucky.
“What I sell is what hard work and begin prepared. That’s the bigger message that I sell. I tell everybody that I come in contact with: I was a very average player. When I got to the University of Kentucky, I was a very average player. I think average players make really good coaches a lot of time because you’ve got to figure out ways to be successful. I’m not selling them on myself as much,” Brown said.
“When I talk to people, I sell them on our vision, and the No. 1 thing we talk about is our stadium will have 70,000 people in it. It will. There’s a lot of excitement, and our fan base is strong. It’s going to be an exciting brand of football. It’s a young coaching staff that can relate to players. Those are the things that we’re really selling here early in the process.”
He’s basically recruited Texas the last three years after joining the Texas Tech staff in 2010 after running the offense at Troy the previous two seasons.
“Texas has great football players. I don’t know about it being a ‘home state,’ so to speak for recruiting, but I think we can go in there and pluck a couple players each year,” Brown said.
He did downplay the chances of signing a junior college player even though tight end Steven Borden of Kilgore College in Texas visited UK last weekend and told various media outlets that the Cats were No. 1 on his list.
“It’s hard because we’re late coming in the process. Recruiting is really different now. It’s an 18- to 24-month relationship-building, and we’re really coming in on the back end. And we’re going to be able to flip some (high school) kids for sure (but) it’s hard on junior college kids because signing day is tomorrow. So we’re really talking about a week to try to get a guy flipped, so we probably won’t go that route,” Brown said.
He also had an interesting perspective when asked if he would have to change the type of player UK has been recruiting to fit his system.
“They were spread for the first two or three games (last season), to my memory until (quarterback) Max (Smith) got hurt. I think they got a lot of spread principles in there,” Brown said. “We’re going to fit our system to the players we’ve got.
“This is a message I had for our offensive coaches. We have to go get recruits, no question. But our biggest recruiting deal is getting the guys that we have sold on our system and maximizing the guys we have on campus right now. Those are going to be the biggest players for us in the fall.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Anyone who knows Neal Brown knows that Brown did not lack for confidence as a high school or college player and has kept that same trait during his successful college coaching career.
That’s why it’s no surprise that he has gone right to work trying to convince the state’s best players — who had little interest in UK during the season — to give the Cats a closer look now that Mark Stoops is the head coach and he’s the offensive coordinator.
Apparently four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher of Trinity, one of the state’s top five players and a Southern Cal commit, is listening to Stoops, Brown and new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot because now plans to visit UK. No guarantee of anything more, but it is a start.
Brown also watched Trinity receiver James Quick, another four-star player the the winner of the Paul Hornung Award as the state’s top player, play basketball Tuesday night and has let him know he could star in UK’s new offense.
Receiver Ryan Timmons of Franklin County, a three-star recruit and scoring machine last season, has heard from Brown, too, and likely will visit UK Saturday. He is also considering Arkansas, Ohio State and Illinois.
Timmons could be a natural in Brown’s offense because Franklin County ran a similar offense and Timmons scored 42 touchdowns rushing and receiving. Franklin County coach Chris Tracy attended a coaching clinic at Centre College two years ago when Brown, then the Texas Tech offensive coordinator, went through his offense and the last two years the Flyers have had one of the state’s top scoring offenses.
Stoops was the coordinator and Eliot the defensive ends coach for a Florida State team that was second in the FBS in total defense. UK has now bolstered its resume further by bringing in Brown to run the offense.
Timmons said that UK has an appeal as an in-state school.
“If that’s where I end up, I hope they do turn things around,” he said. “I know that if I went there, it would be exciting. My mother could be there for me every weekend to watch me play. I’m looking forward to my visit. I can’t wait.”
Timmons plans to pick a college after he takes his January visits. He has no single favorite but is focusing on four schools: Arkansas, where he visited during the season; Illinois, where he visited two weeks ago; Ohio State, where he’ll visit on Jan. 11; and UK, where he plans to visit the week before or after he goes to Columbus.
Trinity also has three more of the state’s top 10 players in cornerback Ryan White, running back Dalyn Dawkins and quarterback Travis Wright. If Stoops and Brown could make inroads at Trinity, annually one of the state’s best teams if not the best, it would be a huge start for revitalizing the Kentucky program.
By LARRY VAUGHT
New Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown apparently hit the ground running Monday as soon as he officially signed his new contract with the Wildcats.
Kentucky has two potential big-time receivers — James Quick of Trinity and Ryan Timmons of Franklin County — with the speed and playmaking ability to compete in the SEC. Last week new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot went to see both players, but Brown is the one who will be coaching them if they decided to come to Kentucky. That’s why Brown wasted no time Monday according to sources going to see both players, who have yet to make their college choices.
Sources also indicated that he hoped to pay a visit to Notre Dame commit Hunter Bivin, a 290-pound lineman at Owensboro Apollo.
If Kentucky could land one of the three, that would be major progress for coach Mark Stoops and his staff. If the Cats could get two, it would be a huge boost for the program in a variety of ways.
Brown may even have found time to visit another high profile Lexington player Monday just after he signed his contract and before he hit the road.