The 2008 recruiting class marked the first time in the Rich Brooks era that Kentucky failed to sign a single junior-college player. But the Wildcats went back to the junior college route in 2009, signing receiver Chris Matthews, defensive end DeQuin Evans and defensive tackle Mark Crawford.
Getting junior-college players admitted and enrolled has always been somewhat of a challenge at Kentucky, and the Southeastern Conference has historically had tougher admissions requirements than other BCS conferences such as the Pac-10 and Big 12. But former offensive coordinator Ron Hudson had extensive ties in the California junior-college system, and assistant head coach Steve Ortmayer assumed that role once Hudson left. Not coincidentally, 11 of the 15 junior-college players signed by Brooks at UK have been from the California junior-college system.
Academic hurdles prevented UK from adding two more California junior-college prospects to its 2009 class. Josh Morgan, a running back from Pasadena City College, committed to Kentucky the week before signing day but had eligibility issues and did not sign a letter of intent.
Kentucky also was recruiting Stephen Burton, a wide receiver from Long Beach City College, with hopes of adding him to this year's class. Burton, a three-star prospect by Rivals.com, caught 18 TD passes his sophomore season at Long Beach.
Long Beach City College Coach Mike Reisbig said last week that Burton's grades are the only thing preventing him from being a Wildcat at the moment. Reisbig said Burton still wants to attend Kentucky but might need to return to LBCC next fall to finish up his coursework, which means he wouldn't be able to sign until 2010.
"It's all a matter of if Kentucky's willing to wait on him," Reisbig said. "We may have to bring him back and use his redshirt year next fall so he can get his grades together. He's an immediate impact kid. Oklahoma, Cal and Arizona State all showed interest in him, but his grades were the major setback. He did it all for us. We certainly won't be able to replace him."
Like most programs, Kentucky has had mixed results with junior-college recruits since Brooks arrived. Trying to fight his way through a numbers crunch caused by NCAA probation, Brooks signed five jucos in his first full recruiting class in 2004. Two of those signees, receiver Scott Mitchell and defensive end B. Jay Parsons, were full-time starters and solid contributors as seniors, while the other three (Jamir Davis, Cedric Koger, Ernie Pelayo) were primarily backups. UK needed depth on the offensive line in 2005 and signed a pair of three-star junior-college prospects in Kalavi Blanchard and Fatu Turituri. Blanchard never made it to campus while Turituri was a part-time starter for two years despite battling knee injuries.
Receiver Steve Johnson was one of the biggest finds of the 2006 class, while J.D. Craigman and Ahmad Grigsby were mainly reserves. UK signed two junior-college offensive linemen in 2007, Jess Beets and Josh Winchell. Beets emerged as a starter in his senior year at guard before being sidelined by a knee injury, while injuries kept Winchell's career from ever getting off the ground.
Smith settles in as recruiting coordinator
UK linebackers coach Chuck Smith recently took over the duties of recruiting coordinator from Randy Sanders, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
Smith should be a natural as recruiting coordinator considering his remarkable success as the head coach at Boyle County.
"I love the recruiting aspect of the job," Smith said. "Going and talking to high school coaches, obviously I've done a lot of that in my lifetime. I don't mind talking to parents, either. I had to deal with that as a high school coach, and I think that helps me in recruiting."
One of Smith's recruiting areas is the state of Indiana, and he was instrumental in signing quarterback Morgan Newton and running back Dakotah Tyler to this year's class.
Smith said the coaching staff won't seriously begin to narrow down its 2010 targets, needs and how many scholarships will be available until later this summer after the camp season is over and it becomes clearer how many players will be back next season.
Bogue serves as director of Student Lobbyist Corps
University of Kentucky junior tight end Ross Bogue was recently nominated as a director for the UK Student Lobbyist Corps, a group that works on various projects as the voice of the student body. The group works closely with Legislatures to provide a student presence in Frankfort.
The SLC is currently working to push House Bill 226, also known as the textbook bill, which would require professors to post identification numbers on textbooks 30 days before the first day of class and also allow for CDs that are required for classes to be sold as individual items instead of a part of more expensive bundled packages.
"It's a no-cost bill; that's the best part of it," Bogue said. "We're not trying to shape the budget by any means. We're just trying to help out the students in any way possible."
Bogue was offered the position on the SLC by Student Government Association President Tyler Montell, and he works with another UK student, Joe Garramone, as SLC director.
Could this be the start of a career in politics for Bogue, an integrated strategic communications major?
"(Politics) are definitely something I've been interested in and wanting to try out," he said. "After I graduate and finish up (football) next season, I'm planning to go to law school. I'm kind of anxious to see where this leads."
UK offers Cincinnati defensive lineman
The University of Kentucky offered a scholarship to Cincinnati Wyoming junior defensive lineman Jibreel Black on Tuesday, Wyoming Coach Bernie Barre told the Cincinnati Enquirer. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Black also has offers from the University of Cincinnati, Indiana, Ohio University and West Virginia. Barre is a former coach at Beechwood High School and led them to a Class A state title in 1984.
Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org