Attrition is a normal process at almost every major college football program. However, it certainly seems like the University of Kentucky has lost more than its share of once highly-touted recruits in the last year.
The latest player to join the list is sophomore cornerback Jerrell Prister. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips confirmed after practice Thursday that he had left team.
“We wish him well,” said Phillips. “It’s one of those things that’s kind of common at this time of the year, that kids leave. We’ll wish him well and keep this thing going.”
Kentucky has been to five straight bowl games, but don’t forget the Wildcats finished 6-7 last year and go into this season with plenty of questions. Continuing to lose players expected to be contributors takes a toll on Kentucky’s depth, as well as creating speculation about why so many players have left.
Priester, a South Carolina standout, originally gave a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt before the Wildcats stole him from the Commodores on national signing day. He played in nine games last year and had four tackles and two tackles for loss against Charleston Southern in his best game. He even returned two kickoffs for 55 yards.
Remember just over a year ago Randall Cobb was predicting that Priester would be better than him before the left UK. “His demeanor, his speed, the way he carries himself and the way he acts are unbelievable,” Cobb said then. “Whatever his role turns out to be, he will be great.”
Yet instead of turning out to be another Cobb, Priester became another in a line of once highly recruited players to leave UK¿after making little or no contribution.
Just consider who has left the team since the end of last season:
n Running back Donald Russell elected to transfer despite showing last year he could be a solid Southeastern Conference player while backing up Derrick Locke along with Raymond Sanders. Russell’s mother questioned some things about the way her son was treated and he quit after the season ended and before UK¿lost to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
n Quarterback Ryan Mossakowski, a four-star recruit out of Texas the same year Morgan Newton also signed with UK, quit in mid-January after being redshirted in 2009 and barely playing last year, including the bowl game when the UK¿offense sputtered after starting quarterback Mike Hartline was suspended.
n Tight end Alex Smith, one of the gems of the 2010 recruiting class along with Priester, was redshirted last season after being expected to be a major contributor. He left the team before spring practice.
n Backup safety Josh Gibbs, a junior college transfer last season, left the team last week. His mother said it was because he did not feel he would get to play as much as he felt he deserved.
n Backup linebacker Qua Huzzie, one of the LaGrange, Ga., players to come to UK, left the team last week and transferred to Murray State after dropping to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Ronnie Sneed and Avery Williamson.
Priester was not happy with his lack of playing time last year. He came to Kentucky expecting to play last year on either defense or offense — or maybe both.
“You just have to have the mindset and talent to come in here and not be scared. You can’t be scared at all no matter what. I want to work hard, get better and whatever happens, happens,” Priester, who was also a state track sprint champion in South Carolina, said before last season started. “I don’t just want to be a good football player. I don’t just want to be an average football player. I want to be great, and you can’t be great without having confidence. Confidence is the key to success. You have to have confidence to be successful.
“I am not nervous. Football is what I do. There’s nothing to be nervous about. I am at a Division I school, but then football is what I have done all my life and am going to do.”
It’s just that he won’t be doing it at Kentucky along with Russell, Mossakowski, Smith, Huzzie and Gibbs.