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Randy Taylor has over 30 years experience in the college football recruiting ranks and has been on staffs at Illinois, UCLA, San Jose State and Minnesota as well as having his own recruiting service before joining NCSA Athletic Recruiting as a recruiting analyst and national speaker. Taylor likes what he saw from Mark Stoops’ first recruiting class at Kentucky.
“If you have an aggressive, active head coach that enjoys recruiting you’ve got a chance. His name recognition can get him in the door of recruits other coaches can’t. Take advantage of it,” Taylor, who helped recruit a No. 1 class at UCLA, said. “I would be confident if I was a Wildcat fan as I think this group can get this done. In my mind success has different levels and being in the hunt for conference titles and consistently playing in bowl games should be the short term goals.”
Taylor offered these insights on the recent Kentucky football recruiting class.
Question: How do you evaluate the first recruiting class that Stoops was able to put together at Kentucky?
Taylor: “Under the circumstances of putting the staff and organization together in a first year it was pretty good especially with key mid year prospects on campus and a couple good junior college kids to add early depth and maybe more.”
Question: Are there any major surprises to you about the class?
Taylor: “That had to be getting Jason Hatcher at the end.”
Question: Do you think this is only a sign of things to come about the emphasis he will have on recruiting in Florida and Ohio? How much could that help Kentucky?
Taylor: “Their location to Ohio and other Big Ten areas as well as the southeast states lend itself to this. Being in the SEC allows them legitimate access to any of the southeast states where by the way the most talent in the nation resides. If a midwest kid wants to play in the SEC they can go to Kentucky without much of a long drive. In the end, where they decide to spend time building relationships with high schools or already have relationships going is whee they’ll be most successful.”
Question: Who are the stars of this recruiting class in your opinion?
Taylor: “Getting Jason Hatcher at the end the decommit from USC was a great get. Za’Darius Smith, the defensive end from East Mississippi Community College is a long athlete with good quickness and a motor who’s already on campus getting into the system is huge. I like receiver Javess Blue, another junior college kid from Butler Community College. He’s an explosive kid, a playmaker and has good length. Alvonte Bell, a defensive end from Everglades, Fla., has a terrific upside and may be the sleeper of the class. Finally, I like that they got the young quarterback on campus in the spring, Reese Phillips from Signal Mountain, Tenn. He’s got the size, accuracy and can throw on time that you want in a quarterback and I think he’ll get bigger, stronger and faster at this level making him a really good prospect. Nate Willis, cornerback from Arizona Western Junior College has good size, is instinctive, quick and runs well. He can handle bigger receivers.”
Question: How does Kentucky’s signing class stack up with other SEC classes?
Taylor: “They’re in the bottom few of the conference but have some good kids throughout the list that will be contributors at a high level and some immediately. This class would be several spots higher in most other leagues.”
Question: When you think of Kentucky football, what do you think of?
Taylor: “They should win more!”
Question: What kind of long-term impact can Stoops and this staff have on recruiting at Kentucky?
Taylor: “Depends on how active coach Stoops and his staff is year in and year out in their efforts. Recruiting is a year-round job and not just with the next class. They have to make underclass prospects high priorities. Recruiting of the class of 2014 is about one-third over already.”
By ASHLEY SCOBY
Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said UK had a “vision to sell, and we went out there and sold it” to recruits in a short amount of time. New coach Mark Stoops and his staff signed UK’s highest rated recruiting class that included eight players with a four-star rating from at least one recruiting service. Eliot, who worked under Stoops at Florida State, made his first two recruiting visits to Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons and Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher — and both signed with UK.
“For us to be successful, we’ve got to make sure that those great players within the state stay in the state. I’m coming from Florida State and a big part of our program is built on Florida kids. Even though there may be more of them, it was still the core of our team. If we could do that here at Kentucky, we’ll be successful,” Eliot said.
Here’s more of what the first-time defensive coordinator had to say about recruiting and the program.
