UK football notebook: Mom of recruit impressed by passionate Kentucky pitch that gained her son's commitment

Herald-Leader Staff WriterAugust 3, 2013 

When you're recruiting a player whose mother recruits for a living, you have to take things up a notch.

That's what Kentucky had to do when it grabbed a recent commitment from four-star offensive lineman Nick Richardson from Westerville, Ohio.

Richardson's mom, Connie, has been a women's basketball coach at Otterbein University for more than 20 seasons. And while a Division III basketball program is in a different universe from Southeastern Conference football, Richardson is more than familiar with recruiting tactics and strategies.

And she was impressed with Kentucky's game plan.

"As a family, our biggest thing was 'Nick, try to go somewhere where they really want you,'" Richardson said on Saturday. "I think that staff ... they worked their tails off to get him."

Some of UK's full-court pressure, applied in large part by main Ohio recruiter Vince Marrow, included 74 hand-written letters sent to the Richardson household one day, the number Nick wears for Westerville Central.

The postal propaganda has been widely reported, but there were other things, like taking Connie over to meet UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell and having him show her around the facilities.

"You know, they try to work the mother," she said with a laugh. "It was great. I enjoyed meeting with him. You always like to talk to successful people and seeing their facilities and talking a little bit of recruiting."

The family got to sit down with UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. "We spent a half-hour talking with him and listening to his vision for Kentucky," she said. "That was one thing no other school had done."

Richardson also was impressed with Kentucky's Erik Korem, the new high-performance coach.

She was so intrigued by Korem's strength and conditioning models as well as the advanced tracking technology that Richardson went back to Otterbein and talked to their football coaches about Korem's plan.

"That is a phenomenal program," Richardson said. "It was intriguing from the coaching standpoint. We're just hoping our kids are eating a Pop Tart in the morning before they show up."

Richardson loved the rapport she saw between Marrow and her son's future position coach, John Schlarman.

"They've only known each other for six months and you'd never know that," she said of Marrow and Schlarman. "They have a wonderful relationship. They're good at messing with each other. You could just sense it's going to be a great working relationship and that's imperative on any staff."

Ultimately, it was Marrow who sealed the deal, though, Richardson said of the UK tight ends coach who also is a close friend and former Cardinal Mooney High School teammate of head coach Mark Stoops.

"He's been relentless, which is not a bad thing," she said of Marrow. "He's just very passionate. He's very passionate about what he does and he takes a lot of pride in getting Ohio guys."

So far, Marrow has been responsible for getting 12 Ohio commitments (nine in the 2014 class and three in 2013 group).

That 2014 class currently is ranked No. 3 in the nation by Rivals.com.

Richardson understands how it's happened. "It all goes back to Marrow. He's on a mission with his great pursuits."

His pursuits took him all the way to a softball complex in Ohio where his daughter was playing on one field and Richardson's daughter, Hannah, was playing nearby.

The UK coach made sure to stop by and say hello.

"He doesn't let up," Connie Richardson said of Marrow. "If he wants something, he's coming after it. That's one of the things I liked about him. You can see his passion. It's right there on his sleeve. ... He's very proud of Ohio and of what he does and that's going to play into the successes down the road for Kentucky."

Ground rules

Before the start of fall camp, Kentucky sent out some media rules, which are similar to the regulations Joker Phillips had for past UK fall camps.

■ First-year true freshmen will be available to speak at Media Day on Monday and then not again until after playing in an actual game.

■ Quarterbacks Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow will be able to speak at Media Day, but will be silenced until a starter is named sometime during fall camp, or as UK says "a date to be determined."

So look for information out of Media Day to be quite freshmen/quarterback centric.

■ UK's first official full practice will be after the Media Day festivities. So Coach Mark Stoops will get a double dose of the media by dinner time on Monday night.

Lasting first impressions

During the various hand-shaking, tongue-wagging events in the past few weeks, Stoops gave some insight into how he went about hiring his first staff.

The most amusing story (to me anyway) was his first contact with offensive coordinator Neal Brown, a Kentucky native. Apparently the first time Stoops spoke to Brown, the former UK player was driving with his wife, Brooke, and young daughters, Adalyn and Anslee, from Lubbock, Texas, to Dallas.

"His little girl was screaming, yelling and going crazy," Stoops recounted to a kickoff luncheon crowd. "(Neal's) like, 'Coach, maybe I can just call you when I get there.' And I was like, 'I have a couple of young kids. If it's all right with you, it's all right with me.'"

Maybe it was the kid connection (by my count the staff has a combined 35 kids under the age of 11), but whatever it was, Brown made an immediate impression on his future boss.

"Right away, it was just a great fit," Stoops told an alumni group in Louisville two weeks ago. "To be honest with you — I didn't want to tell Neal this until now — after our first conversation, I was like, 'Oh, yeah, that's my guy; let's get him hired.'"

Revisiting tempo

Neal Brown was as interested as anyone to hear about the running debate that came out of Southeastern Conference Media Days in July.

The question was raised by coaches such as Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema about whether hurry-up offenses like the one Brown is installing at UK are dangerous for defensive players.

The coaches argued there should be a rule change to allow for substitutions because players might get injured during long, sustained drives.

In recent interviews with the Herald-Leader, neither Brown nor UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said they have seen any data to support the injury claim.

"I don't believe that it causes injuries. I'd have to see data," Brown said. "I don't think they've supported any data, from what they've said."

He argued that the tempo makes things more even on both sides of the ball, that the desire is to play the game as fast as it's allowed.

"It makes the game a little simpler and it levels the playing field," Brown said. "I think those are things that we need at the University of Kentucky, where we're at as a program right now. ... What we're doing is we used the rules to the best of our advantage."

Get-well wishes

Former Kentucky player and secondary coach Mike Cassity has been battling cancer this summer, but he appears to be on the mend.

Bobby Petrino, Cassity's new boss at Western Kentucky, told the crowd at the Louisville Quarterback Club this week that Cassity is doing well, according to Larry Vaught of the Danville Advocate-Messenger.

"He had a battle with cancer and fought through it," Petrino reported. "He is doing very well. He is working half a day right now. He has beat the battle and will get better and better. He is a great coach and tremendous recruiter, and he is getting better."

A Cat from the past

From time to time, we do a note on a former player doing something special or unique. This week that player is Ron Mack, a defensive back out of Tates Creek who played for UK from 1985-88.

Mack, who has spent most of his career working in business and banking, recently was named executive director of the Police Activities League in Lexington.

It's a service organization near and dear to his heart.

"When I see these kids I see myself," he said recently. "It's a program that can influence these kids to be better citizens, have a positive impact on their community."

PAL helps between 500 and 1,000 local kids a month through recreational activities ranging from cheerleading to the Mustang Troop, a program that sends youths to work with horses at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The charitable organization, run mostly by police officers and former officers, targets at-risk youths (ages 7 to 18) and tries to guide them in the right direction.

Mack hopes he can be one of those positive influences, and he's trying to help by serving as a fundraiser, and by helping the 23-year-old program gain more volunteers, donors and sponsors so it can help even more kids in the community. For more information, go to the website www.LexingtonPal.com.

"Where these kids are, where they live, that's my background," Mack said. "When I go to Castlewood Park or Charles Young Center, that's where I played ball. These kids are in a position where they can be influenced to go in one direction or another."

■ 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.

The info below will tell you how.

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

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service