UK football notebook: Wildcats reel in recruits with perseverance

Herald-Leader Staff WriterJune 9, 2012 

UK football assistant coach David Turner

You know the scene in the movie where the guy stands out in the rain to get the girl?

Change it up a little bit and you know how Kentucky wooed a big-time recruit out of southern Florida this week.

UK defensive line coach David Turner arrived at Alvonte Bell's Everglades High School in the middle of a torrential downpour. The rain was so bad the team practiced in the gym.

Turner waited in the rain to talk to Bell, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end, who chose UK this week over schools such as Louisville, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State, Mississippi and others.

"May was tough as far as weather goes down here in the spring," explained Bell's high school coach Carlos Menendez. "(Turner) stood through a good period of rain. ... Alvonte noticed that, had good conversations with him, built a good rapport."

Bell developed a good relationship with both Turner and defensive ends coach Mike Cassity.

High school coaches are supposed to be high on the kids they coach, but Menendez said in a talent-rich area like south Florida, it's easy to see the elite talent rise to the top.

Bell is one of those elite level players, he said.

"He's relentless when he wants to be," Menendez said. "He's a hustle kid. He's the fastest kid on the football team."

The defensive end, who also has played some tight end and wide receiver sparingly, had 40 tackles, including seven for a loss and 11 sacks as a junior.

Scout.com has him rated as a four-star player and No. 21 in the nation at defensive end. At a scouting services combine in March, Bell ran a 40-yard dash in less than 4.7 seconds.

But it's more than the numbers, Menendez explained.

"Besides his physical gifts, he's very coachable," Menendez said. "Even with all the attention he was getting down here, he's always stayed humble. One of his best qualities is how coachable he is. He's not a big-timer."

Bell was happy to have the recruiting process finally end with his commitment to Kentucky.

"He was getting worn down," Menendez said. "He's a respectful kid, so he's never going to lead on to how tired he was getting (of the process). But there was one week we took him out of class 20 different times to talk to coaches."

If there's anyone as elated as Bell that the process is over, it's his coach.

"I'm happy he's made a decision," Menendez said. "I can go back to a regular cell phone plan now."

'Does nothing but win'

In just a few short hours, Kentucky went from having just one recruit in the 2013 class to having three. Bell committed and then shortly thereafter Reese Phillips, a 6-foot-3 quarterback from Tennessee, said UK was the place for him.

His Signal Mountain head coach Bill Price couldn't say enough about Phillips, a two-time All-State selection out of Tennessee.

"He's an extremely hard worker," Price said. "He does nothing but win."

Price said Phillips had offers from Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee, Memphis and Wake Forest, and he probably would have had more if he'd played quarterback from the beginning.

He's been a four-year starter in the program, playing tight end, defensive back, outside linebacker and safety.

Last season was Phillips' first full one as the starting QB. He threw for 1,895 yards and 21 touchdowns (completing more than 70 percent of his passes).

"He's not one of the guys who's been on the radar since eighth grade or ninth grade at quarterback, but everyone who's seen him really loves him," Price said.

After Signal Mountain graduated 18 seniors last season, Phillips seized a leadership role.

"He's like a coach on the field as far as reading coverages, putting players where they need to be before the ball is snapped," Price said. "We put a lot on his shoulders and he's able to handle that."

His intelligence helps, the coach said of the quarterback, who has a 3.75 grade-point average.

Phillips told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he knew Kentucky was his school quickly.

"I was here 15 minutes and it was so home-like, so much like Chattanooga," he told the paper. "It was just the people in Lexington in general. Everybody seems so nice and down to earth."

Cat campers

One of the final things that sealed Alvonte Bell's decision to go to Kentucky was a camp he attended on campus in late May, his coach said.

This is the time of year when those camps are going on, which helps kids make decisions, but it also helps Kentucky's coaches make some hard decisions, too.

After signing day this year, UK Coach Joker Phillips couldn't stress enough the importance of getting to assess potential Cats at camp.

"That's huge!" he said. "Huge. ... I value, I really value the evaluation (of my staff) than I do some guy that's putting stars on guys. Just watched a couple reels of film and put a star value on those guys."

Phillips said he doesn't value the star system much.

"One thing we want to do is see all of our kids practice. Also, we want somebody to see 'em do something physically," he said. "That's what I value."

At that same news conference, Phillips mentioned that as many as 15 of this year's freshmen got their offers after participating in one of Kentucky's camps, including DyShawn Mobley, Daron Blaylock, Shawn Blaylock, Zack Blaylock, Thomas Chapman, Patrick Graffree, Landon Foster and DeMarcus Sweat.

Salary updates

A few weeks back we printed a chart of the assistant coaches' salaries, including basic contract info about the two new coaches, Mike Cassity (defensive backs) and Pat Washington (wide receivers).

UK then notified me that the other assistants received contract extensions and raises, so here are the salary updates, per the new contracts, which are all two-year deals that run through June 30, 2014 (salary increase from previous contract is in parentheses): offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, $338,000 per year ($10,000); defensive coordinator Rick Minter, $338,000 ($13,000); offensive line coach Mike Summers, $293,000 ($10,000); defensive line coach David Turner, $293,000 ($13,000); special teams/tight end coach Greg Nord, $230,000 ($15,000); linebackers coach Chuck Smith, $177,500 ($10,000); running backs coach Steve Pardue, $158,000 ($18,000).

A cat from the past?

Next week I'm starting an occasional series in the notebook about former Kentucky players and where they are now.

If you know of a former UK player doing something special or interesting or want to know what happened to a Cat from the past, please contact me. Just look to the information below to find out how.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.comTwitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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