The past three weeks have served as a recruiting reminder: Kentucky football might be on the rise, but the Cats aren't "there" just yet.
Two of UK's most-celebrated commitments for the class of 2015 — wide receiver Alex Stump and defensive end Darius Fullwood — recently backed out of their pledges in favor of more-established programs.
Stump landed the Ohio State scholarship offer he had been waiting for and flipped to the homestate Buckeyes.
Fullwood ended up at Virginia Tech, a program that has had ample success recruiting his Maryland high school.
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Still, Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell says there's a sign of progress in those recruiting losses.
"When you recruit better players, more people want them," Farrell said. "Very few decommitments come from programs that are recruiting two-star players.
"Charlie Weis got fired at Kansas (last month), and we were reaching out to kids that were committed to Kansas and none of them really had any other options. These kids that Kentucky is now recruiting have a lot of options."
UK Coach Mark Stoops lost just one committed player in the class of 2014 — offensive lineman Derrick Kelly to Florida State. Stump, Fullwood and cornerback Montrell Custis (Alabama) have already defected for 2015.
Farrell pointed to Drew Barker as one reason that UK was able to hold the 2014 class virtually intact all the way to national signing day.
Barker — a Kentucky native and natural salesman for his homestate program — jumped on board fairly early in the process and spent the rest of the cycle actively recruiting top prospects and keeping others in the fold.
"Drew was really important, because he was so involved," Farrell said. "He really threw himself into that leadership role, as a quarterback should in recruiting."
There's no Barker in this UK class, and maybe that hurts. But Farrell's original point is still the most important: Stoops and his coaching staff have been increasingly more willing to go after recruits that top programs genuinely want.
That means they're going to lose some recruitments, and they're going to lose some players after they're committed.
"It's always going to be difficult," Farrell said. "These programs that have tremendous tradition — like Ohio State — Kentucky doesn't have that.
"He sold the vision, and now he's actually delivering on that vision. But you're still going to lose kids when Urban Meyer comes calling."
What Stoops has to do when that happens, Farrell says, is "dust yourself off" and find the next-best option who might also be a little hungrier to prove himself.
And you keep winning, of course.
Kentucky has two prime opportunities over the next two Saturdays to turn on-field success into a little extra capital on the recruiting trail.
The Cats go on the road this weekend for a night game at Louisiana State, one of those "established" programs that recruits love to hear from.
Next week is the big home date with Mississippi State, the No. 1 team in college football. That contest has been picked up as the CBS national game of the week.
Quite the time to make a statement.
"I think the Mississippi State game is going to be the big one," Farrell said. "They're bringing in all the recruits. They're bringing in a lot of committed guys. Damien Harris might be taking his official visit that weekend. ... It's a great opportunity for them.
"Really, they're 5-1. LSU is beatable. They just have to stay competitive in these games. If they get routed in one of these two games, or both, I think that could really set them back. But if they're in these games, then the trend is just going to continue to rise for them."
Few that follow college football expected to be talking about a 5-1 Kentucky team this soon into the Stoops era.
Farrell said he thought it would take Stoops four years to put a competitive product on the field, once the UK coach had a roster full of his own players and his back "against the wall" to win games. "And here we are looking at a completely different situation."
The Cats could very well be underdogs in each of their final six games, but few of those would be considered major upsets if the result is a UK victory.
All it takes is one more and Stoops' second season will end with a bowl game. And the evolution of his recruiting pitch can take the next step.
"Sometimes it's easier to recruit when you're 0-0," Farrell said. "You're undefeated, but you haven't won yet. So that little boost in recruiting at first didn't shock me. Sustaining it through the second year, that was impressive.
"Now it's based on winning, and he's doing that as well. So, really, all of the promises that he's made from the time he took the job are coming true. Recruiting-wise and on the field. And that's surprising to me."