UK Recruiting

UK football assistant Chad Scott making inroads in Florida as recruiter

Running backs coach Chad Scott, a former UK player, chatted with quarterback Patrick Towles during UK Football Media Day last week.
Running backs coach Chad Scott, a former UK player, chatted with quarterback Patrick Towles during UK Football Media Day last week. Herald-Leader

There's no question that Kentucky's biggest recruiting gains under its new football staff have come from Ohio.

Mark Stoops and tight ends coach Vince Marrow have successfully mined their home state — largely ignored by recent UK coaches — for more than a dozen commitments over the past few months.

But Ohio isn't the only recruiting hotbed that UK has hit hard since Stoops' hiring.

Lexington is also getting an influx of talent from football-rich Florida.

Nine of UK's newcomers in the Class of 2013 are originally from Florida, with seven of those players committing after last year's coaching change. The Cats have four commitments from Florida for the Class of 2014, and they're targeting even more players from the state.

Over the previous 10 years, UK never had more than four recruits from the Sunshine State in any one class.

Part of the reason for the change is Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot's success at Florida State. Another part of it is new running backs coach Chad Scott.

Scott is from Tampa, Fla., where he was a high school football star before coming to UK and making an immediate impact at running back in 2000.

He met his wife — former UK women's basketball player Shambrica Jones — during his college days in Lexington.

"When I'm selling the university, it's something that's genuine to me and I know what's going on," Scott said. "It's nothing I had to educate myself on, being an employee here. It's something I've actually lived and experienced. And I can go sell that to those kids."

His pitch has been well received.

Scott was the primary recruiter for three of UK's newcomers from Florida — running back Jojo Kemp and wide receivers Javess Blue and Jeff Badet. The Cats already have four players from Florida committed for 2014, and they are targeting others.

NCAA rules prohibit Scott from talking specifically about the Class of 2014 prospects until they actually sign with UK, which they can't do until February.

But he and other UK coaches have had plenty to say about Kemp, Blue and Badet.

Scott called returning senior Raymond Sanders "the No. 1 guy right now" at running back following Wednesday's practice. But Kemp turned heads at UK's open practice during Fan Day on Friday and Scott said he's been impressed with what he's seen so far from the young back and that Kemp would definitely be getting carries early in the season.

Blue — who is coming to UK from junior college — was unable to take part in the team's summer programs while he finished up his coursework. Despite the delay in getting to campus, Blue has been pegged as a possible starter in a receiving corps that returns no one who caught a touchdown pass last season.

The early reviews have him living up to that potential.

"Javess just got here — literally about three days ago," Scott said last Wednesday. "You talk about him getting in one day and the next day he's practicing. What he's done so far is really good considering he's only been here a few days.

"He has that potential (to start), but it's a process. Ability-wise, there's no question with the ability he has. It's just a matter of how fast he can pick up on everything he's doing."

Kemp and Blue were two of UK's higher-profile commitments once the new staff took over. Badet was seen as more of an under-the-radar acquisition, but he's looked the part of an immediate contributor.

When talking about how pleased he has been with the freshman class, Stoops singled out Badet multiple times in the last week as a player that caught his eye.

The 6-foot, 170-pound receiver was impressive during Friday's open practice, getting quick jumps off the line of scrimmage and gaining good position against UK's secondary players.

"He's fast. He is fast," Scott said. "He's extremely quick, he's competitive, he has great leaping ability and he also runs great routes.

"It's hard sometimes when you've got fast kids — typically they just want to outrun everybody. But with Jeff, he has great change of direction. So, not only can he beat you vertically, but he can stick his foot in the ground and run great routes."

Scott beams with pride when speaking about the players he's brought to UK. He's also clearly excited with the direction the Cats are going.

This will be his seventh season — and third stop — with offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Scott coached alongside Brown for three seasons at Troy and three seasons at Texas Tech. When Brown got the OC job at UK, Scott followed again.

He also speaks highly of wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord — another former Texas Tech assistant — and the enthusiasm of UK's other coaches.

Scott says the early recruiting successes haven't surprised him at all.

"I've always thought Kentucky had all the resources of any other BCS school," he said. "It's just a matter of guys being willing to get out there and sell it. Sell it with passion. Sell it with the belief that we have all the tools for a kid to come here and be successful academically and athletically. It's really not a shock."

Scott also has no worries about holding together a recruiting class ranked No. 4 in the nation by, despite what could be a rough first season against a tough SEC schedule.

The UK assistant says all of the Cats' recruits have been warned against the negative recruiting that will come if losses mount. They've also been told they can be the reason for a return to winning football, and the start of something special.

"Think about it, a couple of years ago Kentucky had gone to five consecutive bowl games. So it's not a program that we're resurrecting from the dead," Scott said. "We've had success. We've had Hall of Fame players — collegiately and in the NFL. We've had guys go to the league.

"So it's an opportunity to come in and do something and do it early. They all want to play early. And there's an opportunity to compete — to do that right now."