After a week where everything seemed to go wrong for the Kentucky football program, coach Joker Phillips finally had a couple of days where some good things happened for the Wildcats.
In the last week, the Cats were pummeled 27-10 by Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl on national TV, had Indiana offensive lineman Nick Martin de-commit and commit to Notre Dame, and star Randall Cobb announced he was leaving UK for the NFL.
That’s not exactly the way to set momentum to close out what Phillips hopes is going to be a banner recruiting class when the national signing period opens Feb. 2.
However, then the Cats got a needed boost when Atlanta standout Marcus Caffey announced Thursday he was withdrawing his commitment to Purdue and would sign with the Wildcats instead.
Maybe it was the recent addition of running backs coach Steve Pardue, a high school coaching legend in LaGrange, Ga. Maybe it was the success of Georgia players like Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley. Maybe it is the expected stardom of freshman Raymond Sanders next year.
Whatever it was, it led Caffey to declare that Kentucky is a place “that feels more like Georgia, more like home.”
Caffey is the seventh Georgian to commit to the Wildcats and the fourth member of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Fab 50 to give his verbal pledge to UK. He joins receiver Demarco Robinson, running back Josh Clemons, athlete Ashely Lowry, receiver Nile Daniel, defensive back Riyahd Jones and defensive end David Washington in UK’s projected recruiting class.
Caffey, who called off a visit to Arkansas, knows Robinson and took his official visit to UK as the same time as Clemons. Caffey rushed for 1,611 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010 while Clemons established school records with 2,003 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns and finished his career with 3,585 yards.
Caffey also has the athletic ability to potentially play on defense if needed.
However, UK’s defense already got a major recruiting boost when linebacker Danny Trevathan confirmed Friday that he was coming back for his senior season rather than leaving for the NFL as Cobb did. Safety Winston Guy also officially announced he would return even though word of his return leaked last week.
“My evaluation (from the NFL) came back good but the easy way is not always the best way. I waited this long for the NFL, it can wait (another year). I want to enhance my game. I’m 228 (pounds), I want to work toward 235 or 240. I’m definitely going to finish school and that opens more windows in my life,” said Trevathan, who expects to graduate in December of 2011, in a release from UK.
Trevathan led the SEC in the 2010 season with 144 tackles, the most for a Wildcat since Marty Moore notched 148 stops in 1992, this season and had 10 or more tackles in the last nine games. He also had 16 tackles for loss, third best in the SEC. Guy had 106 tackles and led the team with three interceptions.
Trevathan and Guy were the leading tacklers on the 2010 Kentucky defense, which entered the season as the most inexperienced Wildcat defense in 20 years. Despite the youth of the unit, UK still managed to finish 45th nationally (out of 120 teams) in total defense, allowing 354.2 yards per game.
Trevathan’s return is a big plus for new defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who upset some players with his demanding practices and film sessions during bowl game preparation. Trevathan apparently believes the UK defense can be better next year and liked what he saw from Minter.
The Cats will have their top 11 tacklers from 2010 returning as well as 13 players who started two or more games, 12 more lettermen and eight redshirt freshmen.
Adding Caffey to the recruiting class and getting Trevathan backs could help turn the perception that the UK program is heading the wrong direction — or at least slow down that feeling. Phillips has tried to say he believes in the future, but a commitment and the return of a star player says that far better than any words the coach has or could utter.