On target areas for the program…
Eliot: “The first thing that I did before I started the evaluation process of our recruits was I watched video of every single player on the team. I had the graduate assistants make a cut-up, whether it was just from practice from the guys that didn’t play in any games, or if it was just a small amount of action the players got in games. I watched every single defensive player on our team, and then developed what our needs were to fit our scheme for our defense.”
On what he saw in those tapes…
Eliot: “Like coach Stoops touched on, our philosophy is that we want to be big up front and be extremely athletic. So we had an emphasis on recruiting defensive linemen and fast skill players. That was our emphasis.”
On transitioning from being a position coach to defensive coordinator…
Eliot: “Fortunately I kind of got my training wheels the last two games at Florida State because I was the defensive coordinator there for the last two games. I’m excited about it.”
On competing for in-state recruits with schools like Ohio State, USC and Florida…
Eliot: “I think that it shows that they see the potential within their own state. What I’ve found with recruiting Jason Hatcher was that he wanted to go to Kentucky. He wanted to believe in the program. When we were available to convince him of what we’re going to do, then that helped him jump on board with us. I think with the future players within our state, they’ll feel the same way.”
On ease of converting a program from 3-4 to 4-3 defense…
Eliot: “We’ll need some time to develop some of the techniques up front for that transformation but it shouldn’t take long. And we’re going to be more multiple than you may realize as well. At Florida State, you could tell we had some injuries. We were running 3-4 schemes quite often.”
On excitement of actually getting on the field after the recruiting process…
Eliot: “I’m very excited for that process. It’s an opportunity and a part of my coaching career that I’m really looking forward to.”
On importance of bringing in junior-college recruits to increase the “maturity” of the team…
Eliot: “At certain positions, we felt like we needed some veteran players and that’s why we recruited junior-college players at those positions.”
On if this class will send a message to future recruits…
Eliot: “It says a lot. Ryan and Jason — they both are Kentucky proud. I think that when we were able to show them our plan to be successful, they felt good about staying and going to Kentucky.”
On what the last couple of months have been like…
Eliot: “It has been very interesting because I was the defensive coordinator at the Orange Bowl. I took the job, came here and recruited for two weeks, then went back and coached for Florida State for two weeks. I prepared the game plan and practices and then called the game in the Orange Bowl and then came right back here and started recruiting again. It has been interesting to say the least but it’s been exciting and I’m looking forward to the future.”
On the current UK players he’s excited to work with…
Eliot: “Alvin Dupree is a very good player. I recruited him at Florida State, so I’ve known about him for quite a while. There’s a handful of guys I’ve been really impressed with and the rest of them have a clean slate with me. They have an opportunity to prove to me what they can do.”
On how his recruiting style connects so well with players…
Eliot: “I think that a lot of these players these days want to play for somebody that has a passion for what they’re doing and somebody that can motivate them day in and day out and is enthusiastic and energetic.”
On the deciding factor to jump from Florida State to Kentucky…
Eliot: “Well I believe in coach Stoops and I believe in what he’s doing. I see the potential that the University of Kentucky has, being in the best conference in college football. Also the commitment that the university’s making towards facilities and other avenues.
On how much he used the prospect of playing in the SEC on the recruiting trail…
Eliot: “Tremendous amount. I think all SEC schools sell their conference as much as they can. When I was at Florida State, that was something I was always battling – defending the ACC and battling the SEC.
On recruiting guys to UK that he had previously recruited to Florida State…
Eliot: “Alvonte Bell we were recruiting at Florida State, and he stayed with his commitment to us. There were some other players that we visited with as well. For the most part, we wanted to start fresh when we got here. We wanted to bring in some of the guys that we thought would fit our system offensively and defensively. Those are most of the guys we signed.
“One of the biggest things in recruiting is relationship-building. If I had a good relationship with them, it wasn’t that big of a deal. When I walk into their home, it’s more of a high-five than it was ‘Hey, why do you have a different sales pitch?’
