The end of the fall semester and the approach of the holidays means that Neal Brown can't do what he desperately wants to do most right now: sell his vision of Kentucky football to recruits.
"I wish we had a game this Saturday because the excitement about football in the Big Blue Nation is at an all-time high," said Brown, who met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since being named UK's new offensive coordinator on Dec. 10.
Brown had only a week to make his pitch to prospects before the NCAA-mandated "dead period" began on Monday. That time was reportedly spent well, including a few last-minute official visits over the weekend, but the new Wildcat assistant wishes he could keep the momentum going.
"They are excited," Brown said of the recruits he has spoken with since landing the UK job. "We had a lot of success at Texas Tech and at Troy, when you are talking about skill players in particular, and you can talk about how you are going to get them the ball and… you can show stats and proven results, that is going to pop their eyes open.
"In certain spots our scholarship numbers are low, and the opportunity to play early is going to be here. That is another thing that perks their ears up."
The 32-year-old Brown, who played wide receiver at UK from 1998-2000 under Hal Mumme, has been taking full advantage of new media and social networking in his efforts to show recruits what the new Wildcat offense will look like next fall. He's getting an assist from a video that the Texas Tech media relations staff helped produce.
"That's a deal that we used a lot," Brown said. "We self-promoted a lot (at Texas Tech) and used videos a lot and those types of things. They did a good job. A lot of credit goes to Curt Heard. He's the one that produced it. We used it at Texas Tech to sell (the program), used it through social media on our Twitter, Facebook and those types of things. Kids really relate to those. It's one thing to talk about and tell people, ‘Hey, this is what we're going to do,' and listen to it vocally and show it to them on the board and all that kind of stuff, but when they see it with their eyes and hear, ‘Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown' a lot then they can feel the excitement in it."
Brown noted that it doesn't always take four- or five-star recruits to excel in his system. He himself came to UK from Boyle County High School as a little-recruited athlete, but found a way to get on the field in Mumme's system.
"The skill people are easier to recruit (in this system)," he said. "There's not a great deal of difference in the No. 1 wide receiver in the country and the No. 25 receiver in the country. There's not that much difference at all. We can recruit a lot of good skill people, put them in space and make people tackle in space. I think that's the No. 1 thing."
Playing fast is also a draw for today's high school players. They see the results on a weekly basis watching teams like Texas Tech, Oregon, Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia put up gaudy numbers. Brown's Texas Tech offense averaged more than 500 yards and 37.75 points per game.
That excitement will also rub off on fans, Brown said, which will help the Wildcats recruit even better players.
"When I talk to people," he said, "I sell them on our vision, and the No. 1 thing we talk about is that our stadium will have 70,000 people in it. It will. There is a lot of excitement, and our fan base is strong. It is going to be an exciting brand of football. It is a young coaching staff that can relate to players. Those are the things that we are really selling here early in the process."
Recruiting priorities always start at home, and to date, the Wildcats only have one verbal commitment from inside the state – Clay County defensive tackle Jacob Hyde. That could quickly change, however, as the new staff has gotten involved with Louisville Trinity's stable of star prospects, Owensboro Apollo's Hunter Bivin and Franklin County's Ryan Timmons, among others.
"Come be a hero," Brown said of his pitch to in-state prospects. "You look at the guys that play well at the University of Kentucky that are homegrown products. They come back here to live, and they have good lives. Some of the guys that have gone on at other places, they come back home and the name recognition and notoriety is not the same."
Brown eager to sell vision to recruits
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