Sports

John Clay: Grayshirting frowned on, but it works in UK's favor

Joker Phillips can run down the list.

Trevard Lindley was a grayshirt.

Johnny Williams was a grayshirt.

Myron Pryor was a grayshirt.

"We've had a lot of success in that," Kentucky's football coach said Monday.

Thing was, it was an ironic setting for such a statement, for it was Monday and UK had just happily welcomed a touted lineman from Louisiana who didn't cotton to the idea of taking the fall off to become a grayshirt at his home-state school.

Elliott Porter is a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle from Waggaman, La., who signed with the Tigers in February, then spent the summer on the Louisiana State campus, both in class and in the weight room.

Two days before fall camp began, however, Porter was summoned into Coach Les Miles' office and told that he did not have a scholarship.

"Twenty-seven guys ended up being eligible," Porter said Monday.

Twenty-five is the new scholarship limit. Miles asked Porter to grayshirt — i.e., wait until January to enroll. Porter said thanks, but no thanks.

In swooped Kentucky for a sizable get. Texas A&M came after Porter hard. So did Oregon. But David Turner, UK's new defensive line coach, recruited Porter at Turner's old school, Mississippi State.

"It's more brotherly love here with the coaches and the players," Porter said Monday. "I feel it here."

Back in Baton Rouge, Miles is feeling heat. First, his miscalculation caused the school to lose Porter. Then he fudged the truth, saying he informed Porter two months ago about a grayshirt, before issuing a clarification that he didn't tell the freshman for sure until Aug. 2.

Thing is, Porter bucked the trend. Most athletes will grayshirt. Harrison Jones, an Alabama signee, found himself in a similar situation in Tuscaloosa. He signed in February, moved onto campus in May, and earned three A's in summer school. Just before camp, Nick Saban asked Jones to grayshirt. With his brother Barrett already on the team, Jones agreed.

"College football is a business, and you have to treat it as a business," Leslie Jones, Harrison's mother, told Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News.

Most believe oversigning is bad business. The Big Ten has banned it. The Southeastern Conference passed a rule limiting the number of signees to 28, allowing schools three extra scholarships in case of non-qualifiers. Still, CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel pulled out his harpoon and labeled Miles a "bad guy" for his Porter performance.

And yet, grayshirting isn't always so black and white. Ask Lindley, an All-SEC cornerback now competing for a starting job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ask Pryor, who had a productive career at UK on the defensive line and is now with the New England Patriots. Ask Williams, a linebacker trying to earn a roster spot with the Denver Broncos.

"There are a lot of good things (about it)," Phillips said. "The thing we've tried to do is be upfront and honest with the kids, and tell them here's what we have for you. We've lost some kids because we've been honest and told them that we have a scholarship, (but) it might be in January."

Grayshirting was especially helpful after UK came off probation and the program was trying to refurbish its scholarship numbers.

"That's when we tried to do it a little bit more," Phillips said. "We try to stay away from it as much as we possibly can now. But we also know it's out there if needed."

The fact that UK was one under the scholarship limit for its 2010 class allowed it to sign its free-agent coup.

"It is what it is," Porter said. "That's how I look at it, and I don't have nothing negative to say about it. That's how it goes."

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