On using the prospect of immediate playing time in recruiting…
Eliot: “We always sell the opportunity that you’ll have to play, but we never guarantee anybody playing time. That wouldn’t be fair to the players that are on our team. But we definitely sold that opportunity. Like coach Stoops touched on, you’ll only be 15 practices behind the rest of the team, as oppose to going somewhere else where they’ve been implementing a game plan and a scheme for four or five years.”
On if the staff will have to use the upcoming season’s results to recruit in the future…
Eliot: “I think we’ll recruit on what we do next year but we’ll still be able to draw on our track record and what we’ve done in the past.”
Eliot: “I love it. It’s a wonderful town. My wife and kids are moving here on Friday and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a great community and we’re very excited.
On his style of defense and its ability to work in the SEC…
Eliot: “Fortunately at Florida State, we were very good at stopping the run and I know for the most part, this is a run-oriented conference. I think when we apply those principles, we’ll be successful.”
On making the state of Florida a priority in recruiting…
Eliot: “It’s a very talented area. One thing some people may not realize too is it’s a very highly-populated area. That’s a big reason why there are so many prospects that come out of there. Seventeen to 20 million people live in that state. It was a place that we knew that we could recruit because of our relationships, but it was a place that we also knew had a lot of good players there.
On importance of Florida ties…
Eliot: “Initially the ties were very important because when we gathered and started evaluating players, I called five or six people I knew in the state of Florida and said, ‘Hey, tell me who some good players are’ that maybe I didn’t know about at Florida State. We were able to gather a list pretty quickly of great players we could get on that we knew could fit our needs and start recruiting them right away. But it’s because of those relationships that we had that we could get that information.”
On how many of the signees came from Elliott finding out about them from his connections in Florida…
Eliot: “Quite a bit of them. The entire coaching staff was able to talk to the people that they had relationships with and quite a bit of our signing class came from those initial conversations.”
On 50 percent of the signing class coming from the state of Florida…
Eliot: “I think that players in the state of Florida really do appreciate the SEC and when they have an opportunity to come play in it, they’re going to jump on it.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Just as Mark Stoops got ready to start his first signing day press conference as coach at Kentucky, he stood up and walked away from the podium. He got a banner of Louisville Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, who had signed with UK minutes before, and put in on the wall with banners of 21 other UK signees as a horde of media members watched.
Accidental? No way.
Stoops knew landing the 6-3, 250-pound Hatcher, a four-star recruit, was a special way to end signing day and sent a strong message about what he had done in just over two months. Remember Hatcher was originally committed to Southern Cal and even when he de-committed, many thought it would be to stay home and play for Louisville.
Instead, Stoops and UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot never backed off and they pulled off a recruiting gem by landing him just one day after four-star Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons turned down Florida, Illinois and Ohio State to join the UK class.
“With the addition of Jason we signed three players (Clay County defensive tackle Jacob Hyde was the third) from Kentucky and Jason was important in a lot of ways. Important person, great family. Mama was Louisville. That was hard to get around for a while but a great person. Gives us great credibility in moving forward,” said Stoops.
That’s because Hatcher was rated No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com, No. 10 by Scout.com, No. 14 by ESPN.com and No. 16 by 247Sports.com at his position. He made 37 tackles as a senior, including 13.5 quarterback sacks and four additional tackles for loss, during Trinity’s state championship season in 2012 and 40 tackles and 12 sacks his junior season.. He played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio this year.
“What makes him so dynamic is how explosive he is. He’s very good on his feet. He’s very good off the edge. He can do a lot of things but it’s his first step. He’s dynamic with his quickness and speed and athletic ability. We’re excited about that,” Stoops said.
Eliot went all-in with Hatcher as soon as he left Florida State — where he worked on Stoops’ defensive staff — and got to Kentucky.
“When I got hired as the first assistant, my first two stops were Ryan Timmons and then Jason Hatcher. We started building that relationship with Jason from day one and within this month’s span, we were able to get him to flip from USC and sign with us,” Eliot said. “He’s extremely motivated to be a great player. He has the skills to be fantastic but it’s kind of what he has that I think is going to make him special. I’m really looking forward to coaching him.”
