There was a time when college football recruiting was a lot simpler. A high school player would give his verbal pledge and then sign with the same school when the national signing period opened.
Today, there are soft commits where a player says he'll attend a school, but continues to take visits to other schools and often changes his commitment. Or schools sometimes withdraw scholarship offers to players who have verbally committed. Then there are star players who simply change their mind about where they want to go to school and sign with a different school on signing day.
"I think we are feeling pretty good where we are at. We are trying to put all the pieces together and address all our needs. We are pretty satisfied, but nothing is certain. There seems to be a lot of movement in recruiting today and a lot of variable comes into play before signing day," said Chuck Smith, Kentucky's linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator.
"Recruiting has got to a point that it is never over until it is over. You have to continue to recruit players committed to you just like ones that are not. Our staff does a good job of that and staying on top of recruits even if they committed early. We keep selling UK to them because you have to."
At the same time, a staff must continue to look to fill needs, including ones that sometimes only become apparent during the course of the season.
"Because of people switching, flipping and de-commiting, you never know for sure what might happen," Smith said. "Then there is the issue of academics. You have to try to figure in who will qualify academically and who may not.
"There are several issues that have to be addressed and it will be (head coach) Joker (Phillips) that eventually puts the final pieces together. He will do that based on our needs along with the academics."
Kentucky was scheduled to have at least one player — Georgia safety Ashley Lowery — on campus this weekend for an official visit. He's a three-star player already committed to the Wildcats. Kentucky will have several more on campus next weekend — when UK also has a home men's basketball game — just a few days before the national signing period begins.
This week coaches will be making final visits to many players. Last week Smith and new UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter were at Boyle County to see star linebacker Lamar Dawson, who visited Central Florida this weekend and will be at Tennessee next weekend. Coaches from Southern Cal, Oregon and Tennessee were also there and several head coaches will be at Boyle this week. Phillips won't be because he's used his allotted visits already.
Smith can't talk about specific players because of NCAA regulations. However, he said nothing has changed about one UK recruiting priority.
"We obviously need linebackers. We have not got any commitments from linebackers at this point," Smith said. "It has been a focus for us because we know that's an area we must improve on. We are still working on finding linebackers that can play for us."
Smith said contrary to what some believe, UK's loss in the Compass Bowl to Pittsburgh has not had a significant impact on recruiting based on what he's seen and heard.
"I don't think not winning the bowl game hurt us. Guys I talk to and recruit indicate it was not a big issue," Smith said. "They understand what we are about and want to come and be a part of getting this program to the next level. The loss was not a big deal to them. They don't worry about that.
"If anything, they want to be part of winning and believe they can contribute and we believe they can contribute to our turnaround. Sometimes it just makes them feel like they can help you even more."
Kentucky has 19 known verbal commitments. That includes four-star end Jon Davis of Louisville Eastern who has been reported to be wavering in his commitment. However, UK also added Georgia running Marcus Caffey when he de-committed from Purdue and said he would sign with the Cats.
"I am really excited about this class we are putting together," Smith said. "It's meeting our needs and that's one of the things you really work to do. We are on track for that to happen.
"However, it's never over until a kid signs. I like where we are sitting and I am pretty excited about it all coming together. We just have to keep working and pushing and get it done right by adding the few other pieces that we really need to complete the recruiting class the way we want."
UK coach Chuck Smith on football recruiting
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