Football recruiting nearing finish line

Joker Phillips and his staff are busy putting the finishing touches on the recruiting class of 2011. Included is a tidbit on Kentucky recruit Lamar Dawson(pictured).

For Joker and his staff, this is the hectic, pins and needles time of the year. No game plan, no practice session, no in game decision, nothing is more important as getting the recruits to advance your football program to the next level. In other words the Jimmy's and the Joe's importance and not the X's and the O's overrating phase by the fans.

It is not only the time when you are attempting to lure difference-makers to your program but it's the time when you are trying to hold on to the difference-makers you have committed. The University of Kentucky is embroiled it just that. Two less than inspirational performances in finalizing the season doesn't do anything to enhance the process.

The instate plum out there is Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson, who is playing it coy. The official visit players are Florida, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky. Since the state championship game, that list has been tweaked because of changing circumstances. The information we have on this youngster is persons close to him would prefer he play closer to home. Smart money says UK will prevail.

It's usually an effort in futility to get involved in numbers when predicting how many recruits will be signed because UK is not going to turn down an impact player. As it stands presently, UK by comparison to recent classes, has their share of potential impact players. Two of the most recent commitments are running backs Josh Clemmons 5-foot-10, 210-pounds of Fayetteville, Georgia and Marcus Caffey 6-foot-1, 195-pounds of Atlanta, Georgia. Aside from the Wildcats attempt to add a fullback to the 2011 class, they are probably through with the pigskin toters.

Kentucky has a couple offensive linemen committed and are making a strong effort to add more. Lexington Christian's Zach West and Lexington Bryan Station's Darrian Miller are prospects UK is glad to have. They both performed well in the Border Bowl Classic at the College of the Cumberland's last weekend. Both scale in the 300-pound range and are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 respectively. Miller's reputation of good feet was confirmed in that Former Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer was in attendance and liked what he saw in both and projected West to be a center at UK.

With the decline of the University of Michigan and the hiring of Brady Hoke, some of their early commitments are looking elsewhere. The UK coaching staff is making a strong push for offensive lineman James Elliott 6-foot-5, 285-pounds of Pensacola, Florida, who has de-committed and four-star offensive lineman Chris Bryant 6-foot-5, 305-pounds of Chicago, Illinois. He too, had a strong interest in the Wolverines. Another four-star lineman Chris Clear from Memphis, Tennessee is another UK has grabbed an interest from. For UK to progress to the next level, it is vitally important to put larger bodies on the field. It is apparent when watching UK get dominated at the line of scrimmage time and time again.

One telling thing that went by the board during last years down to the wire recruiting was, when they were recruiting a four-star running back Rajaan Bennett that went to Vanderbilt and was ultimately murdered by his mother's boyfriend. Commenting on his visit to UK, he said he had a good visit but was surprised at the size of UK's players.

One area that UK had minimal success in last year's class and presently in this class is a star caliber wide receiver. Last year Joker Phillips said he would pass on more receivers if they weren't of the star caliber variety and he's holding to that philosophy this year. He is trying to rectify that phenomenon through the diligent recruiting of four-star Devin Lucien 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, a California product that has made a visit to UK. His decision appears to be down to UK and UCLA with University of California bring up the rear.

No one knows exactly what the final list of commitments on signing day is going to look like, not even the UK coaches. Example - as we are writing this article, Defensive back Riyahd Jones of Carver High School Columbus, Georgia has de-committed, citing a mutual decision between he and the UK staff. No word on where he is going. There are going to be some recruiting battles won and several lost.

Talent Evaluator: When all of the southern football powers skim off the top recruited talent and turn to other potential impact players they then look to UK's list, ala last year's offense lineman Kenarious Gates from Greenville, Georgia. Three-star Gates, who started for Georgia, first committed to UK.

"The big schools know that we are great evaluators," Phillips said. "They know!"

Need evidence? Look at Jeremy Jarmon, Trevard Lindley, Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan, to name a few. They were two-star players coming out of high school who became stars at Kentucky. The problem is only one of those was a lineman, in which UK has a serious need of in the 2011 class.

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