Before it became official that Steve Clinkscale would be UK’s new defensive backs coach, word started getting out to some of the players he had been recruiting at the University of Cincinnati.
“I had players wanting to find out, ‘Are you really going there? Are you really going there?’ And I couldn’t tell them until last week,” Clinkscale said. “But they’ve all been excited. We’ll have a good showing of players from the north up here.”
Clinkscale, who spent the past three seasons with the Bearcats and met with local reporters for the first time Thursday morning, said he’s been watching UK’s program from just across the state border ever since fellow Youngstown, Ohio native Mark Stoops took over.
Given UK’s focus on landing high school players from the state of Ohio under Stoops and lead recruiter Vince Marrow — another Youngstown native — Clinkscale says he’s had to pay even more attention to the Wildcats than he otherwise would have.
He noted that he already knew “probably 70 percent” of UK’s defensive backs before he got to Lexington. Some he recruited himself. Others were on his radar. All of it makes for an easier transition.
Clinkscale also agrees with the UK coaching staff’s strategy of heavily recruiting the Buckeye State.
“I think it’s made a major difference,” he said. “I think, at first, people were a little leery about them coming up in Ohio, because most of the SEC players are from the South. I think what they’ve done is they’ve found a niche. There’s SEC players up north as well. And, as long as you establish your brand, and you’re successful and you’re giving the kids an opportunity to come down here and be successful, I think the kids are willing to come down. I know they’re willing.”
Clinkscale said he was familiar with all three of the Cats’ incoming defensive backs — Tobias Gilliam, Jordan Griffin and Davonte Robinson — a talented bunch that could all contribute as true freshmen this fall.
UK’s new assistant coach knew Gilliam and Griffin from the recruiting trail. He said he just recently met Robinson, a Lexington native who committed to UK early in the process.
“They’re all very good, talented guys,” Clinkscale said. “I kind of watched them before I came on the interview process, on film, just to make sure. Like I said, as a coach you want to make sure that the guys you’re going to work with are the brand that you’re looking for. Those guys are. They’re great families, hard-working, very athletic young men, smart men and they want to come in here and continue the tradition of being the best defensive back unit in the country.”
Clinkscale, who has a history of recruiting Ohio, said he’d probably help Marrow — a family member of his through marriage — as well as branching out to some other areas of the country. He specifically mentioned the Detroit area, western Pennsylvania and the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area as places that he already has some contacts.
He also echoed the Wildcats’ coaches aim at primarily recruiting players within a six-hour radius of Lexington, so those recruits can more easily travel to UK for games and practices throughout the process.
“Coach Marrow and I will do a great job of working together,” he said. “I don’t have an ego. I just want the best player. I want the best player, no matter whose area it is, to come in here and help us be successful.”