LEXINGTON, Ky. --- The football Wildcats' 2002 recruiting needs assessed by BBD with input and commentary from UK recruiting coordinator Rick Smith. As proposed recruiting sanctions limit the Cats to 16 scholarships (nine fewer than the limit), each player becomes critical this season:
Publisher's Note: Smith cannot comment on prospective student-athletes. Any mention of current high school players comes from various sites which track recruiting, including BBD and TheInsiders.com.
QB (0-1) Need: Low -- Lose no one. The Cats appear to be in good shape for the foreseeable future with sophomore Jared Lorenzen, redshirt freshman Shane Boyd and true freshman Dan Lumley on the roster. Says Smith: "We'll take a quarterback, but we want an athlete, a guy who could come in and work at quarterback and another position like wideout or defensive back for a couple of years if need be. He could still work most of his reps at quarterback through the spring, then during fall he could work on quarterback on Tuesday and his other position on Wednesday and Thursday. That's the kind of kid we're looking for there, if we take one." The description fits at least one UK target, Paris QB/DB Odell Cosby (6-2, 210), who is thought to be close to a commitment.
RB: (1-2) Need: Low -- Lose FB Gus Jacobs. Another position the Cats feel good about for at least the next two seasons. The explosive Chad Scott is just a sophomore, and capable backups Artose Pinner and Martez Johnson are juniors. Jacobs will graduate at fullback, but true freshman Ron "Rock" Johnson is expected to be ready to step into that role. Still, running back will always be a key position for any team, and UK will remain on the lookout for a potential "gamebreaker". Ashland's Mr. Football candidate, Arliss Beach (6-0, 185), has already verballed to the Cats, but Owensboro's dynamic duo of Justin Miller (6-0, 180) and Bo Smith (6-1, 205) also remain on the radar Both of those players also project at other positions on both sides of the ball. Says Smith: "We're basically done at tailback, but if there's a great one out there and we have a 50/50 chance at him, we'll keep recruiting him. If we get him, we'll either drop a corner or drop a defensive lineman."
WR: (1-2) Need: Low/Moderate -- Lose Dougie Allen, Anthony Kelly, Gary Hughes, Tom Malloy. This is a position the recruiting sanctions definitely place a crunch on the Cats, who have high quantity at the position, but desperately need more quality. Darimy Crawford (6-5, 195), a 2000 signee who failed to meet academic requirements, is expected to re-sign. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., standout Andre Jones (6-0, 185) has committed and Oldham County's Donta Smith (6-5, 190) has a standing offer. Those three would go a long way toward filling the Cats' needs. Jones is a two-way player who may ultimately project at DB. Says Smith: "We're not going to turn a great player down at any position, especially wide receiver. If there's a great one out there who wants to sign with us, we'd have to take another number from somewhere else. We've got to be real careful about that, though, because we're so thin at some spots, like offensive line."
TE: (0-1) Need: Low. Lose Jermaine White. The Cats should return one of the best units in the SEC with Derek Smith, Chase Harp and Eric Arling. Very few prospects have appeared on the radar, confirming Smith's assertion that UK won't likely sign a player at the position.
OL: (5) Need: High -- Lose LT Matt Brown, RG Josh Parrish and C Nolan DeVaughn. This is an area of extreme concern for the Cats, especially with veteran O-Line coach Guy Morriss at the helm. At a position most SEC teams field 18-22 scholarship players, UK currently has 12. Says Smith: "Offensive line, without a doubt, is No. 1. We've got to have five there. We're committed to that number." To date, Beechwood's Joe Brady (6-2, 290), who many believe is the state's top lineman, is the lone verbal. The Cats would also like his fellow northern Kentuckians, Rob Smith (6-4, 290) and Jeff Reinstatler (6-4, 270) of Fort Thomas Highlands, to join the mix. Smith is widely regarded as one of the nation's best. Another prospect is in the Cats' backyard, Henry Clay's Frank Straub (6-5, 295). Both Smith and Straub have been targetted by Nebraska, among other top programs.
DL: (3-5) Need: Moderate -- Lose DE Chris Demaree, DE Mike Robinson, DT Derrick Johnson. With marquee players like Dewayne Robertson, Jeremy Caudill, Ellery Moore and Dennis Johnson, Kentucky currently looks as good as ever along the defensive front, but it's still a priority area. The Cats have one verbal thus far, Johnson Central's Paul Webb (6-5, 275), but Smith notes he's in very well with a handful of other top prospects. Says Smith: "Defensive tackle, you're always looking for more. It's the toughest position to play, physically, and it's the hardest to find. It's pretty much common sense, in this world, there's not a whole lot of 275-pound guys who run 4.6. There's not a lot of Dewayne Robertsons our there, and Kentucky has a hard time recruiting them. There's probably only 20 or 30 great defensive linemen in the country. That's it. We're trying to get in on those guys. I talked with last night. He's looking at Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Southern Miss and we're in there. We've got a great shot at this kid. There's two I feel that way about. The other one, he's coming here first. I'm going to be in his house Dec. 1, and he'll be coming here Dec. 7 for his first visit. His head coach is a real good friend of mine in Florida, and when I was here earlier, we recruited a lot of kids from his area down in the (Florida) Panhandle... We've had a great reception everywhere we've been. I tell them --- and I mean this in my heart --- if you come for a visit and see what we have to offer at the University of Kentucky, you see our facilities, meet our players, and see our community, we'll make your decision hard. It'll be hard not to come here."
LB/OS: (2-3) Need: Moderate/High -- Lose ILB Jamal White, ILB/OS Chris Gayton, ILB Mike Beirne, OS Patrick Wiggins. A severe knee injury in the second game of the season will bring Ronnie Riley back for his senior year in 2002, but it will be quite some time before the staff knows how his knee responds to rehabilitation. Bowling Green's Brad Booker (6-1, 210) has verballed, and 2000 signee Chad Anderson (6-3, 250) is expected to re-sign after completing his academic requirements. Anderson, however, may eventually project at DE, like fellow 2000 signee Dustin Williams (6-5, 265). Says Smith: "We'll take three linebackers. We feel good about that spot so far." One possible UK "lean" is Middlesboro standout Durrell White (6-4, 225), who could play LB or DE.
DB/OS: (1-2) Need: Low -- Lose CB Jeremy Bowie, FS Anthony Wajda, FS Nigel Smith. The Cats figure