Vaught's Views: Brooks' recruiting up and down like season

December 12, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Recruiting has to be the most rewarding, and frustrating, part of any college coach's job.

Think how proud Louisville football assistant coach Greg Nord has to be today for sticking with Boyle County's Bobby Leffew when he was injured in high school and watching him emerge into a talented defensive lineman for the Cardinals.

The flip side has to be when a coach spends countless hours recruiting a player he knows can fill a need and then loses him. Or even worse - secures a verbal commitment from a player he wants only to later have that player change his mind and sign with another team.

Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks continues to have about as many ups and downs in his first real recruiting season at UK as he did during last season when the Cats finished 4-8.


Brooks and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips got off to a fast start, especially with in-state recruits. However, the top-ranked player to commit, Paducah Tilghman running back Joe Casey, is now headed to junior college, not UK, because of academic problems.

Ft. Campbell linebacker Gabe Wallace joined teammate Marcus McClinton in giving UK an early commitment. A few weeks ago, though, he re-opened his recruitment and this week he gave another verbal to Louisville. He cited wanting to stay "closer to home" as one reason for picking the Cardinals, even though the drive to Lexington from Ft. Campbell is only about an hour longer than the drive to Louisville.

But every time Brooks has needed something to bolster his recruiting, he seems to get it. This time it came from junior college tight end Jamir Davis of City College of San Francisco.

Running back and tight end are spots at which the Cats need immediate help next year and were the most logical junior college targets. Davis had drawn interest from Tennessee, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State and Temple.

He's known more for his blocking than receiving, but City College of San Francisco prefers to throw to wide receivers, not tight ends. Still, if he turns out only to be a dominant blocker, then UK's offense would still benefit significantly next year.

Plus, he will graduate later this month, meaning he can enroll at Kentucky for the second semester and be able to participate in spring practice. That will dramatically increase his chances of being a major contributor for the Wildcats in 2004.

Brooks may also get defensive end Cedric Kroger of Dodge City (Kan.) Community College to sign next week. The chance to play in the Southeastern Conference seems to have him enamored with Kentucky and barring a major change of heart during his visit to Alabama-Birmingham, he looks set to also join the Cats for the second semester. Kroger likely would be shifted to outside linebacker and provide needed depth there next season.

Of course, the three players Kentucky desperately needs - quarterback Brian Brohm of Trinity, lineman Micah Jones of Mayfield and receiver Lonnell DeWalt of Warren Central - all remain uncommitted. In fact, Brohm and Jones seem to favor Tennessee while Dewalt appears to be without a clear leader.

However, nothing is ever set in stone until signing day in any sport because until a player actually signs, a coach never knows for sure if he's going to get to savor those moments like Nord has had with Leffew the past two seasons.

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