There will be a lot of anticipation and trepidation over the next few days for Joker Phillips and UK fans as the Kentucky coach tries to nail down two key recruits before national signing day.
The first order of business involves prospects Jon Davis and Lamar Dawson. Davis was Phillips' first commitment last December but is now considering Louisville and Illinois. Davis visited Illinois last weekend, and his father, Reggie, said the visit went well. Davis, who also visited U of L, isn't expected to announce his college choice until signing day on Wednesday.
Dawson will also make his college selection on Wednesday. UK has been perceived as the leader, but Tennessee has made a late push.
Finishing out the class
Counting Davis' soft verbal and quarterback Maxwell Smith, who enrolled in January and will count toward the 2011 class, UK has 20 known verbal commitments.
The potential for off-season attrition makes it hard to know how many scholarships will be available. Phillips is holding a scholarship for Dawson, and two receiver prospects were to make visits this weekend: Christian County's Bubba Tandy and Daryl Collins of Gadsden (Ala.).
Tandy told Catspause.com that UK offensive line coach Mike Summers envisioned him playing a similar role to Randall Cobb as a slot receiver, "Wildcat" quarterback and punt returner. Tandy, who's also considering Marshall, still needs to qualify academically and is a potential grayshirt candidate.
Collins, a three-star prospect, originally committed to Alabama but re-opened his recruitment after the Crimson Tide asked him to grayshirt.
Also visiting this weekend is Collins' high school teammate, fullback Alonzo Harris. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Harris is listed as the No. 2 fullback in the nation by Scout.com. He previously committed to Louisiana-Lafayette but has taken visits to Louisville and Tennessee this month.
Phillips usually has a surprise on signing day, so it will be interesting to see whether that will be the case again on Wednesday.
Locke shows his stuff
Former UK running back Derrick Locke spent the week practicing in front of NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl.
Locke's blazing speed and versatility are sure to open eyes, but he's also trying to dispel the notion that he lacks the size and durability to be an every-down back in the NFL.
Locke, who suffered a major knee injury in 2008 and missed several games this past season with a shoulder injury, measured 5-foot-8½ and weighed 186 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He's in the same boat as West Virginia's Noel Devine, who is 5-7 and 160 pounds.
"He's doing great," said Jon Perzley, Locke's agent. "He's playing good as any back. Being an undersized back, he's got a lot more to prove than most of these other guys. He doesn't want to be seen as a third-down back."
Locke, who's been training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.), will run at the NFL Combine next month.
"He's going to run like the wind," Perzley said. "I can't tell you what he's gonna run, but it'll be fast. He'll be fast."
Early reports have Locke projected anywhere from a late-round selection to a free agent, but Perzley expects his client to hear his name called during the draft. Perzley also represents Dexter McCluster, who at 5-8, 170 pounds went into last year's draft with size concerns but ended up being a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"By no means is Derrick Locke a free agent," Perzley said. "He won't go undrafted, mark my word. He's got a lot of the same skills as Dexter. He's a good runner, he can catch the ball, can play on special teams. He's gonna do it."
Ex-Cat Johnson wins award
Former UK receiver and current Buffalo Bills standout Stevie Johnson has been voted as the 2010 Vizio Top Value Performer. Vizio created the Top Value Performer award to salute the athlete whose performance on the field outpaced his salary by the widest margin. Johnson, who earned $470,000 this season, caught 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Johnson captured 63 percent of the vote in a field that also included Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley, Denver's Brandon Lloyd, Cleveland's Peyton Hills and New York's Ahmad Bradshaw.
Another Cat in Super Bowl
Ex-UK punter Tim Masthay's outstanding performance in the NFC championship game last weekend helped the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears and earn a trip to the Super Bowl. This will be the second consecutive year for a Wildcat in the Super Bowl. Jacob Tamme was on the Indianapolis Colts' roster last year against the New Orleans Saints. Three Wildcats have made trips to the game in the last four years, with Jared Lorenzen on the New York Giants roster for the 2008 Super Bowl.
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.