Vaught's Views: UK win may help recruiting

September 22, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

It would not have ruined Kentucky's recruiting this season if the Wildcats had lost to Indiana, but recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips knew how much harder his job would be if the Cats had not won.

"Winning does make a difference," said Phillips. "Two weeks ago we called our recruits after the (Louisville) game to find out if they were still with us and the majority said they were. We understood they were still with us, but we also understood we better make a good showing against Indiana."

Kentucky did that in its 51-32 win that included 560 yards of offense and 24 points in the second quarter, a dramatic turnaround from the 28-0 season-opening loss to Louisville.

"It was important that we played well," Phillips said. "We had a lot of recruits at the game. We played well, and we played young guys. One thing we are selling is that you can come here and play early because we need help."


Phillips said after Saturday's win that he would "be elated" if a a couple of players verbally committed to Kentucky because of the win.

Masthay commits

Tuesday he got one commitment when Murray kicker-receiver Tim Masthay, who was at Saturday's game, picked Kentucky over Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida, Indiana, Louisville and others.

Phillips recruited Masthay because western Kentucky is his prime territory. However, he probably had a fairly easy job because Masthay has a brother on UK's track team and Masthay readily admits he's been a life-long Kentucky fan.

He was an all-state kicker last year, but his primary sport was soccer, where he was an all-state selection. Masthay, who also starts on the basketball and baseball teams, became a full-time receiver this year and last summer his teammate, highly-touted tackle Cory Zirbel, noted that Masthay would make Murray a Class A title contender - and possible semifinal opponent for Danville.

He's been as good as advertised. Through five games, he has a state-best 22 catches for 670 yards, an average of 30.4 yards per catch, and nine touchdowns. He also has an 80-yard kickoff return for a score. He's made 14 extra points and kicked five field goals to amass 89 points.

If that's not enough, 21 of his 34 kickoffs have gone into the end zone and he's averaging 40 yards per punt.

He'll likely be used as a punter in 2005 and then be given a chance to succeed placekicker Taylor Begley in 2006. Of course, he's not ruled out possibly playing at receiver, too, because of his speed and athleticism.

Masthay, UK's fifth verbal commitment, likely won't influence Zirbel, one of the state's top-ranked recruits, to pick Kentucky because he's been enamored with Michigan for months. However, Masthay might still turn out to be another difference-maker for the Cats.

Brown saw Dixon's offensive talent

Almost no one expected running back Tony Dixon to be so good so quick. Well, almost no one.

"The one guy who knew what we were getting was (secondary) coach (Steve) Brown," Phillips said. "We were talking defensive back for him from day one, but coach Brown was preaching over and over that we should look at him at running back."

Turns out Dixon looks like a future star at running back as shown by his 67-yard run against Indiana.

Another big surprise has been offensive lineman Aaron Miller. Six months ago it looked like he might be asked to wait until January to even enroll at Kentucky. Instead, he came to preseason camp, kept improving and made a solid debut against the Hoosiers.

"When you sign a class you always hope they are better than you thought and can help you early, but there is always some doubt in your mind," Phillips said. "We thought maybe in three or four games we would see a lot of them, but we never thought this many would play so quick. But that's what makes recruiting what it is."

Still, as much as having young players shine helps a team, nothing helps recruiting more than winning and that's why Phillips hopes to reap more rewards from Saturday's win like the commitment UK got from Masthay Tuesday.

Central Kentucky News Articles