After a brutal end to the regular season and a rough start to the off-season, Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips and the Wildcat program ended the week with some much-needed positive news.
The Cats suffered a deflating 27-10 loss to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl, saw a top recruit (offensive lineman Nick Martin) de-commit and switch to Notre Dame, and then listened to star Randall Cobb announce he was headed to the NFL.
But not long after Cobb's announcement, Phillips picked up a coup on the recruiting trail when Atlanta running back Marcus Caffey switched his commitment from Purdue to UK. The next day, star linebacker Danny Trevathan announced he would return for his senior season.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Caffey is a three-star recruit and was ranked the 26th-best player in Georgia according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Caffey had offers from nearly a dozen schools, including Arkansas, Illinois, South Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia. He rushed for 1,611 yards and 18 touchdowns this past season for Grady High School. Caffey and another three-star UK commit from Georgia, Josh Clemons, will help the Cats restock their running back cupboard after the departure of Derrick Locke and transfer of No. 2 back Donald Russell. Kentucky is also trying to find a replacement for Moncell Allen at fullback and hosted Cincinnati's Trayion Durham this weekend. The 6-1, 230-pound Durham is listed as the nation's No. 3 fullback by Rivals and will visit Louisville next weekend. He's received offers from UK, U of L, Cincinnati, Boston College, Wisconsin, Minnesota and several others.
Kentucky got more good news when Paducah Tilghman receiver Josh Forrest re-affirmed his commitment to UK amid recent reports that he'll take a visit to Central Florida later this month. Forrest was in Lexington for a visit this weekend.
The next two orders of business for Phillips are 1) hold on to the commitment of four-star tight end Jon Davis; and 2) persuade Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson to sign with UK in February.
Davis' father, Reggie, has stated several times in the past couple of months that he expects his son to remain committed to Kentucky despite receiving overtures from Louisville and other programs.
Dawson's situation is a little harder to dissect. He's remained tight-lipped about his recruitment and still has three remaining visits (USC this weekend, UCF next weekend and Tennessee on Jan. 28).
Dawson is not expected to announce his decision until close to national signing day (Feb. 2).
UK is also holding out scholarships for a pair of linebackers (Cincinnati's Antonio Poole and Florida's Demarius Rancifer) and is hoping to land four-star California receiver Devin Lucien.
Lucien has been courted by several traditional powerhouses, including Nebraska, Miami (Fla.), Michigan and Texas A&M and is expected to pick a school on Jan. 30.
Kentucky has 19 known commitments for its 2011 class. UK can sign as many as 28, but how many players it will actually be able to bring in for fall camp won't be known until the summer months after player attrition.
Cats to have a veteran defense in 2011
After the struggles of 2010, new defensive boss Rick Minter will have an experienced unit to work with next season. The top 11 tacklers from last season are scheduled to be back, and UK has 13 defenders who have started at least two games during their careers — ends Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham; tackles Mark Crawford and Luke McDermott; linebackers Ronnie Sneed, Danny Trevathan and Ridge Wilson; cornerbacks Randall Burden, Anthony Mosley and Martavius Neloms; and safeties Mychal Bailey, Winston Guy and Taiedo Smith.
Along with the players mentioned above, there are 12 additional defensive lettermen, eight freshman redshirts and two January enrollees (linebackers Jabari Johnson and Tim Patterson) who will be available for spring practice.
Locke, Lumpkin set for All-Star games
UK seniors Derrick Locke and Ricky Lumpkin will begin the process of NFL auditioning by taking part in all-star games. Locke will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile (Ala.). The game will kick off at 4 p.m. EST and will be televised on the NFL Network. Rosters have not been finalized, but among those confirmed to play include Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, Florida defensive back Ahmad Black, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.
Lumpkin will participate in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Game on Feb. 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. EST.