UK Football

John Clay: Outcome of Marrow-to-Michigan rumors a critical milepost for Kentucky football

Kentucky assistant football coach Vince Marrow has enticed a slew of fellow Ohio natives to Kentucky, an aptitude that may have caught Michigan's eye.
Kentucky assistant football coach Vince Marrow has enticed a slew of fellow Ohio natives to Kentucky, an aptitude that may have caught Michigan's eye. Lexington Herald-Leader

Just more than halfway through the football season, Kentucky gave head coach Mark Stoops a healthy raise and a contract extension.

Kentucky was 5-3 at the time. The Cats had gone 2-10 the season before, Stoops' first at UK. Improvement was obvious. It was so obvious the fear was some school might come along with a tempting offer to lure the up-and-coming coach away from Lexington, a school like Michigan.

Turns out, that didn't happen. Kentucky ended the season on a six-game losing streak. After firing Brady Hoke, Michigan turned not to a coach like Stoops, but to Jim Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback with a proven track record of success at first Stanford and then the San Francisco 49ers.

Now rumors are rampant Michigan is trying to poach a coach from the Kentucky staff. This time it's assistant coach/recruiter extraordinaire Vince Marrow.

Even before Harbaugh's hire was official, 247Sports' Michigan site raised the strong possibility that the Wolverines would target Marrow, thanks to the Youngstown native's success recruiting Ohio players to Kentucky.

Then after Harbaugh easily won the news conference in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, the site was at it again, reporting/speculating Marrow was close to becoming a Michigan man, as well.

"One of the first assistant dominoes may fall within the next 24 to 48 hours, as Kentucky tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow has been contacted by Michigan and would take a job with the staff if offered one," said the site. "247Sports National Analyst Steve Wiltfong alluded to Marrow almost a month ago as someone who would be a great fit in Ann Arbor, and at this point it looks as if that may come to fruition."

At this point, however, nothing has happened. No news is good news.

Those around the UK program believe Marrow will stay put. He and Stoops are tight. UK awarded Marrow a sizable raise just a year ago. The staff is encouraged about the third year of its rebuild.

Grid arrogance may also be in play. Michigan has a history of winning national titles in football. Kentucky does not. The mindset up north is any Kentucky football assistant would be crazy not to trade the struggles in Lexington for the expected success in Ann Arbor.

And if by chance Marrow does trade the SEC for the Big Ten — the bet here is that he will not — it would be a definite setback for Stoops and company.

Longtime UK football observers could never understand why the program didn't make more of an effort to recruit Ohio.

It made sense from a geographical standpoint. It made sense from a support standpoint as there are plenty of Kentucky fans in the Buckeye State, especially in the southern end. It made sense from a conference standpoint with the lure of the SEC, the nation's best football conference.

Marrow is getting it done. Stoops set the priority. Shortly after becoming Kentucky's head coach, he hired Marrow off Bo Pelini's Nebraska staff and sent the tight ends coach north of the border to find players. Marrow returned with Dorian Baker, Mikel Horton, Kyle Meadows, Marcus McWilson and Thaddeus Snodgrass, just to name a few. Braylon Heard, an Ohio native, transferred from Nebraska to UK.

Don't forget the current high school sophomores and juniors Marrow has done the early work of evaluating and laying the recruiting foundation. Should he leave, Stoops would have to start that process all over again with a different recruiter.

If Marrow stays put, however, it's a feather in Kentucky's cap. The Harbaugh hire gives Michigan impressive momentum. There is a lure there. For Marrow to turn down a traditional power to remain at a program still in renovation mode would speak volumes to where he believes things are headed.

The guess here is Vince Marrow isn't ready to leave.

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