Sidelines with John Clay

How will Urban Meyer’s retirement affect Kentucky football recruiting?

Ohio State will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday in which the school reportedly announce that head football coach Urban Meyer will retire after the Buckeyes play Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

That brings up an interesting question: How will Meyer’s retirement affect Kentucky football’s recruiting in Ohio?

After all, under head coach Mark Stoops and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, both Ohio natives, the Cats have made considerable inroads into their northern neighbor over the past six seasons.

Look at Kentucky’s current roster: Benny Snell, Mike Edwards, C.J. Conrad, Lynn Bowden, Dorian Baker, Jordan Jones, Darius West and George Asafo-Adjei all hail from Ohio, to name just a few. By my count, there are 28 players on the UK roster who hail from Ohio.

As of now UK has four commitments for 2019 out of Ohio — safety Moses Douglass and defensvie tackle Isaiah Gibson from Springfield; wide receiver JaVonte Richardson from Maple Heights and defensive tackle Cavon Butler from Toledo.

UK football commitment list for 2019

That isn’t to say, by any means, that UK has outrecruited Ohio State in Ohio. According to Rivals, Ohio State had the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class in 2018, while UK’s ranked 30th. In 2017, Ohio State again ranked No. 2, while UK was No. 26. In 2016, Ohio State was No. 3, while UK was No. 28.

No big surprise in any of that. Ohio State has a long and rich college football tradition from Paul Brown to Woody Hayes to Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer. And Meyer won a pair of national titles at Florida (2006, 2008) before winning the national championship at Ohio State in 2014.

So might Meyer’s exit help Kentucky’s recruiting?

Meyer’s successor, offensive coordinator Ryan Day, does not have the credentials of his predecessor. Other than serving as interim head coach when Meyer was suspended at the start of the season, Day has no head coaching experience. He has done a terrific job coordinating the Ohio State offense, however. The Buckeyes did drop 62 points on archrival Michigan, which coming into the game boasted the No. 1-ranked defense in the nation.

Kentucky football and basketball recruiting news and links

If Ohio State doesn’t have Meyer’s name, however, it does still have its powerful tradition. The Buckeyes were very good before Meyer arrived and they are likely to still be very good after he’s gone. Ohio State football is much like Kentucky basketball.

But there are plenty of good high school football players in the state to go around. Marrow’s philosophy has been that they can’t all go to Ohio State, especially considering Meyer took a national approach to recruiting.

He told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts last summer, “A lot of people probably don’t care for Urban Meyer. I love Urban Meyer, and I’m going to tell you why. He recruits nationally. And Ohio is (one of the highest) producing states in football. I have to tell him, ‘Thank you for not recruiting all those guys.’

“Because if Jim Tressel was still there,” he said, “half of (UK’s) kids you see out here from Ohio would be at Ohio State.”

It will be interesting to see if Day alters Meyer’s philosophy. Though UK has trended more towards Florida and Georgia the past couple of recruiting cycles, Stoops is likely to keep a sharp eye out for players north of the border. With or without Meyer to contend with, that’s not likely to change.

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