He’s not the only gem in the class. Kentucky went into Ohio and got three solid players led by safety Marcus McWilson. Half of UK’s signees — 11 — are from the state of Florida, including highly-touted four-star running back JoJo Kemp. Kentucky got Javess Blue, perhaps the nation’s best junior college receiver, and Za’Darius Smith, one of the best junior college defensive ends.
But convincing Hatcher to play at UK was a perception bonanza for Kentucky and only adds to the excitement Stoops has built since taking over a team that went 2-10 last year under Joker Phillips.
How did he convince Hatcher to stay and become the first Trinity player to sign with UK in years?
“It’s about relationships, it’s about presenting a plan, how we — we’re going to use him. Things we have done in the past, the way our defense works, how he’s going to fit into it and, again, we had to make up a lot of time in relationships and we spent a lot of time with Jason and his family, his mother, Donna. We spent a lot of time and effort into that,” Stoops said.
On the last home visit, Stoops took three assistants with him. On a visit to Trinity, he took four coaches with him.
“They were gracious enough to spend a bunch of time with us, and they got a chance to see us and see what we’re all about,” Stoops said.
Eliot knew it would be a “challenge” to get Hatcher.
“But I felt like that we had something to offer him that he was going to be interested in, so I kept going after him,” the UK defensive coordinator said.
That never-give-up attitude has been a change in UK recruiting. This staff signed eight four-star players in this class. Eight. That’s never been done before at UK.
“One thing we sold them on is that everything coach Stoops has been responsible for his entire career, he’s been successful.
Whether he’s been an assistant coach at Miami, whether he was the defensive coordinator at Miami, whether he was the defensive coordinator at Arizona State or whether he was the defensive coordinator at Florida State,” Eliot said. “He took a program or a position and he made it better, and most of those exponentially better. We sold them (recruits) that he’s got a plan for being a head coach and he’s got a track record of being successful and he’s going to do the same thing here.”
The recruits obviously listened, and believed.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky made another huge statement for its football program today when four-star Louisville Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, who originally committed Southern Cal in July, signed with the Wildcats instead. He was the 22nd member of Kentucky’s 2013 signing class.
The 6-2, 240-pound Hatcher had waffled back and forth between USC and either Louisville or Kentucky before apparently being swayed by new UK coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator DJ Eliot.
His mother, Donna Hatcher, confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday night that her son “really liked the UK coaches” and how “passionate” the staff was to turn the program around.
Hatcher had somewhat infuriated many UK fans when he made his original to commitment to USC over Tennessee. “I told (Tennessee’s coaching staff), ‘You lost to the University of Kentucky. You lose to UK, you lose to everybody because UK finishes last in the SEC every year,’” Hatcher told ESPN in July.
Scout.com recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy offered this evaluation of Hatcher, the eighth four-star recruit in UK’s signing class: “Either an undersized defensive end or a jumbo outside linebacker, Hatcher has the speed to play OLB and the frame to grow into an every down defensive end. He’s tremendously quick off the line and fast in pursuit. He relies on speed and quickness rather than strength, because of his size. He uses his hands well and has a variety of pass rushing moves. To be an every down end, he’ll need to get considerably bigger and stronger.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky may sign a better player, or even better players, than Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons today. However, there is not a more important player in UK’s signing class than the Franklin County standout.
He turned down Florida, Ohio State and Illinois to announce Tuesday that he wanted to play for new UK coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator. Forget the numbers or star ratings. They are important, but what Timmons’ decision did was strongly validate that the perception of Kentucky football has changed so much since Stoops’ arrival.
He’s only the second in-state player in this recruiting class — Clay County lineman Jacob Hyde was an early commit — and he readily admit that despite his friendship with then UK coach Joker Phillips, he could not envision himself playing in UK’s offense. But with Phillips now trying to persuade him to become a Gator, he easily could picture himself making plays and scoring touchdowns in Brown’s offense.
