The University of Kentucky started its eight-week second summer session on Thursday, and several members of UK's 2010 recruiting class arrived in Lexington to begin classes and workouts.
UK doesn't release an official list of players who are summer enrollees, but so far a handful have been confirmed to be on campus: place-kicker Joe Mansour, linebacker Avery Williamson, running back Raymond Sanders, tight end Alex Smith (who arrived for the first summer session in May), tight end Ronnie Shields, defensive back Eric Simmons, defensive tackle Brice Laughlin and defensive back Eric Simmons.
Another player who's in town is late signee Jewell Ratliff, a 6-foot-1, 236-pounder from New Orleans. Ratliff, a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, originally committed to Louisiana-Lafayette but didn't sign because he had yet to be approved academically by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Once Ratliff was cleared shortly after national signing day in February, he received offers from Arkansas, Texas Tech, East Carolina and Oklahoma State but decided to sign with UK in mid-March. Ratliff's high school teammate, quarterback Theltus Cobbins, has committed to Kentucky's 2011 recruiting class.
Mansour, a LaGrange, Ga., product, is being counted on to provide immediate dividends in UK's kicking game. But Mansour said he's just trying to get acclimated to college life. He's got a built-in support system in fellow LaGrange products Qua Huzzie, Tristian Johnson and Randall Burden.
"I know everybody's counting on me coming in and doing big things, but I'm not really thinking about that right now," he said. "I'm just trying to learn about my new teammates and get better. We've just been hanging out in the dorm, playing Xbox, eating lunch and getting to know each other. Qua's really been helping me out and keeping me in line with classes and all that stuff."
Mansour can also punt, but with Ryan Tydlacka expected to handle those duties Mansour will likely focus on place-kicking.
Sanders, ranked the nation's 15th-best all-purpose back by Rivals.com, could challenge for a backup spot behind starter Derrick Locke.
"I'm just trying to work hard and earn what I get," Sanders said. "I want a spot, so there's going to be no mercy. Being here early is really helping me adjust as far as time management and balancing classes with working out and football."
Perhaps the biggest culture shock for the rookies is the workouts with strength and conditioning coach Rock Oilver.
"I think a lot of guys are trying to get used to getting up early," Sanders said. "We had to get up for a 6 a.m. run the other day. Coach Rock is tough, but he cares about us and is going to make us better."
Several other freshmen are expected to arrive later in June, including Georgia defensive end Nermin Delic, who will be Mansour's roommate, and Sanders' high school teammate, linebacker Jabari Johnson.
At least four signees are still working toward trying to get eligible in 2010. Junior-college safety Mychal Bailey is taking two classes at Southern Union State Community College with hopes of arriving in Lexington later in the summer, according to Steve Pardue, his former prep coach at LaGrange (Ga.) High.
Bailey originally signed with UK in 2007 before enrolling at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
Another player who originally signed in 2007, Donte Rumph, is also still trying to get himself cleared to enroll. Rumph spent the last two seasons at Fork Union Military Academy. A pair of linebackers, Central's Tim Patterson and Columbia, S.C., native Farrington Huguenin, also have some work to do to get into school.
Mitchell recommits to UK
Powder Springs, Ga., tight end Terrell Mitchell, who signed with UK in 2009 before ending up at Georgia Military Academy, has committed to the Wildcats' 2011 recruiting class according to Catspause.com.
Mitchell redshirted this past season at GMC because of a hand injury and will have three seasons of eligibility when he arrives in Lexington. Mitchell was listed as a three-star recruit out of high school. Scout.com had him as the nation's No. 24 tight end while Rivals.com had him No. 35.
Mitchell is Kentucky's 10th known commitment for 2011. The other players committed are: South Carolina WR Antonio Cannon; New Orleans QB Theltus Cobbins; Eastern TE Jon Davis; East St. Louis safety Glen Faulkner; Paducah Tilghman WR Josh Forrest; Bryan Station OL Darrian Miller; California QB Max Smith; Alabama WR Darien Thomas; and East St. Louis DT Clint Tucker.
The news that Southern Cal juniors and seniors are free to transfer without having to sit out a year because of the recent NCAA sanctions no doubt has coaching staffs across the country checking out the possibility of adding a player or two from the Trojans' talent-stocked roster. The NCAA ruled that schools are allowed to initiate contact with any USC player eligible to transfer.
According to the Seattle Times, the Pac-10 also recently ruled that it will not waive its transfer rules to allow USC players to transfer within the conference, meaning that any Trojan who wants to play in a BCS Conference will have to travel east.
While there are a couple of intriguing possibilities, don't expect UK to get in the mix with any Trojans. The name of well-traveled quarterback Mitch Mustain, a five-star prospect out of high school who's currently behind starter Matt Barkley, popped up in transfer rumors. But Mustain told the Orange County Register this week that he has no plans to leave USC.
While upperclassmen are open game, schools are not allowed to contact incoming freshmen who have signed a letter of intent. True freshman running back Dillon Baxter said this week that five schools, including Florida, illegally contacted him after USC's penalties were announced. Florida has denied the allegation.
UK is one of many schools that offered a scholarship to USC freshman Markeith Ambles, who was ranked as the nation's third-best receiver out of high school. But Ambles' father told GaVarsity.com that his son is going to wait and talk to school officials before making a decision about his future.
The Wildcats would definitely be interested in a receiver the caliber of Ambles, but they'd also likely be competing with schools such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and the many other high-profile programs who offered Ambles out of high school.
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.