A recruiting visit is all about the show.
But there's been nothing showy about Kentucky's facilities on game day.
It's been quite the opposite.
Before the new recruiting room (I'll get to more on that later), Kentucky visitors checked in at the Nutter Field House adjacent to the stadium. They walked across the indoor track to the corner of that building, which served as a makeshift recruiting room.
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"No game day atmosphere, no music," explained Dan Berezowitz, UK's director of football recruiting operations. "You couldn't hear what was going on in the stadium. You couldn't see warm-ups. You couldn't experience any of it."
Cats coaches would have to wind their way through game-day traffic and crowds to meet up with recruits in the room before games.
"The coaches really couldn't spend time with kids because they've gotten so far away from the locker room and then walking through the fans," Berezowitz said. "You're in the indoor and it's hot."
The last couple of seasons, Coach Mark Stoops' support staff had to scramble to get recruits onto the field as the team ran out of the tunnel. Then the recruits would be herded up to their seats before the game.
Oh, and their seats were behind the visiting team's bench, which created its own set of problems. Berezowitz would have to stand between opponent benches and UK's recruits.
"Their coaches would basically try to talk to our top recruits every game," he said. "They didn't care. They'd just sit there, 'Call me,' trying to recruit them, which is against the rules, but they didn't care."
Fast-forward to this season and what will become a VIP experience for recruits on game days in Lexington as they enter a private elevator that takes them up to the posh room built just for them.
"Our recruiting room will be a game changer for us," Berezowitz said of the specialized glass enclosed room in the East end zone of renovated Commonwealth Stadium. "It will be a showcase."
The room includes a massive walk-out patio space with high top tables and bright umbrellas.
A recruit "will be able to enjoy himself before the game, relax, go out on the patio, walk down for warm-ups, see coaches coming up from below," he explained.
The recruits will be near the tunnel where the team comes out for introductions. While they won't be allowed to sit there during the game, they can go back in there at halftime and get a beverage or use the facilities.
"We've got a lot of kids that come to the games, so that's a nice place for us to gather and spend some time with them, and they're allowed to have lunch and things like that up there and just take in the atmosphere of the stadium," Stoops said.
The head coach is being a little understated, though, about the one part of the stadium renovation that he had a major hand in.
"We really pushed the envelope on what we wanted in the room," Berezowitz explained.
There will be massive LED walls for video, pictures with graphics. There will be many televisions, some equipped with gaming stations.
"The technology in that room, there's going to be nothing like it in the stadium," Berezowitz said. "There will be more technology and video screens than there will be anywhere else in the stadium."
The recruits' seating area will be right near the recruiting room sitting near many of the coaches' wives and families in an effort to make it feel even more like family environment.
"They can witness the excitement and all the student section around them," UK's recruiting director said. "I've been at a lot of places, a lot of stadiums. I don't think anyone has anything like it, nothing that's even close."
The recruiting room space won't just be a game day destination either. It likely also will be used for Friday night dinners where the players and their families can mingle. The lights will be on in an empty Commonwealth Stadium with the video boards on just for them.
"It's a nice space and we're excited about it," Stoops said. "Any opportunity we have to improve with recruiting and just the hospitality we want to give these guys when they get on campus, it's good for us."
No 'robots' at quarterback
This winter, Kentucky's quarterbacks probably checked their phones to make sure they were still working regularly. With previous offensive coordinator Neal Brown, there was always a text or a call, regular reminders.
With new coach Shannon Dawson in place, there was silence this winter.
"It was almost like he doesn't even care about us at first," sophomore Reese Phillips said laughing.
He said getting used to that is just one of the many adjustments the quarterbacks have had to make to having a new position coach. Much of the scheme is the same, but the personalities are different.
"Dawson's very relaxed, which is nice," Phillips said. "He's played the position, and I think to coach a quarterback you have to have played the position. Not that Coach Brown wasn't a great coach, but the way Dawson approaches things it will definitely help whoever's out there playing."
Dawson has changed the way that the quarterbacks look at their jobs, junior Patrick Towles said.
"Coach Dawson has played the position and so he can kind of offer a new perspective to it," Towles said. "He's all about what we see out there. He's not making the decisions like we are, so he's all about us doing stuff and if it's working, we'll keep it; if it's not, we'll fix it. I like that philosophy a lot."
The new offensive coordinator expounded on that philosophy at the start of fall camp, noting that when there are five guys in that quarterback room, each one will see a play differently "even though we're going through the same progression and same offense.
"I don't want a robot out there; I want your personality to show through," Dawson continued. "Even when I sit in the quarterback room, I might look at something on the film and you can tell me that that guy's open. But in real time, what does it look like in your eyes. We've got to make decisions in real time."
Ultimately, he wants the quarterbacks to feel like ball distributors, not like the game is resting on their shoulders.
Towles especially has liked having some autonomy during fall camp, getting to change calls at the line of scrimmage and see what plays work best.
"It's fun right now because I can pretty much switch it to whatever I need to," he said. "Coach Dawson's been great working with us, making sure we're on the same page with that, not necessarily trying to get too fix-happy or check-happy and trying to change everything."
Quick hits from practice
Kentucky had a closed scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium where Stoops seemed pleased with play on both sides of the ball.
But the much anticipated (at least for fans anyway) naming of a starting quarterback didn't happen and UK released no stats.
"You know what, they both did very well," Stoops said of Towles and Barker. "They both moved the ball at times, so we'll take a good look at it."
The coach enjoyed the look he did get inside the stadium, which was still very much an active construction site, including the Cats not being able to kick toward the East end zone where workers were.
"Very good to get out here and get in the stadium and play for the first time full-go on a new surface and just have a good full-contact scrimmage," the head coach said. "We got an awful lot of work in today. I thought we really did some good things on both sides of the ball."
The offense is making plays and the depth it showed was impressive, he said. Defensively there were a few missed tackles, but Stoops seemed pleased overall.
"Got some good situational work done and made a step forward today," he said. "I was pleased. I was real pleased with the amount of work we got done this week as well."
Friday's practice was physical in the morning with a lot of situational work in the final portion of the two-a-day, Stoops added. There was a strong, competitive two-minute drill last night as well.
■ Injury updates: Running back Stanley "Boom" Williams did not play in the scrimmage, but Stoops reiterated that it's not a serious injury for the sophomore. "There's nothing that will keep him out for an extended period of time. He should be back sometime this week." Linebacker Ryan Flannigan, who was dinged up last week in practice, had his right arm in a sling and did not play in the scrimmage. "He'll be all right. He'll be fine," Stoops said. "He had a shoulder injury and everything's come back negative." Flannigan is day-to-day. ... Jeff Badet (ankle) played well early in the scrimmage, but hurt a toe "or something like that" near the end.
■ Love still in limbo: UK had to clear up a few more questions the NCAA had about the hardship waiver for Nebraska transfer Courtney Love, who did get reps in the scrimmage. "We'll see where that's at," Stoops said. "But we have to move on, obviously, like he's not going to be here at this point; but he does get some reps like all of our guys do." No word yet on the eligibility of fellow Nebraska transfer Greg Hart either.