John Clay: Past UK stars paved the way for an excellent recruiting class

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 5, 2009 

John Clay

  • Rich Brooks on 2009 recruits

First of all, thank Andre Woodson. Thank Jacob Tamme. Thank Keenan Burton. Thank Steve Johnson. And Rafael Little. It wouldn't hurt to throw a little love Dicky Lyons Jr.'s way.

Thank all those Kentucky football players from a couple of years ago.

Listen to Randy Sanders. He is UK's recruiting coordinator, or was. His last day was Wednesday. National signing day. He's not going anywhere, just handing the title to Chuck Smith.

Two years ago, Sanders was asked whether Kentucky's win in the Music City Bowl, the school's first post-season victory in more than a quarter century, would have a positive effect on recruiting.

A little, he said.

"But," Sanders reminded we media Wednesday, "what I said was, 'It's going to help more two and three years down the road.' "

That road is here. This is the best recruiting class Rich Brooks has signed in his six years at Kentucky. You can never be sure about these things. The future is fickle. But this class has size. It has speed. It has depth. It has multiple stars sitting beside the names of multiple players. It has an excitability factor.

That brings us back to the guy at the podium, the one we were just talking about. Sanders wasn't just recruiting coordinator. He was also quarterbacks coach. And the two biggest names on the marquee are quarterbacks.

"That's one of the good things about being recruiting coordinator, and I hate to give it up," said Sanders, "because when you're recruiting coordinator, you can make sure your position is covered."

Here's what gets him excited: The two quarterbacks can't wait to compete. Against each other.

One is Morgan Newton, the quarterback from Carmel, Ind. The other is Ryan Mossakowski, the quarterback from Frisco, Texas. USA Today rated Newton among the nation's top 10 dual-purpose quarterbacks; Mossakowski among the nation's top 10 passing quarterbacks. Here they are, coming to the same school. And that school is Kentucky.

"In my experience, those are the guys who become good players," Sanders said. "I'm always skittish about that quarterback who says he wants to be the only one you recruit. Because when it's fourth quarter against Louisville, or fourth quarter against Georgia, or whomever it is, you want to bring someone in there who isn't afraid to compete."

But back up a second. Examine the reasons the duo — guys who weren't afraid of a challenge — signed in the first place. It was because of Woodson, whom Sanders and Brooks and Joker Phillips developed. It was because of Little, and Burton, and Johnson, and Tamme, and Lyons, the weapons that developed around Woodson. That's the type of weapons Brooks says he has in this class. (Note the size in the receivers.)

The players are gone, but the developers remain. Don't overlook that. UK did a smart thing a year ago, announcing publicly that Joker Phillips would be the head coach whenever Brooks decided he'd like to stay out on the fishing boat. Recruits know what to expect.

"I don't think there's any doubt it did have an effect," said Sanders.

They also know about the system being run. They saw it work back then. They saw the staff revert to some different things during the season in hopes of better utilizing the talent on hand. But then they saw that same staff return to its bread and butter for the win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.

Those are the things that bring a Morgan Newton and a Ryan Mossakowski on campus to compete with Mike Hartline, and against each other. Those are the things that get a coach excited.

"This class," said Brooks, "should put this program in great shape moving forward."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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