Timmons becomes a signature recruit for Stoops and Brown. Remember that Brown’s sales pitch to in-state players was to come to Kentucky “and be a hero” by playing for the Wildcats. Timmons said he didn’t picture himself as a hero. Instead, he said Brown wants to win games and throw the ball and he wants to win games and catch the ball, and Timmons believed that was for him.
“I think it just means more to me to help build something than going where something is built and follow the success,” Timmons sad. “Going to UK gives me a challenge. It will be hard, but I like the challenge. Basically, it was just being part of something established or being part of building something and changing Kentucky football.”
He almost seems too good to be true. He’s a dynamic playmaker with a humble personality. He’s intent on raising his grade-point average to 3.5 — he had a 4.0 the first semester — by May. Even first-year Franklin principal Buddy Sampson said it didn’t take him long to figure out that Timmons, not him, was the most popular man on campus.
Timmons said he could hear both Stoops and Brown yelling when he called to them he would commit to Kentucky. Odds are he probably could have heard screams all across the state from UK fans Tuesday afternoon when he made his decision public. And even though he had hats from four schools in front of him, he didn’t play any games. When it came time to make his choice, he said Kentucky and students and faculty in the Franklin gym roared their approval.
Not long after that, he was busy texting and calling Louisville Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher. He makes his college choice today (and my bet is that it will be Kentucky, too) and Timmons wants to “try and get him to Kentucky.” He had already talked to several other UK commits and soon hopes to start getting to know more of the current Wildcats.
Kentucky fans probably are going to embrace him like they have other in-state stars. John Herndon, sports editor of The Anderson News in Lawrenceburg, says it’s easy to like Timmons.
“When you are as close as Anderson County and Franklin County, with parents from both teams working together and kids knowing each other, you hear a lot of stuff through the grapevine even if you don’t know someone. I don’t know Timmons at all and have only talked with him in passing a couple of times,” Herndon said. “However, I can say I have never heard the first negative remark about him by anyone. That is saying something. The most common description I hear about him as a person is, ‘Timmons is a great kid.’”
And a great player.
Stoops and Brown recognized that immediately and made sure Timmons knew he was a priority for them, something he never sensed from UK before. Stoops even made his first visit as a UK coach to see Timmons, a trip that left a big impression on Timmons.
“They showed they wanted me and how much they cared about me,” Timmons said.
He said Brown didn’t stress that they “needed” Timmons to pay.
“He said they want me. I think I can help the team with my talent, but there is a difference in being wanted and being needed. They wanted me,” Timmons said.
They were also confident enough in their sales pitch that they didn’t bombard Timmons with calls and visits in the last week. In fact, Timmons said Tuesday was the first time he had talked to Stoops in about five days.
However, Timmons knew the buzz about his recruitment and UK football.
“I think for the first time they (fans) are talking about football during basketball season. That is good,” Timmons said.
And it only got easier for fans to talk even more after his commitment Tuesday.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Three in-state players that were not on Kentucky’s radar before Mark Stoops was hired as new coach became immediate recruiting targets for the Wildcats.
One, Mr. Football James Quick of Trinity, gave his verbal commitment to Louisville earlier this month and basically admitted that UK just came into the recruiting picture too late for him.
Another player, Franklin County standout Ryan Timmons, seems intrigued by Neal Brown’s offense — he played in basically the same offense in high school — and could be favoring UK now over Florida and Ohio State.
The third player, Trinity four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher, recently decommitted from USC after making a visit to USC. He has visited UK and could visit both Florida and Louisville before signing day Feb. 6. Like Timmons, Hatcher’s interest in UK now is because he likes the defense that Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot use.
Hatcher had 27 tackles last season and is ranked among the nation’s top defensive ends.
Getting either Hatcher or Timmons would be a huge recruiting bonanza for Stoops. Getting both would be liking finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
So could UK land Hatcher? Absolutely. The guess here is that it will come down to Louisville or UK. He has more ties to Louisville, but I’m hearing more and more that he’s doing nothing to discourage UK.
What do you think? Could Stoops break the Trinity barrier and land this big-time player less than two months after taking the UK job?
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
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.