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.