Go south, young man.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but it’s been a snark free week here at the blog discussing Georgia’s next opponent.  (Don’t worry, we’ve got Auburn and Tech ahead of us to get back to what we do best here.)

Mockery seems particularly inappropriate for the job Mike Stoops has done at what’s historically been a program defined by not getting over the hump.  Surprisingly in this day and age of instant gratification, he’s been given time to build the program up and it’s paid off so far in 2018, with a 7-1 record and gaudy national ranking.

One of the most impressive things Stoops has done is to take a kind of Moneyball approach to Kentucky’s recruiting.  Instead of beating his head against the wall in places like Florida, he’s found a gap and exploited it very successfully, as Eleven Warriors explains here.

Unlike Ohio State, and most of the other teams in the top 10 of the rankings, Kentucky’s roster isn’t loaded with blue-chip recruits. Over the past four recruiting cycles, the Wildcats have landed no five-star recruits and just 13 four-star recruits, including two who have transferred from the program and two who have been sidelined all season due to health reasons.

One thing that has stood out about Kentucky’s recent recruiting efforts, though, is that the Wildcats have loaded up on players from their neighbors to the north – specifically, players who haven’t received offers from their home state’s flagship school – and those players have been a huge factor in the Wildcats’ success.

Kentucky’s current roster includes 28 players from the state of Ohio, and many of the Wildcats’ best and most important players this season have been among them…

… While Tressel’s recruiting classes routinely included double-digit in-state prospects, Meyer has become increasingly selective – particularly in the last two classes, taking just six in-state recruits in 2017 and five in 2018 – as the Buckeyes have lured some of the top talent from all over the nation.

That’s left the door open for other schools to come into the Buckeye State and come away with quality talent, and seemingly no school has taken advantage of that opportunity better than Kentucky, which has signed at least five players from Ohio in each of their last five recruiting classes.

Not too shabby.  Perhaps the best thing is that with success comes increased credibility on the recruiting trail, which leads to, at least in the short-term, an enjoyable moment of irony.

Now that the Wildcats have emerged as a contender in the SEC, they are in better position to win more recruiting battles with Ohio State and other blue-blood programs, which they proved on Thursday by landing a commitment for the class of 2019 from four-star running back Wandale Robinson, who is a Frankfort, Kentucky native but was also recruited heavily by Ohio State and several other teams that have historically been national contenders, including Nebraska, Alabama and Michigan.

Sure, it’s way too early to say this is sustainable — the UK roster still lacks the depth of the SEC’s stud programs — but I doubt there’s a single Kentucky fan who won’t take what Stoops is offering so far.  He’s done a good job there.


Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

20 responses to “Go south, young man.

  1. Bigshot

    Stoops needs to take the success and move on to greener pastures this year .He can parlay his success into a better job. Next year Kentucky will be a BB school again.


  2. Mayor

    Success on the field breeds success in recruiting. IMHO the game in Lexington this Saturday while huge for Georgia and it’s SEC title and playoff hopes, is even bigger for Kentucky. A win by U.K. stamps the Cats as finally making it to the big time and the effect on recruiting would be enormous. If U.K. could have just one recruiting class like Georgia had last season—just one—it would be a game changer for their program.


  3. Isn’t Michigan famous for stealing Ohio players and beating OSU with them? In Columbia SC, former Gamecock Ryan Brewer has been on the afternoon call-in shows lately. He is famous for getting John Cooper fired after the Outback Bowl loss to the chickens. Cooper didnt recruit him and he had been Mr. Ohio Football. Guy ran all over them. Still lots of talent up there in that rust belt.


  4. Bill Glennon

    Great year for Kentucky. UGA will win by over 20 points.


  5. Al

    I think the key is what you mentioned. They’ve given him time to build the program in an age of instant gratification. Everybody wants a Saban, but there’s only one. Schools will do well when they realize that, and hire the best possible coach and give him time to do his work.


    • Macallanlover

      I agree. Giving him time, and his strategy on recruiting is paying off. Hats off to Stoops for doing a solid job, don’t you know how the TN fans are viewing this with a severe case of jealousy. This could have been the way for them to have climbed out of the pits…may they long remain there. Notice how we aren’t hearing the “East is so weak” comments this year, primarily because of Kentucky, with an assist from FU. Even Vandy’s competitiveness has helped, especially in South Bend. All of a sudden UGA’s schedule has grown to being respected, and not a drag. By the time we have played the season, I think 7 teams will have been in the Top 25 at some point in the season, and 4 will have been in the Top 10 at some point. And that is before we play another in the SECCG, if we win tomorrow. Doesn’t excuse the AP and UMass games but will stand up to other contenders among the Top 10.


  6. Normaltown Mike

    I remember after 2K when UK fired Mumme and OSU fired Cooper that some commentators were saying this was the best opportunity for Kentucky to get a fundamentally sound coach with deep ties in Ohio as a way to improve the program in this exact way.


  7. Got Cowdog

    So tomorrow will be UGA v OSU lite? Interesting…


  8. Texas Dawg

    So the new pecking order for the SEC East?


    • Al

      switch UT and Vandy


    • Bill Glennon

      I prefer that pecking order. Florida, USC and Tennessee will be in disarray the more UGA is on top and an unexpected SEC East foe gives them trouble. USC and UT don’t have losses to give with Clemson and Alabama on their respective yearly schedules, in addition to UGA and Florida.

      Constant coaching turnover among rivals is good. Ask Saban.


  9. The Dawg abides

    Even if they win tomorrow, finish with one loss and win the East, this is still a one-off type of season. Like it was stated on here earlier this week, this team was built the past three seasons by developing the talent and being senior heavy. It goes against how the big boys of the conference sustain success by relying on top ten classes to reload. They lose a lot and Snell will turn pro. If the fans can live it and stick with Stoops through the cycle of a couple of down years, he can produce a team like this occasionally.


    • Anonymous

      Most Kentucky fans are quite aware that they are not going to be a true powerhouse that competes for national titles on a regular basis. What they desperately want is a program that can win 7-8 games ever year and have a legit top 15 team every few years.


  10. Down island way

    When UGA comes to town, it’s a good reason to tailgate, go into the stadium, leave just before the 4th quarter starts, listening to the final few minutes on the the radio describing how the home team woulda, coulda shoulda won………but lost by 18…….the “process” in action……..GO DAWGS!