The University of Kentucky has had quite the run on the recruiting trail under current head coach Mark Stoops, and Vince Marrow has been one of the key figures in that success.
Marrow — like Stoops, a native of Youngstown, Ohio — has mined his home state for high school talent unseen at UK in years.
Thirteen of the Wildcats' 22 commitments for the class of 2016 are originally from Ohio. Three of UK's four commitments from 2017 are from the state, an indication that the program's presence in the talent-rich area is continuing to grow.
Marrow spoke to the Herald-Leader recently about several topics related to recruiting. The first part was published in Thursday's newspaper. This is the second and final part of that conversation.
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Since this coaching staff got to UK, there've only been a couple of in-state guys that you really targeted and didn't get. What's been the key to landing all of those recruits?
"That's Coach Stoops. Coach (John) Schlarman. Neal Brown did a good job before he left (for Troy University). Letting those guys know how valuable they are and what it means to play for this state and represent your state. Take pride in your state. When we recruited Matt Elam, it was selling him to the point where — you can go to Bama, and that can be a four-year legacy. But you can come here and play for your state. You're telling Matt Elam, Drew Barker, (Ryan) Timmons why they want to stay here: 'Man, you've got everything here. It's the SEC. You've got great fan support. The facilities are going to be off the chart. So why go somewhere else?'"
How much of the pitch is still, 'You can build something here' at Kentucky?
"I'm honest with my recruits. Here's the biggest mistake colleges make: A lot of these coaches lie to these kids, and they forget there's social media everywhere. These kids are going to talk to each other. So, if I just get off the phone talking to a kid, they're going to get with a kid they met at a camp and say, 'Hey, what did Coach Marrow say to you?' ... 'Well, he said I'm going to be the guy.' ... 'Oh, well he said I'm going to be the guy.' ... 'He said I'm going to come in and start at right tackle.' ... 'Oh, man, he told me the same thing.'
"So my point is, it gets to a point where we aren't building anymore. Now you're like the larger programs and you're saying, 'We're building depth.' When I look out here now — from our pictures from 2013 to where we are now — I'm looking out across the field, and I'm saying, 'Geez, look at all this depth we have.' They're young, but they look like SEC players. And we didn't have this in 2013. As I recruit on, going on to 2016 and 2017, now you're coming to be a part of a team that already should be getting it. We're still building, but we have depth now."
How much does your turning down the Michigan assistant coaching job come up on the recruiting trail?
"Being from Ohio, there's really three jobs that you want: Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame. The hardest part for me was, 'Am I going to leave here?' Maybe in 2013 if they would've come after me — when you see (what you have on the field) and you're frustrated. But now, knowing the vision where Stoops is going, and me growing up with him — it sends a message, especially with the kids in Ohio.
"But you would be amazed. Nationally, I started to get a lot of followers and recruits from all across the country saying, 'Man, something's going on at Kentucky. I see these guys they're getting, and then for this coach to stay there.' I wasn't throwing it out as a recruiting pitch, because I want to recruit against the best and we don't take the back door to anybody. But I didn't realize how much that did for us."
You've mentioned commitments from underclassmen, and you guys took a commitment from a 2018 guy (four-star wide receiver Jermaine Eskridge). What's the mind-set of taking a guy that far out, and what goes in to keeping a guy who can't sign for more than two years?
"Just like when we took the kids from 2017 — I can't say their names — but these guys are nationally ranked guys. Think about, nationally, what that does. When a kid like that commits to us. It's like, 'Whoa.'
"If you look at a lot of the early commitments (we've taken), a lot of those guys were ranked in the top 250 in the country. You can't turn those kids down. And, to me, it's easier to hold on to them once you have them.
"You talk about 2016 — you get those guys in the boat and now we don't have to go out and recruit 100 guys. Let's just focus on these guys. Let's just focus on these guys we have committed. And now we can stay zeroed in on them."