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By LARRY VAUGHT
From the day he arrived at Kentucky, assistant coach Vince Marrow has believed that the Wildcats’ football program is going to rise to a new level under coach Mark Stoops, his childhood friend.
Marrow, Kentucky’s tight ends coach, has had incredible success recruiting in Ohio, and the Cats’ 1-2 start has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.
“This thing is going to change, and it’s going to change quick. I have a good group of experience at tight ends. They are hard kids that want to win and they play hard for me. But I can’t say these guys are not used to losing. That’s why you see the younger guys are coming. They are making plays,” Marrow said. “But I believe this: Some programs are where they are at, and some are on their way down, and some are on their way up. I am telling you, these people we recruit against, they know. They know, and that’s why the people in the Midwest are so upset with kids we are getting from Ohio and other places. We have their attention.”
Here’s more of what Marrow had to say about the Kentucky program:
Question: How much better do you feel about this team because of the fight it showed against Louisville that was missing against Western Kentucky?
Marrow: “I am like Mark (Stoops). I am from the same place. We don’t believe in having somebody say, ‘You guys played well.’ We want to win the game. But from week one to week three, it was a big improvement, and I have to give these guys credit — they are really fighting. I really was encouraged.
“Of course you want to win, but they took to the field what they have been taught in practice.”
Question: Can a team lose a game and still take a step forward?
Marrow: “This may be the first time you will hear me say this, but I was very proud of the way these guys played against Louisville. The crowd had to see these guys fought to the end. We had our opportunities … that’s what the fans are going to see.
“We are going to coach real hard, and it is going to get better. We are going to get more and more players in here. I am just speaking for myself, but we are going to refuse to take a back seat to anyone. I really like where we are going. I really do.”
Question: Is that the same thing you are telling players verbally committed in the 2014 recruiting class?
Marrow: “Yes. You can’t be a second fiddle or second character to people or other programs. When we came here, we said we were going to recruit the best players. That’s what we are doing, and they are buying into it.
“People think, and we keep hearing it, that our recruits may back off after we lost to Western Kentucky. Those guys were texting me and each other and Facebooking each other saying they couldn’t wait until they get here. They know our staff and what we are doing here.
“I am very proud of the players we have here now and very proud of the players we will have in the future.”
Question: How much do the current freshmen help sell the program to recruits?
Marrow: “I want to say 80 percent or more of them are playing, and they ain’t just playing because we are throwing them in there. They are good. You look at Ryan Timmons, Marcus McWilson, Jaleel Hytchye, JoJo Kemp, Jeff Badet, Jason Hatcher. You can go on and on.
“The good thing about that is the type of guys we were recruiting, we knew we were going against the best teams in the country. We are getting these guys and they are making an impact.”
Question: Do you feel even more strongly that future recruiting is going to get better and better?
Marrow: “I feel that. We had six weeks in recruiting last year, and it was a top-25 class. With the 2014 class, we are in the top five, top 10. We are on them, and our 2014 class is almost filled up like the other big programs do. We are on to the 2015 and 2016 kids. We have a good jump on these guys.
“We have some major, big-time kids here for the Louisville game that will be top-200, top-250 kids in the country. They see what the 2014 class is doing … and I am not just speaking for Ohio. I am speaking nationally. You got the top Kentucky kids, the top Ohio kids, and nationally other kids want to come and play with great players.
“So they look at the offer list and they see they have got Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska, and they are coming to Kentucky. So they want to go play in the SEC and be close to home, too.”