The city of New Orleans has been good to the University of Kentucky football program in the past few years. Former standout receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. is from the Big Easy, as are two players who could be starters in 2010: fullback Moncell Allen and linebacker Jacob Dufrene.
Thanks to new assistants Tee Martin and David Turner, the Wildcats figure to keep the New Orleans connection going.
UK added a late signee from the McDonogh 35 school in linebacker Jewell Ratliff and also have a 2011 commitment from another McDonogh 35 product, quarterback Theltus Cobbins.
Ratliff originally signed with Louisiana-Lafayette in 2009. But Hurricane Katrina caused him to have issues with the transcript from his freshman year, and he wasn't cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. He was set to enroll at Hinds (Miss.) Junior College in March when he got word that he finally had been cleared for eligibility.
Frank Daggs, an assistant coach at McDonogh 35, said Louisiana-Lafayette had filled all its roster spots at that point, so the school sent out film on Ratliff to several schools. Turner had visited McDonough 35 in January and saw Ratliff in Daggs' office.
"He was asking about him, and I told him that Jewell hadn't been cleared yet," Daggs said. "(Turner) said, 'Tell him I said 'Good luck.' Then a couple months later, I called and told him, 'Coach, you remember that kid you saw in the office? He just got cleared. Coach Turner said, "Send film immediately."
Ratliff chose UK over Arkansas, Texas Tech, and East Carolina.
The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Ratliff was a two-time Class 4A All-State selection and compiled 87 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and five interceptions his senior year.
"He's a guy that can run sideline-to-sideline and will knock your head off," Daggs said.
UK lost linebackers Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell from last season, and Ratliff hopes to challenge for a spot in the middle or on the strong side.
"I sat out last year waiting to get cleared and that was hard, so I really don't want to sit out again if I don't have to," Ratliff said. "I want to get on the field."
Daggs spoke very highly of Martin and said UK will be in the mix for any top players that come through his school. The Roneagles are perennially loaded with college prospects. Two players from the 2010 class are on their way to college, defensive end Lawrence Cayou (Texas Tech) and defensive tackle Kenny Welcome (Tulane). A 2011 receiver, Charles Henderson, committed to Utah, cornerback Devon White committed to Colorado and another receiver, Trey Carter, is also receiving interest from Division I schools.
Daggs said UK got another hidden gem in Cobbins, a 6-2, 190-pounder who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.
"He's got a rocket arm, and he was on our (4-by-200) relay team that won the indoor state track championship," he said. "He can flick the ball like 30 yards with no effort. Tee came and saw him and said it reminded him of himself when he was coming up in Mobile."
Daggs said Martin learned a lot about the city from Raynoch Thompson, who played prep ball in New Orleans and helped Martin lead Tennessee to the 1998 national championship.
"Tee knows New Orleans has a lot of talent, and he makes it a point to come and see about our guys," Daggs said. "After Katrina, a lot of people stopped coming down here to recruit. It's just been in the last couple of months that people have started to come back."
Daggs said Martin has a unique ability to connect.
"Tee Martin is doing wonders for the University of Kentucky. He does a great job of communicating with kids. He doesn't lie to them. We've got like 11 college prospects on our team, but not everybody's a major-college guy. Tee sat in front of our guys and said, 'I'd love to be able to take everybody in this room, but the reality is it's not going to happen. We'll look at everybody and come to campus, but that's the reality.' Guys respect him for that. Plus we're an inner-city school and don't have the money or resources a lot of schools have. A lot of our kids don't have fathers, so a guy like Tee, a national championship QB at Tennessee, coming to talk football and life means a lot to them."
Hall solid with Cats
St. Xavier defensive back Daylen Hall said last week that he's firm in his commitment to Kentucky. Hall committed earlier this month but said at the time he'd consider other schools if they were to offer.
"That's not even an option anymore; I'm 100 percent with Kentucky," he said.
Hall had offers from Marshall and Murray State, and also had some interest from Louisville and Cincinnati. But Hall said he hadn't heard from U of L or Cincinnati for a couple of months.
Hall received an offer from UK shortly after attending camp there this summer. He said he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash before the start of his junior year.
Kickoff Luncheon set
The UK football Kickoff Luncheon will be held July 30 at the Lexington Convention Center. The luncheon will include a question-and-answer session with Coach Joker Phillips and a highlight video. The event will start at noon and end at 1:30. Tickets are $40 each. For more information, contact Leslie Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 257-2589.
■ The 2010 Women's Football Clinic will be held July 31 at the UK football facilities. The clinic is designed for women with all levels of football knowledge. The coaching staff will be available to answer questions. Lunch and a clinic T-shirt will be provided. For more information, contact Lisa Ellis at Lisa.Ellis@uky.edu or at (859) 257-3611.
Newton visits Hope Center
UK sophomore quarterback Morgan Newton visited the Hope Center on Friday with his father, John, mother Ruby, and brothers Langston and Jordan. Newton and his family served food and spent time with drug-addicted patients in addition to giving out 100 pairs of shower shoes. Newton participated in community service events at the Hope Center earlier this year through UK and decided he wanted to go back with his family.
"We just wanted to let people know that we're human and we really wanted to give back, and this was something Morgan really wanted to do," said Newton's father, John.
Newton's father said new strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver has his son in the best shape of his life.
"I'm hearing that he's really made a difference this summer," he said. "I think you're going to see a different-looking group of kids this season."
Langston Newton, a junior-to-be at Carmel (Ind.) High, is also starting to make headlines. In addition to being a 6-5, 230-pound potential Division I prospect at defensive end, he's also a standout in the discus.