Vaught's Views: Kentucky not high on Murray lineman’s list

June 09, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

The college football season won’t start for almost three months, but this week begins an important time for college football recruiting.

Most schools are now having camps that bring players to campus. While most of the youngsters are there to improve their individual skills or as part of a team camp, the elite players are at Division I camps for unofficial visits and other talented players are there for what amounts to tryouts.

Then there is Murray offensive lineman Corey Zirbel. He’s going to be at Kentucky’s camp Thursday along with a teammate, but he doesn’t have to worry about a scholarship offer. He already has one from Kentucky — and a host of top 25 teams from USC to Miami (Fla.) to Michigan.

“I’m probably going to seven or eight places this summer,” Zirbel said. “I don’t know exactly what I’ll do at the Kentucky camp, but I wanted to come up for one day and visit the campus again.”


He was at Kentucky’s Blue-White Game that ended spring practice in April. However, unlike highly-touted Mayfield offensive lineman Micah Jones last year, Zirbel has no ties or loyalty to the Wildcats.

He has no childhood loyalty to Kentucky or Louisville

He’s from Wisconsin. Most of his family still lives in the north. He has about as much childhood loyalty to Kentucky, or Louisville, as a player here would have to Oregon or Oregon State.

For months it has been reported that he’s already decided to go to Michigan even though he doesn’t have an official scholarship offer yet, something that should change when he goes to camp there later this month.

Zirbel heard the rumors that he committed to Michigan. He denies them all.

“I don’t think I ever said that Michigan is where I am going to go,” Zirbel said. “That’s not my decision, or at least not yet. Michigan may end up at the top of my list, but I have no No. 1 choice.”

Zirbel says he won’t make a college choice until national signing day in February. Of course, he slightly contradicts that logic by saying he’s already been overwhelmed by the attention he’s receiving.

“It does get a little old,” Zirbel said. “The first couple of weeks it was kind of neat to have all these coaches calling and wanting me. After a while, it got old real quick.”

Surprisingly, he says most recruiting pitches are about the same. Every coach seems to have great facilities, a new building project and a long-range program in progress.

“That’s why you can’t base a decision on facilities. You have to find what you like and where you are going to fit in comfortably,” he said.

UK envisions pairing him with Jones

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips would like for that to be UK. They can easily envision a future offensive line anchored by Jones, who should compete for a starting spot this season, and the 300-pound Zirbel, who can already bench press 365 pounds.

“I hear that a lot, too,” Zirbel said about teaming with Jones.

But early playing time is not a strong selling point for Zirbel. Instead, it might work against a school like Kentucky that needs more immediate help than an established power like Miami, Michigan, Florida, USC, Ohio State or Alabama, all schools that Zirbel has indicated he likes.

“Winning and tradition will be more important to me than getting in early,” Zirbel said. “I would rather go to a place like Miami or Michigan, redshirt my freshman year and sit a couple of years before I play than go to a place like UK which is mediocre and start right away. I like winning more than anything.”

Obviously, Kentucky fans are not going to be thrilled about the “mediocre” terminology. However, in fairness to Zirbel, he was only being honest about the value he puts on winning and referring to UK’s recent seasons as “mediocre” was more kind than cruel.

Despite stomach flu, he won state discus championship

Zirbel is competitive. He won the Class A state discus championship despite having battled the stomach flu for five days and going five days without eating solid food. But when it counted most, Zirbel found the inner strength to win.

That’s a quality not to be underestimated, and one any college coach should like as much as his physical skills.

Besides, Zirbel insists he is not ruling out Kentucky, or Louisville, this early.

“I am going to leave all my options open. I am not saying I won’t go in-state to play. I am just saying it won’t be a big deal for me to leave the state. But right now there is no telling where I am going to go,” Zirbel said.

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