DEMAREE: Brooks' recruiting no 'fools gold'

In the past, the Kentucky football program has recruited players they believed could win at the highest level of the SEC, only to find 'fool's gold.' The level of talent that head coach Rich Brooks is bringing in today is no 'fool's gold,' though, and places the program on solid rock rather than sinking sand.

During the first five years under the tutelage of Bill Curry, recruiting coordinator Tommy Limbaugh brought in numerous players who, in fact, just could not compete at the highest levels in the SEC. Limbaugh had gained some success at a couple of other universities which garnered him some recognition and admiration from some of the big names in the recruiting analyst business who publish the very popular magazines and newsletters. Curry obviously was taken in by the phenomena along with the necessary rhetoric and entrusted Limbaugh to do the job for his program.

Again, ‘fools gold.'

Limbaugh was a one-man band recruiting coordinator who called all the shots, analagous to playing all the instruments in the band. Sure, the coordinator had some recruiting success in the skill position areas that resulted in some overrated classes. His recruiting of interior linemen was severely deficient, however.

There were several faulty methods that didn't fly at an SEC school like Kentucky. It began with the initial premise of one man trying to call all shots at a place where the margin of error is so narrow.

Hypothetically, take twenty players recruited at powerhouse programs and a program like Kentucky trying to get recognition in the league. The twenty players at the powerhouse program are all blue-chippers as opposed to maybe ten or so at Kentucky and the other ten recruited as a result of good coaching evaluation. There was no staff evaluation under Limbaugh, as he was the end-all and be-all, putting all the eggs in one basket.

After the fifth year of Curry's tenure, he finally got wise and fired Limbaugh to save his program. Defensive back coach Rick Smith was elevated to the position. Two, Curry would rarely challenge the powerhouses in recruiting. One example was bigtime running back Shaun Alexander from the Commonwealth who was lured to the University of Alabama.

When Mike Archer returned to UK, he said he came back under Brooks because he felt the university was finally committed to having a big-time program. During the last two years of Curry's tenure, Smith and staff recruited the likes of Tim Couch, Jeff Snedegar, Kevin Coleman, Craig Yeast, Anthony White, Quentin McCord, Eric Kelly, Marlon McCree, Matt Layow, Mark Jacobs, Marvin Major, Kio Sanford Kris Comstock, Jonas Leining and more, Couch being the only rated player in the group; too little, too late? These are the bulk of the talent that carried Hal Mumme's team to back-to-back bowls.

When that talent graduated Mumme's team dropped off to a 2-9 record his last year. Why did this occur? More of the same from Claude Bassett of the old Limbaugh syndrome, while trying to call all the shots for the recruiting of talent for a school such as UK.

The two-year stint of Guy Morriss saw the program get back to the system of evaluating in selecting recruits. However it was done under a cloud of negativity surrounding the possibility of probation, which followed in Morriss' second year.

So of the years from 1990 to 2002 prior to probation kicking in, nine of those thirteen years were wasted years, while things were done the wrong way in recruiting. If Jerry Claiborne knew the sins of the recruiting travails, when he had been responsible for being the catalyst for new, at the time, eye-popping facilities, he would turn over in his grave.

Perhaps the ‘plan' of Rich Brooks will produce some consistent results. Everything in life is cyclical and in the late 1940's and early 50's, the Bear (Bryant) won big. Could that cycle be completed and the time has come again?

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