Richland Northeast: UK's new pipeline?

Duane Wages knows talent when he sees it. That's why when the University of Kentucky coaching staff extended an invitation to the Northeast Richland assistant to head up to the bluegrass for the annual Blue-White scrimmage, he made it a point to bring along his star junior linebacker, Rodney Paulk.

"I do the Nike summer camps and I run some college camps," Wages said, "so I know what the top kids look like and Rodney is as every bit the player these kids are. The difference is, he's from a military family. His father started him in school at age four when they were living in Hawaii, so he's not in the right age bracket.

"Last year, originally, he's only supposed to be a sophomore."

So despite accumulating over 105 tackles, 20 quarterback hurries, 14 tackles for loss and five sacks, while being named All-region, the Richland Northeast star hasn't garnered the level of offers and attention his teammates Calvin Harrison and Adam Patterson have endured.

So Coach Wages hit the road.

"That's the main reason why I wanted to bring the kids up this weekend," Wages explained, "the coaches at Kentucky had already offered Calvin and Adam, but I wanted them to see Rodney and see how much he had grown."

"(Rodney)'s a special kid," Wages said on Paulk. "Last season he played linebacker at 175 pounds and now is considered the number 1 or 2 best linebacker in the state. He just turned 16 and he weighed in at 201 pounds in Kentucky's weight room on Saturday."

Paulk, as well as Harrison, recently made it to the state meet in weight lifting, a side note that explains his increased attention to the weight room and getting stronger.

"You've got to qualify to make it to the state and both of them did easily," Wages said. "These aren't just inflated numbers, these are legit and current numbers these kids are putting up in competition."

So with that, coach Wages gave the Kentucky coaches a first shot at offering Paulk during the unofficial visit this past weekend, just one week after going on an unofficial to North Carolina.

"The UK coaching staff just loved him," Wages said, "and I think they are gonna go ahead and offer now, at least that's the feeling that I got. I think they almost have too because we've got spring practice starting here next Monday and we're gonna have a lot of college coaches and scouts at practice to see the kids. It would help Kentucky to go ahead and offer him before we start, just to be that first (big) school to offer."

And offering before the lions get a hold of him might help the Wildcats chances of getting both Harrison and Paulk. "Calvin and him are pretty close and I do think that if Kentucky offered, it would help their chances of getting both of them," Wages replied. "Rodney hasn't run his forty time in a while, but we're looking to get him in the 4.5's at the Nike camp. He's been called a tweener because of his forty time, but once he gets that down to where we think he can run it, he'll be getting a lot more attention."

The Nike camp will more then likely also open the floodgates for fellow teammate and cornerback Calvin Harrison, whom verbally committed to the University of Kentucky over the weekend.

"We're expecting Calvin to go even lower," Wages said on Harrison's forty time, "The thing on Calvin was, we never were worried when he didn't get the offers at the beginning because we knew he'd do fine at the Nike camp and he'd have plenty of options because he's just so athletic. He's one of the fastest players in the state and definitely a top 15 player."

For the Wildcats to pick up such a huge commitment from an out-of-state player this early is definitely a good sign for the faithful, but also has skeptics believing it's only a matter of time before Harrison opts out.

Wages believes that's not so.

"Calvin's always been a little different," the Richland Northeast assistant said. "When we talked about where he wanted to send his tape at the beginning, we talked Clemson and South Carolina, but Calvin started to express that he may not want to stay in-state and that he wanted to do something different then the other guys. To him, the big schools were nice, but he wanted to go somewhere where he could make a difference and an impact."

While the experience over the weekend was eye openers for Paulk and Harrison, it could also play an impact on teammate Adam Patterson, who's considered to be the most highly recruited of the three defensive stars at defensive tackle.

"When we got there yesterday, coach Phillips took us to meet every coach and every player," Wages explained, "they made each of them feel at home and really made an impact on Calvin with how together they were. Even the guys that played the same position were all asking these kids to ‘come to Kentucky' and telling them that they needed players like them to change things."

"Even in the car, afterwards, that's all they could talk about. I know they'll take that and be in Adam's ear."

But for now, the Wildcat nation rejoices in victory after landing perhaps its biggest defensive commitment in some time and at a spot that they are in most need of.

"He's a lock-down corner, no doubt about that," Wages said. "Kentucky got a player in him, a high character kid, who is very excited about playing for Kentucky."

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